First, a little background: https://superuser.com/questions/483692/windows-3-animated-background-desktop-wallpaper was a question I had myself tried hard to answer, back when it was posted. Recently however I came across Jeff Atwood's Let’s Play The Guessing Game SE blog post. Considering that (to me) the question above (although it has a single, definitive answer) looked to be a perfect example of what Jeff was talking about, I first flagged it so a mod would decide, and when that was declined voted to close as per the mod's own suggestion. I also suggested that other questions tagged ought to be closely looked at and closed if required, and https://superuser.com/questions/375120/what-software-did-distributed-encrypted-and-shared-storage actually was.

In an extended discussion with Synetech (due apologies to him for dragging him into this), I was informed that my assumption - that Jeff's views implied an SE-wide policy to disallow "Guessing Game" type questions - was incorrect: "Identification questions are not universally shunned. For example, Arqade eventually voted to block them, but Movies/TV embraces them. SU doesn’t have a specific policy..."

So what I want to know is - how should we treat such questions here on SU?

  • FWIW, I closed the question about distributed storage because it really seemed like no one else would find themselves asking the same question (also take into account ~80 views within one year), and if someone had a real "distributed storage" problem that needed solving they could just ask about what they wanted to do. The other side of the medal is font identification questions, which we really don't allow and where one "How to identify fonts" question should suffice.
    – slhck
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 20:40
  • 1
    "it really seemed like no one else would find themselves asking the same question" - Wouldn't that probably describe the other question just as well? Anyway, let's forget that specific question and focus on this as a general SU policy-related issue.
    – Karan
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 20:42
  • I hadn't seen you had raised multiple flags for "guessing game" questions although you had vote to close privileges, so please excuse that inconsistency. We usually don't close on behalf of users with vote to close privileges, see: How should my flagging change when I gain the ability to vote to close? — but yeah, let's see what others think! :)
    – slhck
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 20:45
  • Thanks, that meta question helps. In this case I flagged because I assumed it was policy but was still slightly unsure, so thought it best that a mod should take the final call (I wasn't shirking responsibility or trying to hide my voting preference or getting someone else to do the dirty work for me). Anyway, hope a general consensus emerges - I'm fine either way - vox populi FTW! :)
    – Karan
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 20:50
  • 5
    FWIW I disagree with the decision of the Movies or Scifi sites and regret that there hasnt been an excutive ban on them from the SE team. However, I would say these questions are far less likely on SU, you dont typically ask to identify an app, but rather you simply ask how to do the task the app performed, which requires less quessing. So most often there's no need for a quessing game.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 21:45
  • 1
    I note, while it dosen't have as wide an audience, if we're trying to remember a specific app, chat might work. As always though questions asking for a solution to a problem tends to work better since you might find something new you have never thought of
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 0:46
  • @IvoFlipse, slhck, random: Here's another one on similar lines (hardware-identification) posted just now.
    – Karan
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 0:57

1 Answer 1


These should be closed as "too localised", or in the cases where they only have just an image and want you to figure out what they're showing, "not a real question".

Other newer sites that take kindly to these type of questions are softer in enforcing the guidelines and quality control about what brought up the Stack Exchange network in the first place. They will happily accommodate them in order to help drive traffic to the detriment of overall signal.

Along the lines of identifying fonts these questions only benefit and are geared for the single user asking.

The quality of Super User as a whole works best when the questions are atomic and can help many.

One-for-many examples include:

  • Editing a macro in a text editor
  • Making a printer use red and blue when it is out of black
  • Changing software configuration settings

One-for-one guessing questions are the like of:

  • What anti-virus is best
  • Software used to record a webcast
  • Where to buy RAM chips that fit a motherboard running in vegetable oil
  • 1
    was "Where to buy RAM chips that fit a motherboard running in vegetable oil" ever actually asked? ;p
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 0:02
  • @JourneymanGeek: Quite possible; radical cooling methods like mineral oil submersion are not unknown. However, that's best discussed elsewhere. :)
    – Karan
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 0:52
  • Oh, the specific question. I find extreme overclocking hillarious and tend to remember such questions. ;p
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 1:13

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