Title tags offer a lot more benefit than drawbacks - those include easier navigation, less ambiguity, easier customisation of the site.
Title tags make navigation a lot easier
Obviously one could search for
[author] "title" and it would yield the same result (or even more results). In fact, one could also search for
"author" "title" - is there no need for author tags as well then? I could make a case for abolishing author tags too, especially for comics, where the three authors (writer, penciller and inker, 4 if you count the colourist) all may have had the same contribution to the work (see Watchmen and V for Vendetta, or The Sandman).
New users, towards attracting which we are working, are unlikely to know the quirks of the SE search system. Encapsulating search strings in quotes (
"title title") may be a known thing, but then how will we differentiate questions about a book from questions that merely mention it?
And what if a book has a generic name like Love (or my favourite, It)? Searching for "love" will yield (I'm sure of it) lots and lots of irrelevant results. Adding an author tag to the search? See above.
Two books of the same name published the same year? Please. Even if this ever happens, and both of those books find their way to this Stack (I bet 100 rep they won't), this is too much of an edge case to take into account when deciding title tags as a whole.
Following book tags is handier than following author tags
Following is overrated anyways
There are multiple reasons for that, but most important of them is the ability to fine-tune the front page.
The number of works by one author could make following them uncomfortable
Following an author tag may be a drag for particularly prolific authors (see Stephen King), who have lots of books which may be in completely different genres. For instance, I like Mike Carey Lucifer, but don't care about his other works. Same goes for Holly Black, who wrote some issues of the new Lucifer - I liked it, but I couldn't care less about her young adult fantasy novels.
Too many tags to follow?
Following is overrated, really. It may be useful on a site life SO, where a question is posted every 10 seconds, but here we get 4 questions per day - it should be easy to browse through all of them in some 10 minutes. Following too many tags may be a made up problem as well: how many tags do we have now? How many get added every day? With our growth rate, this issue is hardly a problem now and in the close future.
I'm not aware of the limitations of the SE question filter system, but I think the issue of using RSS or mail to follow tags is overrated. RSS subscriptions do have a limit on the number of tags, as does the site search. The solution - 2 RSS subscriptions!
Following a lot of tags? Well, aren't you interested in those works? Would you rather follow few tags but get loads of unrelated questions?
The ability to hide books you don't like and to avoid spoilers
What if I want to follow an author one of whose books I have not yet read? I can unfollow the author, but that would still display the book on the front page - with spoilers and all that entails.
And what if I don't want to see questions about a certain book at all? Not using title tags will make the filtering of front page impossible. Enter spoiler hellfest and those darn questions about 1984 and Lord of Flies.
The limitations of the tagging system can be circumvented
With clever omissions, length of a tag is not a problem
E.g. we can drop some auxiliary words in the middle of a long title - it won't suffer as long as the users see something remotely similar when they begin to type the name.
In this regard, the problem of adding/not adding "The" in front of a name - the-lord-of-the-rings vs lord-of-the-rings - may be worse, because the tag system won't suggest the latter when one starts to type the former.
Say, for nausicaa-of-the-valley-of-the-wind I created kaze-no-tani-no-naushika and kaze-no-tani-no-nausicaa, both of which are sometimes used. When a user starts to type
naus, guess what they will see in suggested tags? :D
- With Hamlet's feature request, we may yet have some new developments on the topic of tag length, so it's too early to close this page yet.
Make up for awkward names with guidance in tag excerpts
This is what guidance is for, folks! All problems, from hpmor to love-2017 will be solved with an appropriate guidance. If the askers can't follow the guidance, a "good" tag name will not help as well.
An example of tags for books of the same name would look like
Use this tag for the book by X written in Y
Use this tag for the book by M written in N
which clearly indicated the difference between the two books. The important part would be to set this rule straight from the beginning, and adhere to it in all cases.
Mind you, I still think this criterion is a nitpick, as, to the best of my knowledge, we still haven't received 2 questions about books with the same name - maybe we could admit that books with the same name are not that common to make a fuss over it?
How to choose the name of a tag?
Simple - follow your best judgment. If the title has alternative British and American spellings, make them synonyms, and use whatever is the original one. If the title is translated - use an official translation, and set up synonyms for other translations and the original name.
Too long? Clever abbreviations, and common sense. E.g. for a question about The Secret Lost Diary of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and The Phantom of the Poles, my instinct tell me to go for
[the-secret-lost-diary], which makes sense and is probably what a new user would begin to type when asking a question about it.
For any kind of misunderstanding, there is always chat and meta, where think tanks can be gathered and tag names decided.
Creating tags for new works and maintaining them is what we (the community) are there for
A new user can't find a tag for their work and leaves in frustration? Good riddance! A new user uses a generic tag and leaves a comment asking someone to create needed tags? That's the spirit!
I think this may be a nice litmus test for new users, as an indicator of their will to ask a question here. I assume this sort of trouble happens from time to time on Movies & TV, where more experienced users handle it - and this is a good sign to show new users that we care and we're here to help.
It is my personal opinion that no question should be left without attention of at least a few users of the site - there must be something that needs an edit, an up vote, a down vote, or other kind of moderation action.
The will of community is important - and the community doesn't seem to object to title tags.
Recently I had a proposal to determine the usage for the graphic-novel tag right now, before it becomes a hot mess of wrong tagfests. I was turned down on the grounds that the community has to actually see the tag to establish a pattern.
From what I see, the community has been using the title tags since the beginning of the site, despite the fact that the highest-scoring answer is against them. I don't know about you people, but it seems to me that the community has already decided whether they want title tags or not.
Want to change that? Good luck.