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Previously we've discussed whether or not we should allow species-identification questions on this site. (Species identification and the Help Center was raised when we had this question: What is this reptile/lizard?. Originally it was: Should we discourage pet breed / species identification questions?)

How it works on other sites, is a person describes a book they've read, or a game they've played, or occasionally they post a picture of something to be identified.

Why this doesn't work:

  • If the person asking doesn't give enough information we're stuck turning it into a discussion while we try to get more information.
  • If the person leaves without giving us enough information, we have a question that can't be answered.
  • There's a risk of answers that use a lot of guesswork.
  • It's not easily indexed by google, making it hard for people to find later.
  • They're not really useful to anyone but the person asking the question because they're so specific to that person.

Today I asked this question: My bearded dragon has stopped growing, is it possible I got a Rankin's dragon?

I believe this is different (and on-topic) because it's not a question asking "What animal do I have", rather "how do I tell if the difference between these two breeds". Another example is: How can I describe my cat (color/breed/type)?

Why I think these types of questions will work:

  • They don't require a whole lot of information from the user, meaning it won't devolve into a discussion, and the person asking can leave the site without leaving us wanting for more.
  • They can be indexed by google, making them useful to people in the future.
  • There's no real guesswork involved with answering the questions.

I think we should keep "What animal do I have?" questions as off-topic but we should allow "How can I tell the difference?" questions as on-topic

What do you think? Do we want those kinds of identification questions? Or should we ban-hammer them all? Maybe send them all to Biology.se? Yes/No/I dunno?

  • Another reason is that photo identification is entirely non-searchable. – starsplusplus Apr 12 '14 at 11:05
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    Note, this question should be included with this discussion. – Spidercat Apr 12 '14 at 11:22
  • I'm going to be honest, I think this question Should we discourage breed/species identification questions? is massively outweighing the response on this one and is actually the same question. – John Cavan Apr 13 '14 at 3:38
  • I still don't see it being the same question. But I'll defer to the majority. – Spidercat Apr 13 '14 at 3:52
  • I linked to a larger one, which encompasses this. I think reviving it is not a bad thing. – John Cavan Apr 13 '14 at 4:07
  • I'm also starting to think that poorly worded "how do I identify..." questions can be handled through other means (e.g. too broad, unclear, etc.). – John Cavan Apr 13 '14 at 14:27
  • Looks like "How can I tell the difference?" questions are on-topic. Speaking as the sole supporter of John's answer I suggest we close this as completed. If it gets to be an issues later we can start a fresh discusion with new information. – James Jenkins Apr 15 '14 at 18:22
  • @starsplusplus Not so. See meta.pets.stackexchange.com/questions/1831/… – ClickRick Jun 29 '14 at 12:36
  • @ClickRick That's searching the internet for an image. I was saying that if you have an unidentified animal, it's very hard to search to see if the someone else has posted a duplicate question with a picture of the same type of unidentified animal. – starsplusplus Jun 29 '14 at 14:50
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I think we should answer "what is the difference between" here because 1) they can have clear correct answers and 2) there could easily be a couple great answers but not a ton. For example, asking for the difference between a Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd could have an answer outlining the differences in their breed standards and a separate answer that gives the difference in their play and herding behavior. Both answers would give good information but very different information and both should have links to references. This type of information doesn't really have a great other home because breed sites tend to focus on a specific breed not comparisons between breeds. This would be a nice place to capture the cross - section of the breed and performance world's for dogs.

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I'm a bit torn. I see the case you're making, but I don't know that a raft of how do I tell... variants is really ideal for the site. These are question that can often be best answered by various breeding organizations as the variations can be quite large and subtle, making it difficult for us to do well.

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