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Meta

Can we have a separate category for identification requests?

+7
−0

(Not sure whether it's too early to request this, but here goes anyway!)

One of the suggestions in the Music proposal on Meta was to have separate categories for certain topics. I would like to reiterate one of those suggestions, namely a category for identification requests.

In a past life, I used to be fairly active on Music Fans SE, and ID questions were problematic there, to say the least. There was (and continues to be) much love and hate for them from different parts of the community. Some of the reasons for this are as follows:

  • ID questions are usually of "low quality". Little more than a link to a song, or a video with the background song to be identified, is usually provided. Sometimes, the OP can only post some vague descriptions of the music video they had seen.
  • Answers to the ID questions usually end up becoming a guessing game, which completely goes against SE's Q&A model. Consequently, votes are not useful in determining whether an ID question has been answered satisfactorily or not.
  • Answers to ID questions are also often of "low quality", with little more than the name of the suggested song, the artist, and a link (and usually not even all three together).
  • ID questions easily become deprecated, since links to songs/videos often become deprecated. Moreover, it is rare for the OP to return to a question and update the link, so it is often impossible to salvage an ID question with a deprecated link.
  • They are uninteresting, based on engagement (no. of votes, comments, answers). Moreover, they steadily take over the front page, possibly leading to less overall engagement in the site.

All that being said, here are some reasons that a few folks at Music Fans SE are in favour of keeping ID questions:

  • Music identification is fun! It's what brought many users to the community in the first place.
  • A correct identification can sometimes come out of nowhere — many questions with nothing but vague descriptions have managed to receive correct answers.
  • They are useful to many people. Some of the most highly viewed posts on Music Fans SE are ID questions, and many "answers" turn up much later saying that that is the exact song they too were looking for.

To summarise, music ID questions are a bad fit in the SE model. I am aware that some SE sites do allow ID requests successfully, notably Literature SE in my experience. But, my guess for why music ID questions do especially poorly is because describing music is hard! You have this tune in your head that moves in a certain way, but verbalizing that is very difficult for the average person. Moreover, music search is more or less impossible. If you have a sample readily available and Shazam or SoundHound can correctly identify it, then that's great, but even these apps have their limitations.

However, we are obviously not SE so we're not bound by their Q&A model. I think it makes sense to keep a separate category for ID questions (provided we're not disallowing music ID questions from the outset). Then:

  • The issue of these questions "taking over the front page" is immediately avoided.
  • I'm not sure to what extent customization is possible, but a different system than upvotes/downvotes on answers might help.
  • Having a separate category could also allow a different set of guidelines for what counts as "quality" in questions and answers, one that is more useful for ID requests and is not defined by the style of questions on Main.
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+2
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"Different guidelines" is one of the motivating use cases for categories. (See Rigorous Science on Scientific Speculation, for example, or Challenges on several communities.) It sounds like this is a case of that and a category would make sense.

I think we can create a post type that would behave like an answer but wouldn't have voting buttons, if that's what y'all want. If so, we could do that for questions in this category too. That would mean that people could ask and answer but there'd be no scores.

Note that votes on posts contribute to "post score" which contributes to earning abilities, so by removing voting from these posts you're taking them out of the pool of posts that can affect abilities. Whether, in this case, that is a bug or a feature is something for this community to decide.

The other thing voting affects is the reputation number. Reputation is now just a number; it doesn't gate abilities. One change on our to-do list, but I don't know when we'll get to it, is to allow per-category configuration of both reputation and whether posts contribute to abilities. If we had that, then you could keep voting but keep it "fenced", so to speak -- activity on ID questions wouldn't affect anything else. We do not have this and I don't know when we will, but I'm mentioning it so you know we're thinking about it.

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