Reading this thoughtful answer to the question, "Why are we down-voting off-topic ID questions?" it occurs to me that a useful feature might be to have an automated "Community" comment address questions from users which satisfy the following conditions:

  1. Question posted by a user with less than 100 reputation points
  2. Question tagged with "Identify This Movie"
  3. Question is issued a vote to close.

Presumably users with less than 100 reputation points are fairly new and may not have done much more than taken the tour.

Paulie_D's "canned" response seems more than adequate:

Please try to add anything that may help identification. When was it released? Was it in Color or Black & White? What time period was it showing? What country was it likely from or what language was it in? Are there any other plot details you remember? Descriptions of scenes or names of characters or actors you can give? Anything at all? Feel free to [edit] any additional details into the question. For help writing a good identification question, see: [Identify-This-X Questions].

...and at the very least it would spare him the heavy lifting!

Possible additional conditions:

  • the question asker has not earned the "Informed" badge;
  • the question asker has just joined on movies&tv.SE (within a week?)
  • the question asker has less than 100 reputation points on movies&tv.SE and less than 100 on any other sites they are members of.
  • the question asker has less than 100 reputation on other sites and less than 50 on movies&tv.SE
  • the question asker has only 1 reputation point on movies&tv.SE

Presumably, the site will always attract questions from folks trying to find the name of that movie which is on the tip of their tongue. Certainly we do not want to encourage poor quality questions, however, we do want to encourage a community which encourages useful questions being asked. Automating the basic, "here's how to do it" when a vote to close is issued would also let other user's focus on editing the question so it is more intelligible (especially so when ESL users are asking) and making suggestions.

A typical example of what I see:

Thriller set in a house near a cemetery with a chauffeur driving a pink car

Not so much as a "welcome to M&TV.SE!" and a ton of confusing edits to a bewildered first time user. As was, the original question was intelligible and answerable. Seems like the rush to insist upon a perfectly worded and formatted question is doing more harm than good.

Perhaps given some of the suggestions here, automatically commenting "identify this" tagged questions with a comment including a link to the guidelines is the way to go. (Per Paulie_D's post, this would require an html tag for the guidelines). Also, per Napolean's comment here, listing "Identifying a Movie or TV series" as the second item in the tour regarding what kind of questions to ask is "to be changed"...

  • 3
    If you take the time to vote to close somebody's question, you should also take the time to leave a comment explaining why and encouraging them to improve it. Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 23:01
  • @randal'thor sure, but how often does that ever happen? Especially since voting close results in "canned" close reasons getting stamped on the closed question.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 23:03
  • 1
    If that's not happening, then you have a problem with your close-voters. Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 23:11
  • @randal'thor leaving a comment explaining a close vote is not required. It's been my experience that people generally don't leave comments with close-votes (or down votes) despite suggestion. Whether or not this is true acros the site, seems like automating a close explanation for identify-this tagged questions could save folks the trouble of explaining the basics. Maybe that way they could focus on nice, helpful comments to improve low quality "identify this" questions.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 23:14
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    From A Theory of Moderation: "Whenever possible, try to leave frequent comments on posts where you’ve taken (or considered taking) a moderator action, explaining the reasoning." That blog post is about diamond moderators, but this principle at least applies to moderation actions by any user. Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 23:21
  • @randal'thor I agree. It is my experience, however, that overwhelmingly this does not happen, hence, the idea for conditions to invoke an automated comment for a particularly frequent and often low quality type of question. In addition to relieving the heavy lifting for regular users, a friendly message encouraging a better post and linking to the means to improve the post would be helpful to new users and especially ESL users (rather than discourage their participation with a "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG" response)
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 23:24
  • 1
    Thank you for this post. You bring up good points. Also...I have seen your posts on the main site and your comments and interactions with other users. You have been a great contributor for a new user here on this site and I really appreciate the positive attitude that you show in your comments. Great job! :) Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 3:34
  • @user22792 thanks - that's very kind of you to say :)
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 5:39

3 Answers 3


I haven't got time to write a fully detailed response to this, but here are some thoughts.

We all know that some good detailed ID questions still get VTCs. I don't know who casts these votes, so can't verify anything, but my guess is that one or two users VTC pretty much every ID question posted on the site, no matter how much detail it has. I'd be pretty annoyed if I was a new user who went through all the checklists before posting and wrote up a really long and detailed ID question, and still got a comment nagging me to add new details just because someone VTCed it anyway.

For that matter, without any customisability on these comments, it's going to be annoying anyway. What do you do when somebody's included one detail but not another in their question? Let's say you've already specified that it was an American colour film from the early '90s in English, and then you get a comment asking you to specify the language, country, time period, and colour or B&W. Wouldn't you be a bit ticked off? Hell, I even get ticked off by seeing such comments on other people's questions - it clearly shows that the commenter hasn't even bothered to read the question before attempting to get it 'improved'.

Also, I was once told that "The one thing that causes new users to leave most often is a lack of human interaction." If a new user posts a question and gets no response except from a bot, that could even be worse than getting to response at all. At least if there are no comments on the question, a kindly user might come along and leave some feedback, which they wouldn't do if the bot had already said what needed saying about improvement to the question.

Finally, leaving comments to suggest improvements is the close-voters' job. From A Theory of Moderation, some of which applies as much to any moderation action as to diamond moderators: "Whenever possible, try to leave frequent comments on posts where you’ve taken (or considered taking) a moderator action, explaining the reasoning." If questions are regularly being closed without comment, especially when the close reason amounts to "this question needs more detail" rather than just "this is blatantly off-topic", then you may need to look at whether you've got a problem with your close-voters.

In fact, there'd be hardly anything to gain by having a bot leave such comments! In the course of setting up such a bot, you'd necessarily have to program it with a stock comment. Instead of doing that, just save the stock comment here on meta and encourage all close-voters to use it. That way, the OP would get human interaction, it would only be used where actually necessary (rather than automatically with any VTC, even invalid ones), and it could be customised as appropriate (e.g. remove any questions which the OP has already answered in their initial post).

  • Thanks for the thoughtful post. Which is more discouraging? A list of people who voted to close your question and no commentary, or, a canned & automated "Community" message which is polite and provides actionable links to editing the post and the guidelines (which may also encourage further investigation of the community guidelines).
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:11
  • 1
    Also, you say "the close voter's job" as if someone were getting paid to perform this voluntary task. As for "you may need to look at problem close-voters", I am not a moderator.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:13
  • Encouraging the use of a meta site question seems as unlikely as encouraging the use of a link to the community guidelines for "identify this" questions. Relying on voluntary actions is all well and good, however, considering the frequency of "identify this" questions particular to movies&tv.SE, I think there is something to be gained by a simple automated task. Once other users see the msg issued, they can instead edit the question or make nice and constructive comments.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:16
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    If they volunteer to vote to close other people's questions, they should also take the time to provide the feedback that could help get those questions reopened - otherwise, they don't have to do it at all (it's voluntary, as you say). And that "you" wasn't meant to be you, @Mr.Kennedy - more of a general impersonal "you", or the whole community :-) Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:17
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    As is, the process seems to be that a curious newB asks a question and gets told by high rep users that they have failed to do it right. Then they are never heard from again. An automated msg might discourage the frustration of more experienced users with newBs AND encourage newBs to learn the ways and means of SE.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:17
  • 1
    Gotcha re: "you". You keep coming back to this "should". Unfortunately, there is no way to make that happen, regardless of how much sense it makes. So far, I see that more often than not what "should" be done simply is not.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 0:19
  • oh, and +1! :^)
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 1:09

In general, I think this is an interesting idea but I think how it's applied needs some adjustment. We need it to be simple to implement, so the more "rules" there are, the more complicated it is.

First off, we get a lot of people here from other sites. Having 101 rep from the association bonus doesn't make them any better able to ask a good ID question.

That being said, I don't know that there's any need for a rep minimum for this. Any user can ask a crappy ID question - even people who have been here for a while. We should hope they would know better but it's not guaranteed.

Don't forget that we also have a couple of other ID question tags, so we probably want to include those in the list of tags that this applies to:

We probably don't need it for , though it might be good to have something for that one... that's another question.

I think that we can simplify the rules to only the tag and the close vote though I think it might be worth considering making it appear automatically on any [first?] question with the ID tag posted by an unregistered user, regardless of close votes. This version of it could be reworded slightly to be more of a reminder than a request:

Welcome to M&TV! Please review your question and add anything that may help identification. When was it released? Was it in color or black & white? What time period was it showing? What country was it likely from or what language was it in? Are there any other plot details you remember? Descriptions of scenes or names of characters or actors you can give? Anything at all? Feel free to [edit] any additional details into the question. For help writing a good identification question, see: [Identify-This-X Questions]. If you've already included this, great!

My reasoning here is that the sooner we can get this info to the asker, the better... and lots of these people post questions and never return. If the comment is there as soon as the question is posted, they won't have had time to wander off so they may fix their question before they leave.

None of this will catch questions asked without an ID this film tag but... there's only so much we can do. This would take a lot of the grind off of the regular users.

  • Good points. Maybe if editors modify the question so that it has an "identify-this" tag, along with an existing close vote, those conditions alone might address the issue regardless of rep points?
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 16:35
  • Very good idea to make the suggestion automated to any first question with the ID tag.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 1:08

Some form of prompt is a good idea since it seems that ID questioners have rarely taken the trouble to read the Guidance.

The real shame here is that the specific ID section of the Guidance is not linkable. If it were, we could implement a direct link in the pop-up (or whatever) to the specific part of the Guidance that applies.

Just adding an HTML ID to that <h1> would enable us to link to it instead.

As it stands, for those interested in "user moderation" I recommend the Stack Exchange Auto Comments Extension/Add-on which is what I use for "canned comments". These can be edited before being posted and thus tailored to the deficiences of the individual question.

The Guidance should, I have asked before, be updated to include ID questions based solely on images (or videos).

  • Ah! Perhaps then the heavy lifting is not so heavy :)
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 14:10

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