I brought up this point in my answer to another question, but I wanted to run it by the community as an independent point.

Since we, the community, have agreed that we don't want overly simple questions, I'm thinking that point of scope should be further refined to exclude font identification questions. My concern is that we are going to be beset with these, and end up becoming just as much a living font catalog as anything. There are tags to manage this, but the number of font ID question may move beyond a simple ignoreed tag and actually skew the overall numbers.

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there's an interesting parallel between this and "identify the game" on gaming. See meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/1455/… –  Jeff Atwood Aug 22 '11 at 21:18
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@Jeff: You took one heck of a beating over there. I can see both sides of this issue, but I think the decision to allow them really depends upon the individual sites, a pseudo states' rights, if you will. As for here on GD, the only way to really describe a font is through an image (I can only imagine describing a font using only words), so there are no keywords to help other like in describing a game; either a user sees the image or they don't, and since images don't get previewed in search results, they're just not going to the image. For the purposes of GD, I think we should close these. –  Philip Regan Aug 23 '11 at 16:10

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I could be way off here compared to the "SE Family" ethos, but I think most font-identification questions are low-quality on this particular site.

This is why I don't like the font-id questions:

  • The answers never gain value as a collection
    Askers inherently don't know what font they're trying to identify. As such, they can't look at old font-identification answers to see if their font is the same. I can imagine a scenario where they use exactly the same image that somebody else used to ask an identification question, but this seems unlikely.

  • Answers don't show up as a useful reference in search results
    As Philip mentioned, images are required for font identification - but they don't show up in search results. Even if they did, they'd likely be little help due to the previous bullet point.

  • Automated systems are fairly good but often ignored
    Many of the accepted answers include a comment about using WhatTheFont or Identifont. WhatTheFont is also referenced in the tag wiki.

  • Answers are not necessarily definitive
    When even the highest-rep'd (and thus arguably "the expertest") guy on the site isn't necessarily right, it feels like the answers are just dice-rolls.

But here are reasons why I wouldn't suggest banning them outright:

  • There really aren't that many
    All the above points aside, in researching this little screed I found that there are really only ~30 font-identification questions on the site. These questions feel omnipresent but really only account for a small percentage of questions asked.

  • They have a high accept rate
    Even though they don't leave much of a legacy, they almost always help the person involved.

  • Most don't get upvoted
    Sorting by votes gets rid of most of them. The ones that remain are more about how to identify fonts, not just crowdsourcing the act of identification.

I started this answer thinking about how lame the font-id questions are but, honestly, I don't have a solid reason to make them off-topic. I would be in favor of expanding the tag wiki to more firmly encourage checking the automated identification sites before posting a question.

In short, it seems to me that the system is working properly and the font-id questions are just an indicator that the site isn't getting enough good questions.

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You have more reasons to exclude them than include them. –  Philip Regan Aug 24 '11 at 12:57
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@Philip True. However, the reasons to not-exclude (I have a hard time saying I want to "include" these questions. ;) ) are stronger -- It's unlikely that new visitors are seeing a glut of these questions (thanks to downvotes and relative scarcity). Frequent visitors can ignore the tags. As much as I wish they didn't get asked, I doubt they are really causing any real harm. –  Farray Aug 24 '11 at 15:41
    
completely agree with farray –  Jack Aug 29 '11 at 7:39
    
I'm willing to let the font-id questions fly. Thanks for the feedback. –  Philip Regan Sep 19 '11 at 14:24
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There seem to be a growing number of "what font is this" type questions - possibly time to re-open this? Personally I'd say "No - don't allow them" as it seems like it's easier to ask "what font is this?" than to use one of the tools out there. "What tools are there to help me identify a font" seems like a more appropriate question, and there's a FAQ for that... –  lawndartcatcher Oct 26 '11 at 14:29
    
@lawndartcatcher Agreed. In particular this question: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/4211/… A simple request for other people to ID 9 typefaces. –  Farray Oct 26 '11 at 14:54
    
The thing is, people often seem to ask for fonts that are fairly easy to find but there would be much more value in say, identifying fonts that are not in the digital realm like old letterpress fonts that have been forgotten and such. –  Emilie Mar 31 at 16:00

Where should font identification questions go? Where are the experts? Those most able to answer such questions are more or less those who visit this site frequently.

People who don't care for such questions can just ignore them, or use tags and search to, especially "Ignored Tags".

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I'm willing to let the font-id questions fly. Thanks for the feedback. –  Philip Regan Sep 19 '11 at 14:25

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