I'm splitting this question off from the original question, Are wood identification questions allowed?, because the answers to that question only addressed wood identification and not the other identification questions that I had really hoped to address.

For example, if someone posts a picture of something besides wood (e.g., a tool or joinery), how should that be handled?

I think I recall some SE sites discouraging identification questions as too localized because they end up being only useful to the asker and are phrased in terms of, "What is this?" which doesn't help with searching. Maybe the OP has a guess at what the tool is, but maybe not.

If we allow identification questions, should each one be tagged with the answer and/or should the title be edited afterward to reflect the answer?

Example (before):

What is this tool?
tags: hand-tool

Example (after):

What kind of hand tool is this? [Yankee drill]
tags: drill, tool-identification, hand-tool

I'm still not sure this solves the problem, but perhaps someone browsing through the questions tagged with tool-identification could run across the tool that they want to identify, or maybe having the name in the title will jog their memory.

Here are a couple recent identification questions:

Is this a specific kind of hand drill? (good title)

What is the name of the corner joint with grooves on this chair? (title should describe the joint)

Any other suggestions on how to handle these types of questions and how to make them more useful to future visitors?


2 Answers 2


It wouldn't matter for somebody searching if the question was edited.

If you do not know how to spell a word, the fact that the words in a dictionary are sorted in alphabetical order doesn't help very much.

I think that identification questions are very valid.

The point that it could be a localised problem is very likely the reason why the problem exists in the first place. The only solution is to spread the word, rising the chances that somebody "has seen that thing somewhere before".

Personally, I was curious about a certain old tool (not for woodworking). I could manage to find the name on the internet but despite the explanations could not comprehend what it actually did. With the knowledge that it's for watch making I was surprised to find out that there were watch makers still in (very good) business nearby. (I'm talking about full mechanical watches) They happily explained that darn thing to me. Learned a bunch of stuff.


As the OP of the question Is this a specific kind of hand drill?, I thought I should chime in hear.


I honestly tried to find what it was but I couldn't so I made the question. I specifically was avoiding the title What is this tool? because I knew that was going to be too localized. I tried to keep it a good question with my current title Is this a specific kind of hand drill? but I could see this still being an issue.

Even the other question. Now that you mention it, that question, as it stands currently, is not a good one for the primary reason we discourage wood identification questions. It's just a picture.

What we can't allow outright

Any question that is, simply put, What is this? or a simple paraphrase thereof with only a picture. But in some cases we could encourage the users to improve it.

Before you call me a hypocrite

I did try to add more detail to my own question to get away from that. I suppose I could have put more of a description about the tool's usage.... A push motion makes the shaft turn?

Someone googling push and drill or even just hand drill (which was my thinking), with help from SE SEO, might make their way here.


We can vote to close questions like this (even mine if you choose) and mention to the OP that while this question could be considered to localized, adding as much detail as possibly can add to the question's long-term value.

If the joinery question just used the words corner and grooves that would have been sufficient.

Compare to wood identification questions

For example, "What kind of wood is this?" accompanied by a picture. A picture is not enough since you need more details like I talk about in this answer

Things like joint identification, and I thought in my case of tool identification, don't rely on those factors.

At the end of the day

These types of questions should be left open if the right details are present. You could easily link these to tool usage questions as well. How do I use a push drill and How can I make a finger joint corner brace for a chair? which bolsters the site. The solution to the latter seems obvious to me but maybe not to others.

Once the solution is clear updating the question is a good idea. It just irks me when you see Code does not work [solved] in titles. I would think a title such as mine to be good.

  • FWIW, I thought your title was good but also thought we should revisit the discussion since we suddenly got two identification questions.
    – rob Mod
    Apr 30, 2015 at 16:22
  • @rob Thanks. I didn't take this personally or anything. You are a mod after all. Just wanted to put in my 2 cents as well.
    – Matt
    Apr 30, 2015 at 16:39
  • I'm glad you didn't take it personally; by no means was it intended as a jab at you or your question. I'll make it clearer in my question that I think yours has an appropriate title. Also, don't give too much weight to my diamond; I'm just one of the temporary mods during the beta. I will try to raise discussions or push things in the direction I think they should go, as I did even before I was asked to be a mod; but if nobody else agrees with my opinion after I've made my case, I'll defer to the community.
    – rob Mod
    Apr 30, 2015 at 16:52
  • Am I missing something here? If the title needs work, are we not allowed to edit it so that the value of the question and its answers will have value beyond helping the OP solve a problem?
    – Ast Pace
    May 19, 2015 at 5:30
  • @ASTPace Yes of course, but it would be wasted effort for a question that would serve no long-term purpose to the community. The focus of this meta was tool identification questions. The question sometimes just needs more context. Depending on what the OP provides originally the question might not be salvageable by any one other that the op which would be a problem.
    – Matt
    May 19, 2015 at 11:24

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