Some 4 months ago we had this discussion on identification questions whether these questions should be on-topic here. My answer was essentially: what's all the fuzz about? What's the difference with other questions? As this answer was among more pro-identify answers it was decided that the tag be continued.

I hate to admit, but in the mean time my opinion has changed and I've come to feel more sympathy for this opinion, albeit without the somewhat offensive edges. I wouldn't say identify questions are crap, nor that they're just people's rambling, but I've come too a point where I seriously question their significance to the site's quality. It's probably because I've read so many of them now and I also have the impression that the relative number of them is only increasing (is there a way to confirm that?).

The main goal of StackExchange sites is building knowledge bases on various topics.

My question is: do identify questions build up the movies knowledge base?

My opinion is: no.


  1. An identify question in its final state is a very fragmentary and warped description of a movie or a tv show, followed by one or more candidates that to some degree fit the bill, one of which turns out to be the accepted answer (IT questions without an accepted answer are removed in due time). Someone looking for what movie X is about will probably not be helped by an IT question. At best, such a question develops into a compilation of movies/show on a certain topic (like my question, now removed, turned into a list of movies featuring some kind of time loop) which may have some knowledge base value. But then, lists are not considered to be on topic here.

  2. The correctness of the answer can not be falsified, while knowledge base content can and must be open to falsification and improvement.

By the way, recurrent discussions on IT questions is normal. At Arcade after much discussion, IT questions were banned, but the discussion opened again. Seeing that, I think there should never be a grey area where such questions are permitted. Either they are, or they are not. The (really) crappy ones will be filtered out by normal voting and flagging.

One more thing: I feel kind of obliged to start this discussion again as by the number of upvotes 4 mo. ago I sense that my answer was at least a bit influential.

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    This, this, this, a thousand times, this. +1 million. – Tablemaker Sep 24 '12 at 14:03
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    I honestly don't care enough one way or th eother anymroe to fight this. Just be aware that by removing IT questions we remove a venue for new users to start on the site. – DForck42 Sep 24 '12 at 14:09
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    @DForck42 I know, it actually was my first contact with the site. It's a hard dilemma: we want visitors, but also quality content. Maybe we will decide that it helped (helps) the site in the lift-off phase. – Gert Arnold Sep 24 '12 at 14:17
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    I don't disagree with your arguments here.... but identification questions have always seen a large level of support (see the voting on the previous meta question) and certainly appear to drive people our way. Just because you've changed your mind, does not mean that that opinion shared by the upvoters is not valid. – iandotkelly Mod Sep 25 '12 at 1:38
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    However, I think the your rhetorical answer of 'no' is correct. The question should be perhaps another 'should identification questions be on topic'. I see no reason why we can't just re-run that question every few months to gauge opinion. – iandotkelly Mod Sep 25 '12 at 1:41
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    There is no need to discuss this topic again and again, if we know that Identify question are our best weapon to attract new users.We are in beta mode and we require to think for development not to discuss the same topic again and again to waste energy and time i f we know the result previously. That's why i doesn't answered and just posted my close vote. – Ankit Sharma Sep 25 '12 at 9:41
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    @AnkitSharma OK, I am with you. I just had a what-have-I-done feeling after the former question, but I'm OK with allowing the tag to attract new users. We should however discuss the usefulness of it every now and then. Not every 4 months, OK, but we cannot just ignore the serious doubts that some people have. – Gert Arnold Sep 25 '12 at 9:48
  • @GertArnold Its too early to discuss it again, if we want to discuss then we can add answer to previous question again, but no need to post a separate question on same exact topic. – Ankit Sharma Sep 25 '12 at 9:53
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    @AnkitSharma Meta is for just that, discussion. Like Iandotkelly says, Its such a sore topic on SE in general that there's no reason not to bring it up every so often with a bigger community each time. – Tablemaker Sep 25 '12 at 13:39
  • @TylerShads if we previously have question for discussing this why to discuss it through another question and even we know that result will remain same – Ankit Sharma Sep 25 '12 at 14:40
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    @AnkitSharma We do not know the result will be the same. Back when we were just Movies.SE We had at least 4-5 questions discussing different aspects of whether or not we should merge with the TV proposal. Gaming during their ITG discussion had at least a dozen different discussion points on it as well. If this question was simply re-hashing things previously said, then I'd merge. – Tablemaker Sep 25 '12 at 15:03

Usually every one in a while I go through and prod each unanswered ID question that's been around for a little while. If there's no response I clsoe them. I periodically go through and delete closed questions older than a month or so. This means that any of the junk id questions are getting removed from the system eventually.

What this means is that any ID question that's actually helpful stays with us, and everythign else goes bye-bye, keeping the quality of the site from slipping too far. Users can help by finding older ID questions, prodding them for more information, and flaging or VTCing the ones that are no longer useful or of quality.

  • Wow, that's a lot of mod activity! Well, at least it's reassuring to know that the number of ID questions stays relatively low this way. So I think the consensus is still to keep the ID questions mainly as a portal to new users. And for us, non-mod mortals to keep voting and flagging. – Gert Arnold Sep 25 '12 at 21:03
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    In the criteria set for moving a site out of beta, it suggests "A healthy site generates lots of good content to make sure users keep coming back." The question is whether these questions bring people back to the site? The tag identify-this-movie has 28 followers, and identify-this-tv-show has 10. 8 questions just this week have been tagged as identify-this-movie, and 24 so far this month. This would suggest these questions do bring people back, particularly if they are answered. Perhaps the methodology of deleting unanswered questions after a time is sufficient to maintain quality. – MJ6 Sep 26 '12 at 14:48

The goal of stackexchange is to create a library of high-quality questions and answers. But as someone who runs a library for a living, I can tell you that a collection of information has no value if you don't have a wide and active community of people seeking that information. It just gets dusty (or stays in beta all its life). Also, the experts who run the library and answer people's questions are at least as valuable as the collection itself - they are providing a public service not only by storing and organizing information for use by others, but also by increasing the knowledge base of their users through the extended kindness of shared expertise.

No library can collect all information. There is a selection process - what will we include and what will we not? Here at Movies and TV, we restricted our scope initially to information about movies and television, and further to answers to questions that people have about movies and television. The suggestion here is to restrict our scope even further to only higher level questions about movies and television. To the person who stumbles upon our site with a humble identify question, this restriction says, "Your question is not smart enough for us," or perhaps, "Your question isn't important because we think you are the only one who wants this information."

Libraries generally try to offer something for everyone within their service population (in this case, people who love movies and television). The purpose of the library is to educate. Those people who come to us with an identify question can grow and learn through the process of having their questions reviewed, reading the faq's, and reading other people's questions and answers. Eventually they may have more useful questions to post. If we quickly shut their question down, they will never come back. If we answer it (or try to answer it), they will probably come back again, and they may tell their friends about us. They grow and so do we.

Having said all that, librarians do answer a lot of questions every day that they do not add to their library collections. WHAT IF we posted a comment on each identify question that says something like:

While questions asking for the identity of a movie or TV show are not generally included in the Movies and TV collection, we will leave your question for two weeks so that you will hopefully get the answer you are looking for from one of our experts. Be sure to check back before it is deleted. Welcome!

Every identify question could be deleted after two weeks. I suppose it would mean that any reputation points earned would disappear? If so, people who are here to get points rather than share their skills or knowledge might choose to avoid answering those questions; I think there are enough of us who like a challenge that many would still get answered.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION Do you lose the points you acquired if a question is deleted?

You keep them unless a rep-recalculation is performed on your account. This is a manual process and is used at the mod's discretion. If it is used, all reputation, gained or lost from questions and answers that no longer exist will be removed. The usual result will be a decrease in reputation, but it's not impossible for it to result in an increase.

I don't know if manual recalculation is something we do? This suggestion is meant as a compromise to allow identify questions (some of which are better quality than others) but still build a library of useful questions and answers.

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    Typically, I (not sure of the other mods involvement as I'ma jerk >:]) usually delete questions older than two weeks form users that are unregistered (have not even bothered going to a full account, which is not hard) and have not been to the site since the day they asked the question. This is usually someone who does a Ron Popeli (Set it and forget it) . Any good identify (read: at least fully answered) usually stay anyway. Either way, I actually like this idea +1 – Tablemaker Sep 25 '12 at 13:43
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    Deleting the ID questions would nullify any reward our experts would get for helping with the questions, so where would the motivation come from answering these? No, if it's a crap question then it should be closed and then later deleted, but if it's a good question (or at least good enough to get an answer) then it should be left open for others to potentially find. – DForck42 Sep 25 '12 at 20:26

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