Almost a year ago, verbose asked How do we ensure that questions on this site attract scholars and enthusiasts? In my second answer to that question, I wrote that identification-request questions are a type of questions that dilute our site's focus.
Our current policy is to accept such questions; the highest-voted answer to the question What do we think about story identification? (currently 29 votes) also says,
You don't have to go out of your way to shut down ID questions as soon as they spring up, as long as they're rare and well-written.
We have learnt several things about this question type since that policy was defined in 2017:
- This type of question is by no means rare: we currently have 603 such questions (and 27 that have been deleted, making identification-request the third-most-popular tag on the site.
- People who post such questions often need some prodding and a link to the
identification-requestwiki before a question is edited into a shape that makes it answerable and acceptable.
- It is a type of question that is often answered without reading the work being asked about; instead, good internet searching skills tend to be sufficient.
- It is a type of question that typically benefits only the person who asked it, unlike, for example, questions asking about the history of literature, the historical background to a specific text and explanations of specific difficult passages.
- In spite of the limited usefulness of these questions, they often get more votes than questions that actually teach us something about literature (see the types mentioned above).
Because of the last three issues, I doubt that this type of question makes a great impression on scholars and other serious readers of literature. For this reason, I suggest that we stop accepting this type of question. If we are serious about attracting scholars and other "students of literature", and the 10 upvotes on How do we ensure that questions on this site attract scholars and enthusiasts? suggest that we are, we should take seriously consider such a change in policy.