The problems with bad answers to ID questions have been discussed at Answering an ID Question, a PSA and How to handle low quality identification answers?, although not with any clear conclusion on how to handle them. I've also discussed, on another site, what I think makes a good ID answer. The first of the following points is really important, the second more of a nice bonus.

  • Explain how your answer matches the question as stated. Show how each of the OP's data points matches what you've found, to justify why your answer should be considered correct. Ideally you could do this using links and sources, but using memory is OK too. The reason for this is it allows people other than the OP to quickly judge the answer. The OP may recognise the title or description as soon as they see it again, so for them "this is what you're looking for" might be enough. But we're trying to build a repository of knowledge for everyone, and even ID answers should help more than one person.

  • Show your working - explain how you found the answer. If you remembered it, specify which detail jogged your memory. If you found it by Googling, share your skill in choosing search terms. The reason for this is it allows people to learn more than just the answer to one question. It's like teaching a man to fish - by showing people how to answer as well as just what the answer is, you're teaching them skills which may let them find the next one themselves. Again, this is about ID posts having lasting value rather than just helping one person on one day.

Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of ID answers which don't do any of this and simply say "this is the movie!" without any further elaboration. Answers like this help to reduce the overall quality of ID content on the site, regardless of question quality, even though they are technically answers to the question, and are sometimes even accepted by the OP. Thus, I'm proposing that we be more proactive about dealing with such answers, by one of two possible means:

Delete them entirely?

IMO, one-line answers could be flagged as "very low quality" and deleted, perhaps after a probation period with a moderator post notice to give the answerer a chance to improve their post.

The disadvantage of this approach is that it requires more maintenance work by moderators and/or high-rep users, and potentially removes useful (just less useful) content from the site in the form of actual answers to the question asked.

Edit them into shape?

It's often fairly easy for anyone, not necessarily the answerer themselves, to improve an ID answer to satisfy at least the first of the two bullet-pointed criteria above. This can be done by literally any site user, and it creates good content as well as removing dross.

The disadvantage of this approach is that it involves editing other people's posts way beyond their original scope (could this be seen as abuse of edits?), and in some cases it's wasted effort, e.g. if the answer is clearly wrong or if there's already a higher-voted answer saying the same film.

Questions for your consideration:

  • Which of the two approaches above is best? Or should we use both, as the circumstances dictate? What would be good circumstances for one vs the other?
  • How about accepted answers? Sometimes a one-line answer is accepted by the OP. Should these be treated any differently? (They can't be deleted without mod help, unfortunately.)
  • Any more thoughts? Is there a third approach I've missed? Anything else that should be said?
  • 4
    delete them, they mostly add noise and most often aren't the correct answer
    – DForck42
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 17:53
  • I'd only improve an ID answer if the OP has definitively confirmed it is correct. Other than that...nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 18:53
  • @Paulie_D and DForck42 - want to expand either of your comments into an answer to be voted on? Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 19:49
  • @Randal'Thor By Your Command
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


Is there a third approach I've missed?

Perhaps not a third way but rather more of a middle way...a selective, targeted criteria.

There's a saying on SE/SO..."Don't polish a t_rd"...and a one-line answer probably isn't worth improving unless we know it has merit.

What do you mean by "merit"?

Well the only criteria that matters is whether the answer is correct and the only way we can tell that is with a statement or indication by the OP.

That statement/indication can either be by way of acceptance or a comment that the answer is correct.

Is that all?

Well, maybe...I'm also going to consider the quality of the question.

If it's a lousy question that's probably going to be closed/deleted anyway then I may not improve any answer as I'd be wasting my time....but I'd be judging that on a case by case basis.

What about the rest?

Meh...nuke 'em is my initial thought....tempered by experience.

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