Are hardware (port, cable, etc.) visual identification questions allowed or not? Specifically when it's basically just "What's this port?" and a picture.


I've looked at Are "Guessing Game" type questions allowed on SU?, and @Random's answer is:

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".

Neither of these are options to close anymore. :)

I also have seen Let’s Play The Guessing Game, but it doesn't really help clarify it for me, especially this many years later.

Should we flag as Close -> Other and put in a reason (as I did on the latest one, and a previous one) such as in the following?

This question appears to be off-topic because it is a "guessing-game" type question. See https://meta.superuser.com/a/6074/23133

Or are we allowing these now (one of the examples above was even protected by @nhinkle)?

In the past I've answered one or two of them myself, but since these questions aren't really searchable, are they useful enough to keep?

This is the only closed question of the same type/style I can (currently) find with some quick searching:


4 Answers 4


I think, while some of the concerns are valid, that port identification questions are fundamentally different from the other sort of guessing game questions.

Firstly, it's a practical, answerable problem in many cases, especially when it's an exotic port. I've gotten baffled by things such as a 13W3 video output, or even from some older SCSI ports in the past.

I also think that it's a slight case of overspecialisation.

However, I also do think there's a certain degree of unsearchability, as @darthandroid said.

I think the answer might be to have a single, canonical post for port identification, have some basic information there, and link-back, and close other posts as duplicates of that. It may make sense to have the information about specific ports, and where they are found as part of the answer, or simply to link back to them. This has two advantages, firstly, that we retain this information and secondly, it gives us a chance to organise and make searchable these things.

I don't like losing these questions. To an extent, I don't think it's a huge problem, and it can be helpful. The big issue I see is that the current way of doing things is messy and single serving.

I've created a community FAQ question, referencing back to some of the answers referenced here. I've also added basic steps in identification, including RTFM, RTFW, and using your noggin ;p

  • I agree. Want to start one? I'm on mobile, so I can't help yet Feb 1, 2014 at 3:18
  • What is "noggin" (in this context)? Feb 1, 2014 at 12:07
  • 1
    It is a Britishism for head ;p
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Feb 1, 2014 at 12:20
  • 3
    Images attached to questions might not be very searchable now, but they may be in the future.
    – Jamie Bull
    Feb 8, 2014 at 2:40

I would argue against these types of questions being permitted because they are not searchable.

What I mean by that is should a second person come along with the same issue ("What is this port? [Picture of HDMI Port]"), they are unable to effectively search SU to see if the question has already been answered given the nature of the question. These questions contribute nothing to SU, and cost us time to answer (however small), and most importantly do not help future visitors.

  • 9
    I wonder if a good way of dealing with the searchability issue would be to have a single canonical port identification question, with a basic set of ports, and links back to other questions of the sort.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jan 31, 2014 at 23:25
  • 2
    I'm not so sure. I mean, the question is indeed hardly searchable for future SU users, but it also means that it wasn't any easier for the original asker to find the answer, so I feel it would be sort of mean to just close these questions without helping. I like @JourneymanGeek's solution.
    – Ariane
    Feb 1, 2014 at 13:26
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    Is it not the UNIX way to keep the separate separate? Images aren't searchable (yet!), but that's a search engine problem, not a question specificity problem.
    – Anko
    Feb 2, 2014 at 10:26

They should not. Identify this X has been one of the headache of most communities around SE:

Is not good to play the guessing game in the Q&A format that SE works over. Anyone can answer the question while being closed but ultimately it should be closed.

Another solution:

Maybe we should ask, "how looks like this port/connector" with the name of the port... I don't like this but whatever. Or how to identify my system ports?

  • 2
    I could possibly see a "How to identify unknown ports?" question fitting here, though I surmise the real answer is "Read the manual that came with your device." Jan 31, 2014 at 19:34
  • @DarthAndroid yeah, a RTFM answer... well... users being users...
    – Braiam
    Jan 31, 2014 at 19:35
  • I do remember that some users were unable to RTFM because it was mistranslated (IIRC the specific case, it was a mistranslated Farsi motherboard manual, that eventually got somewhat upvoted). Jan 31, 2014 at 21:59
  • 1
    Slightly apple and oranges. A Identification question of the nature of what would be asked on those sites would be "I seem to remember a mini-d type port on a yoyodyne decombrolator - does anyone know what it was for, and can I connect that to a modern machine?"
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jan 31, 2014 at 23:26
  • As a counterpoint, Arqade's position on banning all ITG (identify this game) was actually walked back if someone provides a specific picture: “Here is a thing. Look at the thing. Do you see the thing? I would like to know what this Thing is Called.” A plea for sanity
    – Nick T
    Feb 13, 2014 at 8:06

I agree that most questions asking What X is, without any sort of context, are just that: guessing games. These, as was discussed (and still is) by the community, is the kind of questions one seeks to discourage.

However, I would also argue that, if properly searched for (and most importantly, contextualized, with a descriptive title), those questions could be of value to the community. Of the top of my head come the following What is the purpose of the tiny ruler that I've just pulled out of the side of my Dell Latitude E6430? (OK it isn't a completely hardware-identification question but it is an identification).

Have to say however that the question about the notches wouldn't strike me as a guessing game: it can be (and was) factually answered.

I ask if this is really such a big problem here in SU, so big that we have to care for it? For the moment I think that the standard comment for more details, close as unclear suffices but if things get muddier, maybe a notice on the Tour (or on the list of askable topics) specifically discouraging decontextualized questions of this type.

  • 1
    "Have to say however that the question about the notches wouldn't strike me as a guessing game", I think agree that this question was a poor example. Not because it could be factually answered (they all could), but because it is searchable (the connector is named in the title). Feb 1, 2014 at 0:46

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