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.

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I’m glad that many people here seem to disagree with Jeff. If you are trying to find something, then there is nothing wrong with asking for help, and telling people to go somewhere else is insulting. This is particularly true here because SE sites are Q/A format and there are already plenty of places to discuss TV/movies (IMDB, TV.com, etc.), so general discussion need not be here at all. One of the main draws to this site is that people can get help identifying things, which is harder on other sites because they have stronger show/movie-specific boards and poor/weak general boards. –  Synetech Dec 8 '12 at 1:59
    
...who is Jeff? –  row1 Dec 8 '12 at 6:58
    
Jeff Atwood, the guy who co-founded the StackExchange sites and whom frowned upon these types of questions. –  Synetech Dec 8 '12 at 15:08
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7 Answers

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.

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Experts have identification questions too! –  Gilles Dec 9 '11 at 0:18
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This site is going to have 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.

Do we still like 'Identify This Game' questions?

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…)

"They're already starting with the identify-this-{thing}" questions … "Won't they ever learn?"

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.

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you could have stepped in the chatroom when we were talking about this. (Even though most users in the chatroom were not committers) :) See Gilles reasoning to hear his side for it. –  phwd Dec 5 '11 at 4:09
    
Interesting. The discussion on games you linked lead to another, that gathers some stats about conversion of ITG--questioners to the site: meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/a/2478/4780 Seems, that people involved in those questions less often stay. –  Mnementh Dec 5 '11 at 8:40
    
@Alonzo: Yes, I've heard from the folks who feel I am mis-characterizing the issue. Tzene's statistics about identify-this-game questions on Gaming SE seems to bear out the hit-and-run behavior; But the harm to the community is just my opinion and may not be shared by everyone. I hope others will bring their arguments here for consideration. It's good to have the experience of those who have gone through these issues before, and pass them on to this next generation so you can decide for yourself. –  Robert Cartaino Dec 5 '11 at 14:04
    
Quite interresting arguments, haven't thought that much about it. I start to feel in favour of your opinion. –  Napoleon Wilson Dec 5 '11 at 15:45
    
There is a lot of misinformation here. Please read my answer. –  Gilles Dec 9 '11 at 0:17
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Ok, I see a lot of misinformation in other answers here. Let me summarize my observations first:

  • Identification questions attract both newbies and experts.

    Newbies tend to ask them. Experts tend to answer them. My observations in SF forums (in particular rasfw is that experts take pride at answering even the vaguest identification questions correctly and quickly.

  • Identification questions fit the question-and-answers format like a glove.

    Identification questions are “practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face”. They have several tentative answers, one correct. Knowing the answer shows expertise in the domain.

  • Identification questions are not disruptive in any way.

    I'm not sure what I should say about this — I've seen a lot of claims that they're disruptive, but no actual example of disruption.

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.

On the Science Fiction and Fantasy site, identification questions are allowed. They have never been a problem. We get some good ones, some bad ones, not worse than other types of questions.

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 ask the questions will love them.

The people who answer them love them too.

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.

This is just silly. It's possible to ask low quality questions of any type. No, I'm not going to demonstrate.

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.

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 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 tag, don't ban Star Wars from the site.

The problem is they are easy to ask,

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.

but they ultimately help exactly one person, and then they're useless.

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.

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.

Again, this is wrong.

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…)

"They're already starting with the identify-this-{thing}" questions … "Won't they ever learn?"

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”.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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I think there is a difference between SF&F and Movies in the id-questions. That has to do with the human memory. Humans tend to never really remember a single sentence in a book. But they will remember a single image from a movie. Some id-questions ask about a single image (kid nearby bed of mother). If users on SF&F would ask id-questions giving only a single sentence as hint your opinion would likely be different. But as nobody remembers sentences, they ask for plot-lines. They are more likely to be a shared memory of others, so id-questions on SF&F are useful for others. –  Mnementh Dec 9 '11 at 11:25
    
That's different for the images in a movie, everyone will remember other images, and the memory even distorts them (more emphasis on a detail, that another don't even notice or putting in things, that never really were in that - yes memory is strange). So plotlines are reliable memories likely shared with others, images aren't. So id-questions on SF&F are likely useful to others (if quality is controlled), id-questions on Movies will nearly every time only be useful for the asker. Too localized. –  Mnementh Dec 9 '11 at 11:28
    
@Mnementh You do make a good point about movies vs written stories. We do have movie identification questions on Science Fiction & Fantasy; I haven't paid attention to movie-id vs written story-id, I'll go through our questions when I find the time. If the problem with questions where the asker only remembers a single image or fragment of a scene, you could establish a policy that identification questions need to include some plot elements. –  Gilles Dec 9 '11 at 22:37
    
Actually I see pop up questions about movies featured in other movies. That has shared information (the containing movie), that could help others too. Example is the question about the movie inside Conspiracy theory. –  Mnementh Dec 9 '11 at 22:39
    
Re: “hey, I was looking for this too!” Thank you! The concept of "Too Localized" is one of the worst things about StackExchange. Over 90% of the questions I see closed as "Too Localized" are good, legitimate questions that could easily help someone else further down the line, but only if someone actually answers it! IMO voting to close anything as "Too Localized" is an act of extreme arrogance. It essentially says, "I don't understand how this can help anyone else, therefore it cannot help anyone else." –  Mason Wheeler Jan 30 '13 at 4:58
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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.

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identify-this questions are unique in that nearly everyone will have 1-3 things they need identified during their time on the site. When looking at statistics we need to keep this in mind. The large number of questions is in part because the tag is applicable to everyone.

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.

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I like the rep-based approach, especially since I think many "identify this" questions are perfectly valid (I may have asked a few myself). However, to be the devil's advocate, how many hit-and-run users would simply ignore tags and post their "identify this" question anyway? –  Unsigned Dec 7 '11 at 16:45
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@Unsigned From my time at gaming, around 60%-70% (this is a guess) of new users tag it correctly. –  Pubby Dec 7 '11 at 16:53
    
I meant, if you make it rep-based, how many new users (without the rep) would simply ask the question anyway (without the tag)? –  Unsigned Dec 8 '11 at 2:22
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Users who ask identification questions will stick around at least long enough to get an answer! Besides, why should there be a rep threshold for these questions and not others? Is this movies.experts-exchange.com? I don't understand why you think identification questions wear the community down. –  Gilles Dec 9 '11 at 0:20
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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.

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As I write, identification questions are useful to more than the asker. Of course you can upvote an answer, if you see that the WP/IMDB/… summary matches the asker's recollection. I and 27 other people subscribe to the [story-identification] tag on Science Fiction & Fantasy, so your implication that no one looks at these questions is false. –  Gilles Dec 9 '11 at 0:22
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Do not close a question because it has been solved. This is not how Stack Exchange works. Closing a question means that the question either is a duplicate or is a bad question and is on its way to deletion. –  Gilles Dec 9 '11 at 0:23
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But an answered identify-movie-question has no longer any use for anyone. –  Mnementh Dec 9 '11 at 10:42
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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.

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