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A user posted a question asking to identify a flag. A discussion started in the comments as to whether or not this is on-topic.

As the description says:

Finding the name of some place, food, monument, or other travel-related thing.

I suppose a flag is indeed a "travel-related thing".

Personally, though, I'm unsure whether to consider this on-topic or off-topic, so I'm posting this on Meta to get the opinions of others.

Additional comment: The image posted in the example gives no results with reverse image search engines, so I would not downvote for lack of research. But if someone posted a very clear image of a flag that could easily and successfully be put through a reverse image search (such as Tineye or Google), then I would probably consider downvoting for lack of research. But that is beside the point, I'm asking whether it's generally on-topic to ask for identification of flags.

Also, does it depend on the flag and/or context? If yes, then what constitutes an acceptable question?

By the way, I really wanted to tag this with , but I restrained myself. It was hard.

  • Would "identify this hymn" work as well then? How about "what country this song is from"? – JonathanReez Aug 8 '16 at 8:39
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    Just wondering, what's the reason for assuming that the question wasn't travel related? People don't sit around maliciously trying to come up with non-travel related questions to "get away with" asking on a travel site. That's a strange imaginary problem to worry about. Why not give the benefit of the doubt like we usually do and treat it how we would if it was identical but prepended "I was sailing and..." or "I was visiting a harbour and..."? – user568458 Aug 8 '16 at 13:35
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    Correction: people don't normally sit around maliciously trying to come up with non-travel related questions to "get away with" asking on a travel site... ;-) – user568458 Aug 8 '16 at 13:46
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    +1 for coming to meta to discuss this. – JoErNanO Aug 8 '16 at 22:21
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    Did anybody else yet mention this other flag question that was closed? – hippietrail Aug 11 '16 at 9:10
  • @hippietrail No, you're the first to bring it up. According to the answer of Heidel, I guess it could be reopened. Since OP made no attempt to relate it to travel, and according to the answers of you, vclaw and Jonathan, I guess it could remain closed? – Revetahw Aug 11 '16 at 9:25
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    I was preparing a meta question on settling which "identify this" questions are on or off topic here. But we already have three: Are identify-this questions on topic? (2011) | Are Identify-this-questions too localized? (2013) | Historical 'identify this' questions - should we allow them? (2014) – hippietrail Aug 12 '16 at 9:53
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    Wouldn't this just be directly solved with a link to flagid.org ? – E.P. Aug 13 '16 at 15:24
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    @E.P. What a cool site that is! But apparently it doesn't always work. I tried it with the flag from the question linked to in OP, and I didn't find the answer. – Revetahw Aug 13 '16 at 16:22
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If a flag is a symbol of a place, land or a country then it's directly related to travel. No doubt about that, whether you are travelling there, or just asking for pure curiosity.

I do not know about you guys, but when I see a new flag, first thing that comes to head is "travel". I think many have the same feeling.

That's my opinion about the matter, and I think the question is 100% travel related and on-topic.

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    There is doubt about it. It might be for a former country. Or a former flag of an existing country. Or the OP might not know whether its for a country or for something else. Before I saw the answer to the question I actually thought "there's obscure flags only history buffs know about like navy ensigns that are not about travel". – hippietrail Aug 12 '16 at 7:36
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    @hippietrail I do not think that some questions about a subject being off-topic, makes the whole subject off-topic. – Belle-Sophie Aug 12 '16 at 14:26
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    I don't think a "whole subject" can really be on- or off-topic meaningfully. Or to put that another way: I do not think that some questions about a subject being on-topic, makes the whole subject on-topic. Or to put it another way: Some flag questions would be on-topic and some flag questions would be off-topic. – hippietrail Aug 12 '16 at 15:03
  • Trouble is, @hippietrail for someone to judge if a flag question is on- or off- topic by these criteria, they need to know what type of flag it is... so, they need to get their flag ID question answered before they know if they can ask it? Why not just keep it simple, if you see a flag while travelling or researching destinations or whatever, and it's not obvious what it is, you can ask about it, like any other identify-this curio you see while travelling? – user568458 Aug 19 '16 at 9:03
  • @user568458: "any other identify-this curio"? Really? So anything I think is interesting and want to know what it is while I'm travelling I should ask here and expect everybody to count it as on-topic? A fruit or vegetable? A photo of a meal? Name of a menu item in another language? A Chinese character? A bird? Person on TV or magazine? Brand of scooter? Book? When we started the identify-this tag it was not to expand the scope to cover everything. It was to provide a name for questions asking about things that were already on-topic. – hippietrail Aug 19 '16 at 9:57
  • @hippietrail uggghhh I thought it was obvious I meant normal identify-this rules apply when I said "like any other identify-this"... so if a flag is part of a landmark or site or you encounter it while sailing or whatever, you don't need to know what it is before you ask what it is... hence my earlier comments about "while sailing" or "while visiting a harbour". I'm really not interested in these debates about hypothetical categories of questions that don't exist and which no-one is even asking that imaginary malicious users might (won't) ask for no reason other than to catch us out. – user568458 Aug 19 '16 at 10:02
  • No sorry it wasn't obvious at all. And it's still not actually. If you don't like it hypothetical I've got lots of photos of things I'm genuinely curious about from my travels that would fit "While visiting Taiwan I saw a strange Chinese character I can't find in the dictionary" etc. I'm not an imaginary user. We can discuss it in advance and you can while about it being hypothetical but if I then ask go ahead and ask some examples you better not whine about "You should've discussed on meta of these were on topic". So which is it to be? – hippietrail Aug 19 '16 at 10:08
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Yes, the context matters. Any 'identify this' questions should give as much detail as possible, to help others figure out what it is.

If it is a picture of a flag, say where that picture is from. Is it just something randomly found on the internet, or is it from a film or book etc. It could be a flag that is entirely fictional. Or is it a photo you took yourself, in which case say whereabouts it is, and add another photo with another wider view if possible. And the photos should a decent resolution, so you can actually see what it is.

It seems some of the 'identify this' questions are deliberately being obscure, to try and make the identification more of a puzzle. It does seem like a lack of research, or not a real question, if the asker actually knows the answer already.

For the linked question, it would have been a lot more informative if the question mentioned that the flag is on a museum ship, in Nova Scotia. As that boat is about 70 years, perhaps the question would be better suited to history.stackexchange.

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    What if the flag was on a ship, that is 100 years old, and in a museum.. but the flag is actually a country's/region's flag... then what? is it on topic or not? until we have an answer we can't be sure. The context is important I agree, but regardless of that, it could be on-topic. – Nean Der Thal Aug 12 '16 at 3:35
  • Just something being about some country doesn't make it about travel. Asking who was the head of state of Burkina Faso in 1972 would fit many of your criteria and would be about a country. It would not be about travel. – hippietrail Aug 19 '16 at 10:01
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There are two acceptable types of questions on Travel.SE:

  1. Problems/questions encountered while traveling. E.g. My flight to Istanbul has been cancelled, what are my options?
  2. Problems/questions encountered while planning to travel. E.g. How do I buy a one-way ticket to Istanbul without overpaying?

Questions with the (and related) tag can fall under either category:

  1. Why is this bathroom symbol in Germany "00"? falls under "questions encountered while traveling"
  2. Where was this photo taken? (Windows 10 lock screen) falls under "travel planning questions", as it's (presumably) about planning to travel to the location of the photo

Identifying a flag could only work when asked within the context of travel, e.g. What is this strange flag I took a picture of at the Rio 2016 opening ceremony?. Simply grabbing a random photo from the Internet without a clearly defined travel-context is off-topic. Otherwise you might as well ask people to identify hymns, nationalities of a random person, foreign songs that you've heard on the radio, etc.

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    I'm pretty sure network-wide SE policy is to judge questions on their merits, not to force inquisitions on what motivated the asker to ask. It's why there's no ban on "homework" questions, for example, because it inevitably leads to users jumping to conclusions about why someone's asking based on their phraseology which leads to arguments in comments and doesn't add any value to the site. Forcing users to prepend "I was travelling and..." doesn't improve the question or the site. – user568458 Aug 8 '16 at 13:02
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    @user568458 there are obvious travel questions where no context is needed (e.g. my question about LA canals). For anything non-obvious (e.g. finding a country where a particular song was written) you need to provide some context. – JonathanReez Aug 8 '16 at 13:12
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    Flag identification is important if sailing, and improves the experience when visiting harbours or marinas, giving some context to the docked ships. That's much more obvious a link to travel to me than what an uncharitable reader could interpret to be a trivia question about a movie. I'm 100% happy to give your movie question (and this flag question) the benefit of the doubt. Which was it, by the way, out of curiosity? Were you touring LA, or were you planning to? – user568458 Aug 8 '16 at 13:16
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    @user568458 feel free to add your own answer with a justification, at the end of the day we have a democracy :) – JonathanReez Aug 8 '16 at 13:34
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    Fair enough. I'd hope you'd get the same quality answer even if you were just looking to improve your potential-destination travel general knowledge. Couldn't find anything on the main meta, might come back to this next time I take a break... – user568458 Aug 8 '16 at 13:42
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    @user568458 I think you should certainly make your own answer so that people can vote on both answers. – Revetahw Aug 8 '16 at 13:48
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To me personally, flags are to do with politics and geography.

Now politics and geography are important factors in travel, but flags are not so directly in and of themselves.

That said, we do support many questions on "curiosity", many of which are tagged as "".

So while I can't think of generic "what country's flag is this" as being any benefit to the site, I can imagine situations in which a traveller might come across a flag with insufficient context to answer a concern they might have about it.

So basically I think there are situations in which flag questions could be worthy travel questions and others in which I personally would think of such questions to be more about curiosity or trivia, but that many such topics have traditionally been supported and defended by the site and its users for years.

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