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Can we add a tag for "identification"? There are a lot of posts that have people (including myself) asking for identification of certain tools/devices. For example, I needed to know what these devices were.

I had no idea what they were used for so the only tag I could use of any relevance (that I could find) was .

At the very least it would be able to group together all those "what is this" questions that currently uncategorized and messy.

  • 2
    This runs the risk of being a meta tag, which is discouraged on SE. Ideally, the tag should be a category that somewhat matches the type of device or tool being identified. That said, I can't think of a good tag for your question right now. – BMitch Mar 10 '16 at 5:22
  • @BMitch I don't think this would qualify as a meta tag based on the criteria in the link you posted. In fact, it doesn't really fit either of the two criteria mentioned. Rather, it would be clearly stating the purpose of the question and could indeed be used as the only tag on a question. – Programmer Sep 15 '17 at 13:34
  • An identification tag would fit this definition in my opinion: "They describe some other aspect of the question, like the author’s skill level, or the author’s motivation for asking it, or generally what “kind” of question it is (poll, how-to, etc.)." If we feel otherwise, then we'll just need to agree to disagree. – BMitch Sep 15 '17 at 21:04
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Many other SE sites have identification tags for movies, shows, books, plants, etc. where physical/visual objects come into play. I could see

tool-identification

device-identification

tags being useful. Just different point of view.

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I could talk a bunch about ideas on strictness of criteria and such when it comes to identification questions across the network, but I think that's a genuinely different problem than what we're looking at here. So let's take a different angle and divorce us from the general flock that is referred to as "identify-this questions", because we're not talking about the legitimacy of the question category that tends to be marred by memory - we're trying to look at what we want to do with questions we do admit here.

The first approach to defining a need for such a tag is to get back into what tags are for. Tags serve to help both askers direct their questions, but also for answerers to be able to find the questions they're interested in helping out with - what their expertise caters to. It then largely depends on how this site wants to actually curate these. The ultimate goal of the site, after all, is to serve as a viewable resource of information. The solution may not even be to create a general identification tag, but to instead be more granular in the available options for tagging.


There's a great deal of contrast between questions like "What are these devices hanging out my patio door" asking to identify what a mystery device does, versus "Why do these calipers have this design" asking to identify the purpose of a device's design, versus "What is the name of this kind of screw" asking to identify a name for search and retrieval purposes. These can all be called "identification" questions, just with different degrees of what you're identifying. The first two rely on the same general branch of expertise - the knowledge of "what things actually do" that allows people to know what a device is designed to do and thus tell people who don't even know what it is. However, the first and the third can also be grouped under a different branch of expertise - the knowledge of "what things are called", which may be sufficient in some cases but if the name alone doesn't tell an asker enough, it may start requiring more of the former expertise. These are simply two independent kinds of expertise - whether one wishes to value one or the other more is largely irrelevant because at the end of the day they both exist and are both permitted on this site due to the problems they attempt to solve.

The fundamental issue what often gets brought up in this kind of tagging is the idea of "meta tags", but the actual problem of a meta tag is functionally "This tag, if it were the only tag on the question, does not tell me the kind of expertise I need to use to answer it." We've defined that we can group these kinds of questions under two different umbrellas of knowledge, to which "identification" alone is too vague. Rather, it would be more useful for answerers to know which kind of identification knowledge they will need to use - do they need to know functionality of the item, or do they need to know the name of the item? By dividing the tags into this narrower space, it allows you to more easily direct questions to the right answerers. Folks who can look at a device and can determine the name either by their memory or their search capability can handle the situations where a name is desired, while folks who are knowledgeable about what tools are used for can dispense their information to whose who wish for more than just a name.

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I came here to ask this exact question. I would like to note that as of this time there are 944 results when searching for "what is tool" on the site. This seems like more than enough content to warrant a tag, but to go further:

  • it would help people that want to assist in identifying tools. Having a tag would let folks that are interested setup filters to get email notifications of new questions.
  • it would provide a place to clarify what we need to help with this sort of thing. Including pictures should obviously be encouraged.
  • it could get these questions out of the and buckets where they don't fit that well.
  • it has worked well on other sites. The set-identification tag is one of the most popular on Bricks.
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I'm opposed to this idea. Tags are supposed to be used as a way of categorizing questions, so that people with knowledge of a tag's subject matter can find them easily. We have for people that know about the electrical system in a house, for people that know plumbing, and so on.

What would an [identification] tag be for? People that are good at identifying things? Expert identifiers? Is there such a thing?

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    Actually yes, it would be for exactly that. It would allow people to immediately know that the OP is trying to identify something. There may be people who would like to help people identify items. This would allow them to easily find such questions. I don't see how it could seriously hurt anything by having this tag. It is merely a way to identify the type of question being asked, which is exactly what a tag's purpose is for as you mentioned. – Programmer Mar 10 '16 at 16:18
  • The "harm" of meta tags is you end up with questions that can't be easily searched or categorized for future visitors and don't have a following of experts on the site. SE sites that fail, and get shutdown, often do so because they can't get an active base of members that can answer questions. And I doubt anyone is going to search through hundreds of categorized "what is this" questions, some without even a photo to see if there's a duplicate before they ask their question. – BMitch Mar 10 '16 at 19:41
  • Would it possibly be a compromise to allow such tag and then delete it a replace accordingly when the item in question has been identified? – texnic Mar 24 '16 at 10:11
  • @BMitch as opposed to people trying to search "what is this.." without a category as they do now? I don't see how it would hurt anything. At least it would clump up all those "what is this" questions into a category that currently doesn't exist. – Programmer Sep 15 '17 at 13:25
  • I think it's pretty obvious what an identification tag would be for. I don't have to be a plumbing "expert" to answer a plumbing question. I just need to have an answer. Anyone could identify something just like anyone might know how to unplug a toilet. – Programmer Sep 15 '17 at 13:28

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