The consensus for now seems to be to try it further with identification questions on the site and see how it will pan out in the future. We will shortly post more meta discussions about how to deal with this decision and how to proceed further.

As many of you know, one way or the other this site has a problem with identification questions. The relative ratio of those questions on the site is steadily increasing over time without a sign of decline and they will at some point become the primary type of question on this site. At the same time they have been identified as one of the primary problems this site has to face since graduation. They have a variety of disadvantages about them that make them a plague more than an asset:

  • They are not what this site is about. Those question have never been, are not, and won't ever be what this site is primarily concerned about. This is a site for appreciating films and TV and analysing and explaining its content and themes by interesting and engaging questions and answers. It has never been a quiz show for guessing movie titles.

  • They have nothing to offer to this site's broader perspective. Those questions only ever help a single person and are hardly ever of interest to anyone once they are answered. As said they build a mere quiz show for guessing movie titles, which I won't deny can be a great deal of fun, but does not contribute to a site that concerns itself with interesting questions discussing films. We are first and foremost a source for interesting questions about film and TV and only after that people's individual help-desk.

  • They distort the image of what this site is about. Their steadily rising presence on this site distorts the brand of what this site is about. It confuses people about the primary goal of this site, which never was movie identification. Identification questions have only ever been a "necessary evil" on this site and a side-task offered by its community. However, when the majority of new questions start being of this type, it starts to distort the site's image and this becomes the primary goal of it, detracting from what this site really is about. This is the reason why they are so contagious, since their rise only encourages more of those questions and at the same time drives away avid users uninterested in a mere quiz show site.

  • They rarely encourage users to become engaged community members. While those questions indeed tend to attract many new users, those users rarely stick around to even care for their own question, let alone ask and answer other questions, let alone ask and answer non-ID questions. They comprise a sub-site of questions on this site which it is rather easy for new users to get into but very hard for them to break out of into the larger and primary subject matter of this site. They thus seem to fail their purpose of being an entry point to the site.

  • They are often of rather low quality and very vague, with low chance for improvement. They often require major clarifications and elaborations to be asked for since people either can't or won't add the necessary details to make the question remotely useful. This becomes largely tiring and often those requests stay unanswered and the question may end up closed. Add to this that in contrast to every other kind of question, they can usually only be improved with the help of the asker. It sometimes happens that someone asks an interesting and engaging question that is just not fleshed out enough to make for a good question. But when the central idea is recognizable the rest of the community can help to flesh out their question into a great form. However, the missing details of an ID question just cannot be construed out of the blue by someone else, they have to be supplied by the original asker.

  • They encourage bad and unexplanative answers. Those questions, be they good or bad, but especially when lacking in detail, often also encourage rather unexplanative 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, and the quality of its answers.

  • They require many special rules to mitigate their problems. There are various features in place just to mitigate the problems of bad ID questions, from a specific close-reason, over an automated tag-based popup, to manual maintenance tasks for cleaning up loose ends. However, all those special rules just feel like fighting the symptoms rather than the desease and their success for the latter is not entirely clear.

  • Their many downvotes and close-votes result in an "unwelcoming" atmosphere. Many of those questions end up being (rightfully) downvoted and/or closed. While ultimately a consequence of the questions' low quality and a necessary measure to work against that, this 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.

However, there are some possible reasons for embracing those kinds of questions:

  • They tend to fit to the general Q&A model of this site. The usually have a definite (even if not always easy to find) answer that the asker can accept.

  • They bring many questions and site hits. Banning those questions will unncessarily reduce our daily income of questions (in fact it might actually halve it by current trends).

  • It is a service that largely profits from the film-expertise of the site's users. Movie identification by description is still something that largely requires a human to do properly and those questions could indeed profit from the film and TV experience of this site's users.

  • They might hold the occasional pearl of a generally interesting question. Now and then there might be a question that goes beyond the bounds of a mere ID question and offers insights about the larger industry, genre and working of film and TV.

The issue of those questions has been discussed starting with the site's very inception and onward and has been a controversial topic ever since. However, for a long time we simply ignored the problems and dangers those questions really pose for the larger picture, cleaning up behind the mess as best as possible. This ultimately led to them getting out of hand in the way they are now. But looking at sites that are as plagued by them as we are (or maybe even less than we are) and their successful efforts for finally getting rid of them, it seems about time to do something about the issue here, too. We have to finally make up our damn minds if we still want those questions around. So I will ask straight up

Shall we declare identification questions entirely off-topic?

Feel free to offer your views or possible arguments. Make your voice be heard! You have at least till June 1st to make your case and share your input, be it only by voting.

Note that a vote for "Yes, we want to ban them" of course won't magically solve all the mentioned problems from one day to the other. Even if they're off-topic we will still have to fight a daily struggle close-voting the many daily ID questions, since they won't just stop coming in. However, we'll be able to deal with them in a clear, fast and conclusive way and over time the image and community of this site will hopefully recover and the questions will change. But changing the site philosophy and policy and repairing the broken windows is a necessary first step before anything can improve.

Neither does a possible "No, we don't want to ban them" vote mean a stop to all the existing measures for controlling and improving those questions. A vote for not banning them is a vote for keeping the status quo, not for turning this site into IDThisMovie.SE.

This question is also not concerned about what exactly to do with the existing identification questions, which are not particularly few. But we don't want to complicate matters here by already discussing what to do with those questions once they're off-topic or letting those considerations influence our decision. Here and now we are deciding if they are off-topic in the first place.

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    Wouldn't it be easier for those who dislike identification questions to just add them to their ignore tags list and stop whining about them? – user7812 May 11 '16 at 21:44
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    @Richard Ha - I was making exactly the same point (as your first comment) in another comment at exactly the same time! :-) However, I do greatly appreciate the consultation with the community here and the effort to provide a balanced viewpoint with two possible answers. Not every site has mods who are so fair and conscientious when considering declaring a certain type of question off-topic. – Rand al'Thor May 11 '16 at 21:46
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    @Richard Ignoring the problem won't help anyone. They will still distort the image of what the site is about. New users don't ignore bad questions, they take them as models. Besides that, I would be glad if you would refrain from calling out a constructive effort to adress an issue a significant part of the community (and not just a few misguided mods) see as a problem as "whining". That's highly non-constructive. I agree that not everyone might find those question so bad or might care about the well-being of this site so much. But that's why you can vote here. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 11 '16 at 21:47
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    @Richard Oh closing the eye from the problem and not even discussing it, seems like a valid point from god knows what prospective. – Ankit Sharma May 11 '16 at 21:54
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    I'd also like to suggest that a simple majority (either way) shouldn't be used as a deciding factor. If you plan to make as dramatic a change to the site, that you need to seek a clear mandate. Scraping over the finish-line shouldn't be enough. – user7812 May 11 '16 at 21:55
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    @AnkitSharma - I'm suggesting that if the result is close, that we stick with the status quo. As a minimum, what you're talking about represents hundreds of man-hours of work (not to mention the inevitable confrontations, tantrums, etc etc) trying to turn the ship around – user7812 May 11 '16 at 22:00
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    @Richard Of course it does, but that's not to scare us away from it. We can worry about that later. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 11 '16 at 22:01
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    @NapoleonWilson - No, let's worry about it now since the proposal is on the table. – user7812 May 11 '16 at 22:02
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    @Richard So you are declining it just because it will increase mod work? But none of the mod minds it so why you are so over concerned? – Ankit Sharma May 11 '16 at 22:04
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    @AnkitSharma - Because a lot of the mod-work is done by ordinary users. Y'know, us peasants. – user7812 May 11 '16 at 22:05
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    @Richard That's why its up for voting, maybe you missed that. Because the person you are calling peasants are going to vote on it and mod also came from them too. We are not throwing final hammers here anyway. – Ankit Sharma May 11 '16 at 22:06
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    @Richard Then simply don't do the work if you eschew it, leave it to the mods who want to do it and care about the site then. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 11 '16 at 22:09
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    @Richard If you have suggestions, you'd be better served answering this question where your suggestions can be voted both up and down and so that people can address them more directly. As such an experienced user on SE, you should know that's how the site works. It's inappropriate to suggest that a discussion about a major change in the site structure that has been in discussion and very contentious since this site's inception should cause all of the mods to step down in favor of... who - exactly? Many of the high-rep users I talk to here have the same opinion of ID questions. – Catija ModStaff May 11 '16 at 22:23
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    @Richard It's not about not having enough resources to deal with those questions. I'm not sure you've really read much of this question here. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 11 '16 at 22:38
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    @Richard Yeah, making a (any) decision is probably the most important thing here. BTW I have no stance in this any more. But I think Krazer has a point by saying that these questions can't just be swept under the carpet. Maybe there should be a separate SE site for identifying media in general, so everybody knows what (not) to expect elsewhere. – Gert Arnold May 14 '16 at 22:04

No, we should not ban identification questions as off-topic!

They do fit the Q&A format and should be allowed here. And the situation still can work well if we go by the current rule of closing all detail-lacking ID questions and keeping the proper formatted ones. We already have done a lot to control their quality too. And it has many benefits too:

  • By banning them, our questions-per-day rate will be reduced by a lot. Maybe even by half.
  • We will lose new users who came here to find answers to their ID questions, which might be good assets for the future. For example, one of our moderators started here after asking ID questions and our top reputation user as well, and maybe many other similar users.
  • Many people do consider them good and they help them to present their competitive answers and help a user in need. Some people beside the OP genuinely enjoy reading and answering them. And as mentioned previously, some of the questions are significant and interesting beyond merely identifying something.
  • To reiterate another previous point, it is a service befitting and utilyzing the film and TV experience of this site's users.
  • We are not the only site allowing ID. Anime.SE did ban them, but SciFi.SE didn't and they are still working very well there.
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    Quick note: SFF isn't the only other site on the network to allow ID questions; RPG.SE also does. – Rand al'Thor May 11 '16 at 21:50
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    @randal'thor Lots of sites have identification tags. – amaranth May 11 '16 at 21:54
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    @Richard Because they're also as plagued by them as this site is? I know that's hard to grasp for people primarily active on the single site that isn't downright destroyed by them, but it's about more than mere question volume. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 11 '16 at 21:56
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    @NapoleonWilson - as has been pointed out above, a huge number of SE sites actively embrace identification questions, not just SFF:SE – user7812 May 11 '16 at 21:58
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    @Richard so? We should also follow the sheep? – Ankit Sharma May 11 '16 at 22:00
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    @Richard you make the argument that a lot of site have "identification questions," but have you looked at the type of questions they entertained. Most of the ones from non recreational SE, have at least one type of media artefact (i.e., a pic, video, audio). However most identification questions are recreational SE such as this one, are just text based and rely on one's memories, which is oftentimes fallible. What a user remembers and can differ from reality. If the reliability of the users recollections come into question, how can these question be answerable? – Krazer May 11 '16 at 22:24
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    @Krazer - So the goal is to increase the quality of the questions. On SFF:SE, that has been accomplished by engagement with ident-question askers and offering them a semi-template that shows that the way to improve their questions. Those that engage are more likely to find their answers (and hopefully become regular users). Those that don't engage will swiftly find their questions disappearing below the front-page and out of everyone's hair. – user7812 May 11 '16 at 22:28
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    @Richard There's a reason why Anime.SE is gutting thier most popular tag, it's because it's the "Anime and Manga" Stack Exchange site. Not the "Anime and Manga Identification" Stack Exchange site. By continuously allowing these questions on the basis that that they fit the Q&A format, you let users imply that this is alright on the site and since they're so popular and easy to ask, let's ask more. Even if you set up rules and guidelines, there's few that will bother to read them and post as they please. SciFi has a large enough user base to facilitate that swiftly, but smaller ones might not. – Krazer May 11 '16 at 22:31
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    Furthermore, identification question user have little sense of ownership in the questions they ask. This is especially true on on Anime.SE as many identification request will be from unregistered users or users that have posted and never comeback. There have been retention numbers to back this it up. It might be fine if a good portion of users bother following up on their open question. But statistically, most identification askers don't, resulting in many abandoned questions. – Krazer May 11 '16 at 22:36
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    @Richard I'm definitely challenged by your comparisons to SF&F, because I feel like I like the ID questions at SF&F, but I don't like them as much here, and the big challenge is I don't know why. My only theory is that there's a web of tropes, references, and conceits that make up the "meta" of the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and since SF&F is focused on those genres, exploring that web in ID questions is edifying. Movies.SE is not focused enough for ID questions to expose or explore commonalities in stories, IMHO, and that makes them far less edifying in this context. – Todd Wilcox May 13 '16 at 18:17
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    an observation I've seen, i think id questions work better on sci-fi then on other sites because a lot of the ID questions are based on sci-fi works included in magazines and anthologies. where the nature of the works publications lead to far more confusion about the name of a particular short story. – Himarm May 16 '16 at 17:53
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    @sanpaco My first question was recommendation and then ID . But from my all past experience i have steeped down my support for ID. – Ankit Sharma May 18 '16 at 6:04
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    @Richard Of course we will be back at this point, since you know what, they'll not improve at all over this year! I hope they would, but experience told us they won't, especially not if the users concerned about the site just ignore them. It'll get worse and worse and worse, to a point where they have distorted this site into IDThisBullshitIDreamedAbout.SE and all engaged and avid users have left over it. And this is the day I'm worried about. I'm sure you're not at all worried about this, but I am. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 18 '16 at 17:54
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    @Richard Well, a large part of the concerned community already does assist us in cleaning up that stuff, fortunately. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 18 '16 at 17:59

Yes, we shall ban identification questions as off-topic!

They are just not a good fit for this site and I see them as the bane of this site for all the reasons mentioned in the question, but primarily because they won't ever decline and they won't ever improve. The situation will only ever get worse and worse and worse, like it did over all those years before.

The counter arguments don't really seem to hold water either:

  • A common argument seems to be that the users not interested in identification questions could just ignore them. But it is not about ignoring questions you don't like here. The presence of these questions actively distorts the image of what this site is about, just closing the eyes to the problem won't help, as it didn't help in all those previous years. New users don't ignore bad questions, they take them as models. (I would thus also highly encourage the users that have a problem with ID questions to not just ignore them, since that won't bring the site anywhere.)

  • While I won't deny that they tend to fit to the general Q&A model of this site, they simply don't seem to fit to this site's primary purpose and quality standards. Noone says we have to entertain every kind of question that fits to the general Q&A model of SE. We also discourage "trivia" questions albeit them usually being easily and definitely answerable. We also decided against allowing certain types of ID questions that barely touch our subject matter.

  • Neither are we the only site that offers this service. There are enough other places on the internet that offer movie identification (from I Remember This Movie... to NameThatMovie) and there is no obligation for us to become the primary source for movie identification.

  • While it might naturally reduce our daily income of questions (in fact it might actually halve it by current trends), there is no problem with getting less questions if the average quality and relevance of those questions rises in return. There is no use in getting double the daily questions when most of the extra questions end up downvoted, closed, and are of hardly any relevance for this site and its broader picture. Neither is there any reasonable chance for our site to be "ungraduated" just due to a lower Q/d income. There is no precedent of sites ever losing their status as a graduated site just because of this and there are also other graduated sites that have to fight a daily struggle for closing off-topic questions (which I won't deny we'll still have to fight for quite some time until the site's image has largely recovered from ID).

  • And the very rare pearl of a really engaging question once every few months is simply not worth the hassle. Afterall, even other off-topic questions like recommendation can hold the one engaging and insightful pearl now and then. This still doesn't mean we should make all those questions suddenly on-topic.

Those questions are the biggest danger for the well-being of this site and its community. If nothing is done about them, there is a big chance that their volume and the effect it has on the image of the site will ultimately lead to its demise as the amazing place for interesting and engaging questions about films and TV-shows that it hopefully still is. Or in the words of SE employee Robert Cartaino:

I can already see from the responses here that you'll embrace these questions as 'mostly harmless'. The problem is they are easy to ask, but they ultimately help exactly one person, and then they're useless. It gets tiresome, and drives away avid users who drive this site. They will continue to pervade the question space. And then they wear down a community.

I think this point might very well be reached already and we have to finally act against them conclusively, in an effort to salvage this site and the quality of its interesting questions and with them the community of its engaged users. They transform the site into something that it never was intended to be and there are enough complaints from avid users who ceased their activity just because of the overabundance of ID questions, and it always hurts to hear that from users who contributed to making this site great over such a long time.

This is also in accordance to the 2nd highest voted answer on the last more general brainstorming discussion about ID questions, which also said:

...this is a failed experiment. That's okay; it happens, and it is totally okay to own up to that. The vast, vast majority of "what was that movie I saw..." questions are terrible. Trying to save them out of some sense of preserving those rare (albeit, still mediocre) gems does not make sense to me. I don't get it. You don't need these questions; you don't need that traffic.

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    By the current face of the site, we are better without those dam ID questions, +1. – Ankit Sharma May 11 '16 at 19:22
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    Wouldn't it be more practical to cordon them off somehow? I know there are problems with them, but some people seem to actually enjoy answering them, and I personally enjoy reading them. – Patrick Schomburg May 11 '16 at 19:26
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    @PatrickSchomburg You mean to a different site? Well, the answer already gives viable alternative sites for them. For some things there just is no SE site. And cordon them off on this site seems like the exact "treating the symptoms instead of the desease" stuff we've been doing unsuccessfully for years now. Ignoring the problem doesn't seem to help. They'll still continue to pollute the brand of what this site means and if we just completely hide them, we could as well ban them. But anyway, that's not the scope of this question. There have been more general idea-requests in the past for that – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 11 '16 at 19:29
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    @PatrickSchomburg Yes indeed. Anyone who doesn't like ID questions is perfectly free to set those tags on ignore and continue to participate in the topics they are interested in. As you say, some people enjoy those questions, so it would seem rather selfish for those in power to ban them because they don't like them. – Rand al'Thor May 11 '16 at 21:45
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    @randal'thor Well, as expressed in the answer, I do have the larger picture in mind, rather than just me ignoring all the bad questions and what they do to the site. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 11 '16 at 21:54
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    Completely agree with all your counterpoints here. To add to #3, even if it halves the number of questions in the short term, I think in the long term with a "more welcoming" front page it will increase. Personally I rarely visit the site off my own back (only via Twitter) because I'm sick of wading through the barrage of low quality posts. – DisgruntledGoat May 11 '16 at 22:00
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    @randal'thor Closing eyes never close the problem. It just hide them or fade them in this case ;) – Ankit Sharma May 11 '16 at 22:11
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    My mind was changed when I read this and realized it was completely true: "they ultimately help exactly one person". I've read tons of identification questions here and on SF&F, and even though I've gotten some moments of nostalgia from a few of them, they are in no way what I would call "edifying". If the goal of SE in general is to create high-quality repositories of various kinds of information (and my understanding is that is pretty much the goal), these questions do nothing to serve that goal, and therefore can rightly be considered noise. – Todd Wilcox May 13 '16 at 18:07
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    @ToddWilcox - Ironically, if the goal is to help people, then a Story-Ident question (that may result in someone who's spent hours of their life searching for a specific property finally finding it) are arguably more useful than a Plot-Explanation question that one or two users may idly glance at. I note we're not discussing getting rid of those, maybe that's next. – user7812 May 14 '16 at 12:29
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    @Richard Just that this it isn't the primary goal of SE to help a single person but build a repository of interesting and engaging questions. We might also want to not reiterate the same arguments that have been presented in various questions and answers and comments over and over again in an elongated comment discussion. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 14 '16 at 12:31
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    @Richard based on views and voting patterns, id questions are useless to future users; the highest-voted Id question is only #99 on the vote-count, despite them being ~50% of all questions, and has < 1000 views. – KutuluMike May 19 '16 at 16:33
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    (plot-explanation, BTW, is #2 in views and #1 in votes). – KutuluMike May 19 '16 at 16:46
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    @KutuluMike - There are very many tags that have far fewer views. Heck, I've posted answers on some niche questions that have attracted precisely zero upvotes in months, not even from the people that asked them. We don't judge on-topicness by popularity, we judge it by community opinion. – user7812 May 19 '16 at 18:30
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    Except you just did exactly what you claimed we never do: you claim that id tags, despite all their problems, should be kept because they are better than "less popular" plot-explanation questions that get few views. Except that's not even true. So all of your arguments fall flat. – KutuluMike May 19 '16 at 18:36
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    I want you to say what you just said, and stop making up strawman arguments about how they are "good for the site", which hold no water, to try to make your personal opinion hold more weight than months of evidence the moderators of this site have gathered that contradict your opinion. – KutuluMike May 19 '16 at 18:39

I'm not here to there you what you should and shouldn't do, but rather share with you the perspectives of another SE site that dealt with a similar string of questions for over three years.

What should be expected from the opposing side

Those in opposition to identification requests removal need to do more than speak out against it. If you want these types of question stay, you need to make an active effort to raise the status quo of these questions. Find a way to better show users who post low quality identification why they are bad and how they can improve their post. The less low quality identification question you have to deal with, the less you'll think they are a problem.

Don't make it someone else's problem

Don't sweep it under the rug and leave this for someone else, everyone in the community should share responsibility. Eventually, identification question will pile up into a hideous lump on that no one want to go near. There will be a lot of apathy and disdain from users as they see these question pop up more frequently. The more time you let these question pile up, the more work it will take to manage and clean up these questions. The more time you spend worrying over these questions, the less time you will have doing other things such as developing activities, discussing interesting development in your favorite shows, doing (legal, of course) screening of movies for your fellow users, etc.

Just because something fits doesn't mean you should keep pushing it through. You need to consider the capacity the community has for these question as well as if there is a willingness and expertise for this kind of stuff. If you only have a handful of ppl have the expertise and can bother answering these questions, as the volume of these questions, they'll get overwhelmed, and might eventually burn out of not only these questions but the community as well.

Big and small mean different things

Some of the bigger sites such as SciFi.SE (about twice that of this site), have the user base to help swiftly manage that, however smaller, newly graduated SE have their hands full of other things. It's up to the community as a whole to decide what types of answer they can answer and what types of questions they don't have the expertise to answer. Being a recreational SE means that we're most likely a community of expert professionals, but rather a community of avid enthusiasts. This means that, SCiFi, having a larger user base, probably has a larger and more keener user base than smaller size sites. At the same time, they probably have a larger, more diverse tag volume coming in to offset the amount of identification questions they get.

As the volume of identification questions increases, smaller sites may get swamped and overwhelmed by them and not necessarily have enough active users with enough reputation to close these questions in a timely matter. As more questions sit between being closed and open, some new user might get the impression that's it's alright to ask such questions since there's so many on the frontpage. Longtime users may find this tedious to keep up with and ignore the tag or even lose interest and stop using the site. Striking a good balance here is important, but also very difficult to maintain.

More rules and guidelines don't always help

Rules and guidelines have been tried and tested, but often times to little effect. By closing a user's identification question you are informing the asker that their question falls short of your expected criteria, however vex them into abandoning it because they feel that you don't won't help and that you just want them to write an essay. How can I remember something from when I was X years old (you can start by giving us an idea of when you were X years, we can't possibly read your mind and know when you were X).

Rarely will an identification question asker earnestly try to make an effort to read your rules and guidelines and edit their question to elaborate (you should take a look and see how many identification users bothered going through the Tour page). You can try to spoon feed them with a template or checklist, but you're still going to have a hard time getting them so swallow what you try to feed them.

The problem is the users, not the questions

The problem with identification question is not the question themselves, but the users asking them. On paper these questions are perfectly reasonable for any Q&A site, but in actuality if a user can't clearly articulate what they are looking for, you'll still be scratching your head in trying to figure out what their talking about. Identification question oftentimes involve a lot of guess with little definite details (such as media artefacts, like a picture, video, or audio) to work with. Identification question with solely a media artefact don't make good question either. It's just a like "homework" questions that have plague SE like Math.SE. Don't expect other people to do your work if you can't show or explain what you've tried and why it didn't work.

The end is not truly the end

If you decide to do away with identification question on the site, you don't have to do away with it completely. You can still invite people to come ask it in you main chatroom. While indirectly imposes a 20 rep restriction on users, it at least raises the bar a bit to make sure that the user at least made an attempt get to know the site and worked to enough to earn 20 rep. To me their efforts alone show that they at least deserve a few minutes of your time.

Is all that effort really worth it?

You shouldn't need to make so much effort and attention to make a tag work on your site. Think to yourself, is all this effort and attention worth it to help your site grow and attract more active users and content? The StackExchange Family of sites was founded so people can ask questions that might benefit many others. Oftentimes identification questions will only help the asker, and might at best instill a sense of nostalgia to those that happen upon it. So when you decide whether or not you should keep them around. Consider the value of their contribution to the community. Are people going use the same description to find the same series that's on the tip of their tongue? Or are they going to ask for the something but with an altogether different description.

One last thing to note is that keeping identification around to maintain a status quo will rarely do you any good. You've already graduated, so you shouldn't be worrying about maintaining arbitrary numbers. Perhaps you can collaborate with other communities to cross promote yourself. Perhaps you can host movie nights to get people interested in new and classic franchise. You should look at putting quality before quantity. Better content will oftentimes attract users. Afterall, the helpful reputation and format of Stack Overflow is what brought about the Stack Exchange family of sites, and ultimately this site.

Ponder these thoughts are you make your decision, but know that there is no one true path to follow. The best path to take is one that works for you and your community.

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    "If you want these types of question stay, you need to make an active effort to raise the status quo of these questions" - one way to do this would be by setting a good example. Some users already do this, but exemplary good ID questions posted by high-profile users like Walt, Andrew Martin, and Richard might help to show people what ID questions should be like. – Rand al'Thor May 12 '16 at 0:09
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    @randal'thor A good example is only useful to those that are able to see it. Your typical identification question poser is likely to not have gone through the tour page (where you can link to good examples) and much less the help center. Tell people that they should emulate the actions style another person might not be very helpful in my opinion. – Krazer May 12 '16 at 0:15
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    @randal'thor We already have such examples. I'm not sure spamming the site with pseudo questions of a question category that is already discouraged even if allowed is really that good an idea, especially compared to the low effect it will have on the users that actually read them. A much better idea would be weeding out some old bullshit to make the questions that actually remain on the site largely the good examples. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 17 '16 at 14:18
  • Is it possible to place a "perma-link" or something - something eye-catching - with "Read this before asking for move/show identification" near the top of the page; with some helpful hints and examples? Like to first make an effort yourself with Google, WikiPedia, iMDB and our own archive before asking... and also making it clear they must provide at least some information and details, to make identification possible. – Baard Kopperud May 21 '16 at 23:35
  • Making it sb. elses problem. Isn't that exactly what banning the questions would do? At least provide a link to where these questions should go because so far, this place seems to be the only one. Mine got deleted just now and well, I am right back to square one. – Haunt_House Dec 6 '16 at 13:19
  • @Haunt_House no it's not. Making it somebody else's problem is a psychological effect where people choose to dissociate themselves from an issue that may be in critical need of recognition. Such issues may be of large concern to the community as a whole but can easily be a choice of ignorance by an individual. So your question got deleted. Why not take a step back and try to understand why it was deleted? – Krazer Dec 7 '16 at 9:42
  • It was deleted because someone else deemed it irrelevant to them while it's still relevant to me. What happens then is that I and everyone else with a similar problem feels rejected and has no clue on how to solve their problem. It creates a "fuck off I don't give a damn" atmosphere which reflects back on the big important community. – Haunt_House Dec 17 '16 at 9:50

I was introduced to this website last year, during the course of searching for the name of a movie. Not long ago, I found out that the identification function is not something about which everyone is enthusiastic; however, I continue playing the role of a somewhat unwelcome user by replying mostly to identification questions. To me, that's a way of paying back my debt to the community and something I could do with Google's help; the other kinds of questions require that you must actually watch the movies.

I wholeheartedly agree that if the original purpose of the forum is to facilitate the exchange of ideas, then identification questions should be banned. However, I don't think that it is fair to say that they are of interests only to the questioner; in fact, I believe they are the only kind of question that can be of some service to people who haven't watched the movies being asked about. From the descriptions, those users may find out about enjoyable movies that they never heard about.

Meanwhile, I don't suppose anyone could be interested in discussions on details of movies they haven't watched and have no idea what is being talked about. Moreover, in most cases, questions are usually important to the persons who ask them; they probably never occurred to others who have watched the movies and even after they have been asked, do not stimulate new interests in the mind of many of those people, either because they already know the answer, or simply watch movies for fun, not for contemplation on the contents - the way most of us watch movies.

So, to repeat my point, I think it is rather safe to assume that identification questions are the kind of question that are most able and most likely to generate interests in others. I agree with the rest of the points made by proponents of banning if their premises (about the purpose of this forum) are true.


No. Like it or not, Stack Exchange sites are designed for exactly this kind of question.

The M&TV Stack Exchange has become the go-to site for identifying that movie or show you can't think of the name of, and it's because the Stack Exchange format is geared perfectly for this type of question. The voting and acceptance mechanics are made to ask questions for which there is objectively a correct answer, provided by the community and accepted as correct by the original poster. This is what makes Stack Overflow and the the other programming and research related Stack Exchange sites such valuable tools.

To lay such a tool at the feet of the Internet at large, have people use it for exactly what it is great at and then say "Sorry, we don't like that kind of question" is counterintuitive, and banning the identification question will lead to a constant up hill battle to convince people otherwise.

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    Actually, they're not. SE specifically discourages "guessing game" questions... of which ID questions are firmly part of. See this blog post for more info. – Catija ModStaff May 23 '16 at 16:35
  • @Catija From the blog post you linked "Our engine is great at these kinds of questions, and they tend to do well:" – Drew C May 23 '16 at 20:28
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    ... So you're going to ignore the rest of the post where explains why they aren't a good fit at all? – Catija ModStaff May 23 '16 at 20:30
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    The rest of the blog post is an opinion about whether those types of questions are useful to other people or not. I think it is confusing to design a site that, as he says, "is great at these kinds of questions" and then discourage people form using the site for that purpose. – Drew C May 23 '16 at 20:34
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    Consider that it was Jeff's opinion and likely written just prior to his departure from SE, 4 years ago, and ID questions have not been blanket banned, and prosper on almost every stack. I think only Anime has banned them. – cde May 24 '16 at 1:50
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    @Catija For what it's worth, I disagree with Jeff on all four points he makes to articulate his argument. – corsiKa May 30 '16 at 23:10

Since there are too many identification questions about movies, books, comics. Shouldn't be better open a stackexchange site used for the solely purpose of identifying stuff? In this way you make happy both users that want identifying something and users too purist for allowing such questions.

  • I think it was tried and failed before. – Ankit Sharma May 30 '16 at 15:02
  • Maybe too few users, I think think some times retrying may be worth. Now there are just too much users – CoffeDeveloper May 30 '16 at 15:41

Don't ban them!

Yes I'm reviving this post, as ID questions have gotten worse and this needs to stop

The issue

There are a few issues surrounding ID questions, namely the abundance of low quality ID questions, usually posted by "drive-by" posters; people who post that and only that.

And yet, good ID questions can be asked. So it wouldn't be fair to outright ban them, would it? So the issue isn't with the questions, it's with the users. Therefore, in order to solve the issue, we must find some way of stopping users from posting low quality questions.

The solution

This is purely my own opinion and so will probably get downvoted into oblivion but here goes.

On Meta and on Chat, a rep boundary is set, so that new users can't spam it with low quality content. If that's what the boundary is there for, shouldn't that work everywhere?

I am proposing that, in order to use tags, users must have a certain amount of reputation, say 35, to show that they can be trusted.

Clearly, as shown by tags, tags can be set to only work for certain users so this is definitely possible and, if the boundary was set correctly, would almost certainly alleviate this issue.

What do you think?

I'm interested in what you have to say about my opinion and whether you think it could work and whether it would be doable. It's over to you, now!

  • 2
    I welcome your suggestion. And IIRC, Anime SE did that too. However, most new users don't always use [identify-this-x] tag. If they couldn't be able to use this tag, they would use some other tags. So setting a reputation limit to this tag wouldn't be much helpful. Users will ask questions one way or another. – A J Mod Jun 19 '17 at 6:10

I don't believe it's necessary to ban. Sounds much like excessive censorship.

I'd like to pose a simple analogy. SEs in general are alike with

A public library

I believe that all people can and deserves to appreciate art. But even if some people come and go away to never come back, this doesn't mean we have to be bad hosts to the young. Dismissing new-comers and "simpleton" one-time-questions wouldn't be a little like Neo not trying to unplug people? Hey, I've seen reality... and I'll keep it to myself.

Of course many people are very well cultivated, slight snobism, me too. And get pissed off, with right, by the lousy drunk-homeless (cough, Bukowski), whiney teenagers (cough Billy Corgan), even somewhat illiterate people that want to do better, and so on. In the end, good humour, sense, fraternity and shall the views and customs of the community prevail.

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    Fun stops, though, when your library is flooded by crap content in a way that simply makes it look like some "adult" magazine store instead and serious authors just don't want their works kept there anymore. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 16 '16 at 2:10
  • @NapoleonWilson I've never heard of authors removing books. A library is still a library. – nilon May 16 '16 at 2:14
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    Well, then make it the customers that stop visiting your library. I didn't entirely get that metaphor then since you seemed to be equating users to authors. But anyway. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 16 '16 at 2:15
  • I've upvoted. It's a good analogy. I hope you also voted on the "no we shouldn't" answer... – user7812 May 16 '16 at 11:13
  • @Richard yes. Although the vote will appear only when I get 15 rep – nilon May 16 '16 at 11:29
  • @NapoleonWilson authors are users too. Bukowski read books at the public library because he was poor for a long time. Etc. – nilon May 16 '16 at 11:34
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    "Although the vote will appear only when I get 15 rep." - Well, so much to that. I guess I'll ask you again about your opinion on ID questions in a year. It might be a little different then. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 16 '16 at 12:18
  • @NapoleonWilson I understand SE relies on some good will. Am I missing something? Banning questions has certain arguments. Now I'm under the impression that there's an inclination to ban people. – nilon May 16 '16 at 13:28
  • Downvoting usually comes with some explanation of why the post is incorrect. Not that you downvote because you disagree. Seems rather arbitrary here. Explanation? – nilon May 16 '16 at 13:31
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    Sorry, I don't quite understand what you're saying with this answer or which side you're taking. (Btw, if you'd like to get more rep here, an easy way to do it is by finding posts that need improving and making suggested edits, each of which gains you +2 rep if approved.) – Rand al'Thor May 16 '16 at 14:05
  • @nilon All I'm saying is that a little more experience with the site might change your opinion about the value those questions actually provide and about the detrimental effect they have on the larger future of the site. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 16 '16 at 14:18
  • @randal'thor rep is overrated. I mean no disrespect my dear fellow. – nilon May 16 '16 at 14:28
  • @NapoleonWilson also it might not. I respect your opinion. Please respect mine. – nilon May 16 '16 at 14:30
  • @nilon It's not about rep, it's about experience. But granted. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 16 '16 at 14:32
  • "Sounds much like excessive censorship." - What is you opinion then about all the other off-topic kinds of questions, like recommendations, opinionated discussions, actor's personal lives,... Do you want them to be ruled on-topic too or is banning them not excessive censorship? – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 16 '16 at 15:01

Because I've seen many of the horrid Story ID questions that show up on M&TV, I support the "Ban Story ID Questions" answer, with a small exception:

If you get a Story ID question that is clearly about Science Fiction or Fantasy, migrate it to SF&F.

We tend to have more luck with ID questions, and whether or not M&TV bans Story IDs, they are still on-topic for us on SF&F.

  • 1
    I don't have an issue with this but I have a feeling it's something that the mods will have to discuss... or that will require a subsequent discussion on the SFF meta to see if this is generally an accepted behavior. If SFF ends up closing a question, it ends up back here or in some sort of nowhere land... so it may be better to close them here and recommend that they reask the question on SFF... – Catija ModStaff May 12 '16 at 0:11
  • So...does that mean you voted on any of the other answers...or does that mean we're supposed to vote on this one if we support the banning and the mgiration...and does that mean voting on any other answer supports the banning but not the migration...and does downvoting this answer then mean we disagree with banning them or we disagree with migrating them? Anyway, that seems like something better discussed after any decision is made on this matter here. (And it's certainly something moderators would definitely have brought up with the SciFi moderators if that decision ever wen through.) – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 12 '16 at 0:41
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    @NapoleonWilson - I voted to ban. I'm just saying send the not-atrocious SF&F ones our way. I suppose an upvote here just means "migrate the SF/F ones that aren't terrible", and a downvote just means "don't migrate the SF/F ones that aren't terrible" – Wad Cheber May 12 '16 at 0:42
  • @WadCheber Sure, And I'm saying that this is (1) something to worry about later, (2) something we definitely have in mind and (3) something to discuss with the SciFi moderators anyway. But your input sure is appreciated. – Napoleon Wilson Mod May 12 '16 at 0:52
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    Nice argument but it will be tricky to determine genre of ID question when many times they are wrongly tagged for genre or not tagged with genre. But we will think about it if we come to a final decision in favor of banning them. – Ankit Sharma May 12 '16 at 6:02
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    @AnkitSharma - You don't necessarily need tags - if a question mentions elves or magic or aliens or whatever, it's SF/F. But yeah, I guess it will have to wait. – Wad Cheber May 12 '16 at 6:32
  • surely we will talk about it, if we got in favour of banning them ;) To be clear i have not downvoted it, not yet ;) – Ankit Sharma May 12 '16 at 11:10

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