Are identify this movie questions to be encouraged?
They are one of my favourite tags on gaming, but quite a few are closed due to lack of details or often multiple edits are needed to turn it into a proper question with enough details.
I think we certainly have to allow those kind of questions. When we move out of beta, and the site will be open for everyone and not just the experts, it will be an important feature (ask the experts, if you can't find it out yourself). This is a Q & A site, and I don't see a reason why Identify This Movie Questions should be disallowed.
This site is going to have identify-this-movie questions. It's almost a rite of passage… and then you'll regret it.
The people who ask the questions will love them. They're really simple to ask; they're like crossword puzzles: "I'm thinking of a word; 7-letters; beginning with the letter 'N'." It's like playing a gameshow. It will be a small minority users who get sick and tired of seeing them day after day — unfortunately, they'll be the most avid users on this site.
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.
The first buzz I heard about this site — before I even got a chance to see how it was going for myself — was (I'm paraphrasing…)
It's really hard to articulate as to why these questions are not good for this site; but suffice it to say that, once they permeate the front page, a few users will work long and hard to try and get rid of them. But the masses will keep them coming… inexorably.
In the earliest formative days of this site, the [identify-this-movie] tag is already approaching 10% of the questions. In a not-too-distant future, most of those questions will be asked by hit-and-run users who will never return to this site. And you'll get bored having to tease out a decent question and provide answers to a post that will not add one lick of value or interest to this site.
I think the task of identification is something that cannot be that easily accomplished by more reference-like sites, like IMDB, Wikipedia or Google, if you just don't know what to look for.
On the other hand I think it is well-suited for this site, as it guarantees exactly one correct answer (although only you can decide if an answer is correct, there is still just one definite answer). And it is indeed the power of reasonably thinking humans instead of a plain archive that gains you the answer, so it is a good fit for a Q&A site about movies, I think.
With that said, I agree with Robert Cartaino that they wear down the community, however for somewhat different reasons. It's not the tag, it's the users. The ones who don't want to help the community, but still ask identify-this questions. I feel like if the tag isn't banned, then it needs to be a rep-based privilege.
Ok, I see a lot of misinformation in other answers here. Let me summarize my observations first:
Identification questions should be subject to quality control, just like any other question. If the question is “I saw this movie and it had a guy who fell in love with a girl, and she was wearing a blue dress, what is it?”, then that's a bad question, not because it asks to identify a movie, but because it is far too vague to be answerable.
Identification questions make up about 13% of SF&F. Over 80% of SF&F is trivia (unsurprisingly: SF&F is all about non-trivial trivia). I, for one, am more interested in the identification questions than in trivia.
Responding to Robert Cartaino's answer:
The people who answer them love them too.
This is just silly. It's possible to ask low quality questions of any type. No, I'm not going to demonstrate.
On SF&F, the only opposition I've seen is from people who do not use the site, or very little. Granted, maybe they fled the site because of that, but none of them came out and said so. Besides, if someone doesn't like identification questions, they can ignore the identify-this-movie tag. It's not like questions that are disruptive because they attract useless answers or incite heated debates. If you hate Star Wars, ignore the star-wars tag, don't ban Star Wars from the site.
Identification questions are in fact not so easy to ask; you have to balance giving details that you're not sure of with giving too little information.
On SF&F, we have several identification questions where wandering new user posted a non-answer to say “hey, I was looking for this too!”. Clearly, an answer (where there was one) did help them.
Again, this is wrong.
It's unfortunate that Robert chose to cite someone who is barely active on SF&F, and bases his opinion on incomplete information. For my part, my reaction was something like “I hope they're not going to raise a ruckus about identification questions again”.
I don't have statistics for retention rates of users who discover the site via an identification questions. If anyone does, please contribute. I do know it happened that people discovered rasfw because it has a good reputation for being good at identification (but this is anecdotic, I have no stats).
Again, wrong, see above. Being the go-to site for identification could do a lot to publicize the site. And it keeps the experts around.
After I asked one for myself, I will add my thoughts about it.
First: It is very useful for the asker, if he gets a good answer. You have this personal demon, he shows you again and again this image of a movie you have seen years ago, but you can't remember more. Was it good or bad? No idea. For some reason this image has burnt into your mind. Asking about identification here can help: you can rewatch the movie and see if it was bad or good and why it is on your mind. If it was bad, you can forget about it afterwards in peace. If it was good, you remember now a good movie, you would otherwise would have forgot about. Very useful for the asker.
But is it useful for someone else? Others will nearly never have the same images that have burnt into their minds. So even when they try to remember the same movie, they will have to ask for themself. Answers for identify-questions aren't good recommendations either. The movies discussed here may be horrible. Do you have any reason to look at any of these questions, except the ones you asked yourself? Can you upvote an answer - you don't really know if it is the movie the OP wanted to know about.
It seems these questions are of no lasting value. Is it enough, that it helped the OP very much? Possibly it is. I'm not sure about that.
I will try out if my concerns are consensus in the community. So I will vote to close all identify-questions that have an accepted answer (are solved). As my argumentation shows, I think these will be no longer of use for anyone else, the OP got an answer if he accepted one. I'm open to discussion if they should be banned generally, but for now I will try to close the ones that are answered. Sorry if that seems to be forcing a decision, but as this answer suggests, that's the way the policy is formed.
There are many questions on Stack Overflow that request help on very specific pieces of code. The answers benefit essentially no-one but the asker. Many of these questions however are entertaining reads or puzzles for many readers.
One might think the answer to an identification question might help no-one, but this question for example has 11 upvotes. Not bad when the most popular question so far has only 21.
I've always had the feeling on Q&A sites and forums that the experts dislike it when a lower rep beats them to an answer. Identification type questions allow that more than any other type of question and their simple, exact answers give no room for an expert to steal the tick with a more masterful post. I can understand they may not be well liked if that is indeed true. But what's the site really about anyway?
I like identification type questions and I would like know there's a good place to ask such questions, because the Q&A format just works so well for them. They allow greater participation by low reps.