Titles Versus Content

(and yes, I know that ‘content’ is the most generic of terms for referring to the bits of a piece of work that aren’t its title)

Titles are hard, man. They’re relatively easy to come up with for these posts, because there is generally one idea per post, and so writing an eloquent title that sums up that single idea is do-able.

However, longer forms of content, or even different forms altogether, are much harder to summarise in a single phrase: I tried to come up with titles for a song a friend of mine wrote the other day, and I was so lost for ideas as to how to capture the meaning of that song in few enough characters to fit across an iPod’s screen without it doing that annoying scrolling thing, that I gave up trying to engage the song on a directly intellectual level, and fell back on obscure language analysis to derive a coherent meaning. This promptly confused the Hell out of the original song-writer.

A part of this is that it’s hard to express the meaning contained in abstract sounds – music – in words, another means of communication altogether, but the problem persists for means of content that consist entirely of words; I’m writing* a novel, and know the plot and am 6,000 words in, yet have no idea what to call it beyond ‘that novel I’m working on’.

Hell, if I start putting more time into these posts, and presenting multiple ideas within the same one, coming up with relatively attractive titles will only get harder as I write more, not easier, as one might expect given the expected improvement in my writing abilities.

And this need for attractive titles is important to me, as I’ve been considering the importance of them against the actual content they claim to represent; I got an almost-record 23 views yesterday, from four different countries, but I wonder how much of that was down to the intelligence of the content of my posts, or the flashiness of their titles.

Consider that my most popular post recently is the old Geographical Pickup Lines one – it’s even the first bloody result on Google if you search for such things – I accept that the majority of those lines aren’t funny, almost all of them are too specific to my course as opposed to Geography as a discipline to be understood by anyone other than my own teachers, and none of them would actually help you get into someone’s pants. Yet, it seems that the very concept of Geography pickup lines, a concept succinctly presented by the descriptive title, is enough to attract literally hundreds of viewers.

Furthermore, you clicked on that search result with no knowledge of what those jokes would be – as my bracketed subtitle covers up the entirety of the little ‘preview’ bit you always get on Google results – perhaps it’s reasonable to assume that views are in no way representative of the quality of a post’s content, only how appealing its title is.

Perhaps strangely, my bluntly-titled ‘Wordsdays Have Buggered Off’ post didn’t receive noticeably more traffic than my other posts; if we accept that swearing and general harshness attracts viewers, as they are indicative of strong emotions and exciting content, this suggests that it is not the flashiness of a title that attracts people but, rather confusingly, the content of that title; people don’t read the Geography post because the title is attractive, but because the idea behind the content is attractive.

Just to confuse you even more, I’m now going to suggest that this originality or creativity of a post bears no relation to its overall content; you can have a great idea and ruin it through poor presentation, just as you can elevate a mediocre idea to great heights by expressing it effectively; therefore, the idea to seduce people through Geography is a cool one, but my attempts to do so were awful. This can be seen in that the post has received a crap-ton of views, but no comments, suggesting people were interested in the idea of Geography pickup lines, but didn’t engage with my attempts to present Geography pickup lines.

So my conclusion to all of this is that my titles aren’t necessarily attractive, and that it is the amusing-ness of my post’s content that encourages people to read them; their originality, however, is not enough to encourage people to engage with those ideas. And this is why I started blogging in the first place: I can come up with interesting ideas, and do it for about 150 consecutive days, but I struggle with expressing those ideas to people that aren’t me; this last problem I struggle with the most, as I write these posts in a style that I enjoy reading, and that I find funny, and any amusement on your part is probably more coincidence than anything else.

And, of course, I’d argue that this was one of my more thoughtful and insightful posts, that probably no-one will read because my attempts to reflect the functionality of this post in a purely informative title will inevitably lead to this being dismissed as one of my ‘boring’ posts. Oh well, you can just go read some Geographical pickup lines, I hear the underlying idea’s great.

* I’m doing this about as regularly as Littlekuriboh uploads a new episode of YuGiOh Abridged.

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