First, I kinda wish this data were available to the public. Second, I'm really interested in figuring out whether these questions are worth the effort. So I'm going to try to pull up stats that I think get at the underlying question, which I read as:
Do identification questions bring useful new users to the site?
Paging through the site's Greatest Hits, you won't find many identification questions. Since that page is designed to be "the most frequently found questions" on the site, there's a good chance that the questions that bring the most visitors are not identification questions. To verify, here is a sample of the search terms that people use to get to the site:
These are a touch dodgy, but it seems clear that people land on some of the better questions on the site. So identification questions aren't really honey for page views by any means.
Do identification questions help new users become contributors?
On the other hand, ID questions are surprisingly common first posts for new users. The top five tags of first posts that new users (
N) ask or answer are:
To put it another way, the first time 353 people decided to type a post was because they were interested in identifying a movie and 69 people were interested in identifying a TV show. (There might be some overlap.) So the identification questions are substantially more interesting to new users than you might expect from the popular tags.
Moving on the users who eventually register:
And go on to post again:
Looking at it this way, something like 101 contributing users started off with an identification post. That's a pretty good chunk of the user base. Other tags are "stickier" in the sense that people stick around to post again. (Only a quarter of people post again after starting with identification as opposed to half of those who start with analysis.)
But are those contributors adding value to the site? We can measure that with user reputation:
Avg Max Sum Name
--- ---- ------ ----
117 4982 41,651 identify-this-movie
184 2556 25,581 plot-explanation
91 1824 6,295 identify-this-tv-show
95 1824 4,660 science-fiction
527 8761 22,679 analysis
(By the way, if your first question was about sucker-punch, you can expect to get 8,761 reputation and become a moderator. ;-)
So if a new user writes an analysis question or answer, you can look forward to quality content from them in the future. But the tag that introduces the most user reputation to the site (by far) is identify-this-movie. As you might expect there are an order of magnitude more identification first posts from users who do not have an association bonus than those who do. Presumably, Stack Exchange veterans have a natural aversion to such questions.
What's going on here? My hunch: users find the site's best content (non-ID questions) and want to participate. One of the easiest questions to ask is the "I remember this movie..." type because that's what you naturally think of when you are trying to come up with a question about movies. After they get their feet wet with a (frankly trivial) question, some users gain confidence to ask or answer better questions.
While it's certainly possible to argue that ID questions are not worth the trouble, the data does not support the stronger claim that such questions never produce good users.
Do identification questions get accepted answers?
Thankfully, this data is public: of the 545 [identify-this-movie] questions, 304 have accepted answers. That's 56%, which is actually better than the site average (35%). But that also means that 44% of the people who asked these questions never got an answer that seemed right to them or failed to come back to the site to see their answers.
52 of those questions are unanswered, which means that they don't have at least one answer with a score > 0. 90% of the ID questions are answered which is less than the site average of 93%.
I'm not sure what to make of this in the end, but I think we can safely say that:
- ID questions are not the best showcases of what the site has to offer.
- Identification questions are not how search engine users find the site.
- These questions are really good at getting people to post something on the site for the first time.
- Some of those people will go on to contribute more content that the community finds valuable.