I'm puzzled why sometimes very short answers to story identification questions get upvoted so highly. Sometimes there is only a title - with no justification as to why that is the correct answer. This concerns me because I think we ought to "show our working"; isn't this a fundamental part of a quality answer?


For reference / comparison, when I answer one of these questions, I try to answer each of the points in the question:

So my questions are:

  1. Why do some one line story identification answers get so many upvotes?
  2. Do others recognise this as a problem?
  3. How can we solve this? Should we simply be more strategic in our voting?

3 Answers 3


The simple answer to why they get so many upvotes is that they're correct. These upvotes are usually either from people who agree with the identification, or who come in after the OP has accepted it.

They may not be very good answers by the standards we try to encourage here, but they did help the OP with his question, which is not an insignificant metric. Remember, too, that most users don't read Meta or go back to look for accepted standards, and there should be other ways to communicate this expectation:

  1. One option, as @SQB suggested (and followed through!) is to add a second answer with more details. You can mark it as Community Wiki if you don't want to seem like you're milking rep from somebody else's answer, but I think that doing the field-work, bringing references and editing an answer also deserve recognition.

  2. A second option is to ask the OP to expand his one-line answer. I've seen it done before, and many answerers don't mind doing so, especially after their position as accepted-answerer is secure and there's no race against time.

  3. Some, however, won't bother expanding - maybe they don't even come to the site regularly. In this case, I don't see a problem with editing an existing answer and adding the pertinent details. The answer-giver will probably get a rep boost from it which might encourage them to put in those details next time, future visitors will see better answers, and the site, in general, wins.

  • 2
    +1 in general, but especially for the idea that an ('undeserved') rep boost may encourage an answerer to do the work themselves next time.
    – SQB
    Jul 23, 2014 at 11:41
  • I generally go for number 3, particularly when there's no description of how the answer fits the question's details.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 23, 2014 at 19:44
  • Why not just expand the original terse answer. Thus no rep stealing.
    – Oldcat
    Jul 24, 2014 at 18:56
  • @Oldcat That's my #3, above. Jul 25, 2014 at 5:35

This issue came up in chat yesterday, based on one of your examples.

  1. My guess would be that they're easy to check, especially those where the answer has already been accepted by the OP.

  2. Yes, I do think this is problematic. Your examples should count as 'link-only' answers and I was surprised I didn't see the most recent one in the review queue for low quality posts. As I said in chat, I think a good answer should not just include what but why as well.

  3. I think there already are enough mechanisms in place to show our approval or disapproval with an answer.
    What we might need, is consensus on whether a answer should be judged on different standards than other answers. This has been discussed before, albeit from the opposite point of view. All answers there give a minimum of more than just the (linked) title. So perhaps all we need to do is point 'offenders' to that, or add our own more detailed answers (which I decided to do, as community wiki).


While usually one liners are a bad fit for Stack Exchange, I think identifications are a place where they can be not only accepted but preferred.

The OP has already demonstrated that they know something about the book/movie/etc. by asking the question. This is particularly true with request not involving images. After asking, the OP likely just wants the title, since it is probable that they plan to look into it further and possibly even go read/watch it.

I'd also suggest a link to IMDB or Wikipedia or perhaps a picture of the book/movie/etc., but cluttering the answer with excessive plot details (or worse, potential spoilers) seems like overkill.

TL;DR (one-liner version)
OP just wants the title.

  • 3
    Answers on SE have two target audiences. The first is the OP, the second is future visitors. Link-only answers might be enough for the OP, but including more details - not full plot summaries, but point-by-point matches for points mentioned in the question - will make the question more searchable and more useful in the future. Jul 24, 2014 at 15:30
  • @AvnerShahar-Kashtan If a future visitor ends up at the question, they must have been searching for something inside that question. In this case, these future visitors are likely in the same boat as the OP. Jul 24, 2014 at 16:42
  • 3
    Have to disagree, David, and agree with @AvnerShahar-Kashtan. Furthermore, I think you need to explain why you think your answer is correct. Otherwise the questioner simply has a title but doesn't really know if it is correct, without watching / reading your suggestion. Jul 24, 2014 at 16:45
  • 1
    Yes, the ultimate goal is that the OP wants the title, but in the case where the OP doesn't have immediate access to the suggested work, having details about the work that match the details in the question can help narrow down whether or not the answer is correct or not. I'll also point to the meta question Are story identification answers getting too detailed? which goes over whether "too many details" is a bad thing.
    – phantom42
    Jul 24, 2014 at 17:13
  • @Wikis Perhaps I was oversimplifying when suggesting just the title as an answer. I was thinking more along the lines of having the title link to a page with additional details (i.e. Wikipedia) or maybe an image of the work, like the book cover or box art. If the title is not enough to remind the OP, one of those should be enough. Regurgitating what the OP already mentioned seems redundant. That would be like asking on SuperUser saying "I tried restarting and reinstalling" and the first 2 lines of the answer say to restart and reinstall. Jul 24, 2014 at 17:30
  • 2
    I understand your point. However, I think if the questioner says, "I remember a scene where..." or "I remember a character that...", the ansŵerer should address those points to justify their choice. Jul 24, 2014 at 18:10
  • 1
    @Wikis I suppose we will have to agree to disagree here. I was merely offering a suggestion as to why shorter answers get more votes. While I, personally, would prefer less fluff in an answer to a question like this, I seem to be in the minority, so I will keep this in mind when answering questions. Jul 24, 2014 at 18:44

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