Disclaimer: Just an up-front acknowledgement that as I write I'm a fairly new user (~3mo.), so I don't yet have the history or connection that other more experienced users of this site have. Please accept these as the comments of a relative outsider.

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


  • Music Fans SE should eliminate or significantly restrict "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 trial period of 1 year to see what effect it has on overall participation.


Proposal #2

Significantly restrict 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:

At a practical level, one concern has been that limiting or removing "identify" questions will reduce site growth, which in terms of number of questions is stagnant even with them (see Stats, below). The evidence suggests they may even be suppressing growth.

Speaking only for myself as a newish user, 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. After three months of looking to "bond" with the site, the "identify" questions are becoming a significant disincentive and have reduced my participation.

I suggest 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
2020   189   203   392
2019   236   165   401
2018   206   183   389
2017   235   231   466
2016   231   294   525
2015*  108   472   580
*first site question asked 2/2015
  1. "Identify" questions are, to a significant degree, both less impactful and less engaging than other questions.
TABLE 2: Question impact/popularity*
Q-type    Score  Views  Favorite  >1 answers/total Q 
identify  1       637   0         222/1198 = 18.5%
other     4      2064   1         506/1549 = 32.7%
*Based on data from SEDE
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
  • 3
    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 Oct 24 '20 at 5:41
  • 1
    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: musicfans.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/203/… . – Dom Oct 25 '20 at 19:10
  • 1
    About hosting services: musicfans.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/328/… – Bebs Oct 26 '20 at 7:56
  • 3
    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 '20 at 12:49
  • @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 '20 at 16:23
  • I beg of you to please vote against such action. Especially point number 1 – cmp Dec 22 '20 at 23:37
  • @cmp Just to clarify, are your referring to "proposal #1", the first item in the stats section, or something else? – Aaron Dec 23 '20 at 0:32
  • 1
    @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 '20 at 0:40
  • 2
    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 '20 at 12:39
  • Is there any way to tell how many ID question askers are likely to return & fully engage with the site longer term, vs fly-by askers? – Tetsujin Dec 24 '20 at 12:41
  • @Tetsujin Oh but you see they provide much value to the user. That long awaited song they never quite managed to remember. The same with the movies. The relief that you finally know the movie. You’re lazy questions example applies to all questions. You have to provide as much help as possible. Above all, you have to prove that you have tired your absolute hardest to establish the answer for yourself. On the other hand, if they were now considered off-topic (goodness forbid) at least your question would be top of the list for some time! – cmp Dec 24 '20 at 13:07
  • 3
    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 '20 at 13:13
  • 2
    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 '20 at 13:45
  • 1
    @cmp It sounds like you might be open to setting some tighter criteria for what qualifies as a "good" identify question. I'd be interested in your thoughts on how the criteria could be narrowed to better catch the valuable questions and better filter the "lazy" ones or the ones meant to drive traffic to a YouTube channel, etc. – Aaron Dec 24 '20 at 16:22
  • 1
    @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 at 19:46

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