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One of my numerous proposals from the Redesigning Biology Stack Exchange Bio.Meta post was to create a template or instruction guide for questions.

  • The goal is to improve the inclusion rate of info necessary for typical ID questions.

User @Mad-Scientist suggested in chat that we could just create a "tag warning" (i.e., tag-specific pop-up) for specific tags.

  • See here and here to learn more about these pop-ups; or to visualize in real time, go to stackoverflow.com, ask a question and add the sql tag. There'll be a popup that adds some hints.

Below is my proposal for the text to be included in a tag warning:


Species Identification questions get better answers if they include...

  1. One or more clear Photos.
  2. A Location where the specimen was found (city/region and/or habitat).
  3. An approximate Size (or photo indicating size).
  4. Additional useful info (e.g., behavior, time of day/year, etc...)
  5. Indication of prior research performed by the asker.
  6. A tag for a specific taxanomic group (e.g., , , , , , etc...)

Some tag specific hints:

: try to include photo of leaf, stem/trunk, and flower/fruit. All are often needed for accurate ID.

/: there are many similar looking species. Add close-up photos (from multiple angles) if possible!

: please indicate whether you found the fish in marine or fresh water.

: please include photo of top and bottom of mushrooms!

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    $\begingroup$ Please upvote to show support or comment regarding issues/changes you think should be addressed in the text. Thanks! $\endgroup$ May 30 '17 at 23:00
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    $\begingroup$ This looks great! I doubt the tag-specific hints would fit in the warning pop-up though. Which is a shame, because they are very useful. Maybe they could be squished but if not, we should at least add them to the relevant tag wikis. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    May 30 '17 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ @terdon yeah I wasn't sure if they would fit. But had to put all my thoughts in one place! Hopefully we can squeeze some version of them all into the pop-up. $\endgroup$ May 30 '17 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ What I was thinking: why don't we just put a small message in 'How to Ask' box saying "do you have a species identification question? Put 'species-identification' tag to get more help!". It could tell users about potential help. Also, we could use placeholder instead of popup (if possible) in question body, it'd give much more space... $\endgroup$ May 31 '17 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the wording should be tougher? "Species ID questions will get closed unless they include:" $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    May 31 '17 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'd skip the tag stuff, the first 4 points are things that only the asker can provide, tagging can be done by experienced users afterwards as well. The tag-specific hints would not work because they'd also appear outside a species-identification context, where they would be simply confusing. $\endgroup$ May 31 '17 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ @canadianer May be "Species ID questions will get closed as unclear unless they include:". $\endgroup$
    – Tyto alba
    May 31 '17 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ Is there any question that exists that is close to perfect? An example of this template in action would be great. $\endgroup$
    – James
    May 31 '17 at 9:21
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    $\begingroup$ @James Some of AliceD's questions come to mind. Q1 and Q2. These also show research effort which would be good if present in an example question as ID questions frequently come with little or no research. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto alba
    May 31 '17 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ Wording unfortunately cannot be tougher. I'd already thought about that. Sometimes some or all of these points cannot be included and the question would still be valid. Therefore, we can't say that "questions must include ... or else..." $\endgroup$ May 31 '17 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ @TytoAlba hmm adding a point about prior research would be good. $\endgroup$ May 31 '17 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist I disagree. I think including the tag stuff is a great way to introduce these users to the "options" available. This is especially true if I add a point about prior research, because having the tags available will help the extra clueless users search similar questions or narrow their search terms. As for the hints: i think this is very relevant to the asker since these are "unique" issues that arise with id questions for each taxon but really don't fit in a general list of requirements across id questions. $\endgroup$ May 31 '17 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist ^ Would be good. I think adding these points to the details of species-identification will be good as well. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto alba
    May 31 '17 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ @TytoAlba done. I've added the details to the tag pahe $\endgroup$ May 31 '17 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ NOTE: After 1-2 more days of comments I will provide an answer to this post with the suggested modifications in mind. Please be sure to revisit this post next week to vote/comment on the "final" proposal... $\endgroup$ Jun 1 '17 at 21:57
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Ok, I've read people's comments and made what I thought were necessary updates:

  • The text was likely too long. As a result, I copied the detailed version from my original question post above to the tag info page.

    • I now link to this info page directly in the Tag warning text. (Links do work here).

    • I also removed #5 ("Indication of prior research performed by the asker.") b/c it's a general expectation across the site.

  • Wording is slightly modified to sound a bit "stricter"

Below is my final proposal:


Species ID questions are expected to include:

  1. One or more clear Photos
  2. A Location where the specimen was found (city/region and habitat)
  3. An approximate Size (or photo indicating size)
  4. Additional useful info (e.g., behavior, time of day/year, etc...)

See here for detailed suggestions for specific taxa

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    $\begingroup$ Please vote or comment as you see fit. If no major concerns arise, I think this should be forwarded on to site managers by the end of the week. $\endgroup$ Jun 6 '17 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ Looks good to me. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Jun 6 '17 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ Ready to pass along to SE for incorporation :). $\endgroup$ Jun 27 '17 at 1:04
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    $\begingroup$ Any day now… ;) $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Jun 27 '17 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ ...Almost...There... $\endgroup$ Jun 27 '17 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ ... SUCCESS!!! :D $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '17 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ Finally… now set your sights a little higher $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Jun 28 '17 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ @canadianer yeah, right? That's the big one. Not sure when I'll have time to really give that one a big push. I guess I'll eventually write up a meta post here on Bio to drum up support and then go from there. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '17 at 16:23

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