I do like the recent question What is in this photo ? I know only that it was taken after II World War (by a new user: good) because it's fun, non-trivial (sort-of), and it allows a definite answer. (Yes, I also got a handy reward, just because "my electrons traveled a bit faster" than Samuel Russell's :)

IMO we should encourage more questions of this type, also in the continuing attempt to attract additional users. (Or are there perhaps already other sites that cater to this kind of historic puzzles.)

UPDATE: Here is another recent specimen, this one also with a descriptive, search-engine-friendly title: Who is the person sitting to the left of corporal Hitler?

  • 1
    It wasn't just the electrons in your computer that were travelling faster. My mind went through the Singapore trials first—I didn't imagine someone could mistake the Tokyo trials. Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 2:52
  • @SamuelRussell -- anyway, I'd be willing to share some of my points with you if the platform would support that :)
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 7:17
  • @Drux, Electrons travel at a constant pace. :)
    – Russell
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 6:29
  • @SamuelRussell yep, they even move much slower than the electromagnetic waves we call signals (notice also my earlier smiley :)
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 7:47

2 Answers 2


From the perspective of the person who asked "Who is the person sitting to the left of corporal Hitler?", I'm very glad this site exists with such knowledgeable people. I had seen the question "What is in this photo ? I know only that it was taken after II World War", which gave me the idea of posting a picture with an historical person that looks somewhat like my son. My internet search for the answer earlier yielded nothing. After posting the question yesterday, I was surprised and overjoyed to see a very detailed and well-documented answer this morning.

Here's the back story to how I found the picture. My son's friend in high school saw the picture in one of his classes and thought the soldier setting next to Hitler in WW I looked a lot like him. My son showed the picture to family and we all agreed. Since there is some German heritage in him, we thought there might be some relation.

  • Thx for sharing this first-hand experience.
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 23:53

This one is tricky.

There are definitely some (strong) signs that the question should be on topic:

  • It's clearly interesting to historians and history buffs

    The upvotes on the question and on your answer, and the lack of close votes are proof of that.

  • It was answered, correctly and fast

    Correctly obviously being the important part, fast the "nice to have" part.

But, there are also problems:

  • It's a non searchable question

    The title is awfully generic, and I don't think there's much room for improvement. The question text is... what question text? All we really have to go on in terms of searchability and categorization is the tags. And those are awfully generic as well.

    This is an important issue, as this type of question is practically undiscoverable through search engines, and thus not particularly useful in terms of helping the site grow. That of course is no reason to outright ban the category, but it certainly reason enough for me to not be particularly enthusiastic about further encouraging similar questions.

    A related issue is that the type is also not particularly accessible, as is typical with media heavy content. While I realize that might not be a very important factor for most, it is for me.

  • It's sort of a guessing game question

    Almost every Stack Exchange site has it's own "guessing game" questions, and they've proven to be more trouble than they are worth. This type of question shares a lot of characteristics with "guessing game" questions, although I don't think it fits the description 100%.

    We are of course free to decide on our own what kind of questions we welcome on the site (within certain broad limits) and I'm not saying that we should outright ban the category just because similar categories didn't work elsewhere. But, it wouldn't hurt to take notice of the experience of others and not repeat the same mistake.

  • The low end of the quality spectrum is going to be awful

    Ok, this is more speculation than fact. But I'm afraid that while the question in question is good, the low end of the category is going to be truly awful. Stuff like either extremely well known pictures (that will bore most of us very quickly) or extremely low quality pictures, from weird angles, etc.

    And, just to push my paranoia up to eleven, the category offers a lot of opportunities for trolling. I have quite a few pictures that look like they are somehow historically significant but aren't really (just old), and I can troll the site's crowd right now by having you all going around and trying to answer unanswerable questions.

I'll stop here, because this seems to be turning out a lot more gloomy than I originally intended. My take is that I don't see any reason to outright ban the category of questions but at the same time I don't see any reason to encourage them as well. If they continue appearing, so be it, and we'll deal with any problems as (if?) they appear. If not, meh.

  • 2nd and 3rd problems I agree with. However, Google has an image search, so this isn't entirely unsearchable. It might even be helpful to us if someone goes searching for something like "IMTFE" with Google's image search and ends up on our question.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 16:24
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    @T.E.D. Yeah, but I wouldn't really rely on it, and it doesn't do much to help us with in-site searches. Nevertheless it would be very helpful if the category becomes popular.
    – yannis
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 16:43
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    IMO it need not be a guessing game. For instance, in the example at hand I arrived at the solution by noticing that defenders seemed to be Asians. This and the historic information provided with the question quickly led to the answer: it was a (minor) research effort, not guesswork. Personally I don't care so much how question titles are rated by search engines: certainly I don't think about that when formulating own questions on this site.
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 18:25
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    @Drux If you care about the site growing (which I'm sure you do), then you should start caring (a lot) about how question titles are rated by search engines. We have tons of great content here, but what's the point if people can't find it?
    – yannis
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 18:29
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    @Drux I don't have access to such stats for History, but I can tell you that for Programmers, which is a mature and far more well known site than History, 82.17% of traffic comes from search engines. The number is too big to ignore, and if we want History to grow we really need to do our best to help new users find our great content.
    – yannis
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 18:31
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    @YannisRizos - I don't think we mods are supposed to be giving out the exact numbers from the anlytics page, but its probably OK to say that we are currently in that same ballpark, and have been since I've had mod privs.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 21:32
  • @T.E.D. You're right, we are not supposed to, and I wouldn't for History (but mostly because during beta people tend to fixate on stats). On ProgSE almost all our stats have been fairly steady for the past couple of years, and we've talked about some of them like the traffic sources openly once or twice.
    – yannis
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 21:40
  • @YannisRizos -- alright, I see the point about search-engine-friendly titles now.
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 5:29
  • @Drux Hm, it seems like a question that I'd consider a bad specimen of the category appeared yesterday. Certainly we don't yet have enough data to conclude whether "Historic image puzzles" will be more trouble than they are worth (or vice versa), but it seems my paranoia isn't completely unjustified.
    – yannis
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 2:43
  • Agreed. IMO @NewAlexandria did the right thing in her comment by pointing to the/a reddit forum.
    – Drux
    Commented Apr 19, 2013 at 5:23

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