Full dislosure: It was an identify question of my own that initially turned me onto this site.


  • Music Fans SE should engage in a time-limited trial run of restricting or eliminating "identify" questions.

There are three sections to this post: (1) Two proposals; (2) Justification; (3) Stats.

Two proposals regarding "[identify*]" questions

Proposal #1:

Treat "identify" questions as off-topic for a one-year trial period to observe the effect on overall participation.


Proposal #2

Restrict, for a one-year trial period the "identify" questions that are on-topic. For example:

  1. Require that any posted video be on a publicly accessible site (e.g., not a personal cloud-share site; not a site requiring fees). (Also in the interest of security. I have no interest in downloading unknown files from random sites.)
  2. Require that the above site track views, and that the submitted video have a minimum such number (e.g., 10,000). This will at least suggest some future usefulness.


"Identify" questions have been a point of discussion, contention, and, for some, irritation since the inception of Music Fans. For example:

As shown in the stats below, "identify" questions are

  1. Pushing out other questions;
  2. Producing less engagement and less impact;
  3. Of lower quality.

One concern has been that limiting or removing "identify" questions will reduce site growth. However, as measured by number of questions asked, growth is stagnant even with them (see Stats, below). Evidence suggests "identify" questions are actually suppressing growth.

As a personal matter, I find "identify"-type questions to be a drag most of the time. They often take a substantial amount of research to answer and are generally of limited long-term or popular value. For me, the "identify" questions have become a significant disincentive and have substantially reduced my participation.

I advocate strongly for a trial run of either restricting or removing them.


  1. In Music Fans's first year (Feb - Dec 2015) the ratio of "other" questions to "identify" questions was better than 4:1. However, since 2016, the number of "identify" questions has been holding steady at roughly double, while the number of "other" questions has dropped by more than 50%.
TABLE 1: Questions by year

Year   Is  (%)     Not (%)     Total
2021*  217 (62%)   135 (38%)   352
2020   189 (48%)   203 (52%)   392
2019   236 (59%)   165 (41%)   401
2018   206 (53%)   183 (47%)   389
2017   235 (50%)   231 (50%)   466
2016   231 (44%)   294 (56%)   525
2015** 108 (19%)   472 (81%)   580
*as of Nov. 30, 2021
**first site question asked 2/2015
  1. "Identify" questions are significantly less engaging and less impactful than other questions.
TABLE 2: Question impact/popularity*
Q-type    Score  Views  Favorite  >1 answers/total Q 
identify  1       715   0         263/1445 = 18.2%
other     4      2364   1         555/1703 = 32.6%
*Based on data from SEDE. Queries are below.
  1. "Identify" questions are of lower quality than other questions.
TABLE 3: Percentages of closed questions versus total

Tag        Closed/Total  %
Identify*  50/1463       3.4%
Other      93/4292       2.7%

Queries used for Table 2.

SELECT AVG(ViewCount) FROM Posts WHERE Tags LIKE '%identify%'  
SELECT AVG(ViewCount) FROM Posts WHERE Tags NOT LIKE '%identify%'  

SELECT AVG(Score) FROM Posts WHERE Tags LIKE '%identify%'
SELECT AVG(Score) FROM Posts WHERE Tags NOT LIKE '%identify%'

SELECT AVG(FavoriteCount) FROM Posts WHERE Tags LIKE '%identify%'
SELECT AVG(FavoriteCount) FROM Posts WHERE Tags NOT LIKE '%identify%'

SELECT COUNT(AnswerCount) FROM Posts WHERE Tags LIKE '%identify%' AND AnswerCount > 1
SELECT COUNT(AnswerCount) FROM Posts WHERE Tags NOT LIKE '%identify%' AND AnswerCount > 1
  • 4
    I'll see if I can link other questions important to the track of identification questions on this site over the next few days. They were supposed to be trial only and it never really seemed successful in my opinion, but was near impossible to roll back once it started. I'll also point out another problem with identification questions on this site in your question which is the one answer you got is incorrect, but still upvoted. The questions are set up so only the OP can validate the question, but anyone can upvote the answer making it have issues on a Q&A site.
    – Dom Mod
    Oct 24, 2020 at 5:41
  • 2
    This question is tangentially related: musicfans.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/421/… . This question was very important for getting ID questions from off topic to on topic: Should the site's scope be expanded to increase user engagement?.
    – Dom Mod
    Oct 25, 2020 at 19:10
  • 1
    About hosting services: Should we restrict hosting services we allow for ID questions?
    – Bebs
    Oct 26, 2020 at 7:56
  • 7
    Much of your argument for making such questions off-topic here is based on the premise that even the mere presence of such questions on this site harms it. Any user who feels this could just use SE's "Ignore tag" feature on this or any other tag.
    – Rosie F
    Nov 17, 2020 at 12:49
  • 1
    @RosieF That's a fair read, but I'm also saying that they aren't helping -- usage is going down even with them, both in terms of total user engagement and per-question engagement. So I propose a time-limited trial run without them to see if that has a positive effect on overall site usage.
    – Aaron
    Nov 17, 2020 at 16:23
  • 3
    @Aaron My apologies, yes. It can’t be abandoned altogether. I did see someone bitterly regret it’s removal on the Movies Stack Exchange site. Many said “It was the reason I first engaged with the site and continue to engage with it”. A large audience will be missed and dismissed, not to mention the considerable amount [closed] dead questions that will be inevitable.
    – cmp
    Dec 23, 2020 at 0:40
  • 5
    The reasoning behind ID questions being removed from M&TV was the sheer number of lazy questions. That some well-researched questions may have been lost, as the baby with the bathwater, I think has seen the overall question quality on there go up. I'm still very much engaged there, whereas here I poke my head in once a month if I'm bored. The ID questions imo are generally zero value. Most of the current front page is either 'name this tune' or 'what genre is this?' both of which are equally pointless.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 24, 2020 at 12:39
  • 9
    The idea of stack exchange as a whole is not to provide value to a single user, but to become a permanent searchable resource for many users. If a question is unsearchable, ie "what's this song? link provided." then it is of literally no value to anyone at all except the asker. Many SE sites have that as a close reason.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 24, 2020 at 13:13
  • 5
    Stack Exchange is not here to emulate Reddit, or any forum-style site. It is a searchable resource for many users. I see no irony in the question - though I do in the answer to the OP's initial post, which though not the right answer was the only one… & it was mine ;) The question itself was at least a good attempt to provide full information & may possibly be googlable. It didn't just say "what's the song in this video?" which has absolutely zero value as a searchable resource.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 24, 2020 at 13:45
  • 2
    @Clockwork You've hit on what I see as a major downside of "identify" questions. Unlike a book summary, the questions here rarely contain (specific) enough information, and they tend to rely on links that are apt to go bad eventually. Clearly there are enough people who post/read/answer these questions that they've been kept on the site, but for me personally it's a major disinsentive. I mostly just visit now to help manage the review queues and not much else.
    – Aaron
    Apr 4, 2021 at 19:46
  • 5
    Low value, poor quality growth is worse than slow growth. Jun 29, 2021 at 7:59
  • 4
    It may also be worth considering how other sites on the Stack Exchange network have handled "identification"-type questions. Some sites have disallowed them entirely, some others largely allow them without any special rules, and some other sites allow identification questions if they meet certain criteria or include certain details.
    – V2Blast
    Nov 30, 2021 at 18:17
  • 2
    (Also: In searching for examples, I came across FAQs on other sites' metas (e.g. Anime & Manga, Movies & TV) that direct users to this site for certain kinds of identification questions, so those posts may also need to be updated if this site's policy changes.)
    – V2Blast
    Nov 30, 2021 at 18:19
  • 4
    @V2Blast I'd love to disallow them completely, but when most of your questions are them at this point, it's rather hard. We really should have just never allowed them.
    – Dom Mod
    Dec 3, 2021 at 13:47
  • 5
    We tried stricter rules for ID questions on M&TV: people ignored them, and got angry when these rules were pointed out. ID questions are often so lazy that people don't even use the identify tag (e.g. this site's current frontpage where I just had to add the tag to half a dozen questions). Saying that people can filter out ID questions if they find them annoying is pointless when the askers don't properly tag them. Wanna know what is really annoying? Cleaning up someone else's mess.
    – BCdotWEB
    Dec 16, 2021 at 13:23

4 Answers 4


My reflex is to say yes, goodness yes, these questions tend to be such poor quality they is just noise.

However, on reflection, I think there should be some allowed. I think the criteria should be you must include one of the following (or similar)...

  • an actual audio source for the piece of music (for example a youtube video) including a time code (unless it is throughout)
  • the movie or tv show which you heard it in with timecode or just it is the theme song, or the closing credits etc.
  • an actual image of the sheet music, but not something the OP has produced, an actual source

So this makes the following unacceptable...

  • Half remembered lyrics (something about a lover who leaves early in the morning?)
  • vague thematic descriptions (a syth song with dark themes about nuclear war?)
  • descriptions of music videos (children wearing dolls masks?)
  • OP produced recordings of melody or chords
  • OP produced partial score, chord progressions, or musical description (a descending bass line with a reggae guitar and a woman singing)

FWIW, I have been active on Stack Overflow for years (11k rep) but was never aware of Music Fans. However, I got a song from the 80s stuck in my head but can't remember the band. After fruitless Googling (I remember some lyrics) I landed at Music Fans. I was just about to post a question about the song when I saw this meta post. Now, I'm not sure if I should.

My point is that since the site is still in beta, is it wise to ban a potentially large user base? Maybe you should wait and revisit this issue when the site is no longer in beta.

You may be wondering: if I do ask my question, what will my level of participation be after that? It's hard to say. But at least your numbers will have increased slightly.

Also, it has been mentioned that the Movies Stack Exchange has banned these types of questions. But over at Science Fiction and Fantasy, there are over 18k questions tagged "story-identification" - so it seems to be very successfully handled there.

  • 1
    To your question, I'd say go ahead and post. They are currently on topic, and there are enthusiasts who enjoy these kinds of questions. To the larger issue, I just want to reiterate that my OP doesn't suggest an outright ban. My proposals are 1) a time-limited trial run of a ban and 2) restricting the criteria for these types of questions to be considered "on-topic".
    – Aaron
    Aug 26, 2021 at 15:12
  • 4
    ID questions "work" on S&F because in the end it is a fairly limited subject range, plus IIRC they're rather strict on the need to provide as much info as possible. M&TV is just waay too broad, plus the vast majority of questions were low-quality. And its askers were so fly-by-night you'd be lucky for them to stick around to accept your answer. In fact these questions were so low-effort they often didn't include the "identify" tag (which is also happening here).
    – BCdotWEB
    Dec 16, 2021 at 13:17

This question was closed Please help me identify this mandolin shaped guitar with a message stating it was "about identifying an artist, song, or genre of music" but that's not the case. If asking to identify musical instruments is considered "off topic" the rule needs to be re-worded. Or if the moderator misread the question, it should be re-opened.


This site is dead, and the core responder base along with the mods killed it.

“10 questions per day on average is a healthy beta, 5 questions or fewer per day needs some work. A healthy site generates lots of good content to make sure users keep coming back.”

Where is this quote from? Yeah, that’s right, it’s from area51. Today I took a glimpse in the heat of an argument about the hostility I got for an identify the genre question, and looked, the 5 days prior to that moment, the site had a total of 10 questions. 3 of which identify-type questions, all closed. Those people of getting a good answer, would come back. I would come back. Maybe only every 2 or 3 months. When my OST, lyrics Shamaz, humming or whistling a song to a song identifier algorithm each fails.

Think about it: When someone goes to such lengths, what quality of a music are they looking for? It’s the best of the best music of all genres people would come here, a preselected set. If it’s just good or mediocre, people won’t go to such lengths: It is interesting content. It is people passionate about music, understanding music. It’s the people of all SE’s coming here for this reasons with good music creating good content, and keep coming back every now and then.

Some will stick around to give the answers seeing its good music people come here with.

That exactly what area51 wants to see. The reason this site was created next to the other music site was for a place to have the identify questions. This place created by the rest of Stackexchange is it hijacked by a few and banning what this is for.

3 questioners would never come back here out of those 10 questions. They would, I would. Maybe only every quarter but definitely with some excellent music at the core of the question filling it with it value.

Talking about site health? The site is dead. And the leadership killed it.

There are some amazing proposals here, learn from it.

Identify genre is no more or less subjective than identifying the meaning of lyrics unlike who extremely widely a mod asserts in the comments. Unlike him, I studied aesthetics, not the nailing study one, but the one in a philosophy faculty of a prominent European university, and my initial focus was individual music philosophy.

No, the meaning of the lyrics is nothing less then an opinion based theory with preferably internal consistency.

Genre should be allowed. Identify with a linked recording should be allowed. You would surpass the 10 questions a day in two years.

It would take time for those you scared away to learn and return. But many SE users are only yet to learn about your existence. Try to make sure you make a good impression before Stackexchange puts the cross over this site. There could be value here.

  • 3
    For someone who's never coming back to this dead site, you certainly seem to be spending more time here than anyone else and singlehandedly keeping it alive. Kudos. The next step would be to come up with a post that is both on topic and interesting to others on the site. Good luck.
    – Aaron
    Oct 11, 2022 at 3:35
  • 2
    If we want to talk about what to talk about instead of stuff music, than I guess you don’t need to change because someone people may show up here, and tell you the same once in a blue moon. Oct 11, 2022 at 3:48
  • 3
    You didn't get any hostility, your question was simply closed as being off-topic with no comment & only a single downvote. Identification questions have been made off-topic on many SE sites over the last couple of years. Across the various sites this was done, it was determined that [identify] tag users are less likely to return to the site than others, & only some even come back to mark an answer. The questions themselves are also more likely to be unsearchable by others & are often linked to an external site, leading to link-rot. They do not become a long-term useful resource.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 11, 2022 at 10:38
  • Identify tag’s, for e.g., on mechanics.SE allowing auto identification works no issue, despite there rarely is a situation when the same person may need this multiple times in their life. Music identification is a common and everyday experience of people. When their tech fails, they would come here. Car identification is completely unsearchable. Genre identification absolutely isn’t. Because the requisite is the music to be genre’d. You give an artist and a title, and get a genre back. May be of less value than a song ID, but definitely searchable. Answer accepting? Allow ‘em only for a bounty Oct 11, 2022 at 11:09

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