While polling still hasn't closed on the featured discussion Shall we ban identification questions? (if you haven't voted there yet, go and do so now!), it looks at this point as if the community consensus will be not to ban ID questions.

However, it's still undeniable that there are a great many very low-quality ID questions being asked every day on this site, and the decision not to ban them doesn't mean we should do nothing about this problem. On the contrary; the linked featured post itself says:

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.

My suggestion is that we go further than the status quo and try to crack down on poor ID questions even harder than before. This is in order to try to counter the effect mentioned by Napoleon Wilson:

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 will ultimately lead to the demise of this site as the amazing place for interesting and engaging questions about films and TV-shows that it hopefully still is. [...] 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.

There have been many complaints about the fact that the volume of bad ID questions is large enough to swamp other questions, so my suggestion is:

Let's crack down harder on deleting bad ID questions!

Not just downvoting them and closing them, because that still leaves them visible on the site and on the "new questions" feed. If they're not going to be improved, they should be swept off the site entirely, and more quickly than the automatic roomba deletion which will already take place after 30 days (9 days if the question is closed) for negatively-scored unanswered questions. I've had a quick look at the existing policies on deleting old ID questions here at M&TV specifically, but they seem to be no more draconian than the roomba deletion script.

Any 10k user, of which there are currently 21 on M&TV, can vote to delete a closed question starting from 2 days after closure. Any 20k user, of which there are currently 10 on M&TV, can vote to delete a question as soon as it is closed provided that its score is less than -3. Three users are sufficient to delete a negatively scored question. So here's my suggestion:

  • for any ID question which is sufficiently undetailed to be closed, if the OP doesn't return within 3 days to add more detail, high-rep users should start voting to delete it
  • in order to avoid the appearance of moderators unilaterally nuking questions, a mod should only delete such a question once 2 other users have already voted to delete
  • in order to organise people to actually do this, it might possibly be a good idea to set up either
    • a chatroom where people post links to such questions so that others see them and can vote to delete them (along the lines of the SO Close Vote Reviewers room), or
    • a meta post with a list of all eligible questions, to be constantly updated as new questions appear and old ones are deleted.

(I realise that last suggestion might be a bad idea, since this site doesn't have a hugely active chat or meta community, but perhaps this is an opportunity to get those people who care about the site but don't spend much time in chat or meta to start doing so!)

Note: the biggest counterargument I can see to my idea here is that deleting questions too quickly deprives the OP of the chance to provide more detail and edit the question into a form that might be worth reopening. However, I think it would be better for the long-term future of the site to proceed in this way. OPs rarely come back to make their questions reopenable as it is, and if by any chance they do return and manage to provide enough detail, they can always repost the question. Good ID questions are still welcome (assuming, of course, that the voting on that featured meta post doesn't drastically change after this point).

  • 16
    Just wanted to add real quick that another counterargument is that it will alienate newcomers, so I suggest we be nice about it, even if we dislike ID. If you vote to close\delete, at least comment on the post, especially if it's a new user, to basically say that: sorry, the rules are a bit more strict in ID, but do try and stick around, we're not so bad, honest. Or something more official-sounding. ;)
    – Walt
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 9:54
  • @Walt Yes. This. Leaving a comment is always better than just silently nuking, as it helps the OP to understand why the action was taken. I almost always try to leave a comment when taking mod actions on SFF. Commented May 23, 2016 at 9:57
  • To me the current deletion process is enough because 3 day deletion process can create more chaos.
    – Ankit Sharma Mod
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 6:11
  • On the Graphic Design site, which has similar issues with font identification questions, what used to be done was (maybe still is, but I'm not there so often these days so I'm not sure): a) a short list of criteria was written up, b) it was added to a popup on the tag on the question writing page, c) if someone missed or ignored that, the question was closed with a custom close reason listing the criteria, d) a friendly comment was added, linking to the long version of the criteria, like "Hi, we've got rules for these questions, please check [link] and edit your question then we'll re-open it" Commented May 25, 2016 at 15:09
  • 2
    @user568458 All of that is already being done here, but it's not having enough of an effect on quality control. Commented May 25, 2016 at 22:27
  • 3
    @randal'thor Is all that done here? I get Close review notices on questions 40 minutes old with no comment(s) left for OP. Leave a comment to help the person. And hey, give the person time to eat lunch or something; don't assume they know how fast people like to drop the hammer. VTC within an hour, unless it's a horrible question (esp rude or spam), seems trigger-happy. Commented May 26, 2016 at 3:42
  • @MeatTrademark You don't close-vote rude or spam questions, you flag them, since they're actually unsalvagable and closing is a means for questions to get improved into validity before any attempts to answer them.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 12:39

1 Answer 1


If the vote does go against banning them, I think this plan has merit, at least to help address the problems with the site image that Napoleon Wilson mentioned on the post about banning id questions. But note that we tried many similar things on Anime and Manga. These policies worked to a point, but they required tons of work to keep up, and when the same twenty people are responsible for handling all the moderation on a huge pile of low-quality questions, it quickly gets tedious and draining. Perhaps the extra manpower here will make the difference.

To be fair to questioners, we did leave comments, give them a few days to come back and improve their question, and would even vote to reopen if improvement happened, but that was quite rare and made the whole process even more tedious and wearing—I started to feel like I had a really horrible side gig as a social worker, dealing with frustrated people who wanted things and couldn't understand why these baroque rules and policies were stopping them from getting what they wanted. I nearly became one of those "avid users who ceased their activity just because of the overabundance of ID questions" that Napoleon Wilson mentions. If you have a large, mature, and involved community, like Sci-Fi and Fantasy does, id questions can be a fun addition. But on Anime and Manga, we just found that they were a magnet for low quality posts (the answers were also typically abysmal) and took far too much time and energy to police.

Unfortunately, it's often not even possible to improve an id question because the OP just can't remember anything else, but you never know beforehand except by statistics, and statistically none of them are going to improve their questions so all id questions should be deleted. But if your site allows id questions, then, to be absolutely fair, you have to assume that every one of those questions could be improved, and give the OP a chance to do so, or else you come off as a bunch of draconian jerks. Where's the threshold between those? How long do you have to give the OP before you can fairly decide they're not improving the question?

It's a tough line to walk. Aggressive moderation of any kind, especially when aimed at a tag frequented by newcomers, not only makes the site seem unwelcoming to newcomers, it can also twist the community into a war machine dedicated to eradicating bad questions with extreme prejudice. I personally think our culture on Anime and Manga has suffered a lot as a result of the habits we developed to deal with the crush of bad id questions—we're far too quick to downvote and close-vote; we have good users who don't post anymore, they exclusively work in the review queues; and we do a bad job of giving halfway decent posts in any tag their due. I supported our ban on id questions, less because the questions themselves are horrible (though I definitely thought they were) and more because I didn't like what the policies we'd adopted to control them were doing to our site.

  • 2
    Well, a certain threshold given by the system itself could be the 9 days it takes for a downvoted and closed question to be auto-deleted. Not improved in that time? Gone. We can't assume a question will improve after 6 to 8 months and deleting the bad apples is better than leaving them stay around, even if closed.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 1:33
  • 5
    And yeah, that's part of the problem I wanted to solve. If people believe it or not, having those questions stay around and being encouraged but often (rightfully) downvoted to hell, gives off a much more unfriendly atmosphere than being honest and saying right away that we don't do those questions. But of course not downvoting them isn't going to work out either.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 1:36
  • @NapoleonWilson I definitely agree with all your points. It's entirely reasonable to delete a bad question that hasn't been improved after two or three days, if someone has left a comment at least pointing the OP to resources on how to improve their question. But to maintain a somewhat friendly atmosphere, someone does have to go leave those comments, and come back to look for improvements, and vote to reopen if they've been made, and vote to delete if they haven't been, and this process becomes tiresome when you don't have many people to share the work, as was the case on Anime and Manga.
    – Torisuda
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 4:23

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