11

The follow-up to this question can be found here: Moving forward with font identification questions


Just curious to know the thoughts of the questions and if they really benefit the community. As a community we've had much discussion, in chat and personal discussions, on what benefit these really serve the community as a whole and the longevity benefit they will serve.

There have been some pros and cons such as:

  • Draws traffic to the site
  • Great for typography nuts
  • Supports many great font sites
  • Users come and never return
  • Don't really benefit anyone other than the questioner
  • Helps new users get rep

So the question is, should we disallow font id questions or should we keep supporting them?


edit 15-01-14

In regards to the tag situation. I do not believe we should include any other tags with the question because it would flood other tags based on the amount of font-id questions we get. Just like a search, I believe if someone cannot find the answer on the first page they will not continue. Font-id questions are on the lines, as it has been discussed, a service.


11 Answers 11

21

They should stay.

I mostly think them annoying. Quality is often low: askers don't include images, include them in the wrong way, are curt and rude, don't mark the correct answers, and often lack the rep to upvote them. I don't know whether to edit them to improve or leave them alone.

Personally, I wouldn't miss them.

But.

It's always been my opinion that StackExchange is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. If you don't like a question, don't read it. If you don't like a category of questions, set it to 'ignore' and 'hide'.

If someone is helped by a font-id question, then that is what makes GD.SE useful to them. If someone loves answering them (and I know of some established users who do), then that is a valuable part of GD.SE for them. Let those users have their fun, too.

Some questions just aren't for everyone, and font-identification questions are among the best examples. Live and let live.

  • 2
    I think that story-identification questions over at SciFi seem to be a similar situation for their community. I rarely click those, but as someone who visits the site often without being registered, I don't mind them being there. It can be fun to look at font-identification questions and see what the matches are and where they're coming from. When you're not able to answer, you can learn more about typography by reading these. – Brendan Jan 8 '15 at 14:20
  • 1
    Arcade also has a game-identification tag! – Yisela Jan 8 '15 at 14:49
  • 2
    I think the difference at least to story-identification which I've used and read, is that they're descriptive. For example: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/78625/… is very descriptive and thus easily searchable. Posting a random screenshot and saying "What is this font zzomg help me" is not searchable. That's always been my main issue with questions of this type. I'll leave alone or even upvote something like, "What font is used when viewing source code" as example. It's descriptive and searchable. 99.9999% aren't. @Brendan – Ryan Jan 8 '15 at 16:35
  • Almost every site has an [X-identification] tag and the exact same debates... e.g. travel has identify-this and where-on-earth. I've never needed to ask one but I like the fact that if I needed to, I could, and our format does them better than anywhere else. – user568458 Jan 9 '15 at 18:01
  • 1
    Re If you don't like a category of questions, set it to 'ignore' and 'hide' - here's a reminder on how to do it. – user568458 Jan 9 '15 at 18:02
  • 2
    It's not about ignoring them.. it's about detrimental impacts on the site. Yes they are easily ignored by current users. Just because I can ignore that hideous, hair-growing, mole on my nose, it doesn't mean everyone else can. – Scott Jan 10 '15 at 16:53
8

I've always felt they were a poor inclusion, just as much today as they were a year ago.

Users posing these questions do not engage in the site. They get an answer, then they are gone. Often not even marking a correct answer. Google can't very well find these questions most of the time because they are so very specific or completely ambiguous that it's unlikely anyone else would be searching for the same answer.

Whatever the community decides. :) Some enjoy the hunt... so if they want it, okay. I can ignore them easily.

  • you're right, they really aren't that useful to the community. Font ID questions are usually some version of "what font is this {picture}?" — but without an image gallery (questions aren't image based) there's no way that question's answer becomes useful to the next person looking to ID the same font, leading to duplicates. – justin Jan 7 '15 at 22:57
  • 1
    I think that we could get better at editing questions to be more searchable. – Brendan Jan 8 '15 at 14:14
  • @Brendan editing them is very thankless work, though... :( – Vincent Jan 8 '15 at 14:27
  • 2
    @Brendan being more searchable could make them more useful to the community, but I'm not sure how that could actually be accomplished. Unfortunately many font ID questions come from contributors who wouldn't know how to describe the font and the rest are from contributors who do know but are at a loss. Those who know how to describe the font have other tools at their disposal for finding the answer, others need to rely on specimens. – justin Jan 8 '15 at 14:35
7

I have no arguments that the questions attract low quality questions. Mostly hit and run type stuff as others have mentioned. However, outright killing one of the most popular tags on the site is a pretty aggressive move.

I agree with Yisela, they're not all bad. But the majority certainly is. From the the community standpoint it would be nice to only allow questions that can be beneficial to others, but I don't think we should enforce that. I foresee that it only lead to frustration.

I think what Matt proposes is a good solution. They should be heavily and strictly moderated to enforce quality. An additional close reason might be in order. Meta-site stuff like proper tags I'm not too worried about, that can be confusing to new users. I would propose that any font identification question must include:

  • A screenshot of the font (pretty obvious but some forget!)
  • Only one font per post, nothing along the lines of "What are all these fonts in this flyer?". This can lead to the possibility of multiple correct answers.
  • What have you tried? A description of the methods already used to try and identify it. Don't let us retrace steps you've already taken
  • A descriptive title, e.g. "What font is used in this Pantone brochure?". We don't need yet another question titled "What font is this?"

In order to promote higher quality font identification questions, posts without any of these four things should be closed immediately with a message directing the user to the appropriate meta post on what we require and how to edit the question. These are strict rules, not guidelines.

  • I don't follow, how is this different from our current practices? – Ryan Jan 8 '15 at 17:01
  • 2
    @Ryan We do not currently close font id questions for not stating what they've tried or where the sample is from. I think we should. We also don't currently have a specific close reason. I think adding one will help facilitate the community moderation. – JohnB Jan 8 '15 at 17:41
  • Ah okay didn't get that you were in favor of closure from your answer. – Ryan Jan 8 '15 at 17:43
  • Added a bit at the end to make that clearer – JohnB Jan 8 '15 at 17:46
  • When you say popular, do you mean popular with many of our regs or something else? – Dom Jan 17 '15 at 13:32
  • @DumbNic it's a top 10 tag – JohnB Jan 17 '15 at 22:53
  • @DumbNic I don't have any special access to tag statistics, I'm just looking at the popular tab on the tags page – JohnB Jan 19 '15 at 16:51
  • Oh okay, any idea how they calculate that? I tried to find something about it on Meta SE but couldn't. My guess is it's a rolling measurement of various factors of user activity in a tag. Probably has quite a lot to do with having 223 questions last year. We all know a large majority of those weren't the best questions posted on our site last year. If I'm right, its popularity doesn't really contribute much to whether it's a healthy addition to the site. – Dom Jan 19 '15 at 17:12
  • It is the number of times the tag has been used (all time), sorted descending – JohnB Jan 19 '15 at 17:16
  • Oh yh lol, I think I was fairly correct on some bits though, almost half of all questions in that tag were asked last year, which brought it up fast. But those questions weren't good examples of our site. So its popularity shouldn't hold much weight as a deciding factor compared to the other factors highlighted throughout this post. We're growing slowly yet steadily enough without it. It brings our quality rating down by at least one imaginary star. :) – Dom Jan 19 '15 at 17:27
7

The Data:

Currently, the 447 correctly tagged font-id questions make up ~4.2% of our total question base. The recent influx, plus the ones that slipped by without the correct tag, probably brings that figure closer to 4.5% - 5%, but for the sake of argument, we'll use the figures provided by the data (4.2%).


A Lot Of Work

Those 447 questions have required 772 edits from users that didn't post the questions. That's ~1.9 edits per post. That does not include edits by the original asker. Of 14044 voluntary question edits (not including OP edits) on the site, 748 or 5.5% have been on font-id questions.

  • So, ~4.2% of our questions, have required ~5.5% of our voluntary edits.
  • The average number of edits per font-id question is 1.9 - compared to a site wide average of 1.3 per question.
  • It's worth noting that the number of questions edited by the OPs is less than 40%. (So we're editing way more of their questions than they are.) (Not in query but can be proven if necessary).
  • It's also worth noting that most of the people editing the questions, are not the ones gaining the most reputation from those posts.(Not proven by query, merely an observation).
  • Final note on this: each edit can potentially require up to 3 users to push through, if the user suggesting the edit is below the rep required to make unmoderated edits. (1 edit suggester + 2 edit suggestion reviewers).

Run query: Total Edits Per Tag


Not Much Return

Of 24,679,295 total page views across all of GDSE's tags, 414,104 have come from questions tagged with font-id. That equates to ~1.68% of total page views.

  • So, this 4.2% of our total questions, and 5.5% of the edits we voluntarily make, brings in almost 1.7% of our total page views.

Run query: Page Views Per Tag


The tag is growing fast, and with it, so will the amount of work required.

  • 174% growth in number of questions 2013 - 2014

  • ~88% growth in number of questions 2014 - 2015

Run query: Growth of a Tag in the Last 2 - 4 Years


My Opinion & Counter Arguments:

Draws traffic to the site

Yes, it makes up almost 1.7% of our overall page views since it was created ~4 years ago.

What type of traffic does it bring in though? The way I see it there are three general types:

1) People looking for that specific font in that specific context - Because they saw the same thing as the asker, and they want to know the font. On the downside, people looking for that font, but not because they saw it in the same context as the asker, will probably not find the post. There's even a chance that they may post a duplicate with the font in a different context. Also, probably quite rare overall anyway.

2) People looking for irrelevant identifying characteristics described in the post - Someone looking for say, 'What type of identification should I use for Western Union?' may somehow find their way to the post about the Western Union font. This would be completely irrelevant to them. An edge case maybe, but as the volume of font-id posts increases, the possible issues increase with them.

3) People looking for font-identification services - Do we really need more of these? From 2013 to 2014, the number of font-id questions increased by 174%. From 2014 to 2015, the number of font-id questions increased a further ~88%. In numbers, it went from 43 in 2012, to 119 in 2013, to 223 in 2014. The growth shows no signs of stopping. Will we see 450 in 2015? That'd be more than we've had since the tag was created.

Obviously, we need to curb the enthusiasm.

Great for typography nuts

So that just leads to the potential for a group of users to post font-identity questions and answer them themselves while upvoting each others posts. That would be perfectly fine on a site like Stack Overflow, as they want to build communities around tags, and there are so many users and so many posts. This site is much smaller, there are no communities around other tags, so why should there be for font-id?

Rep is a currency, where the richer the person, the higher their knowledge for the subjects they answer should be. It wasn't wholly successful on many SE sites as they grew immensely and so-called repwhores devalued the currency with large volumes of poor answers. Well, that is what font-id has the potential to do to GDSE. Rep will become less and less of an indicator of users knowledge, and more of an uncertainty, with the possibility that they could've gained most of it from a large volume of font-id answers.

Supports many great font sites

Do they support us? I'm pretty sure we pay in kind for the products we receive. It's also been noted that many, many free fonts are of a poor quality. Do we really want to be seen somewhat endorsing lots of poorly constructed fonts, or even unwittingly recommending copyright-violating fonts.

Users come and never return

They do don't they. A lot. I don't even want to query those figures. Easily over 50% IMO.

Don't really benefit anyone other than the questioner

The questioner, and the answerer. So 2 people.

Helps new users get rep

It's not a game where everybody should be able to achieve the same scores. Again, repscores should indicate a users level of knowledge, NOT how many font-id questions they've answered.


Yes, "Stack Exchange is a lot of different things to a lot of different people." But GD SE is not a game. Recently that's what it's looked like, and anyone new to the site sees these low quality examples of our Q&A structure, and follows them.

In fact, I think it's borderline contradictory to one of our close reasons.

This looks like brainstorming/idea gathering for a specific project or a request for free work. This site is suited for answers to general design problems, not ideas or work that is specific to one project. See this meta post for more info.

They are requesting a service that most designers would probably charge a fee for if asked by a client. So it is a request for free work.

Critique is also borderline contradictory, but after discussion there has been an exception made with supposedly strict guidelines. I personally think those guidelines, and the strict enforcement of them, has been largely successful in limiting low quality posts in that tag. It's also worth noting that critiques have exponentially more SEO potential, as the good quality questions kept open generally attract explanatory answers with good keywords.

Font-id's do not have that benefit, instead our best hope at a good font-id question is one that piggybacks off of a brand name or some other known characteristic, that actually has little relevance to the purpose of the question. Then the majority of answers contains little more than a link to a font. That is far from high quality content.

Summary:

Growth of this tag has the potential to cause many problems. Users will not continue to edit this tag forever, then it becomes poor content that needs cleaning up, and then maybe the amount of cleaning becomes overwhelming. Then everybody slowly becomes demoralised and loses their fondness of this site.

Heck, if we lost our top ten users we might as well shut down now, to keep experts like them we actually need to keep the quality above a certain level. (Not that anyone has said anything about leaving). But it is well explained by Stack Exchange that in order to keep experts, we need good content.

Personally, I stopped editing posts months ago, after my attempts to keep an attractive and professional homepage were rendered futile by newly posted, horribly titled, generic and useless questions - like that one, you know 'What font is this?', you must've seen it. I had to make a choice, either edit them as well, or stop trying to keep the homepage nice. Most of them aren't worth the thought I put into titles, so I opted for the latter.

On the But you can just ignore the tag argument

I don't want to ignore any content, because I like learning almost everything of value here. Furthermore, I want the site to look professional and flourish, and someday be a well known resource for GDs everywhere and anywhere. So, because some people enjoy answering these low value questions, I have to put up with a messy, unprofessional site. It was OK when they were few and far between, but the rate is likely to reach 1 per day in 6 to 8 months.

I agree with Ryan's choice of words - "Terminate with extreme prejudice".

I had considered strict guidelines, but in the end all guidelines would then require manual actions to enforce the guidelines, and for the measly 1.7% (416,000) of our >24 million page views, it's not worth all of the hard work, when that work could achieve much better results if applied to a more worthy post. Noone has an unlimited amount of time to sit here and edit font-id. In fact, I urge you to spend that precious time elsewhere.

So to answer the question directly - Yes, I think it is time to discontinue our service

1.7% is still a lot of traffic

If we actively encourage more Font Manipulation, Font Styles, Font Categorisation & Font Pairing questions, we should easily offset and probably exceed the 1.7% shortfall caused by getting rid of font-identification.

Some final notes on this:

1) This query shows most of the link only answers on our site are on font-identification questions. It's adapted from an existing query used for other sites at some point, I just changed one parameter - The title didn't change and isn't quite accurate after the change I made.

2) Our top Adobe Illustrator expert (based on rep stats) earns an average score of 32 per answer in that tag. Our top Font Identification expert (based on rep stats) earns an average score of 28 per answer in that tag. The tags, and value in the answers for each tag, are very different. The rep awarded for each should reflect that and it doesn't.

On a more positive note:

  • The top 6 font-id questions alone account for 45% of the font-id tags pageviews and

  • Many of them aren't specific font-identifications, some of them are font-categorisations, and general font questions that we can definitely keep. So we'll probably keep over 50% of the existing traffic sources from posts. We can even re-edit a few great font-identifications to be kept if possible.


There is a possibility that the queries are incorrect, as it's my first time constructing them. It's unlikely though as the console would've thrown errors and not given back anything in most cases.

  • 1
    Well done sir.. i have to agree with you on some points. I don't think it is right for an expert or an educated answer to a question get more rep than a font answer. At times i do think the efforts of the site are pointless and i feel the site is deminishing by people making little edits and caring because of the horrible effort placed by the new users not caring about what the site is about. Ive what appears to be a decline of our veteran users and some of them even feel attacked, myself included, but if something doesn't change soon it will be hard to gain respect in the design community – DᴀʀᴛʜVᴀᴅᴇʀ Jan 11 '15 at 18:42
  • 2
    My hat off to you, good ma'am / sir. You're bringing some very good points to the table, with the data to back them. You're starting to sway me. – Vincent Jan 12 '15 at 10:15
  • 2
    I only wish you spent a little more time formulating this excellent reply. :) – Scott Jan 12 '15 at 18:26
  • Oh I really don't think that at all. I think it's a compelling argument and well-stated. If anything, the apprehension comes from the fear of simply disallowing a tag completely (from what I've read). – Scott Jan 12 '15 at 18:45
  • @Scott Then I suppose the retention rates are the last piece of data to add, and maybe they are necessary. – Dom Jan 12 '15 at 19:00
  • 1
    Not that I necessarily disagree with your conclusion but your analysis really lacks comparison for most of us to really estimate whether these numbers are bad or good. In fact, page-layout has values for views and edits per question that are comparable to those of font-identification. Does this mean that we should ditch that tag, too? Or is it just another tag with few hot questions, i.e., questions that attract an unusally high amount of views (and thus have a strong impact on the average views per question – note that the top 100 questions roughly make for 10 % of or total views). – Wrzlprmft Jan 12 '15 at 19:51
  • @Wrzlprmft Page-layout is not a service that we provide. It's very rarely a question on its own, and it is absolutely 100% graphic design related and suitable for the Q&A format employed here. Not all tags represent a service. The only other tag that you can compare based on problematic questions is critique. If you want to discuss this properly, we should do so in a separate chatroom. – Dom Jan 12 '15 at 20:02
  • @DumbNic: Here we go. – Wrzlprmft Jan 12 '15 at 20:13
  • 1
    Thanks for such a thorough and thoughtful post, Dom! Much food for thought. "Too much work" has swayed me that action is needed beyond people who don't like them ignoring them. But I think the "too much work" problem can be solved other ways, and I'm not convinced that a 2.5:1 Qs%:Views% ratio == worthless. Thinking Tag alert + ruthless purges (not edits) of questions that ignore the tag alert + 3-4 volunteer regulars taking charge of the tag so regulars like you can safely ignore it and trust that quality standards are being met. – user568458 Jan 13 '15 at 13:41
  • 1
    Maybe also a "font must be interesting (no Arial!)" rule, so people can discover interesting new fonts and "2 people benefited" for unsearchable Qs becomes "5-50 people benefitted". Re. "free work" argument: maybe, but that can also be argued for almost everything. Font knowledge and finding is a skill, and struggling to find a font is a type of problem designers face where one person can get stuck and someone else can unstick them in minutes - the core problem is quality control, so we're helping the genuinely stuck and not just the lazy. Tag alert + ruthless purging can fix that. – user568458 Jan 13 '15 at 13:51
  • 2
    Re. "but it's too easy rep" - I feel your pain, but that debate's been had 100s of times on meta.SE and the official answer is "Rep != expertise, rep ~= approx popularity/reach of contributions to site". E.g this guy's not the best at English, but he's been an awesome English.SE user, hence he has lots of rep. It's your portfolio that shows you're a great designer, your top Qs&As that show you're a helpful person and skilled problem solver/tutor, & your rep score shows you understand the site and have made many valued contributions. – user568458 Jan 13 '15 at 13:58
  • 1
    @user568458 I think I would be content with designated font-id police, but I'm also in favour of answer guidelines on top. The answers are far too often link-only. I can't see how those designated to look after it will continue to do so indefinitely. – Dom Jan 13 '15 at 14:00
  • In a nutshell, I agree that quality control is the issue. But for us to control the quality, the ends must justify the means. With all that policing there needs to be something to make it worthwhile, to keep the motivation. When someone spends 10 minutes thinking up a title, and two years later they see it hasn't been seen by 100 people I think they will become demotivated, but that's my opinion. – Dom Jan 13 '15 at 14:00
  • 1
    I totally agree. Here's my proposal. It puts the burden of the time-consuming elements on the person getting the help. – user568458 Jan 13 '15 at 14:16
5

They're occasionally fun "ooh...a puzzle...I get to go figure out a font" but I don't think they actually improve this place.

Some things to note about 'what font is this?' questions:

  • they're usually drive-by (in that people ask, then never return)
  • they aren't something searchable "what font is this?" isn't helpful for anyone in the future
  • they are increasingly cluttering up the place.

So I would be fine dropping them.

4

I think font id questions serve the main purpose of the SE model and that is to help people. However, in that same breathe I think we also need to hold the standard of professionalism and the ability to show effort. I think we should create a close reason just like we do for critiques and start closing font questions that show no effort. If the questioner does not make an edit there closed question is deleted over time automatically.

If they want help from the community they need to show what they've tried before we can help them and that doesn't mean "Ive tried" that means, I tried on whatthefont but my output was this and I looked on this site under this..

Welcome to GD! We do have requirements to asking font id questions so please visit our Guidelines for font-identification questions and make an edit to your question. When you edit your question we can reopen it to assist you further.

Welcome to GD! We do have requirements to asking font id questions so please visit our [Guidelines for font-identification questions](https://graphicdesign.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1083/19174) and make an edit to your question. When you edit your question we can reopen it to assist you further.

Edit 15-01-20

An edit to the critique close reason has beed included to say:

"We have specific requirements for font identification and critique questions. Please review the corresponding post and edit your question to accommodate our format so that your question can be re-opened."

From now on please vote to close font-id questions and please do not provide answers in the comments.

  • The only thing is, though, that we would have to get rid of one of our existing closing reasons to give space to a new one, right? Maybe we could merge it with the critique one... – Yisela Jan 8 '15 at 14:50
  • If I recall I dont think we would have to, I believe we can request another close reason. – DᴀʀᴛʜVᴀᴅᴇʀ Jan 8 '15 at 14:51
  • @Yisela we can request a fourth. I think this would be a worthy addition – JohnB Jan 8 '15 at 16:04
  • I like this idea! – Ryan Jan 8 '15 at 17:02
3

Think I've been vocal enough but in case there was a doubt - terminate with extreme prejudice.

3

I still feel the same way I did when this was first brought up, and is synthesized here: Should we make font identification questions off-topic for this site?

There are negative and positive aspects of having them in the site. I would prefer to see the discussion heading towards:

Should we restrict the type of font-identification questions we get?

For example, the questions "What's the font used in this obscure capture I found somewhere?" vs "What's the font used in the movie Lord of the Rings?". The second has community value, the first helps the OP. I don't think either is bad, but the latter is definitely better.

Perhaps we should think of some (stricter) guidelines. If your question is unlikely to help others, ask in chat. If your question is of general interest, ask in the site.

  • Nobody follows the guidelines anyway. – Ryan Jan 8 '15 at 14:25
  • 1
    @Ryan Almost everyone edits after seeing the Guidelines for Critique - might be a different case because they have more interest in feedback, but it worked quite well for those. – Yisela Jan 8 '15 at 14:57
  • @Ryan: Given that those guidelines were neither mentioned on the tag info for font-identification nor on the on-topic section of the help center until a few days ago, it’s not that surprising. – Wrzlprmft Jan 8 '15 at 16:27
  • The guidelines are in meta, which lots of new users have no knowledge of. So far, every incomplete critique question has received a comment from one of the old(er) users pointing to it. It would be easier if we had boilerplates, but we don't. The Help Center on-topic section should definitely have them, that is a great idea. – Yisela Jan 8 '15 at 16:31
  • 1
    I would disagree. All font ID questions are bad and offer no overall benefit to GD.SE. Example Our FontID questions will never rank anywhere near visible. :) – Scott Jan 10 '15 at 6:58
1

I answered a lot of font-ID questions and throughout answering them I have learnt a lot about fonts, types, styles, history, engines and so on.

I don't really know who benefits from these questions apart of me - askers are leaving before answer posted and never come back.

If these questions go, I will miss them a little bit...

1

I think font ID questions are a meaningful part of Graphic Design and thus I think they should stay. That being said, I do think users should follow some standards to make the font ID questions (and answers) more meaningful and useful. Otherwise if it's going to be such a pain for GDSE, let's just send them to https://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/

-3

I dont like thoose posts at all. I just skip them, but there is a slight chance that one post would be interesting.

So, what about new users cant post that kind of questions, just untill they have certain reputation? This way if a user is asking that, there is a chance it is an inteligent question.

  • These posts pretty much only come from new users, though. In many cases, they are the only post a user makes. (not my downvote). – Scott Jan 14 '15 at 2:46
  • I think there is merit in this idea (prove you know how to contribute before you can request a service), but it's almost impossible to realistically implement because AFAIK the tools don't exist to do it. Upvote from me though. It doesn't deserve -2. – Dom Jan 14 '15 at 12:27
  • I have an idea. Instead of making the captcha "What are the numbers on the image?" The question should be "What is the font used in the image?"... Just a thought... Xo) – Rafael Jan 14 '15 at 14:19
  • 3
    The problem I see with this is that new users would probably just follow the path of least resistance. If font-identification was blocked to them, they'd just remove it and tag it as fonts instead – JohnB Jan 14 '15 at 18:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .