This site is beginning to be plagued with questions that have useless titles such as:

  • Name this movie.
  • Help! I need this movie title.
  • I don't remember the title of this movie.
  • who is this actor
  • I forgot the name of this movie.
  • ID this movie.


These are terrible titles as they offer no way to distinguish between them. They also offer no clue as to what might be in the actual question to see if it's even something I could answer if I wanted to.

I've been trying to update these as I see them to make them a bit more descriptive, but that seems like a losing battle.

Alternatively, I've been downvoting and leaving a comment "please provide a more descriptive title" but I'm not sure if that's working either.

Have we as a group figured out a way to handle this yet? Suggestions?

One thought I had would be to perhaps try and enforce a format for these question titles. Maybe something like:

ID this [decade] [genre] movie featuring [some unique identifier]?

Example "ID this 80's sci-fi movie featuring a space ship that can turn invisible?"

  • I usually edit and leave a note about using more helpful titles... but the last note I left was deleted by one of the mods... so... There's really not anything we can to about it. – Catija ModStaff Dec 29 '15 at 20:56
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    Adding "ID This" or "ID Question:" is something that's been heavily discouraged on other stacks. – user7812 Dec 29 '15 at 23:11
  • @Richard that's not a bad option either. In fact, I think I'd prefer that route. – DA. Dec 29 '15 at 23:12
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    Use the power of Edit, for me downvote is better suited for bad ID as a whole rather then bad title. We as a community can help new users for better titles. Take this example, its one of the highly voted ID question and was a good ID too with bad title. Just a simple tittle edit made it perfect. – Ankit Sharma Dec 30 '15 at 7:09
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    And we all together as community can handle this easily but leaving comment can't harm either and i will remove this comments after title fixing if i see them. – Ankit Sharma Dec 30 '15 at 7:20
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    "beginning"? Where've you been the whole year? ;-) – Napoleon Wilson Mod Dec 30 '15 at 14:51
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    @AnkitSharma But I leave the comments AND fix the title... the note is there for future questions, not the current one. Removing the comment makes it so the OP doesn't see why good titles are important. – Catija ModStaff Dec 30 '15 at 16:00
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    Yea, I'd second @Catija The issue I have with just editing the title is that it doesn't do anything to fix the problem in the long run. If we don't put some expectations on people asking the question, what's the motivation to improve? – DA. Dec 30 '15 at 16:15
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    Edited the title because otherwise it looks like it's about ID as a whole, which is always contentious. ;) – Walt Dec 30 '15 at 16:31
  • @Catija & DA: But for long run, those comment are just obsolete – Ankit Sharma Dec 30 '15 at 16:53
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    @AnkitSharma No... they're not obsolete at all. The comment isn't telling someone "Change the title"... that would be obsolete. Telling someone "In future, use a better title that is more specific and representative of your question" is not obsolete. – Catija ModStaff Dec 30 '15 at 16:54
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    @Catija Do you really think an old comment on some x ID will help a new user to know the importance of good title? – Ankit Sharma Dec 30 '15 at 17:04
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    @AnkitSharma A comment left within 24 hours is not old. It's one thing if you delete comments that are weeks old but the comment I had deleted was removed before it was even a day old. And, regardless, yes... I don't think that having reminders to write good titles will ever hurt anything... unless the entire site starts to manage it. – Catija ModStaff Dec 30 '15 at 17:08
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    Name this movie sounds more like puzzle rather then question. – Hardik Vaghani Nov 28 '16 at 6:39

Why not just pick some salient points from the question and recast the title? The powers-that-be gave you an edit button precisely so you could make edits. In the time it takes to write a comment asking the OP to write a better title, you could have written a better title for them.

"Help! What is that movie from the 2000's!" can easily become "Comedy Movie where clique-girl character is upset about being called Megan"

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    It's an option. As stated, I have been doing it. But I can't keep up. :) – DA. Dec 29 '15 at 23:11
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    @DA. - You don't need to. Just do as many as you feel you want to. That's why we're called a community. – user7812 Dec 29 '15 at 23:12

I suggested updating the help center advice in my question, Instructions for Identify-This-X questions should include title advice a year ago. The help center was updated, but I don't think it helped.

The best thing to do is to edit as many as you can. Perhaps take a small vow not to answer the ones with bad titles until you or someone else has edited?


Skeptics.SE uses a blacklist for question titles. They've banned the words really and actually from their titles. The question cannot be submitted as long as the blacklisted words appear in the title.

Perhaps we can do the same, but for different words or phrases (banning help me from titles seems like a step in the right direction). The blacklist mechanism allows for an explanation to be shown to the hapless user.

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    This is similar to Ahmad's suggestion (albeit simpler and more likely to get implemented). – Napoleon Wilson Mod Nov 25 '16 at 13:21

I suggest to update the page where the person posts his/her question to automatically detect if the title is too generic and poor quality, and provide examples or suggestions so that the question could never be asked with a poor title.enter image description here

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    while I like the idea, this poses a huge linguistics issue that's not easily solved with code without resorting to machine learning, etc. – DForck42 Nov 10 '16 at 19:45
  • That would be one impressive artificial intelligence. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is how the original Skynet started. – user56reinstatemonica8 Dec 5 '16 at 14:06

I think it creates a weirdness to the site to over-"police" these kinds of questions, because it feels like these are exactly the kinds of questions that would be of closest equivalence to the general kinds of questions in other StackExchange topics like StackOverflow.

StackOverflow questions, no matter how simple or "dumb" or "badly worded", can be immeasurably helpful and useful because they show-up in Google searches and general site searches, even with just a few overlapping keywords, not to mention the benefits of having a plethora of "related question" links off to the righthand side of the page.

If I wanna know how to automatically make timestamps appear with 3 letter weekday names in Python, that's not really a question that any tutorial or book or general Python website would explicitly cover. But it's exactly the kind of question that you find on StackOverflow; often multiple times.

Sometimes the accepted answer is a link to the documentation, or sometimes there's an answer with a bunch of examples and even some other libraries/packages that you never would have learned about otherwise. That's the huge benefit: discovery.

Sure, having all questions be "Help! What's this movie's name?!" is difficult to track and overly generic. It's a bad title. But it's not necessarily a bad question; so why downvote it?

It seems like it'd be relatively easy to see the question, open it, rename the title to "Identify this: ________ [?]" and fill in the blank with a few keywords from the first line of the user's question. Make a comment that you modified the title. Then, go into the question and help the user out by appending their question with a quick block of markdown:

**Type**:          Movie
**Time Period**:   1970s ???
**Language**:      ?
**Subtitles**:     Spanish
**Where Seen?**:   Theatre

which will appear like:


Type: Movie

Time Period: 1970s ???

Language: ?

Subtitles: Spanish

Where Seen?: Theatre

And then add another comment saying something like "I added a quick summary section for you, please fill it out if you can think of anything more, so people can help answer the question.".

That way people will be encouraged to participate if the "hard part" is already done for them -- and sticklers will get the satisfaction that the site is more coherent and cohesive.

And lastly, I think people should be careful about "correcting" other people's writing. If someone doesn't write syntactically or grammatically "King's English", it could come-off as very discouraging when they return to their question and notice that it's rewritten for them.

If something is unintelligible, then it seems like it would be more appropriate and supportive/encouraging to make a comment like "Can you try and explain more? I didn't really understand when you said '_____' ...? No worries about the grammar, just any more details you can provide would help!". Especially if you want someone to clarify what they've already said; if they get approached with this "policing" of their language, why would they try and say more? Have you ever had anyone interrupt you while you're speaking and "correct" your syntax or grammar? It becomes very frustrating, and you can get the sense that if everything you're saying is coming out "wrong", then why say anything at all? It's disheartening, and I don't think that's the "vibe" the site would want to espouse.

Sure, go ahead and "police" for duplicates or things that are racist, sexist, or "off-topic" -- but what's that whole den of snakes when you're in a site just called "Movies & TV"??? -- just like StackOverflow, but I think it's important to remember that the benefit should be to provide a way to find questions, ask questions, and answer questions. Doing things that would actively discourage any of that, doesn't really seem fruitful. No matter how syntactically "clean and tidy" the question queue becomes.

Where else can you search for questions like "this movie or show where like there's a creaky noise and maybe a swingset or a swamp and a craggly demon mask guy is in a movie theatre???" and get someone who just so happens to stumble across that rambling stream-of-consciousness and go "Oh! That's definitely Donnie Darko." and give you a screenshot of exactly what you're trying to remember!? A site that provides that; that's magic.

Movie Magic.

And that's probably why we'd wanna be here and contribute and participate.

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    Note that I wasn't asking if these questions should exist or not--but rather what do we do with the ones that have nondescript--and therefore, useless--titles. – DA. Nov 7 '16 at 5:32
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    "If someone doesn't write syntactically or grammatically "King's English", it could come-off as very discouraging when they return to their question and notice that it's rewritten for them." - Um, sorry, but correcting wrong English is what we do here. You have absolutely no authorial right for bad English. You can write it, but don't be surprised to see it corrected. If a user can't grasp the idea of the community improving his questions, then that's quite a hurdle to get into SE to begin with. – Napoleon Wilson Mod Nov 8 '16 at 13:01
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    "Where else can you search for questions like "this movie or show where like..."" - There's tons of places where you can do that. This is not and has never been the primary purpose of this site at all. Just so you know that. That might be "magic", but it's not the kind of magic this site was made for. – Napoleon Wilson Mod Nov 8 '16 at 13:06

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