I was hoping to get enough votes to reopen this question: I found a bug on my bedroom floor. Is this a bedbug?

  • It was originally closed primarilly because the picture quality is awful -- the blurriness makes the specimen very difficult to see. The OP also failed to provide further info about the specimen (e.g., size, location).

    • The question has since been updated with the specimen's size.

I was able to identify at least 4 characteristics in the blurry picture that give me pretty good confidence that I can ID the specimen. I've already drafted up a detailed answer, so I'm trying to get support for the last reopen vote.

  • This also brings up the question: Should a question remain closed if 99% of users cannot use the picture even if a single (or few) user(s) finds said photo useful enough to properly ID?

I'm pursuing reopening this question more than I usually would b/c:

  1. I think bedbug (or wrongly assumed to be bedbug) questions are highly pertinent and become high traffic questions. I think the more answers that provide definitive bedbug ID or non-IDs are very useful to many people.

  2. As I said, I already put in the time to draft a detailed answer (expecting the question to be reopened fairly quickly :p).

  • $\begingroup$ I cast the last reopen vote. Personally, I'd like to have some better guidelines on what information users should have to provide for ID questions, but I simply don't know enough about this topic. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist thanks. I agree. In my opinion Location is a must. Size is also very useful. Clear photos are generally good, but I've seen some questions with no photos at all get answered based on description alone. I see no reason to disallow that approach. Really, it's kind of hard to set strict guidelines b/c different organisms require different information (or necessary clear pictures) to ID. To me, the bigger question here, though, is: does the ID question have to be useful to other people to be valid? I'll address my opinion on this more in an answer below.... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ As for ensuring better questions are asked: Is there some way to auto pop-up a box with ID question guidelines when, perhaps, a species-identificationtag has been added? I'm thinking below (or in place of) the "How to Format" box that appears to the right of the text input box. Or, alternatively, as a link along with "formatting help" or "asking help". Clearly asking for location and a good photo in the tag description isn't effective neough on its own... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:42

2 Answers 2


Ok, so I'm posting an answer since you've repeatedly pinged me about reopening.

I don't think the Q should be open, since it is of extremely limited value to the site. Whether it should be reopened is clearly up to the community though, and other persons than me also voted too keep closed. However, now it is open, so you got your wish. I find it a poor choice though, and I don't really see how we can have any pretence of maintaining the quality of BioSE if we keep this kind of questions open. What is the bar for closing questions as unclear in other cases (not only species ID questions), if questions like this one is kept open? IDing a species based on this picture (except of maybe saying that it is an insect) is basically the same as reading tea leaves, and hardly anything to be encouraged. But we obviously disagree here...

About the 99% vs 1%...
Whether you think that you can provide an answer doesn't really have anything to do with it; somebody can always imagine that they can provide some sort of answer to all questions that we close as "too broad" or "unclear". That doesn't mean that the Q should be open. To me, the only people this Q might be of value to is the OP (even though there is a fairly big chance that he/she will get dubious/misleading answers due to the poor quality of the picture) and somebody answering the Q (by getting reputation). It is unlikely to be of any value to other visitors. If you think that you can write a nice overview about bed bug characteristics inspired by the question, that is all fine and well. However, that should be posted at a wiki or a personal webpage, since it doesn't have much to do with the SE Q/A-format of answering specific questions, what is of general interest and value.

About this specific question, and for the record, I've been talking to a friend of mine that is an expert on domestic pest insects, and he also thought that it is impossible to say for certain whether this is a bed bug or not (from this picture). It doesn't obviously look like a bed bug though. This was also my original point, and why I think that the question should be closed (it is too unclear to answer with any certainty).

Again re: "Should a question remain closed if 99% of users cannot use the picture..."...:
I don't really see the difference here between one user finding a non-species ID Q interesting enough to keep open, even though 99% of users find it unclear (or too broad etc), which normally would lead to the Q being closed. However, closing of questions as unclear, too broad etc is always a judgement call that is up to the community, and users always have different backgrounds, expertise and knowledge. This question isn't any different in that sense.


@fileunderwater I only pinged you because those comments were relevant to your comment opposing reopening. I meant for those comments to be general evidence to support having anyone vote to reopen.

I want you to know I hear you loud and clear and generally agree with most of your points. However, a few thoughts:

  1. I agree that ID questions with unclear pictures should be closed, but I think if the picture is clear enough for anyone to (even somewhat confidently) answer it, then it is fair to be voted to reopen. As you said, this becomes a judgment call made by the community.

    • I hope from my answer to this particualr question that you can be at least somewhat convinced that trying to identify this particular specimen could be done much more accurately than reading tea leaves.
  2. Clearly we are not consistent as a community in deciding what is a good picture and what isn't. Examples of ID questions with poor photos that were not closed:

  3. Regarding 99% vs 1%:

    Should a question remain closed if 99% of users cannot use the picture even if a single (or few) user(s) finds said photo useful enough to properly ID?

    My opinion is no. I think if a single or few users (especially high-rep users that can be trusted a bit more) decide that they can provide a useful answer, then it's completely valid to reopen a seemingly poor question.

    In my opinion, the philosophy behind what is the purpose of SE? seems to teeter back and forth between helping individual askers vs. providing a useful compilation of information for new users to access for reference in the future. I have received comments supporting both lines of thinking from multiple SE communities. I'm not really sure where we as a community at Bio.SE believe this seesaw sits -- probably worth reviewing/discussing in conjunction with this Meta discussion.

    • You write that a good overview would be better posted to another site, but I would think that many users would find such a post relevant and useful here.

      • Many people tend to find a seemingly reputable source of info (e.g., Bio.SE) and stick with it -- so even compiling info copied from elsewhere to SE could prove to be very useful to some people.

      • Also, Bio.SE is becoming an increasingly more popular Google Search result, so it would make sense to provide useful info to incoming traffic before they get misguided by incorrect (poorly cited and less "peer reviewed") info elsewhere.

      • See also this discussion: Asking questions to deliberately attract users, which I believe applies to answers as well as questions.

    • My reasoning for wanting to open the particular question that this post addresses was because I had compiled an answer that on its own (regardless of the quality of the question being asked) could be very useful to incoming users. (I also feel fairly confident that I answered the OP's question, and so stayed on-topic).

      • I think that the majority of people that get on the internet to ID species are probably looking for common "pests": bed bugs, dermestids, moth larvae, ants/termites, psocids, silverfish, fleas, ticks, etc. As a result, I think that any chance we have as a community to provide clear and well-cited /well-pictured answers describing and differentiating these species is hugely beneficial for our community and visitors. Further, the ability to link these answers is very helpful for users/visitors looking to effectively learn more.

      • Also, although the picture might be very crummy, it's probably on par with the pictures that many others are taking of the 0.3 cm organisms that they are trying to identify. So someone in a similar situation might find such a picture helpful (and as a result they'll be led to a wealth of information and linked questions/answers containing even more info).


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