Here are two recent questions that I would consider low in quality:

Both refer to videos. The first one is a single sentence with a link to a very lengthy video. The second says he saw the video somewhere but can't find the link.

It seems to me that there are multiple problems that apply to almost all questions that are asked about videos:

  1. They usually don't take the trouble to write up what they think is going on in the video, so in order to answer the question, people would have to watch the video, which is very time-consuming. The asker usually doesn't even give a time index that can be skipped to for the relevant part.

  2. The other problem with people failing to write up anything is that the question no longer stands on its own. The video will at some point stop being available on youtube, or youtube will be superseded by something else, or whatever...

  3. Physics.SE is supposed to be for "active researchers, academics and students of physics and astronomy," i.e., for people who are somewhat serious about the subject. People who show up here saying, "I saw this video..." are typically not at all serious about the subject.

  4. The video medium itself is just not well suited to presenting complex ideas. This also tends to drag down the level of the questions to something below what I perceive as the intended level of physics.SE.

Of course there are exceptions to all of the above. For example, some people watch a video of a physics lecture online and show up here with a useful question, e.g., "At 3:47, Feynman writes the equation $E=-\nabla\phi+\partial A/\partial t$, but isn't the sign of the second term wrong? It disagrees with the sign in Jackson, but is this just a different sign convention?"

But for the more common case where the questions are of low quality, would it be helpful to set some kind of standard policy and/or consensus for how to respond to the question?


Good points, and I agree that these questions need some particular handling. My general rule for linked resources is this: judge the question as if the links weren't there, at least for purposes of deciding whether to downvote or vote to close it. Specifically, don't click on the link to the video and see whether the question still makes sense. In some cases it will be fine; in other cases it won't make any sense at all (and in that case "unclear what you're asking" is likely to be an appropriate close reason), and there will also be cases between those two extremes where I would probably consider a downvote to be appropriate. A helpful comment explaining the downvote is also nice, but of course nobody is obligated to explain their votes.

Note that the "very low quality" flag doesn't apply to cases like this. It's meant to be for questions (and answers) which are barely coherent, or otherwise have serious quality problems of a non-technical nature. The presence or absence of a linked resource is not likely to make the difference between VLQ or not.


As I have expressed mainly by my edits on such posts, video-based questions can indeed be rescued to give, I think, fairly high-quality content. This is definitely time-consuming and should only be done if you think the end product will be worth it, but I think the end results can be quite good, such as these two, in their before-and-after shots:

Rotor panorama

Is coherent light required for interference in Young's double slit experiment?

To be fair, it is extremely unhelpful to come to a post that says

this video is confusing, please explain

and nothing more. If you have the time, see the video and decide whether it's worth keeping into a full Q&A. If it is, and you have the time and capacity, take the appropriate stills from the video, describe what's happening, and fill out the question. If you don't, then leave a comment to the OP explaining that they need to flesh out their post and set out a question that is not dependent on the video.* Refer them to this meta thread, too, to drive home the message that if they don't change their post soon then its likely future is lots of downvotes and no answers.

If you don't have time to look at the video, then also leave a comment and also refer them to this meta thread, it's easy to find. Please avoid drive-by downvoting, though, unless there already is an appropriate comment: it does little to help the site and very little to help the OP improve their post and get an answer to their question.

*I note, though, that for users without image-upload privileges the whole thing is an uphill climb.


Besides the points made in the answers by David Z & Emilio Pisanty, make sure to mention in the question

  • lecturer, title, etc, of video, so the link can be recreated in case of link rot.

  • minute in video, so the reader doesn't have to watch the entire video.


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