On July 16, the proposal a ban on rock ID questions was proposed. After two weeks, this proposal has 15 upvotes and 0 downvotes. The answers are supportive of the ban. Clearly, there is a community consensus to ban rock identification questions.

As of today, 2019-07-30, rock identification questions questions are off-topic.

A Google Search for "identify my rock" brings users to our site. We don't want that. Therefore, most or all old rock identification questions will be closed and deleted.

We will add a custom close reason linking to this post.

Do we want to retain any old rock identification questions? If so, which ones and based on what criteria?

  • $\begingroup$ Wheeee! :-) Glad to see this. $\endgroup$ Jul 30, 2019 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ In the review I did, the exceptions could be counted with the fingers of one hand. There is uhoh exception for the reasons given and there are a few question tagged with identification-request for things that are meteorology related. I guess in that cases the simpliest is to edit the question removing the tag. If nobody looses reputation I would remove all the rest and they will move to other site to ask when google make the next raster I guess. $\endgroup$
    – user12525
    Jul 30, 2019 at 17:45
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Mineral identification is an important part of geology, and I can't see why geology should be off-topic. Turning new users away discourages them from taking a fuller interest in earth sciences. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2019 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit the new custom close reason that briefly existed seems to have gone away, possibly during the outage yesterday... $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2019 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ Michael the problem is there are a lot of questions. This site is not only for geologist and the homepage is the page you visit first. The questions are poor in most of cases and need review work. Also I do not have seen you at review, where a couple of geologist would be needed. We cannot ask oceanographers meteorologist etc to do it since it is not their subjects. At worldbuilding maybe you can manage it, but not here presently. Practically allbody wants to close it. $\endgroup$
    – user12525
    Jul 31, 2019 at 18:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelWalsby Geology is not off-topic. However, questions asked here should not be so specific that they are only relevant to the person asking them. The site has been dominated by "what is this rock?" questions that are not of interest to anybody other than the asker, and in most cases lack information so that they are unanswerable anyway. Many of us agree that that will put off other people from the site, as described here: earthscience.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1758/… $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2019 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if you have seen this, but as a fellow site who has banned identification questions, perhaps this 3-step (deprecation-blacklisting-delete & lock) clean-up on Anime.SE may give you and anyone an idea on whether to retain (and put the historical lock on) some questions. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Aug 2, 2019 at 4:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What a poor decision,based on only 11 upvotes. I voted down and to do it at the end of July? also. I hadn't been on the site for awhile largely because of the complaining about identification questions and than some many questions were put on hold with in a day of being asked. Too much personal preferences being expressed and not enough actual science went into this decision (based on the anwesers below). This whole situation has soured me on this site. $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2019 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ @GaryKindel I am sorry to hear that you are unhappy with the decision. It does appear that there is a community consensus agreeing with it though, although not unanimously so. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Aug 13, 2019 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ gerrit I am untaging the questions that are not related with rocks and closing the rest, so the list will be clean for the deletion task where I can't help. $\endgroup$
    – user12525
    Aug 27, 2019 at 10:55
  • $\begingroup$ I will have time to look into this in October. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Aug 29, 2019 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ Please note Fossil identification is not the same as rock identification. Fossil identification is still considered on topic and should not be closed as rock identification. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 25, 2020 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @John Please add that as an answer, as this may not be clear to everybody (I'm an atmospheric guy myself and know little more than lay people about rocks or fossils). $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Aug 26, 2020 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit Can I get my rock ID post reopened? I thought I had included a lot of effort. (I do not have enough rep on this SE to see my deleted post to link to it, but high-rep users will see it under my profile). I remember thinking it was well-received and not typical of the quality of posts that became more the norm. [also, I would greatly appreciate access to it so I can follow-up on it with a new rock expert contact of mine] $\endgroup$ Jul 17 at 4:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist Sorry, no. I agree your question was well-received, but if we keep some rock-id questions open, we're going to get more. Can you see the contents of your question yourself? If not, let me know and we'll find a way to give you a copy that you can use to follow-up with other contacts. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Jul 17 at 6:40

5 Answers 5


We should retain questions that are interesting for some other reason than "identify this rock", and are hence of interest to more than the asker. The "rock eating worm" one is a good example, but there will be others.

Because this is StackExchange, there will now be some people who are keen to close any question that mentions the word "rock". I urge some discretion! I suggest making clear in this meta question that we don't want rock-id that doesn't have some other interest, and saying something along those lines in the custom close reason too.

  • $\begingroup$ I will post a meta question with some tagging suggestions. $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Aug 1, 2019 at 21:52
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I just voted to leave open two very good questions (e.g. about petrified wood) that someone voted to close. Let's not throw away the child with the bath water, please. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Doggen
    Aug 8, 2019 at 7:20

Let's start with the easy thing: which questions to delete?

  1. These

List item

Because these questions bring in the traffic to this website.

  1. Anything with zero or negative votes. These questions are usually extremely low quality with blurred photos etc.

  2. Questions that have positive votes and more than one answer achieved that because they either had a nice pretty picture inside, or somehow ended up in the hot network questions. These should go as well.

Which ones to retain? Things like What kind of rock is this being eaten by a rock-eating worm?. There are two reasons for it:

  1. The title is specific enough to not attract internet searches for a generic "help me with my rock".
  2. The question is not about a rock in one's possession, but about a rock discussed in the media. Therefore it has widespread interest, beyond the personal curiosity of the OP, hence the upvotes.

Other potential questions-to-retain can be judged on the basis of their own merit, as each one is unique and may has its own reasons to survive the cull.

However, a notice should be added to question to mark that the question is now considered as offtopic, but it is of exceptional interest and kept for historical reason.

  • $\begingroup$ Can I get my rock ID post reopened? I thought I had included a lot of effort. (I do not have enough rep on this SE to see my deleted post to link to it, but high-rep users will see it under my profile). I remember thinking it was well-received and not typical of the quality of posts that became more the norm. [also, I would greatly appreciate access to it so I can follow-up on it with a new rock expert contact of mine] $\endgroup$ Jul 17 at 4:12

Note Fossil Id questiosn are still on topic. Please do not close Fossil ID questions as if they were rock ID questions.


I have deleted identification-request tag and added missing tags as mineralogy, petrology or sedimentology from questions that are related with field or theorical geology (example). Also questions about clouds and meteorology instrumentation to facilitate the deletion task. I have also sugest to retag fossils questions as fossils and paleontology.

Then if a "ban" is applied to every question that has the tag those questions will be saved (I still don't understand how is gonna this be solved).

I completed the review.

The result is:

  1. Questions retaged deleting id-request tag (~60)
  2. Questions taged with identification-request (387):

Should we retain any?

No, the 387 questions taged with identification request are now questions that ask to identify a mineral or a rock. They can be deleted or locked, but all question we want to retain were untaged.

I am for accepting fossils questions, but if you wish not to, you can see the rest of questions asking to identify a fossil on fossils tag, that has only 60 question in total. It does not represent a traffic trouble and fossils can be very commonly identified from morphology are my reasons.

I hoppe it is correct with the community feelings, facilitating the deletion and/or locking task.

ps: @Gimelist and @Semidiurnal Simon. Today a good new. I typed "identify my rock" and we are no longer the first entrance. I guess the closed questions html code (250/388 naming id my rock/mineral) has had some interance with Google's spider and we are beginning to solve the problem.

The first entrance is now USGS, where it is adviced what we should have adviced some time ago:

"Rocks and minerals are extremely difficult to identify through photographs. You will get the best results by taking your rock or mineral to a local source where it can be handled and examined closely. Possibilities include:

  • Your state geological survey
  • A natural science museum
  • A college or university with a geology department
  • A rockshop Members of a local Gem & Mineral club or Rockhunting club (many hobbyists are experts at identification)
  • Vendors at a Gem & Mineral show"
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I will have time to look into this in October. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit Mod
    Aug 29, 2019 at 9:09

Yes, we should retain - and, possibly undelete - the good rock id questions.

My arguments, with supportive stats, can be read in my answer posted to the original proposal.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .