On one hand, these questions do often have a clear answer, and may be of some interest to people beyond the asker. On the other hand, by their nature, the questions are going to be hard to find in the future by others with the same question.

Are "Identify this …" questions on-topic?

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    Please noooooooooooooooooo. Don't let the devil in. – Ankit Sharma Feb 25 '15 at 8:11
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    Who let the cat out...? – user Feb 25 '15 at 10:13
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    Aren't questions about genres in a different class than "identify this song" or "identify this artist" questions? – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 25 '15 at 15:40
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    @ben Yes, they are different, but only in that they are more opinion based. If someone asks to identify an A Day to Remember song, it could be classified as post-hardcore, metalcore, punk, or yet another sub-genre based on the answerer's personal preferences. – Darrick Herwehe Feb 25 '15 at 15:45
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    I would also add that identifying a genre would mean either embedding audio, or linking offsite (leading to link rot). Unless someone wants to know what genre a dubstep song is "BWOOOOO-WEESSSHHH-BWOOOO-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa" – Darrick Herwehe Feb 25 '15 at 15:47
  • @AnkitSharma, how can you possibly complain about identifying genres when you asked a question about how to identifying the Sufi genre: musicfans.stackexchange.com/questions/86/… #doublestandard – Raj Feb 25 '15 at 17:33
  • @Raj that more of terminology then identifying a genre – Ankit Sharma Feb 25 '15 at 17:34
  • @AnkitSharma, the same goes for my question which you voted to close, here: musicfans.stackexchange.com/questions/70/… – Raj Feb 25 '15 at 17:35
  • @Raj both questions are different in my opinion but i am open for debate or better open a meta discussion , i can take it down if community want that. – Ankit Sharma Feb 25 '15 at 17:41
  • @AnkitSharma, what's different? We are both trying to identify the terminology of a genre. You are going from genre to components, I'm going from components to genre. – Raj Feb 25 '15 at 17:47
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    @Raj Ankit's question is "what is it about this genre that defines it," which I think is answerable, where your question is "given this information, what genre is it?" which is primarily opinion based. The difference is definitely subtle, but I think that "define this genre" can be answered objectively. – Darrick Herwehe Feb 25 '15 at 19:57
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    @DarrickHerwehe, respectfully, I think both are clearly subjective. How do you define Alternative as a genre? It's an opinion for the features you believe constitute Alternative. Some may consider more features, some may define it with less, and both parties can subjectively debate the matter. – Raj Feb 25 '15 at 20:44
  • Back to the question now, so... where SHOULD we ask questions like that? (I myself have some "please identify" questions lying around, so I'm really anxious to know the answer!) – Mr Lister Mar 4 '15 at 18:31
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    @MrLister Maybe propose a new dedicated SE site on Area51 for indentifying any kind of thing, I'm sure a large part of the Movies.SE community would support that proposal, too (and maybe also some people from Anime.SE and SciFi.SE). So we can concentrate on the non-ID questions only on all those sites. – Major Tom Mar 5 '15 at 11:40
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    Identifying songs and movies may belong there, but identifying terminologies (including genres) should definitely belong here. – Raj Mar 6 '15 at 4:51

10 Answers 10


I do not want to see these questions on the site. They create a large amount of noise, with little value to anyone except the OP.

On the Movies & TV site, identify-this-* questions make up 30% of the questions on the site, but 40% of those questions have a score of 1 or less.

On top of this, these questions tend to attract one-time users who don't give back to the community. 52% of the identify-this-* questions do not have an accepted answer. Part of this is because answers can only be guessed at based on vague descriptions, and part of it is that once a one-time user gets their answer, they move on without ever accepting.

Almost 11% of these questions never get an answer at all.


  • 7,240 total questions
  • 2,165 identify-this-* questions
  • 1,293 questions with score > 1
  • 1,144 with accepted answer
  • 234 with 0 answers
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    Due to being Old ID lover, i can say they should not be allowed. Most of them also need to be edited every-time, less details makes them non answerable. This is a kind of game show where hosts(site) always looses. – Ankit Sharma Feb 25 '15 at 9:48
  • AFAIK Movies & TV has no tag equivalent for genre identification. And answers to such genre identification questions are probably not "guessed" and "based on vague descriptions". So do you recommend against genre identification also or does your answer focus only on identification of musical works and maybe artists? – unor Mar 13 '15 at 13:29
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    @unor I didn't address genre identification, because I think it's primarily opinion based. – Darrick Herwehe Mar 13 '15 at 13:58
  • @DarrickHerwehe: I see. To make sure I understand your point: You want to see questions like this one as off-topic here, correct? – unor Mar 13 '15 at 18:40
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    @unor No, that question is fine. It's just asking for extra information about an already identified song. – Darrick Herwehe Mar 13 '15 at 18:44
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    They create a large amount of noise Um, “noise”? That’s your argument? Really? See the little box in the top-right corner? That’s for searching through the “noise”. ◔_◔ with little value to anyone except the OP. Not true whatsoever. Lots of people ask the same questions. If you wanted to identify a song, how would you go about it? You would probably start by googling it right? Currently, that leads to a lot of random web pages that may or may not (usually not) have the answer. However if there were a bunch of such questions here, that web-search would quickly answer that for everybody. – Synetech Mar 14 '15 at 16:33
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    Love the statistics. Change the sentence to "Over 89% of these questions gets an answer and 16% of them are correct" to make it sound quite differently :) – Spook Apr 16 '15 at 13:35

No, I would strongly urge you not to open that bottle.

These questions are clumsy at best, and once you start allowing them, they will quickly fill the front page with content that is better fit for a bar room trivia contest than anything even close to a serious "music appreciation" site.

Please consider carefully if you want to turn this site into a game show. The site will fill with these questions. Our Movies SE site decided to allow [identify-this-*] questions — it was somewhat controversial at the time, but that content now takes up more than half the front page of that site. It's a bit sad when I hear users lament, "I wish we just had listened to you back then."

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    I'm not active on Movies.SE, but if it is such a problem, why doesn't the community there simply make the questions off-topic now? – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 25 '15 at 15:44
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    @BenMiller The community embraced this content and, essentially, you get the site you build. If they were so inclined, they could simply declare the subject off topic, but it is very difficult for a community to tell the "other" half YOU'RE doing it wrong after the fact. A site is the people who run it; I just think that community made a bad call in embracing that particular activity... to their overall detriment (in my opinion) – Robert Cartaino Feb 25 '15 at 15:56
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    @BenMiller We have applied strict surveillance + cancelled few IDs and too many meta discussion. But its not that easy and still lot to do for too little usefulness. So precaution is better then care. – Ankit Sharma Feb 25 '15 at 17:58
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    These questions are clumsy at best That’s why there are comment fields to allow for clarification. once you start allowing them, they will quickly fill the front page And of course, the site is nothing more than the front page right? with content that is better fit for a bar room trivia contest So you propose that anyone who is trying to identify a song should go to a bar? ಠ_ఠ than anything even close to a serious "music appreciation" site. Were you attempting to be pedantic or facetious? – Synetech Mar 14 '15 at 16:36
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    The site will fill with these questions anyway. The only difference is that these question will hang unanswered instead of answered. People will simply hope, that someone will answer before locking the question. Rather add specific tag to filter them out if you don't want to read them - AFAIK SE provides tools to do that. – Spook Apr 16 '15 at 13:13
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    "quickly fill the front page" - absolutely and literally true, in practice. We have them ontopic on SFF.SE and there were times when 7-8 out of 10 latest asked questions on front page are story-ID questions. – DVK Apr 22 '15 at 3:51

I would like to see these questions as on-topic here. Story identification questions are popular on SciFi, and I think song/artist identification questions could become popular here.

I don't necessarily think that they will be hard to find in the future for those with the same question. Sure, if someone just posts a sound file and says "What is this?", it doesn't have much usefulness outside the Original Poster. However, I think that most questions will offer more information than that.

For example, they might ask something like this: What is the name of the classical music in “Anger Management trailer”?*

Or maybe something like, "Who sings the song from the Oreo commercial 'Wonderfilled'?" **

With something like this, there is enough text about where the music is found that it is searchable.

Questions about classifying artists and songs into genres should also be on-topic, in my opinion.

I know that on Music.SE, we often get off-topic questions about identifying songs like this. It would be nice for that type of question to have a home on MusicFans.SE, and I would enjoy answering some of those.

* In my defense, I was relatively new to Music.SE at the time I answered that, and I didn't know that those types of questions were off-topic there. I refrained from answering those types of questions in the future. :)

** This one is easy to Google, but you get the idea.

  • It was time that was deleted, so apologies for breaking your link. I think the title of the post gets the point across though. What you're suggesting is how Gaming now handles identify-this-game -- specific objective artifacts are required. – Matthew Read Feb 25 '15 at 5:53

You have to keep in mind that if a site gets filled (even 50%) with these kind of questions, you will lose participants who won't take the time to respond to other more relevant questions, because they have better things to do than wade through a bunch of "What is this song?" questions.

Such questions will bring volume, but it is not descriptive of being a Music Fan in my opinion. It becomes more like a game show forum.

And ultimately the information from such questions just becomes a database, and likely to not be of interest to anyone other than the person asking, with information probably already existing many places on the internet.

Having said that, it ultimately depends on the question. If you can find the answer by internet searching for one minute or less, it should be off-topic.
Such question could be deemed off-topic as "General Reference", meaning the answer is readily available, and likely that it was easier for the poster to ask than to do a bit of research.

Then the community can decide on a case-by-case basis what is acceptable, or not.

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    It's pretty easy to make a "song-identification" tag an ignored tag that causes these questions to be faded or completely hidden for you. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Feb 25 '15 at 5:42
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    @BenMiller That does not solve the problem but only hide it. Their viral nature will dilute the brand of what the site is about. It will slowly transform this site into a place non-ID people are not interested in, no matter if they can ignore the piles of crap in favour of the pearls. – Major Tom Feb 25 '15 at 9:27
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    @BenMiller I do ignore these tags on M&TV, and because of it, there are days where the front page only has 2 or three questions on it. – Darrick Herwehe Feb 25 '15 at 15:27
  • You have to keep in mind that if a site gets filled (even 50%) with these kind of questions, you will lose participants who won't take the time to respond to other more relevant questions, because they have better things to do than wade through a bunch of "What is this song?" questions. Are these experts you are referring to incapable of using the search and filtering functions of the site? – Synetech Mar 14 '15 at 16:37
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    @Synetech "Are these experts you are referring to incapable of using the search and filtering functions of the site?" - They most probably are, you use the search function for, well, searching specific stuff, not actually for finding recently active interesting questions which get brruied under piles of clutter. That's exactly what the front page or newest/active view is for. And greying stuff out by ignoring tags is not a realy solution either as the repelling effect remains. I have heard enough alarming complaints that I won't just brush off the deterrence of avid non-ID users as unlikely. – Major Tom Mar 16 '15 at 15:40
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    @Synetech It just isn't so much about not being able to find the pearls in the sand, but about the whole image of what the site is about getting distorted and that's what's repelling people. Of course I'm talking entirely pessimistically, maybe it won't get that bad for Music Fans, but I have to rely on the experiences I have already made and those are alarming. – Major Tom Mar 16 '15 at 15:42

I feel it is my duty as a concered individual that wants to believe in the future of this site to voice my concers here, even if others have already done that to some degree. I can and have to and will only recapitulate what I already said in the proposal discussion:

Let someone from Movies.SE assure you that you don't want identification questions. I for one thought them to be a good idea a long time ago as I thought they were well-suited to Q&A format. But I have since desparately regretted this approach and the decision to include those questions. Let me assure you that there will be no shortage of such questions. The Movies & TV site gets flooded and I have no doubts that is likely to happen for the Music site, too.

The problem is, once the influx of those questions becomes too large, they will simply start to dillute the brand of what the site is about and it will become a mere quiz-show. Those questions are not of any interest except for the people directly asking them and maybe giving the people answering them the "funny thrill" of a quiz-show. But they are not of general interest at all. You won't ever want to look into an answered and accepted ID-question to gain some interesting insights.

It is true that they may help to introduce new users to the site and generate traffic, but this does not help when most of those users are unregistered users who won't ever come back to the site to further contribute anything interesting and who generally don't give a damn about the site. So I'd even scratch the "necessary" from "necessary evil". There might be some avid users taking enjoyment from those kinds of questions, but for the majority of avid and productive site users they will simply become a thorn in the eye and a disgrace for the site and might have the effect of deterring more serious users who would otherwise like to contribute valuable stuff.

Please, however you decide, take Robert Cartaino's concerns as voiced here and here serious, he knows what he's talking about and over at Movies.SE we made the error to not listen to him and are now sitting in a situation where the influx of this stuff is alarming and the current ID ratio lies at ~30% rising. It will be a hard task to get rid of those in this state, so if you have the chance to not even start to allow them, please at least seriously consider it.

  • @RobertCartaino you again need to say "They're already starting with the identify-this-{thing}" questions … "Won't they ever learn?" – Ankit Sharma Feb 25 '15 at 9:51
  • Just to make sure: You would also recommend against genre identification (as the OP included this in the question)? For such questions the work is known (i.e., the OP links to the musical work in question), so there is no "quiz-show" and I guess asked questions are interesting for other users, too. -- To some extent this is also true for artist identification; not in the case of uploading a song, not knowing what it is, but for known works, not knowing who is responsible for them → example question. – unor Mar 13 '15 at 13:09
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    @unor I rather concentrated more on song/artist identification, based on my experience with movie/actor identification. I don't have so many problems with genre identification, but also didn't think about it that much, I admit. While that comes with other intricacies that have to be discussed explicitly, I wouldn't consider this such a huge danger if done properly. (Afterall, I would maybe like genre identification to be asked in a separate meta discussion, since I deem it quite a bit different and I guess I'm not the only one who just "looked over it" with his answer.) – Major Tom Mar 13 '15 at 13:22
  • Your rambling argument is pedantic at best, short-sighted and narrow-minded at worse. – Synetech Mar 14 '15 at 16:36
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    @Synetech Pff, be it so, it's my opinion based on a very bad experience. Feel free to downvote if you disagree. – Major Tom Mar 14 '15 at 16:40

Identification questions are not inherently problematic: on an individual basis, they are well-suited for Stack Exchange (they're specific, answerable questions that require expertise). They work well on sites like Science Fiction and Fantasy.

However, there is one aspect which I think is problematic on this site. Identification questions are only useful if they can be searched for. On SF&F, this works well, because the material in the question tends to be plot criteria whose words can be searched. (I've seen it said on various SE meta sites that identification questions are bad because they can't be searched for, but this is patently false: I used to be a moderator on SF&F, and I deleted plenty of “me too” answers, which proves that people had searched for and found identification questions.)

If a question doesn't include searchable material, I don't think it's appropriate. In particular, “what's this tune?” with a recording isn't searchable given current technology, so I think it should be ruled out.

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    Of course they can be searched for. Most pages on SE sites are indexed by search engines very quickly. Make a post and then do a search a minute or two later and you will likely see it in the results. That makes the questions useful for everybody, forever. – Synetech Mar 14 '15 at 16:39
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    @Synetech except Google does not (yet) allow searching by sound. – Spook Apr 16 '15 at 13:31

Sometimes identifying a genre or a performance type is quite difficult. I am not just talking about for a single song, which may not be broadly useful, but I mean for a whole category of music.

For example, my question here doesn't seek to simply identify the genre of the first song posted, it wants to identify this performance type (and genre) for all songs of this nature. I included multiple songs to give the gist of the nature of this type of performance. I could, actually, include many more, but I thought it would look to cluttered. In fact, there may not even be a suitable name for such a genre, and StackExchange would be a great forum for discussion to create a name for such a performance type.

Even if the songs can fall into multiple genres/performance-types, that's all valuable and relevant information.

Again, it's not just one song I'm looking to identify. It's a class of music, or a category. The idea of a DJ live-looping and live instrumental play +/- singing. An answer like this is not easily found. Trust me, I've searched far and wide. The StackExchange community has a quorum to either newly define this genre, or identify the performance type.

As an aside, I originally posed this question a year ago at music.stackexchange.com and a moderator said musicfans.stackexchange.com would be the appropriate venue.

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    re your aside - it's not for music.stackexchange.com to decide what's on topic here (though in fact we are probably many of the same people!) – user16 Feb 25 '15 at 17:31
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    StackExchange would be a great forum for discussion to create a name for such a performance type -- No, no no, no, a thousand times no. SE is for Q&A, not discussion, and a popularity contest for inventing genre names is absurdly far outside of that. – Matthew Read Feb 25 '15 at 22:05
  • @MatthewRead, at the same time you're complaining that I'm even asking a straight forward question as to what the terminology for the performance type is. That's a question that deserves an answer. – Raj Feb 25 '15 at 23:17
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    No, I haven't complained about that. Regardless, this site is not for any question that "deserves" an answer. We're discussing scope for a reason. – Matthew Read Feb 26 '15 at 0:37
  • @MatthewRead, you complained by voting to close my straight forward question. – Raj Feb 26 '15 at 3:25
  • @MatthewRead, agreed that inventing new genres would be a nightmare. It's bad enough that people do it already outside of SE and there are so many arguments over nano-genres that people invent because they want to think their favourite artist is unique as they wore pink socks on the day of the recording. – Roger Mellie Mar 5 '15 at 19:34

From the Music Fans Area 51 discussions:

Are “Guess This Song” Appropriate On Music Fans? Most people voted "No"!

Are “Identify this song/LP/CD/mp3” appropriate on Music Fans? Most people voted "Yes"!

So a lot of users think that these type of questions:

  • Bring traffic to the site. Which is a good thing,

  • Fill the site with these questions, because a lot of users use them. This is a clutter issue and not good thing. Some examples are that they became the top tag on many sites:

Science Fiction and Fantasy Top tag

Movies and Tv Stack Exchange

  • Realize they are hard to be searched and therefore not much help to others looking for the same song. But this could be changed so that the question is more helpful.

So as my decision I want to say "Yes". However, before these were allowed we would have to decide how we would have these questions structured so that they do not become a "clutter" problem and are helpful to others. If this is impossible to do, then I say we never attempt, I really don't think that this site is going to struggle for traffic very much.

The Gaming(or Arqade) Stack Exchange has only 42 questions in their game ID tag, but they do add a FAQ that might come useful in helping us structure our FAQ(if we decide on making one) if we decide to allow ID.

  • Using the term “guess” makes it into a game which of course, is off-topic. Using the term “identify” (especially with “please” or some such) makes it into a request for help. That is perfectly acceptable. …This is a clutter issue and not good thing. … they became the top tag on many sites … Realize they are hard to be searched and therefore not much help to others looking for the same song. That’s just wrong. The site has search and filter functions and search engines index pages to make the even more directly findable. – Synetech Mar 14 '15 at 16:43

I believe, like some other answers hints at, that song/artist identification is different from genre. I do think that some genre identifying questions could be of value, and that there is not a high risk that the site will be flooded by these questions. So yes on genre identification questions.

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    Might it be productive to make a new meta thread relating specifically to genre identification questions? I can then edit the question here to point to it. – user16 Mar 11 '15 at 16:44
  • @topomorto I don't think so. If you have good reason why it should be, post it as an answer on this question – Zach Saucier Mar 11 '15 at 19:00

(I think genre identification is very different to title/artist identification. I propose to create a new discussion about genre identification and therefore skip it here.)

I think we should allow title and artist identification under some conditions:

  • No guessing. No questions of the kind "I heard a song but can’t remember its name" or "Which song has these lyrics?". The question must point to the work in question (like a CD release, a movie, a game etc.). So the question is not "Which work/artist do I mean?" but "What is the title or artist of this work?".

  • Research required. If, for example, someone wants to know which song played in the credits of a movie, the author must show previous research, e.g. pointing to the IMDb, Wikipedia, fan sites etc., pointing out that they don’t list/know it.

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    +1 for Research required. – user3169 Mar 16 '15 at 18:47

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