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As a corollary to Should movie trivia questions be closed?

I'd like to have a discussion about these sorts of questions.

Personally, I find them generally pointless and I don't see why we entertain them here. Most of the time, the specific model/brand of a random item has no bearing on the film or TV show. I would certainly make an exception if the OP can argue that the brand is important, even, potentially, for reasons of advertising... but, in general, what is the benefit to the site of questions like:

This is different than questions like:

In this question, the user is showing interest in whether the glasses are appropriate to the period of the film, not merely in knowing the name brand of the object.

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I would go so far as to say that unless the item has some bearing on the plot, period accuracy, meaning (including symbolism, etc), character motivation and the like then these questions are off topic. I admit this might be a narrow view but I think that unless the item in question meets these types of criteria then these questions are completely trivial.

So, as a hypothetical example, let's consider the film Pulp Fiction. I would consider a question like "What kind of briefcase was used" to be off-topic and trivial while a question like "Did the briefcase contain radioactive material" or "Was Marsellus' soul in the briefcase" to be on-topic (potentially - those two questions also have issues with regards to actually being answerable but they illustrate the idea)

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(First off, let's get the full disclosure bit out of the way: I think closing questions as "too trivial" is not a good overall policy, for reasons that are largely irrelevant to this question. I'm not arguing we change that policy, but it does color my opinion a bit, so I wanted to get it out in the open.)


tl;dr: Given that site policy is to close trivial questions, and shopping questions are off-topic on most of SE, I think there is plenty of justification to close some of these identification questions as one or the other of those. But I would suggest we err on the side of leniency -- make sure the question is well written and clear, but prefer to leave it open unless it's clearly just useless minutia.


The main reason that I am skeptical about closing all questions like the ones you're asking about is for two reasons:

Who Else Knows This Stuff?

First, the justification for closing trivia questions seems, from my previous discussions, to be motivated primarily by the fact that we don't want to be "just another IMDB" -- that is, we don't want to be a repository for facts that can already been found elsewhere. This includes things like actors personal info, filmographies, cast/crew/etc information, etc. I can understand why those questions seen like a bad idea, so the fact that the community wants them closed is understandable.

But many of these "trivial" questions like you're asking about are things that just aren't found anywhere else, and require time, research, and a familiarity with the work in question to answer. That seems to me like exactly the kind of question a site like this was built for. Not every question on the site is going to be a masterpiece of cinematic analysis; some of them are just going to be short, simple, easy questions. I think that's OK, as long as the question and answer are interesting to someone. (You would be amazed at some of the "utterly uninteresting minutia" questions on other sites that asked more than once!)

Don't Judge The Question By It's Answers

The other problem I have with being strict on closing these questions is, it's entirely possible that the item being asked about is significant to some part of the film, even if the OP didn't know it. They may have just seen a weird looking bong and wondered what it was, when the prop might have turned out to be a carefully planned way to express the distinction between two characters.

We wouldn't know that until someone came along and answered it. And that's the kind of very interesting answer I think would make a good addition to the site, even if the question that got it here wasn't so awesome. And really, it's the answers we're interested in.

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    By this same argument we would leave open every ID question, regardless of quality... it might be easy to ID based on what they give us... to the right person... Just because something might be important does not make the question valuable... if there's no interest by the asker in why something was chosen as a prop in the question, I have no interest in leaving the question open. Someone thinking "this bong is cool" doesn't make it worth answering... and you can't say the info was difficult to find on that because you found an entire page about it in a five minute search. – Catija Jan 31 '16 at 3:30
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    As I said, I don't share most of those opinions you just laid out, so it clearly colors my view of things. I don't think that I need to find a question interesting for it to be interesting to someone, or for it to be on-topic. – KutuluMike Jan 31 '16 at 12:27
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    @MikeEdenfield I said it already and I'll say it again. It is not about if something is interesting to you or me or the asker or anyone, it is about showing why it is interesting to you or the asker or possibly anyone. – Napoleon Wilson Jan 31 '16 at 14:26
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Yes, and no.

If the question is a straight up, "Where can I buy this thing?" question, then the answer is an absolute and unequivocal no. In line with other SE sites, we're not here to support shopping recommendations.

If the question is "What is this thing?" or "Is this thing accurate to the period?" then the answer is an unequivocal yes, those questions are definitely on-topic.

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    What about the questions in the middle? Pure id questions with no mention of shopping or story? That's where most of these fall. – Catija Jan 29 '16 at 1:25

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