As many of you know, one way or the other this site has a problem with identification questions.
The large and rising influx of identification questions, which are often of rather low quality, steadily keeps on deteriorating the image of this site and the brand of what it stands for, to which identification questions have always been considered rather a "necessary evil" than the bread and butter of what this site is about.
The rather low votes those low-quality questions gather in turn lead to many of those questions (often asked by new users) ending up negatively voted and/or closed. This, while ultimately a consequence of the questions' quality, leads to an image of the site being "unfriendly" to new users, especially since new users might not always grasp the workings of SE and the meaning of downvotes immediately and might interpret them as more personal than they are. This is not a pleasant experience for those new users and neither does it draw the picture of an inviting and open community.
Add to this, that those reservations against supposedly scaring away new users have recently lead to a counter trend of giving mere sympathy upvotes to rather low-quality, and therefore downvoted, questions in order to encourage the new users. While the motives for such votes are pure, they in turn also have a bad effect on the site as they make it seem as if there was a rising sentiment in favour of bad questions and actively encouraging posting such questions, which is again detrimental to the site's image and ultimately its quality.
In addition, those identification questions, be they good or bad, but especially when lacking in detail, often also encourage rather unexplanative and bad answers that rarely have a motivation to be improved with further details (because, well, they already answered the question afterall) and thus again lead to downvotes, which again shed a bad light on the site, its community, its quality...
All those aspects come down to the problems of the many low-quality identification questions we face each day and that we need to tackle in some way or another. We do already have some measures for tackling them in place, which have their individual shortcomings, though:
- The help center as well as the tag wiki excerpt try to encourage giving as many details as possible and provide some guidelines as to what we're looking for in a proper identification question, but of course this requires reading those not immediately accessible guidelines.
- There is an automated popup in place that appears whenever someone tries to ask an identification question. However, it has some problems on its own, like only being shown for one tag (identify-this-movie), not featuring all the information we might want to know, or only appearing when the tag-edit loses focus (which is usually right before clicking the Ask button). And in general it is just not configurable at all without employing help by the SE übermods.
- There is a specific close-reason for identification questions that significantly lack effort. However, it's specific interpretation is not always entirely clear-cut and requires some personal judgement sometimes.
- There is a manual maintenance task for removing old inactive unanswered identification questions. This however is only a mere cleanup task long after the fact.
Some of those measures we have in place only act after a bad identification question was asked and thus fail to tackle the problem of low-quality and thus low-voted questions and the resulting impact on site quality and user discouragement. Tackling the problem of bad identification question before they are asked might even be better (albeit much harder, of course).
I'd thus hereby like to encourage the community to share any possible ideas on how we can further improve tackling the general problems we're facing from those identification questions.