A recent question got downvoted fast and got the usual "more information" comment. The question asks to identify a movie by a single scene but gives no further information about country of origin, language, estimated year of release etc. The scene described is catchy, though, and while the answer wasn't accepted yet it was sufficient to identify the movie.

Are we too strict with such questions? If I imagine myself with such a question, with a single iconic scene wandering around in my head without reference, I now would feel quite discouraged to ask. Any vague additional information wouldn't help much. "I have seen it a few years ago but it could be old"? "I saw it in English but it could've been dubbed" "I have a (weak) feeling it's from the 90s, possibly 80s" (+4)?

Note that I think about identify questions for movies by an unique, iconic scene that someone who knows the movie will probably recognize on the spot. Vague question with general concepts or plots are a different cup of tea.

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    If someone can answer the question in minutes, let alone hours from posting, the question should just be left open imho. – cde Sep 4 '15 at 12:10
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    The problem here isn't detail but effort. That question doesn't really look like the asker has even considered thinking about those details and is yet to respond to any of the comments asking for clarification. Neither downvotes nor close-votes are permanent, they are a measure to show quality and validity of a question in its current form. Neither does an answer absolve a question from closability. – Napoleon Wilson Mod Sep 4 '15 at 12:19
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    I think each question is judged on its own merit. I haven't voted on the Trainspotting one, but I'd guess it got -4 and that Mulholland Dr. one got +4 simply because the latter is longer, more detailed and the OP at least tries to adhere to our guideline by estimating a year. It's that extra little effort that matters. And as for "Any vague additional information wouldn't help much": trust me, from my own experience, it really, really would. – Walt Sep 4 '15 at 17:14
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    @cde It's not about a question's answerability but its quality. Presumably "pleez whats da movie w/ a pregnant cop that shoots a guy in da snow thanx" will be answered in minutes, but it's a bad, lazy question and our SE frowns on that. And once it's answered, it can't even be improved anymore with more details since it would just be retconning. – Walt Sep 4 '15 at 17:27

Before starting; I didn't downvote this question. However, my answer to the question "Are we too strict with such questions?" is NO. In fact, I don't think we're being strict enough. Here's why:

When you hover over the downvote button you get the following tooltip:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

Identification questions fall into the "not useful" category but they're on topic due to historic reasons.

The information provided in the question consists of a single sentence describing super generic things. This falls into the "does not show any research effort" and "unclear" categories.

Furthermore, the actual policy on identification questions states this:

Identification questions are currently on-topic for this site with the exception of commercials and music videos. Please try to give as much detail as possible:

  • Where you watched the movie or TV show
  • When you watched the movie or TV show
  • Any idea of how old it was
  • Any idea of country of origin (if known)
  • Whether it was animated or not
  • Any distinctive detail

This question does not contain any of the above information.

Also try to give the question a meaningful title that already includes key identifying details (e.g. description of a character, setting or plot) and avoid generic titles like "name of horror movie". See this question to get a feel of what we expect from a well rounded Identify-This-* question.

"Help me find a comedy" is not a meaningful title.

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    Just to add to this, adding more information to the question may also aid people searching for it in Google (i.e. actually making these questions useful for more than one person). – DisgruntledGoat Sep 17 '15 at 13:51
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    Nothing in this SE site is useful. It's for entertainment, about entertainment, and provides no utility to anyone. It's a trivia website. If people find identify-this-movie questions interesting, then punishing them for asking is just asinine. Often, Google answers point to this site first when doing research... so you can't even claim that they're not researching when you yourself would starve that avenue of research. – John O Sep 30 '15 at 21:46

The whole idea behind this, is that you ask for help with something your vaguely remember. That oftenly means that the person with the question can recall only few details.

That said, the effort like Napoleon Wilson mentioned, is important. The effort in searching beforehand and describing the memories as well as possible.

From my experience on this site though, quite a lot of questions get many downvotes simply because the OP doesn't describe enough details. I say, when (s)he doesn't remember that much, you can't really blame him/her and oftenly in such cases someone still eventually manages to answer the question.

The hard thing here is that it's not always clear whether the OP put in too little effort, or just doesn't remember that much. Perhaps we should wait with (down)voting at least until the OP has or hasn't responded to a comment asking for more details. Since it's different with every question, we can't really have a strict protocol on this in the first place, if you ask me.


I'm going shock and horrify you by going against the current opinion and say "Yes, we are far too harsh on "Identify-this-X" questions, especially those from brand new users.

What usually happens is that a new user joins (hooray!) and posts a question (double hooray!!) hoping for help locating a specific property. They then, because they're often relatively inexperienced site users will tend to fail to meet the quality guidelines and get themselves downvoted. Ce la vie. If you ask a bad question you should get downvoted.

That's all well and good, but far too often something weird is happening. The question meets the quality guidelines (those offered by the FAQ and tool tips) but they get downvoted anyway. Shortly afterward, someone turns up and says "I'm reasonably sure I know this, but I'm not going to tell you unless you jump through arbitrary hoops that I've set". There are then a set of snarky comments under the question demanding info that the OP clearly doesn't remember. Within a few minutes (before the OP has had any opportunity to improve the question), it gets flagged and closed by a moderator despite the fact that it met the quality guidelines they were given.

Unsurprisingly the new user thinks "what a bunch of *%$£s" and never returns.

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    Perhaps we could improve things by encouraging successful "find this x" recipients to 'pay it forward' by asking a follow up question about the thing they've found? – user7812 Dec 10 '15 at 15:00
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    Interesting considerations. That being said, I'd be genuinely interested in some examples for those "snarky comments". The comments I usually see under those questions are kept entirely neutral at worst and just ask for some more information (that we often can't know the asker doesn't remember, instead of simply having forgotten to add it). But if you genuinely consider those comments (including my own) snarky, I'd like to know that, since I generally don't. – Napoleon Wilson Mod Dec 10 '15 at 15:43
  • And of course, in general, if you find some comment not constructive, detrimental to a welcoming atmosphere, or even downright aversive, feel free to flag it with an appropriate flag reason. – Napoleon Wilson Mod Dec 10 '15 at 15:46
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    @NapoleonWilson - I think it's more a question of tone and context. This one, for example features in bold text the words "anything at all?". That could easily be construed as an unfriendly (or at least exasperated) tone, especially when linked to the inevitable two insta-downvotes and the moderator close. Having got his answer (before the question was closed as "unanswerable", obviously), I would be astounded if he came back. – user7812 Dec 10 '15 at 15:52
  • Thanks, noted. I'll try to addapt it. As an anecdotal side-note, that "Anything at all" actually started out with normal formating, then developed into italics and later bold. Make of that development whatever you want. ;-) – Napoleon Wilson Mod Dec 10 '15 at 15:52
  • This comment is a pretty good example of what I would describe as passive-aggressive helping. Walt : I think I know what you're after, but do you remember anything else?. If you think you know it, why don't you post it as an answer? – user7812 Dec 10 '15 at 15:56
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    Well, I think Walt has laid out his reasoning to a large degree already (and I personally appreciate his efforts towards improving those questions very much). But that being said, in general there is no problem with waiting for the question to be clarified before posting an answer you're not entirely sure about yet. I see that done many times on SE every day. It's upto everyone else when/if he posts an answer and how sure he wants to be before doing so, which is why I see absolutely no way of interpreting malice or passive-agressive behaviour into that comment. But to each his own. – Napoleon Wilson Mod Dec 10 '15 at 15:59
  • here we see an example of a lack of community action. The OP has provided additional info and a high-rep user has responded but, crucially, not then edited them into the question. – user7812 Dec 10 '15 at 16:03
  • @NapoleonWilson - I'm hesitant to use a word as emotive as "taunting" but telling someone you know the answer, but making your answer (especially to an ident question) conditional on another's actions doesn't seem to fit with the usual SE mentality. – user7812 Dec 10 '15 at 16:04
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    @Richard ["This comment is a pretty good example"] Yeah, pretty much what Napoleon said, and you also picked a bad example IMO. The OP there did supply more details, the question was improved and upvoted and they got their answer anyway 3 minutes later. How is any of this bad? [There are other major issues with your post, I'll get my thoughts together and try to address the key points.] – Walt Dec 10 '15 at 16:11
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    @Richard ["here we see an example"] Er, sorry (and rectified), but are you really asking why I forgot to do something? You realize I'm not a mod, right? I read many questions and try to do my best. And if I did forget to add something, feel free to add it yourself. – Walt Dec 10 '15 at 16:15
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    @Richard As for your post. A few corrections before I get to the nature of ID: 1. "comments under the question demanding info that the OP clearly doesn't remember" Sorry, but this is downright incorrect. I've answered hundreds of these so far and there were countless times where the OP, after being asked for more details, suddenly supplied a lot of them, some of which were crucial to the answer (and sometimes after outright saying 'that's all I remember' in the original question). – Walt Dec 10 '15 at 16:53
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    @Richard 2. "far too often [...] the new user thinks "what a bunch of *%$£s" and never returns." I have no idea what you're basing this on, but realize that many ID askers never return, even after their question received positive recognition and answered. [To Be Concluded in Part III] – Walt Dec 10 '15 at 16:54
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    3. "The question meets the quality guidelines [...] downvoted anyway" A couple of things about that. First, bear in mind that (even though I don't like it either) there are some people who just dislike ID and would DV any of it regardless of quality. Second, note that our major guidelines on the issue (the one you linked and this one) require ID Qs to both contain basic details (most notably year, country and genre) and be elaborate. – Walt Dec 10 '15 at 18:23
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    This stems from the fact that a lot of people on M&TV consider ID trivial, and grudgingly accept it if the questions shows some effort. If they don't, they're considered low quality. I'm not saying this system is perfect, just that comments asking for people to elaborate shouldn't be construed as negative since they're not that different from comments on non-ID Qs that show little effort. However, if you still have an example for a question that contains a reasonable amount of text and details that was mistreated as low-quality, please bring it up and this will hopefully be rectified. – Walt Dec 10 '15 at 18:23

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