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What is the appropriate amount of time you should wait before talking about spoilers?

by Jay Black, posted Jun 12th 2008 3:24PM
I'm sorry if you haven't seen Citizen Kane yet. Not for spoiling it, just that, you know, you haven't seen it!There was some controversy today in our Top Chef winner's post. We revealed who the winner was before the jump (and without spoiler warnings). Our commenters -- usually shy and unwilling to criticize our site (ahem) -- let us know exactly what they thought of that decision (hint: they were not happy).

It occurred to me that the idea of television spoilers is a relatively new one. I mean, after all, it's only been about 20 years or so that the majority of us had the power to watch our shows whenever we wanted to. In our parents' day, you talked about what happened on TV the night before without fear -- if anyone at the office missed the show, well, there was nothing they could do about it anyway.

What we need is a new etiquette. So, I figured I'd throw a post up and ask you guys: how long should you wait before it's okay to talk about spoilers?

The answer isn't necessarily cut and dry, especially when you stop to consider that with some serialized shows, people have taken to waiting until each season is finished, then gorging themselves on the season box sets. To me, it's unreasonable to expect everyone around you to avoid talking about Lost ten months out of the year, but then, as Atticus Finch once said, you never really understand someone until you "climb into their skin and walk around in it." Maybe you season-watchers have a good justification for asking for that courtesy.

(As a side note: now that I think about it, maybe Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs wasn't that bad a guy -- maybe he was just a big fan of To Kill a Mockingbird.)

There is also the question of what, exactly, constitutes a "spoiler." There are some people who feel any information about a TV show or a movie prior to viewing it effectively "ruins" the experience for them. There was a mini-meltdown among my friends because one of them warned us to "make sure you stay till the end of the credits when you see Iron Man." I thought it was a good tip, but a few of my friends thought this was too much information to give away.

"Now I'm looking for the surprise and that makes it less special."

Yeah, a lot of my friends also take rule changes to the Dungeons and Dragons system personally.

So, to recap, here is my Emily Post question of the day: How long should a website wait to consider information about a show common knowledge (and therefore free to discuss)? How long should you do so in your personal encounters? And, finally, what is a reasonable definition of a spoiler?

Your input is always appreciated!

Even though I'd really like you to comment, here's a poll question for you lazy clickers out there: how long should a website wait to post a spoiler (without a warning)?
As soon as the show has aired94 (16.0%)
0-24 hours90 (15.4%)
1-3 days108 (18.4%)
3-7 days72 (12.3%)
7 days plus39 (6.7%)
They should _always_ put a warning (because you never know)183 (31.2%)

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Once the show airs, it's all fair game. I prefer a warning, llike a "read on" option, or "more after the jump" type posts where you have the option to choose whether or not to read on (click thru to the main post/article) and possibly spoil an ending you haven't seen yet. Warning is good!

June 16 2008 at 2:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This site is mediocre, the spoiler was rude, and these comments are mostly idiotic. Consider me unsubscribed.

June 13 2008 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm not in the US, I watch shows whenever I want (welcome to the 21st century), sometimes years after it aired. Those of you who suggest I avoid this whole site as long as there is anything at all in the world that I haven't seen yet, are you crazy? I can't ever read this site because next week I might decide to start watching Lost or something?

No spoilers before the jump. Which is already how you do it usually, so just keep doing that. Thanks.

June 13 2008 at 10:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Can we at least all get on the same page? There is a massive difference between spoilers before or after the jump, and I don't think we're all talking about the same thing.

I cannot legitimately see a defense for including spoilers before the jump.

June 13 2008 at 8:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Some were complaining about this on People.com as well. To me a spoiler is something that is told before a show airs not after it airs. If someone did not get a chance to watch the show they don't go on websites that will have that information on it until after you had a chance to view that program.

June 13 2008 at 8:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Unless you have no voice or hands, it should take five seconds to write the word "spoilers" down. Putting spoilers after the jump is also polite at least for the first few days, particularly if you want non-Americans who get the shows later to continue using this site. In fact, I'd recommend looking at the airdates of other countries if you're going to put spoilers before the jump.

For those who are really concerned however, a "spoiler free" tag on TV-Squad that lets us skip spoilers would be nice. Also, a version where we would have to click on the headlines to see any part of the article (no pre-jump headlines) would work too and be fairly easy to do.

June 13 2008 at 7:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Also, I think it's a bad move to use pictures before the jump that show a spoilery scene. Then even those of us who scroll by to avoid being spoiled can catch a glimpse of, oh I don't know, their favourite character bleeding to death. All I ever really want to know before the jump is whether or not the episode made an impact on the reviewer or didn't.

June 12 2008 at 11:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Although this is an AOL website, not all of the readers are from the US, so 'after it airs' sounds like an arbitrary rule.

June 12 2008 at 11:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Stewart

If you read an article about a show you haven't seen yet and complain about it being spoiled, that's your own fault. For the spoiler mention in this article, I think it's fair to make a post annoucing the winner, but hide the necessary information after the break.

June 12 2008 at 11:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

NOT before the jump. THAT'S ALL!

Small addendum: if you post on a blog where the person who writes the blog HAS to read all the posts just to be safe from any and all legal problems (especially here in germany you should start moderating all blog posts because there were court rulings where people were fined for having something on their site which was posted during the night and instantly removed upon checking the posts the next day) it depends on THE BLOG RUNNER.

So since you offer an RSS-Feed on this website which delivers all the parts BEFORE the jump and people tend to read all of those, meaning: THEY WILL READ IT NO MATTER WHAT for a lot of RSS-Feed-Readers have a three-part preview pane (Feed List, Post List, and instant-preview of part of the post) you can NOT post anything about an episode, no matter how old, in the part BEFORE the jump.

Everything else is ok, because to be frank you would have to refrain from posting anything for those people who wait up to a week before watching their shows. Or half a year, until the DVDs come out. Or over a year if they are from germany and wait for the local TV airing. Or another year if they wait for the german DVDs. So whatever.


We told you about this a dozen of times already. Get it into your heads. Thank you very much :-)

June 12 2008 at 10:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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