We have just seen a spate of "Where In the World" questions from one person, distinguished by little independent research. Given their wide-spread locations, the justification of "I'm planning a trip" is unconvincing. These questions appear here, here, here, here, here, here, and here The pictures are all enhanced photographs from other websites, and not snapshots from the poster's own records or family pictures.

For me, the enhanced nature of the pictures and their multiplicity make these questions feel unreal, and abusive of our good nature in figuring out locations. I wonder if they run into WANTA: We Are Not Travel Agents.

Are any of the rest of you unhappy with this? How might we approach these sorts of multiple postings?

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    Sorry. I saved up these pictures and had time ask them today. I wont post so many together in future. "Given their wide-spread locations, the justification of "I'm planning a trip" is unconvincing." These pics are all in U.S. And can't I take more one trip? But I won't post new for another month. – Plnt Plug Prpl Pton Jul 25 at 3:53
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    I agree. I thought the spate of questions from @ P L was overdone, and did not comply with the general rules discussed here travel.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6629/… – Traveller Jul 25 at 8:55
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    I'm not sure that this collides with WANTA, but there is something not right here. I'm concerned that this may be another manifestation of issues raised in this answer and some of the comments attached to it. – Arthur's Pass Jul 25 at 10:07
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    @PL: Could you as the accused post your opinion here about that incident? I think knowing your reasons would help this community. – guest Jul 25 at 16:05
  • I think it’s worth noting that this account is one of the numerous obvious sockpuppets already discussed in some other recent meta topics precisely because they keep asking low quality questions of this type (1, 2) – Chris H Jul 25 at 17:00
  • Oh, I see the comment from @Arthur'sPass already referred to that. Nevertheless, I think there’s also value in my being more explicit that this is a long-standing (and previously discussed, more than once) issue with what to me is very clearly either a specific person or a group of closely associated people. – Chris H Jul 25 at 17:01
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    @PL That comment doesn’t have anything to do with what guest asked you to respond to (the link in the comment from Arthur’sPass) – Chris H Jul 26 at 6:25
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    @PL: And could you also address Chris H's comment? Are you one of the "numerous obvious sockpuppets" and if so, why? – guest Jul 26 at 13:17
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    I must say I'm curious about PL's most recent comment continuing to receive several upvotes, when it meets a request for a response by pointing at something entirely unrelated to what they were asked to respond to. Somehow I'm reminded that several of the accounts I previously referred to have previously been simultaneously suspended from multiple other sites on the network for (as described in the banner on the profile pages during the suspension period) "voting irregularities"... – Chris H Jul 28 at 9:03
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    @Chrish I'd wondered about that too. – Arthur's Pass Jul 28 at 10:23
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    A footnote (hopefully) to this: I noticed today that a number of these questions from different accounts have all been aggregated into one account and that account is suspended until the end of September. Clearly, the powers that be have taken action against the sock puppets. Thanks to moderators and staff whom have been involved. Hopefully this will see an end to it. – Arthur's Pass Sep 17 at 2:02

I am not particularly unhappy with this but I can see how some people might be. The things that seems most problematic to me is that image-based questions are not searchable, i.e. if someone else comes to the site wondering about the exact same picture (or possibly a similar picture of the same place) they cannot locate the earlier question with the site's own tools. All the research that went into the answers is lost and it kind of defeats the purpose of the StackExhcnage system.

Beyond that, one thing I do feel strongly about however is regulation creep. There is absolutely no need to get worked up about borderline questions or spend hours interpreting rules. Instead, let's ask ourselves how are these questions hurting the site? Are they impossible to answer and likely to remain open forever? Are they flooding the site's home page or prompting controversial debates?

Even specific reasons to close questions ought to stem from this fundamental principle. Taking a step back (or a deep breath) and considering the whole thing without frenetically looking for pretexts to close questions, it seems obvious to me this has nothing at all to do with “WANTA”. The travel agent issue only comes up when you are chaining together multiple requests, accomodation and transportation on specific dates to create an idiosyncratic itinerary that will never be useful to anyone else. Even questions about travel options between point A and B, how to look for hotels with specific requirements, etc. can be useful and should not be covered by this rule.

So if we don't like these questions, let's close them. If we think one user is disruptive, let's try to engage them in one way or another but let's not hide behind some pseudo-legal reasoning to enforce unrelated preferences.

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    +1, especially for the second paragraph which summarizes well the situation – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 31 at 19:29

How might we approach these sorts of multiple postings?

By clearly stating what kind of questions in are on-topic, and applying the policy consistently. Inconsistent question closures confuse people asking questions here, including myself, not to mention the waste of time dealing with comments that are irrelevant to answer the question. When I read a mod stating:

earlier questions are no proof of acceptability of new questions. – Willeke♦ ↵ Jul 17 at 4:21

this reflects how randomly questions are getting closed on this website, and that's a problem. We need a clear policy on which kinds of question should be closed or left open, and we need to apply the policy consistently.

Regarding your sentence:

We have just seen a spate of "Where In the World" questions from one person

The fact that the questions are posted by 1 or several individuals shouldn't influence whether they get closed.

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    The problem with consistency is that there are innumerable nuances to many questions, and circumstances change. For example, a year ago the question 'Where can I buy surgical masks' would likely have been closed as off-topic, where now a mask is mandatory for many airlines. In a year or two, the question might no longer be relevant. – Arthur's Pass Jul 27 at 0:12
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    I do think the "1 or several individuals" thing can make a difference in some circumstances. Pretty much any category of question, if asked repeatedly by the same person, will start to wear thin soon enough; it's the difference between a child who wants to know why the sky is blue and one who asks "why" questions about everything they see all day long. One "Where In The World" question may be a fun puzzle on its own, but a pile of them turns this site into a Mechanical Turk for image recognition rather than a travel Q&A community. – Zach Lipton Jul 27 at 23:54
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    By analogy, we've always accepted "do I need a visa for X?" questions, but would draw the line at the same person asking dozens of them because they say they're planning a big trip. – Zach Lipton Jul 27 at 23:55
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    @ZachLipton: While this may be human nature, we should fight against this and do not count in the user name. After all, if someone else has the same question and it is a good one, it would be strange to put it as a duplicate of a downvoted question. – guest Jul 29 at 20:17
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    I'm sorry but if you think that questions are randomly closed on Travel.SE then you have a misguided view on moderation activity on this site. By the way, moderation activity is carried out by the entire community and not just by the mods. What I think you are doing is pointing a finger to a mod with whom you have been disagreeing for a while now, and you purposefully misinterpret their words to do so. Reading your answer leaves me with an after taste of public shaming, which does not really fit with our Be Nice policy. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. – JoErNanO Jul 30 at 15:15
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    @JoErNanO No intent to finger point to single individual. As you mentioned, close voting is carried out by the entire community, and some of them tend to close questions inconsistently: that's the issue. – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 31 at 5:15

I'd like to add to the discussion that for me, the combination of a) a lot of new posts, b) from one poster, c) asking about commercial photoshopped pictures, d) in a short period of time, all in combination generated in me a feeling that the site was being taken advantage of.

These pictures weren't something shown in an old photo found in Dad's shoebox of letters from the war, but instead something far less personal to the asker. The impersonality was emphasized by the Photoshopping and the multiplicity.

I confess mine is a feeling-level reaction, and I don't know what to do with it. Does anyone else feel this way?

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    The word that came to my mind was 'trolling'. – Arthur's Pass Jul 27 at 1:56
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    Let me add to a, b and d that usually posters get nasty comments if they put more than one question in a post and are encouraged to ask seperate questions. This may explain the multiplicity (but I think we need @PL 's input here). – guest Jul 27 at 9:20
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    @guest I don't think it matters here whether the images were posted together or as separate questions. I simply don't believe that the OP was asking in good faith. One particular example that a keyword search answered with the first result, the OP claimed that an image search had returned nothing. I tried an image search and Google returned 40 similar images and identified the site, all on the first results page. Something doesn't add up here, which is why those questions have been so badly received. – Arthur's Pass Jul 27 at 23:16
  • @Arthur'sPass: I think you should direct this comment to DavidSupportsMonica, not to me. I think any new user with a lot of questions has the problem having to post a lot of questions, so those points are not too strange to me. – guest Jul 29 at 15:09

I first review [identify-this] questions upvoted and open at today.

No picture in post, no location.

Name of this place. Just a Facebook link. Why didn't screen cap something?
What's the status of this border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia?. Just a link to Google Maps. Again why no screen cap? I can't figure out straightway where author means.
What is the bright light between Singapore and Tokyo?. Difficult to take picture from airplane, but without pic, I don't know what author means.

Ascertainable with Google Picture Search.

What coast or river-adjacent city is in this photo?
What city is this cityscape?

I don't have time list all Windows lock screen picture questions.
Where on earth is this image from the backgrounds in Windows?. Very sorry if you upset, but author here is moderator.
Windows 10 wallpaper background (Spring)
Which city can be seen on this Windows 10 lock screen photo featuring a stadium next to a river?
Which city can be seen on this Windows 10 lockscreen?
Where was this wallpaper taken? (Windows 8 Developer/Consumer/Release Preview lock screen)
Windows 10 Lock Screen Wallpaper, where is this location?
What is the location of photo used for Windows 10 lock screen?
Where is this city?
Where on Earth is this Win10 lock screen image from, with a stone town in a rock crevice?

No location, fiction

Where is this fountain (from Counter-Strike)?
Is there a real location that resembles Moominvalley?
Which hotel is featured on the cover of Career Paths: Hotels & Catering?

Identify location of old painting
Old Painting - Identify Location

No location, real life

Identify waterside building / skyline
Where in the world is this harbour town?
Does anyone know where this beach is located?
What is this building?
What is this city that is being shown on a Samsung TV model?
Identify the building in this picture
Where was this stock photo taken?
Where was this photo taken (screensaver on LG Oled TV)?
In which city are these buildings?
Where is this solitary building with a town and mountains in the background behind a valley?
Where was this stock photo (mountains, town) taken?
What traffic interchange does this picture show?
Where was this photograph taken?
In what city is this bus (tram?) located?
This is a picture on my LG TV screensaver. I would like to know where this is?
What castle is this?
Where was this picture taken? (Chromecast background, 3 steep rocks)

Just continent name

What and where is this old-looking stone building?

Just country name

Which American City is this?

Now I turn to PL's seven questions.

Not obvious if Yosemite Falls is "Ascertainable from Google Picture Search." Google gave these visually similar pics, but they're not the same.

enter image description here

But the six other all have U.S. State Name, and more specific than any question above. Example, Highway 145 in Colorado is very specific and narrows the location between two small towns in Colorado. And it got two pictures, one is Google Earth screenshot. Author looks like just couple miles off location!!! Why's it closed if Where is this on highway 24/highway 12 in Utah? is topical?

Author's questions are very better than sample. They got much more info. Pics are upvoted many times and they're from travel Reddit sites. Chris H. asks in comment "how you reach the conclusion that a user asking a one off bad question has more issues with trolling or bad faith than a user with an extremely long string of questions with the same problems, even after repeatedly being told what those problems are"? Chris is right, I get no clue if author is "trolling" or "good faith". Trolls want waste our time and make us guess. Trolls more likely post pictures without any location or info, or fictional pictures like sample above.

If author is trolling, why use pic from many upvoted Reddit posts? Why write out town name, state, and country? Like in Highway 145 Colorado question, author narrowed down location very much. Author is so close to location. Why do all these if author doesn't want us know real location? I know author posted terrible pics before, but this is why I think author isn't trolling in these seven questions. I think author improved and got on a new leaf.

"no location, fiction" questions are more like trolling, how do we know if real life has them? We can waste hours trying to find and get no location. "No picture in post, no location" is bad faith, why not post pictures? why get us to click links? ""Ascertainable with Google Picture Search" is bad faith, why not try harder or post Google search result to show you tried? "No location. Real life" is bad faith, why didn't write out where you got picture?

PL's questions are not "low quality" compared to sample. low quality is random tram and random man in front of random building in black white pic. Why didn't write out why you care about this tram or man or building, or where you got it? PL's pics from travel Reddit sites with many upvotes.

Other Issues Irrelevant to Question Quality

PL flooded website with seven questions in two hours, this is too many and demanding! But flooding doesn't matter to question quality. Did anyone tell author to post less, or specific time frame for how many questions? Then author can stick to concrete time frame, and moderator can react if author violates time frame.

I don't see how sock puppet matters to question quality. Sock puppet is allowed But you can report sock puppet abuse to moderators and moderators will deal. Right?


I see just one clear issue, post flooding, but it's easy to fix. This doesn't make me "unhappy", COVID does.

PL's six questions are great. Yosemite Falls is fine if next time author proved he tried Google Picture Search with screen cap. I proved other people asked very worse questions.

Very sorry if you get upset, but I think this user's questions got closed just because some people just dislike PL because of possible sock puppet Not because PL's questions are off topic or have any thing wrong.

Am I right? Why not just be up front? Why not just straight up tell PL to stop asking questions here? Or tell PL how to redeem, so PL's on topic questions won't be closed just because people hate PL? This saves everyone time and energy.

No "clear policy on which kinds of question should be closed or left open"

Franck Dernoncourt is right. See these two comments.

From New Hampshire foliage question

enter image description here

From Sonoma County question

enter image description here

Out these seven, PL posted two pictures from Colorado, two from California, one from Wyoming, one from Alaska, one from New Hampshire. I agree Alaska and New Hampshire are "spread over", but you can do California, Colorado, Wyoming in one road trip. But it's possible to add Alaska and Hew Hampshire to a road trip. It's expensive, but how can we know author won't do pan American road trip?

But PL's questions absolutely show research. Like phoog, I can't find the standard of "additional locations near well defined route".

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    Note that a very significant fraction of the questions you’ve linked are several years old. At least one of them is from 2012. This can’t reasonably be interpreted as reflecting the expectations today. I would certainly downvote and vote to close the bast majority of they were posted today, especially those in the fiction category. – Chris H Aug 3 at 12:02
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    There’s no doubt that being posted by PL got these questions more attention than they would have otherwise, that’s to be expected when a user has a long history of posting such questions despite overwhelmingly negative feedback. Keep in mind also that closed questions with no answer are automatically purged from the site, search does not show the worst examples as they’ve been removed (and you chose to search only open questions anyway). See this for a particularly bad example of the type of questions that gained them their reputation. – Chris H Aug 3 at 12:09
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    As for why we don’t simply tell PL - assuming the sock puppet allegations are accurate (which I’m firmly convinced of), we’ve told them repeatedly why their posts receive such overwhelmingly negative feedback, both for “where is this” questions and various other questions they’ve had closed. Often in meta posts they opened themselves to ask why. I and other users have tried to do what you suggest, but they’re either unable or unwilling to engage. – Chris H Aug 3 at 12:15
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    You do however make a valid point, that the expectations (guidelines, as Willeke put it) aren’t clearly defined. This is something I hoped would be addressed in the earlier discussion, but ultimately while some broad consensus seems to arise that standards are needed, there was no clear definition settled on. I may try to do something about that in the near future. – Chris H Aug 3 at 12:20
  • As for the fictional questions having ‘more issues with "trolling", "good faith", "low quality"’: low quality perhaps, they really do strike me as remarkably bad questions for the site, but I don’t see how you reach the conclusion that a user asking a one off bad question has more issues with trolling or bad faith than a user with an extremely long string of questions with the same problems, even after repeatedly being told what those problems are. – Chris H Aug 3 at 12:43
  • @ChrisH all good points! i edited my answer. let know me if it answers your last comment. i know sample is old and not accurate, but nobody got this upset then, even when those questions are more terrible than author's. very sorry, i don't have much time and can't write out everything. – Kristen L. Aug 4 at 5:19
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    Here I can't find reasons why these seven questions are bad. I just see comments and answers on author and author's past. do you think author's seven questions here are bad? why? – Kristen L. Aug 4 at 5:25
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    very sorry you "tried to do what you suggest, but they’re either unable or unwilling to engage". Did any one get back to this comment by author? I saw author asked Willeke on "additional locations near well defined route", but I didn't see reply. But when I click on the seven questions now, I get error and can't see them. – Kristen L. Aug 4 at 5:25
  • Personally I don't think this type of question belongs on the site at all, so I didn't see any need to take a close look at the new ones. From what I can see (in the discussion, as the questions have mostly been removed) they may well have been of a higher standard than many others this person has previously posted, at least in terms of image quality. But it does appear that several were still lacking any distinctiveness of the location. – Chris H Aug 4 at 6:08
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    What I mean by distinctiveness: they apparently already knew that the sunflower photo shows a field of sunflowers in Durango, Colorado. It doesn't seem reasonable to ask people here to identify exactly which sunflower field. The picture showed nothing but sunflowers and some very distant landscape. Any other sunflower field in the area would look the same if you were facing the same direction. It seems another question already contained the road and a rough location along the road (between two towns). It's not really clear what more they could need if they're planning to visit on a road trip! – Chris H Aug 4 at 6:13
  • And no, it doesn't appear anybody did get back to that particular comment. Again, that's no surprise. When a user has a long history of posting repetitive low quality questions and refusing to engage (in my case, they accused me of trolling!) with those who tried to reach out and help them, they shouldn't be surprised if people eventually lose patience and stop trying to reach out. Even when they open new accounts (something they do regularly, and with far less subtlety than they seem to believe). People have a limited supply of goodwill, and this person has used more than their fair share. – Chris H Aug 4 at 6:21
  • as for your edit: yes, those (low-res tram, man in front of building) are terrible questions. But they're one-offs. They're not from users who spent years posting repetitive, low quality, attention-seeking questions and coming to meta to complain how unfair it is whenever one got closed. Of course they didn't inspire the same kind of response, why would they? I'd certainly downvote and vote to close if those questions were posted today, but one bad question does not make a user a problem. Dozens of them does. – Chris H Aug 4 at 6:26
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    I very much hope your suggestion that the author has perhaps "improved and got on a new leaf" is right. Their past usage has earned them a reputation, and will have a long way to go to overcome it. Even if posting from new accounts, which they do with far less subtlety than they seem to believe. But if they truly have turned over a new leaf and can start posting good questions and answers, I'm sure that with time, people will see that and the reputation can change. If that's their aim, it may be wise for them to avoid asking any "where is this" questions for a little while. – Chris H Aug 4 at 6:37
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    i think they just want exact location so they can get to that location and enjoy that exact view, or take selfies or something. this is pretty logical to me. – Kristen L. Aug 14 at 22:03
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    i saved just New Hampshire foliage, Golf course in Jackson Hole, WY. View of southern part of Grand Teton Mountains, Healy Alaska. They're pretty and interesting. what do you think? And can we get those questions back so we can see and evaluate? i didn't save other ones. – Kristen L. Aug 14 at 22:08

I may have missed some of the discussions, but given some of the questions were edited to be entirely different questions, others showed zero research, and the community voted to close (one I've seen was flagged as Willeke did a close vote, but it was 1 of 5 votes), I think the community has spoken as to what we accept currently.

That may change. At one point we used to accept expat questions, then that was decided by the community to be off topic, and an expatriates.stackexchange was created.

Similarly, we may change again. This is also why Willeke says

earlier questions are no proof of acceptability of new questions. – Willeke♦ ↵ Jul 17 at 4:21

in the beginning, some more subjective ones were raised too, which are now very much against by the community. As the community evolves, we'll see.

Trying to get the community (hundreds and thousands of people) to decide if we accept or not in a meta post is like trying to pin a tail on a piece of jelly. Historically, lots of chatting in the chat room, and several meta posts eventually form into some logical or coherent discussion.

It also seems that in this instance, there's questions about sockpuppets, but I don't have enough info for that to discuss, so will leave out of this answer, just noting it.

Oh, also, these have nothing to do with WANTA. That's for people asking us for route, costing and subjective travel plans.

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    Thanks for that, Mark. I appreciate the greater perspective. – DavidSupportsMonica Jul 27 at 1:47
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    I understand that the scope evolves over time, but the current scope and any change to scope should be clearly stated somewhere. Otherwise, "earlier questions are no proof of acceptability of new questions" is just a pretext to close questions arbitrarily. I would note that in the question where Willeke wrote this comment, the scope clearly hadn't change. It's just that a few people didn't like the question for whatever reason and decided to close it: this is an example of closing questions arbitrarily, and it is very annoying to the people who post questions. – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 27 at 4:05
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    It's not arbitrary, they have to select a reason, and it can be voted to be reopened by the community. Same system works across all of SE. It's not perfect, but it's what was built. – Mark Mayo Jul 27 at 4:10
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    @MarkMayo If 200 questions have the same topic, and 1 of these questions is closed as "Not suitable for this site" whereas the others 199 are not, then the closure is arbitrary. I agree that part of the issue comes from the way SE is designed ./ used – Franck Dernoncourt Jul 27 at 4:33

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