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I ran across a story-ID question yesterday which was put on hold as being too broad, but which I know with certainty what story was being asked about (I have the book here, everything matches). Are such questions generally closed, or is there a way to say, "reopen this, I know what they were thinking of", so as to provide some value?

For reference, the question is:

Dead woodsmen, a novel search

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  • I’ve voted to re-open if you can answer it. – Edlothiad Jan 27 '18 at 8:12
  • I'd have been borderline on closing it as "no obvious SFF content". Is this actually a fantasy novel? – Valorum Jan 27 '18 at 9:01
  • I am as sure as I can be that this is Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett. The scene from the book has a group of people walking through the woods, finding a charcoal makers hut, knowing something is wrong because of the smoke/fire, and finding them dead in the hut. (This is just a summary of matching points, condensed for space in a comment. An actual answer I wrote would contain the lines of text from the book.) – Phil Jan 27 '18 at 10:09
  • It's been reopened if you want to post your answer. – Valorum Jan 27 '18 at 16:31
  • Done. Thank you. – Phil Jan 27 '18 at 20:27
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Leaving aside specific issues of questions tagged story-ID or of that particular question ...

What should be done with 'on-hold - too broad' questions you can answer?

If you find a closed question which you think should be reopened, then you have a few options:

  1. If possible, edit the question to improve it and make it more reopenable. (If the question was recently closed, editing will automatically kick it into the Reopen Votes review queue.)
  2. Regardless, leave a comment on the question explaining why you think it should be reopened. It may not help, but it may convince someone else reading it to vote to reopen the question.
  3. If you have more than 3k rep, vote to reopen. (This doesn't apply to you ... yet ;-) You could still raise a mod flag, if you feel the case is very clear-cut, but see also How should moderators handle a custom flag to re-open a question? [posted by an SFF moderator].)
  4. If all else fails, raise it on meta - as you've done here, with swift success in getting the question reopened. Meta is a good way to draw the community's attention to a particular post (though, depending on circumstances, that attention could be either positive or negative).

More details on the above-linked page from the help centre.

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  • On point 1, worth noting "Recently closed" = 5 days – Edlothiad Jan 28 '18 at 8:16
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It depends.

Some story ID questions get wrongly closed as too broad. "Too broad" is typically evaluated on answerability, not length. So if a story ID question really does have a unique, identifiable answer, it should be kept open even if it is short. If a question is wrongly closed, you can vote to reopen (once you have enough rep) or bring it to meta as you have done here.

Unfortunately, the question you linked doesn't look very answerable to me. It does not describe:

  • The approximate year in which the asker read the book.
  • The genre (which the asker does not know).
  • The setting (beyond "in the woods somewhere").
  • Any information about individual characters.
  • And so on...

I'm having a really hard time believing there is exactly one story which this question could possibly be about. What happens if we reopen it, you post your answer, and then the asker says "No, that's not it"? So personally, I will not be voting to reopen this question.

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    I’ve downvotes this answer, because given this is an active user, no attempt has been made to suggest to them to look at the list you provide in the link, they may not even know of its existence. It seems very probable that the OP would edit to include more details. – Edlothiad Jan 27 '18 at 8:11
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    @Edlothoad, so you've voted to say that this is an incorrect answer that you don't agree with, simply because the poster did not personally follow through on the actual question? I'm +1ing, if only to counter. That is most certainly not what votes are for, especially in meta. – Gnemlock Jan 27 '18 at 13:45
  • @Edlothiad: The OP of the original question has explicitly indicated that they don't remember any other details, so I see that as futile. Also, that is a courtesy, not a prerequisite to closure. – Kevin Jan 27 '18 at 18:02
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    @Kevin as someone who’s reviewed a lot of first posts, of which many are story id’s, in which many people claim they don’t remember any more details, they almost always do. The guide has helped countless people remember things they “don’t remember” and especially things like the approximate time they read it, most of the time they can give us a decade or quarter century, I doubt not a single extra detail could’ve been found – Edlothiad Jan 27 '18 at 18:29
  • @Gnemlock actually votes are for whatever I choose them to be for, as for their use on meta, there to express disagreement with the fact this should become common practice. The first thing to do should be to ask for extra details. – Edlothiad Jan 27 '18 at 18:30
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    @Edlothiad: If you think I answered this meta question badly, could you please provide an answer of your own so that the community might vote on it independently? Comments are temporary, and it would be unfortunate if your rationale disappeared. – Kevin Jan 27 '18 at 18:40
  • @Kevin I currently don’t have time for more than simple comments unfortunately, but if I find time, sure I can. – Edlothiad Jan 27 '18 at 18:54

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