Yes, I'm talking about the answers to identification questions.

While we have a few measures to handle low quality identification questions to some degree, one of the problems of those kinds of questions, even the good ones, is that they encourage bad low quality one-line answers of the kind:

You're looking for the movie ...!

While theoretically being genuine attempts at answering the question, they don't give any kind of explanation for why this is the searched movie and in which way it fits to the description from the question. The easy-out solution of just making it a link to Wikipedia/IMDb isn't that great either, since a link-only answer is still a crap answer.

Now of course this problem isn't genuine to identification questions, but I feel it applies there even more and those answers are actively encouraged by those questions and their trivial name-this-thing nature. Together with the questions themsleves those answers further contribute to the deterioration of this site into an untinteresting place full of non-avchieving one-line answerers who just smash an "oh, that could be this movie" answer at each identification question they stumble across.

But while we have certain guidelines and measures for handling bad ID questions (at least to some degree) respectively, there are some intricacies and unclarities about how to handle those answers:

  • While they are undisputably low quality, they still usually are genuine attempts at answering the actual question. And while downvotes are in order, I am not sure we should delete answers that, while bad, are actual answers. The community also seems largely undecided about this and we often have controversial reviews where half the users voted to delete those questions and the other half voted to keep them (which is further complicated by the unintuitive design of the Low Quality review queue and its misleading "Looks Ok" button).
  • While downvotes on the other hand might be sufficient for signaling a bad answer, especially when accompanied by a request for clarification in a comment, it isn't a good sign if most ID questions end up with one or more negatively voted answers, among which might even be the correct one. This does throw a bad (or an even worse, so to say) light on those questions and, as said, might encourage users (especially unengaged ones who don't care about the votes on their posts anyway) to just smash such one-line guesses onto each and every ID question.

    On the other hand it isn't a good experience for new users who might otherwise want to stick around further and try to give good answers to see their answers downvoted into oblivion, especially when they gave the correct answer. While a proper comment is always encouraged and helps to guide those users into the right direction, preventing this bad answer situation in the first place might be preferable.

  • Another option might be to combine both approaches and downvote+comment such answers and only delete them if the request for clarification is not heeded after a significant amount of time (say a few days or a week). There is even an official post notice that can be added by moderators (or even other high-rep users?) of the form:

    We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

    But this on the one hand has the problem of requiring quite some manual maintenance overhead to care for checking back at those answers after some time. And on the other hand we might end up deleting answers that even got accepted by the asker as correct (because let's face it, the usual ID asker doesn't give a damn if the answers are properly reasoned, they just wanna hear a movie title), which would be an unintuitive and unpleasant experience for the involved users.

So I would like to know what the community thinks about this problem and possible ways to tackle it. Is it a problem at all or should we just keep going as we do? Should we be less strict in flagging those bad answers and stick to downvoting (+comment) them? Should we be more strict in judging what actually is a proper answer and be more proactive in downright deleting low quality ID answers? Is there anything else that might be done to discourage such answers in the first place in addition to the normal SE measures for encouraging good answers (like an automated message/hint for answerers automatically attached to ID questions)? Should we employ more manual quality assurance, like post notices and delayed maintance of non-improved answers after some time?

  • Mostly bad ID give rise to Band ID answer, so we can even start closing bad,hopeless ID sooner then later.
    – Ankit Sharma Mod
    Jul 22, 2015 at 12:32
  • @AnkitSharma Well, we are closing bad ID questions to some degree. But I think bad answers are a problem of all ID questions, even the good ones (or the non-bad ones, so to say).
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 22, 2015 at 12:40
  • Is there a way to add a message popup for ID question. Explaining how to write an answer.
    – Ankit Sharma Mod
    Jul 22, 2015 at 12:49
  • 2
    @AnkitSharma There might be some way, at least with the help of the big bosses. Gathering some ideas might not hurt. Afterall they also implemented this automated popup when asking an ID-tagged question (ok, that idea originally came from SO, though). But an automated message might also be seen as overkill or treating the symptoms instead of the desease. I wouldn't want a million special cases just for ID questions (which really only points to the larger truth we're going to face sooner or later).
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 22, 2015 at 12:58
  • I'd say this is a problem with the type of questions. Long answers simply for the sake of long answers doesn't seem like a solution to an actual problem.
    – DA.
    Aug 3, 2015 at 2:35
  • @DA. Well, I'd agree that they're a symptom of a larger desease. However, it's not about making them longer for length's sake alone. It's about making them explanatory answers that clarify why the answer is correct instead of just asserting that it is. That has always been what made a good answer on SE.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Aug 3, 2015 at 17:00
  • @TomCody true, but, ironically, in the case of ID questions, the better the question (ie, more details) the less details need to be put into the answer other than "because it meets the list of criteria in the question".
    – DA.
    Aug 3, 2015 at 18:44
  • 1
    @DA. So "this answer is correct because it answers your question"? ;-)
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Aug 3, 2015 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


At Anime.SE, we are fighting much the same scourge as you. Here is a brief outline of how these things are handled on our site. This is a descriptive account, since we haven't hammered out a proper prescriptive policy.

  • Users comment on short id-answers and tell the users to add more details about why they believe their answer is correct. This usually is ineffective.
  • If OP has indicated that a particular short id-answer is correct, or if OP has vanished but there is a short id-answer that is incontrovertibly correct nonetheless, someone is likely to come by and edit in screenshots and plot descriptions lifted whole cloth from our equivalents of IMDB. For whatever reason, it is thought that this makes the answers better.
  • Sometimes, we attach the "we're looking for long answers..." notice to short id-answers. I don't know why; this particular notice seems fairly useless in most cases. This is also usually ineffective. (Frankly, I never attach these notices, but at least one of our other mods uses them fairly frequently.)
  • And sometimes, when enough 4k+ users are feeling particularly ornery, they delete the answers.

I don't know whether this is a good way to handle these things, but it's what we do. Hopefully this proves helpful to you as you design a policy. (Though, of course, the best policy would be to get rid of id-requests altogether - it's not too late!)

treating the symptoms instead of the [disease]

You bet your bottom dollar it is. We already have a number of special cases in for id-reqs:

And I don't know that there's a way around this besides banning id-requests altogether (which would be best, but...) - since id-requests are so fundamentally different from every other type of question we (and presumably you) have, how could you not treat them in a fundamentally different way?

  • Yeah, this is about what we do, I think... I regularly comment asking for a link to IMDb/Wikipedia along with matching up the plot points in the questions with the actual plot of the film. If it shows up in the review queue, I often vote to delete, particularly if it seems to be wrong based on the info in the question... though the people asking are often very wrong in what they remember.
    – Catija
    Jul 23, 2015 at 6:00
  • One more approach which i sometime do is "convert into comment". When the answer is a very long shot or have a word "maybe".
    – Ankit Sharma Mod
    Jul 24, 2015 at 8:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .