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On most SE sites, eventually someone comes along looking for a specific resource. The usually ask a question in the form "Where can I find a [book, site, etc] about [insert topic]?"

These aren't necessarily bad, but the community needs to decide if they are allowed or not.

The close cousin would be the myth identification question. They are usually in the form "I remember a story about some god who did this thing. Who was that and what mythology is that from?" Another form is "Here's a picture of something mythological. What is it?"

These also aren't necessarily bad, but the community should decided if they are on-topic or not.

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    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Do we have any myth identification questions? I don't think we should decide on including / excluding a whole category of questions without first seeing how some real examples turned out. As for requests for external resources... bleh! – yannis May 1 '15 at 22:22
  • @Yannis It would probably be a lot like the story identification on Sci-Fi, except a lot of myths have similarities so the answers might get weird. – frеdsbend May 1 '15 at 23:54
  • I've asked two identification questions in here and here. – kenorb May 2 '15 at 19:50
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    @kenorb I would not classify your first question as an identification question, but rather as a plain ordinary question about the Epic of Gilgamesh. Your second question I would classify as a reference request, rather than as an identification question. – senshin May 3 '15 at 0:04
  • This should really be two separate questions. – femtoRgon May 3 '15 at 2:03
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Identification requests are the bane of my existence over on Anime.SE. They suck for a billion reasons. If anything kills Anime.SE, it's going to be the identification requests.

That said, I don't know what shape mythological identification requests would typically take, and it is not completely inconceivable that they could potentially maybe somehow be sufficiently non-terrible as to warrant their being permitted on this site.

As such, I suggest that we wait for a small number of identification questions to arise organically, and then look at them with an incredibly critical eye. If, somehow, they turn out to work reasonably well for this site, then we may as well permit them. But in the likely event that they do not, we ought to do away with them with extreme prejudice.


I should add that I do not view "in which text is the story of X told" as an "identification request". These questions are objectively answerable and are useful to future viewers, and I think are well-described as "reference requests".

My objection to identification requests here is to questions of the form "I remember A, B, and C happening in a story I read when I was little, but I no longer remember any of the proper nouns in it! What story could it have been?". These are unlikely to be useful to future viewers and require answerers to read the mind of the question-asker.


"Here's a picture of something mythological. What is it?"

I think this is again a separate thing from the memory-based identification requests I object to. For example, if someone posts a photograph of a relief from the Parthenon and asks which deity is depicted, I think that's an okay question. Questions about the iconography surrounding various mythoi seems like a thing this site is well-suited to answer, and are not all that different from other questions about mythology-related art, such as "Why is X displayed battling Y on this vase?" or "Why is Q always depicted with a widget in his left hand in sculpture?".

What I fear is that we're going to get people doing nonsensical things like taking clips from Clash of the Titans and asking what deities are depicted therein. It is these questions to which I strenuously object.

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  • Interesting. I don't follow Anime.SE, but it seems that in the Science Fiction and Fantasy SE the "story identification" tag is quite popular. – Kreann May 5 '15 at 12:35
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Since this is actually two questions, and senshin's answer only covers one of them (identification requests), I'll give my opinion on the other (resource requests).

On sites like StackOverflow and Programmers.SE, resource requests don't make good questions because either:

  • The set of relevant, available and quality resources is constantly changing
  • Which ones are "best" is typically opinion-based, or depends on the very specific requirements of a given project (which OP probably did not specify)
  • Many of these are shockingly lazy questions that can be solved by a trivial Google search.

My gut feeling right now is that these objections probably don't apply to mythology, or at least not as much.

  • The primary sources for a given myth don't change much. People may write new books about them, and we may discover more versions over time, but an answer here that points to Hesiod's Theogony probably won't go out of date.
  • Regarding which mythological sources are "best", we can almost always safely assume the primary sources, of which there won't be all that many. We may run into an issue with people asking which translation to use, but again, there usually aren't very many to choose from, and in most of those cases we can point to objective differences like "Bob was more literal" or "Alice left out these parts" to help them make a decision.
  • Lazy questions are definitely a potential issue. But they're an issue for all question types on all sites. Unless and until we see these become noticeably lazier than all other question types, I wouldn't take any anti-laziness measures against them specifically.

tl;dr I think "mythology resource" questions should be allowed, at least for now. If they all turn out to be "What book should I read to learn all of Greek mythology?" then I'd change my mind pretty quickly, but let's not assume that they will.

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    I think (in agreement with you) that requests for primary sources (and editions thereof) ought to be 100% on-topic (and perhaps should use the [reference-request] tag). Now, if someone comes through asking for a comic-book version of the Iliad or something, we're getting into dangerous territory, but that's a bridge we can cross when we come to it. – senshin May 2 '15 at 23:54
  • "...asking which translation to use, but again, there usually aren't very many to choose from" I don't know about that ... – femtoRgon Jun 9 '15 at 16:32

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