I see some 'identifying a technique' questions that are closed...

But generally, I think I see more that are left open and are mildly well-received:

I am 100% aware and supportive of the idea that just because one, or 6, or a thousand questions of a certain type are open on the site doesn't mean that they should be allowed under our current rules. The rules may have changed since they were posted, or they may just have been missed.

However, I can't find any discussion in meta where people are passionately arguing for questions regarding identifying techniques to be closed, so I'm wondering what our actual feelings are about these questions.


3 Answers 3


These type of questions have innate problems that do not align well with the long term goals of the site along with the quality of the content.

Before I get into specifics, I will cite the tour of our site:

Music Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about music practice, performance, composition, technique, theory, or history.

So all of the questions we answer go into our library of questions which is only useful to future users if we can find them. The goal is eventually that we already have the answers for the users and just have to show them where it is. These questions will be more noise long term than use for several reasons.

  1. They are tied to off site content that may rot away. Specifically, all the question rely on links off site that might one day be removed or changed. Since this was the core of the question, without the link neither the question nor the answer will make sense. This is also why an answer should just be a link somewhere else. This is not something that is unheard of and in fact has happened in the past to questions in a similar vein.

  2. Questions are vague what they are about until someone listens to the link, hence even well written questions will be hard to search the actual content of the question. So allowing these questions will add unsearchable questions to our library.

  3. The questions are typically only useful to the user since the clip itself is the subject rather than the technique and there will always be more clips out there. This is also the typical reason for not allowing ID questions since the usefulness past the initial user is always questionable and there can be near infinite of them. So allowing these questions will take up a bulk of our content and only be useful for the asker.

  4. The question's topic quality is innately low. If we were to allow this, a perfectly on topic question would be "What is this technique?" with the post itself just contain a link and a time which is not a very high quality base for these types of questions. We could introduce minimum requirements to mitigated this, but there are on topic questions that need this that we are not doing so expanding the scope for questions with this innate problem will not improve site quality. (current example of quality problems can be seen in this quesiton What is this sound effect? (Lady Gaga's Monster))

We can instead be helpful to the user by pointing them to the chat if they need it to be identified then ask an on-topic question about the technique if they still need help. This way we have users guide them to content that others have asked before or create new content if it does not. We're already having quality problems with on topic questions and adding more questions that will have similar problems is not a very good idea.

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. I think 1) is a good point. With 2) I also see your point, but I don't think it's quite as big an issue as you make out - we can make sure that titles are as descriptive as possible, and there are a number of ways that our questions can be found other than search. I don't fully agree with you on 3) either - a few years around stack exchange shows that people are quite happy to find things they didn't know they were looking for! 4) is a pertinent point too, and I agree that minimum requirements would be necessary. Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 16:43
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    I think the idea of pointing the user to chat will work well though if we have users in chat who are happy to help users with these kind of questions. At the moment it's hard to see that they'd get as much attention there as on the main site. Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 16:44
  • @topomorto If we had more users pointing to it, it would be more active.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 16:45
  • @topomorto 2 and 3 are extremely important, or else we have questions that just take up space on the site which make it harder to find things on the site. It's a problem we are currently experiencing a lot and it needs to be addressed.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 16:46
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    I don't think having questions that take up 'space' on the site necessarily greatly increases problems finding things; we're talking computers and search, after all, not stuff in the attic; And if large numbers of things in itself actually caused problems, Stack Overflow, with 16 million questions, would have fallen over long ago. I'd agree with you to the extent that It does depend quite how many we'd get; perhaps I'm not imagining we'd get quite as many as you are thinking we would. Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 16:55
  • @topomorto If it uses the same keywords and tags it will interfere with search a little. The bigger problem is again "What is this rough screechy guitar sound?" doesn't tell you what it is as a user and it could not be what you are looking for hence having a lot of these questions, a lot will have similar descriptions and it's possible that these questions will get very lost. This will add more questions to the site that we've already answered, but can't find.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 16:58
  • One solution there, as we've mentioned, is retitling questions to reflect what the identified thing actually is - "How do I recreate the sound this distorted blues bend", for example, could be a better title for our hypothetical "What is this rough screechy guitar sound". Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 17:14
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    @topomorto but people won't search that which is the point I'm making. If they don't know the techniques they people who need the answers won't be able to use the terms they need to find it.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 17:18
  • People might search for some related terms, I think; they might find questions through the other means, such as tags, or the 'related questions' feed at the side, or by looking for a user's questions, or by the answer coming up in a google search that has indexed the answers as well as the question... there are many ways to discover answers. Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 17:31
  • @topomorto which again, we don't take care of tags that well. So before introducing something new we should handle what we're currently doing which I'd argue we aren't doing a very good job currently. Cleaning tags is where I spend most of my time and I know as a site we need work there.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 17:34
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    Does every user have the conditions to talk in chat? What is the minimum reputation for that?
    – Alexandre
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 20:01
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    @Alexandre It's 20 rep to write in a chat room, which isn't a very high bar and people coming from other SE's will most likely have it. Even if they can't chat, we could have a user post the question in the chat for them. They can still read it, they just can't post.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 22:55
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    @Dom How can a user that can't chat ask to another user for him to post a question on his behalf?
    – Alexandre
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 10:31
  • @Alexandre the user who closes it can post it in the chat and link it to the user in the comments.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 12:35
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    @Dom Regarding to your answer, questions about music notation are also hard to search for, especially if the OP shows it using an image. Site images are also off-site content and may rot away. Nevertheless, they're not subject of this discussion. What I think is that those questions should not be considered off-topic but should instead have a special attention on how they're written in order to make them the most findable as possible.
    – Alexandre
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 15:15

My feeling is that “identifying a technique” is perfectly acceptable if it could help users to become better musicians/sound technicians, since it seems that's the core purpose of this community. I understand that questions asking how to play a particular song aren't of much help, because they'd help only people who wants to play it, but I believe that techniques that can be applied in several songs are welcome. After all, what differs an amateur musician that knows all the theory from a seasoned musician that also knows the theory, other than practice and a lot of techniques? Techniques can be teached (like in this video), so users with more knowledge can share it with other users… Our Tour page says “With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about music practice, performance, composition, technique, theory, or history.” (my emphasis).

I also notice that some questions about audio techniques (related to music, of course) are also well-received (and I think they should, indeed).

Ok, users could search for that info on the internet (I guess there are a lot of references and tutorials there), but I also think that several well-written searches would hit this community. And the more it has answers for those questions, the more users will join and embrace it and make it better and popular.

  • How would these questions be searchable? If everyone is listening to a different clip and wanting to know what the technique used is, there's not a lot of common search grounds. Also don't forget about the library part of the tour which is important. If people can't find the questions or the questions are not of use to future users it doesn't make sense to include into our library.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 16:32
  • @Dom questions can be findable by 1) by description of the technique in the title 2) tags 3) For new questions, the standard list of new questions on the homepage (and HNQs). Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 16:49
  • @topomorto tags and descriptions only go so far in describing a sound. For example, a rough screech can describe quite a few things on guitar all that are very different techniques.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 16:51
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    @Dom "rough screech" isn't a description of the technique, and wouldn't be a good title - but we're already discussing this exact point in the comment chain on your post. Let's not work double for the same pay! Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 17:29

I posted this question without having a strong opinion either way - I still don't really, but will post some thoughts!

The very relevant point has been mentioned that the stated purpose of SE sites is to build a "library of detailed answers to every question" about their respective topics. If the operative word there is 'library', maybe we don't want to open the site to a potentially countless number of questions about a countless number of pieces..?

On the other hand, we could read into that phrasing that we want to allow "every question" (where on-topic). That would be fair enough too - the worldbuilding site, for example, says that it aims to "build a library of detailed answers to every question about worldbuilding" - and that's an unlimited set.

So I think it's up to us what we regard as the long-term goals of the site. And arguably, because we allow analysis questions about (potentially) every song, we've already chosen the broader-minded view - that we're (in theory) happy with a potentially unlimited number of questions.

The point has been well-made that it's not necessarily as easy to search for these questions as some other types. And though this is true, I think there's still a whole range of ways in which people might find these questions...

  • Good descriptive titles that include the name of the work in question, and the technique (once we've identified it)
  • Tags
  • HNQs and the site homepage, for new questions
  • 'similar questions', on the right hand bar
  • external links to the SO site, and external searches
  • User profiles

So what would be the downsides? I think one problem that Dom pointed out is the site facilities - we don't have native video or sound embedding the way we can currently host pictures, and that's an impediment to asking and (especially) answering. One can imagine that with a site that can use your webcam to take a quick video on request, many questions could be answered easily.

Ultimately I think the most important thing would be the balance of the number of people interested in and able to answer these questions vs the number of people asking them. That balance is crucial and perhaps hard to assess while these questions aren't a major fixture on the site.

One final thought is that in a few years, it may be that transcription software has progressed to the point that many music snippets can be substantially transcribed automatically. So it may be that if we hold off long enough, the demand will go away...

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    If the site is not for people to find answers to there questions in the future, than it's a huge problem for this SE. Just because your typical interaction with the site is not that way, we do have a lot of page views outside of users on this site who do try to find answers to there questions and we should make sure we can find them. We have over 12k of questions and only a handful of active questions so again just saying that people will find them when we are having trouble doing the same and knowing the system is a problem.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 15:31
  • @Dom I didn't say that the site is not for people to find answers to questions in the future - a large part of my answer deals with how we can help people find answers to questions in the future. Your point that there are users of the site outside of the registered user base is a fair one of course . Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 15:52
  • " My impression is that Music.SE currently isn't really currently used as a library-type site" which is what I have a problem with stating when we know most peoples' interaction with the site is this way as a non registered user (or even non posting). And again saying we can search for things and actually being able to find things are two different concepts. Yes we have search, but again we are having trouble doing this right now.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 15:58
  • @Dom Only an impression as I said, but you have more info than me - roughly what proportion of our page views come from users without accounts? Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 16:03
  • let's put it this way: we only have about 4.4k accounts (most inactive), but we have about 6 times that in visits a day and we have under 100 posts a day. I can't go into exact numbers.
    – Dom Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 16:10
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    @Dom thanks - that changes my 'impression' and I've removed that paragraph. (Now even more of my answer deals with the importance of helping people find existing info on the site!) Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 16:13

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