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We have had discussions about this before (the linked post mentions several other, even older posts), but I think it is time for another revamp.

  1. We have an increasing number of species ID questions which show no previous research (and in some cases no will to do any research) at all. While I generally love those questions as little puzzles, this does get annoying over time. I try to remind people of doing their own research, but at some point, one is tempted to just downvote or even flag. This would send the wrong message to other people trying to have something identified, though. I do not want to discourage this type of questions, I do not even want to discourage multiple ones from the same person, but I feel like there needs to be a threshold for "previous research" and "trivial ID" (a very common species). Is there anything we can do?
  2. We also have an increasing number of species ID questions which are closed as duplicates. This is somewhat understandable if they at least get answered before/while closing them. Yes, we have had a question for the same/ a similar species before. But how should the person asking find that duplicate? If they don't know the name of their species and are unable to find it using google, how should they find out someone uploaded a similar picture here in a question? I somehow feel that species ID does not have duplicates, in the same way other types of questions do. Should we really close them as duplicates (unless of course, it is the same question by the same person reposted)? And if so, which question should be the duplicate? Sometimes a new version gets a more in detail answer.

And then in the end: While they are nice puzzles that I would miss if they were not there, is this platform really the right location for this type of questions? Do we want to be drowned in them? Do we maybe need SpeciesID SE?

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    $\begingroup$ Recently there have been Plant ID questions from a specific user with very little or no research and the questions are never updated with their findings. Their indifference completely annoys me and yet the questions keep flowing. I second your thought of having a threshold. $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba May 16 '17 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Tytoalba That is part of the reason why I decided to finally write this down. But it has started before this specific user joined. There was a similar "batch upload" of insect questions some time ago, if I remember correctly. $\endgroup$ – skymningen May 16 '17 at 14:19
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I'll mostly just address your point #2 here, I'll let others weigh in on #1.

I'm not as concerned as you with closing as duplicates being a problem. In my opinion, the purpose of closing as duplicate is to direct the question asker to the original question, and to prevent clutter on the site. I don't think of closing as duplicate as punishment to the asker or necessarily saying their question is bad. Their question might be very well stated or better than the original, and that's okay.

However, if the new question is getting better answers than the old one, that's more of a problem with the answerer. The answerer knows the species, and they should do at least a cursory search for a duplicate. If they have a better answer to provide, they should still answer the original question and vote to close the new one.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is it possible for mods to move answers from one question to another in the case that both questions have good answers? (I've a feeling it is.) $\endgroup$ – David Richerby May 18 '17 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby It is possible to merge questions, yes, but typically the goal of the community is to involve the mods as rarely as possible. It would be much better for someone to vote to close a question as duplicate, and then write their new answer on the old question if they have a substantially improved answer to both questions that can't be made with a simple edit to the existing answer. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 18 '17 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that one should avoid creating work for the mods but there's still the question of what to do if that bridge has already been crossed and we have two near-identical questions that both have good answers. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby May 18 '17 at 17:36
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I agree that questions are coming in with clearly no research effort. To be honest, I've noticed this for a while and wanted to propose we "crack down" harder on questions like we do with other tags, but I was conflicted b/c I enjoy the steady flow of puzzles questions ;).

  • However, I think most of us are aware that even with prior research, those askers are almost certainly to end up in 1 of 2 [undesirable] situations:

    1. Find an answer that they are satisfied with elsewhere (i.e., another website) and not even bother posting here.

    2. Search through dozens of websites that frequently provide incorrect identifications and get "lost" in the inconsistencies of unresearched/unreferenced websites.

      • Google image searches really only works for those of us that know enough about the taxa we're searching to not fall into these "traps."

As a result, I think it is very difficult for us to increase our level of expected research input from users asking questions.

  • However, I think that we should do something to deter instances such as the one that almost certainly prompted this meta post (i.e., single user asking many simple non-researched questions, especially in a single taxa).

    • In this case, I don't think it's fair to downvote questions if they are not fundementally worse than the average question. Downvoting simply because we are annoyed with that user is against our policies and should be discouraged.

    • However, I think flagging this individual or others like them that are basically abusing our time/expertise would be appropriate.

      • Moderators should suggest to them that they should try to learn to ID these specimens on their own (e.g., via field guides, floras, workshops, course work, etc.). The mod should inform them that they've asked too many un-researched related questions and should suggest that if they don't reduce their habit they will be suspended as being abusive.

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I agree with @BryanKrause's answer that duplicates are not necessarily a bad hting and marking a question as such is helpful not punishment. However, I agree it would be helpful to have a way for users to search previous questions more easily. As for a more practical (but less likely) solution

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    $\begingroup$ I have the same thoughts. $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba May 16 '17 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ As a result, I think it is very difficult for us to increase our level of expected research input from users asking species-identification questions. I think the same rationale that led to this conclusion could be applied to any question that apparently shows no research. Yet other questions are frequently closed as "homework". Seems like a double standard. $\endgroup$ – canadianer May 16 '17 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ @canadianer very true. But species IDing seems to attract many more untrained and unqualified people across the internet that provide wrong answers/IDs. I think that questions about human bio, biochem, anatomy, genetics, etc. are typically more "out of reach" for many of these untrained people and as a result the internet is less littered with misinformation. (though perhaps that is not true). $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist May 16 '17 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ Personally I would like to see separate biology sites: one for professional scientists (and perhaps students) and one for the layperson (which includes most species ID questions). However, I don't think the current activity could justify such a split. $\endgroup$ – canadianer May 16 '17 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ Someone looking to learn more about biochem could very easily search a topic online and learn about it -- the difficult aspect of that task being, more often than not, comprehension (vs not being able to find valid/true info). With species ID, if someone looks up what kind of ant they have, they're going to have a fairly hard time wading through misinformation, esoteric and nuanced characteristics, keys, etc. The tools available are much less useful. ....Don't get me wrong, though, I think it would be great if people learned to research ID questions better, but I just don't see it happening. $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist May 16 '17 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ @canadianer I agree 100% that it would be ideal to have multiple biology SE sites -- I would love to see a professional vs student/layperson sites. But as you said, that doesn't seem to be likely. Too bad we can't partition SE sites $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist May 16 '17 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ As an aside, your brilliant idea of including pictures in search results will never be implemented or even considered without the developers being aware of it. Perhaps it warrants a post on Meta Stack Exchange or a friendly message asking them to weigh in on the subject. I have a hunch that they won't go for it, but what do I know ;) $\endgroup$ – canadianer May 16 '17 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @canadianer right. I figured I'd get a full community's support and then move forward with it. Glad you like the idea! :D $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist May 16 '17 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that there simply has to be some difference in expected research for species ID versus other questions. For other questions that are low effort you get stuff like "what is DNA recombination?" Well...search for DNA recombination on google? You also get questions where the question might seem to the asker to be somewhat specific but the answer is really "Here is a book on evolution." Neither of those really apply to species ID because its so hard to google without more knowledge: have fun searching for "tree with green leaves". $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 17 '17 at 4:21
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    $\begingroup$ I also agree that that one particular user is getting a bit irritating but I don't know what the right approach is. I think maybe it's up to the mods to have a private conversation among themselves and either tell the user to limit the questions or tell the rest of us to get over it. I'd add that we also get other users that are basically doing the same thing with their textbook, submitting a question for every concept they are unclear about. I think we treat them with more welcome as long as their questions have a bit of detail, though, and its easier to police their poor questions. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 17 '17 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ Species ID with google's image search is something same to pass the Google's CAPTCHA test with a bot. Except structures that are very simple from any-perspective, or with a very simple coloured-pattern, or google contains it in the webcache as already popularly searched image or images already exists in websites; it is really hard job to a bot! (but less-hard to human btw) $\endgroup$ – Always Confused May 17 '17 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause With the "textbook-questions" it is at least possible to ask them which parts of the (in the textbook provided) explanations they understood. If I feel they did not read the whole thing and ask for a summary here, I don't answer. If I feel they really don't understand one concept: that's what we are for. The same: For a species ID i at least expect information about the location and WHY the user wants this IDed (even if it is "the bird is pretty and I have not seen it before") At least find out if it is one of the common birds in the region. That's enough research for me. $\endgroup$ – skymningen May 17 '17 at 9:06
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Closing as a duplicate is very different from other closure reasons. All the other closure reasons are "Your question is some kind of bad." Closing as a duplicate is "Your question is good: in particular, we already have answers to it."

If a question is a duplicate, it should be closed as one. It doesn't matter that the asker had no way of finding the duplicate: we found it for them. Closing as a duplicate helps the asker because it means we're linking them in to the existing high-quality answers we have available, already voted on, with the cream already floated to the top. It also helps people who access the site via search engines by helping them navigate through multiple similar-looking pages (and probably boosting the search engine ranking of the original question compared to the duplicates).

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