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Identity Helpcan we pin "please read first" threads to the top of a discussion again?

28th Jan 2020 04:53 UTCDon Windeler

Just a thought. Of late I've notices an awful lot of "what's this?" postings with no effort to help out whatsoever.  Full of righteous bumption, I've thought about responding "haven't you read the prerequisites?" but realize that they're no longer pinned to the top of the "Identity Help" area.

The Mindat "read this first", for reference:  https://www.mindat.org/mesg-33466.html but this is buried pretty deeply, especially for a beginner not aware of the starting point.

Any chance this can get pinned to the top again, so we're less likely to keep getting photos of a pile of beach rocks with no context whatsoever?

(And I'll note I'm not one of those blessed souls who responds frequently with encouraging words to keep newcomers engaged -- I usually try to hold back the snark and only weigh in when I have something specific to add.)


28th Jan 2020 07:55 UTCDale Foster Expert

I agree.

There does seem to be a number of threads appearing with poor quality pictures of random pebbles and general leaverites.

Having the requirements for posting an id thread readily visible would be handy (not that many seemed to read them anyway). 

28th Jan 2020 08:40 UTCDavid Von Bargen Manager

We do have a message at the top of identity messages when you start a thread.
In order to help you should follow these simple rules:

Non-commercial requests only.
This service isn't for mineral dealers or individuals wishing to sell a specimen. There are commercial services available for specimen identification that can help you. If we see you asking about a specimen here and then we then see it on minfind, ebay or your website later, you'll be blocked from this group.

Provide a useful photograph.
Is your photo out of focus, too bright, too dark? It's not hard to take an acceptable photo these days with your phone camera, it doesn't need to be a masterpiece of photography, but we need to be able to identify features in your specimen. If the photo isn't acceptable, sorry - we can't help.

Tell us where it's from.
Did you find this somewhere? If so tell us where. If you bought it, tell us as much as you can about where you think it might be from. If you really have no idea where it's from please tell us so. We may still be able to help.

Any distinguishing features?
Describe anything you can that gives us more information than we can tell in the photograph. Does it seem heavier than normal (dense) or light? If you've done any other physical tests such as hardness or acid testing please let us know, but don't attempt these unless you know what you're doing.

Don't ask for 'meteorite' identifications.
We can't verify meteorite identities here. If you have a question about an already identified meteorite that's fine, but 'is this a meteorite?' posts will usually be removed (why? Because 99.99% are not)

Finally, don't get upset with us if your specimen isn't what you think it is.
We provide this service for free. Don't come here saying "I found this diamond..." and then get upset when we tell you it's not a diamond. It's a very quick way to get yourself banned.
But adding a link to the "read first" message would be a good idea.

28th Jan 2020 08:45 UTCBranko Rieck Expert

And even better: would it not be lovely to be able to completely disable certain areas from all listings ("Identity Help" being a prime example). The ability to do so would also tempt me to login more often.



28th Jan 2020 10:04 UTCJolyon Ralph Founder

If they don't read the message when they click to post a new message they are unlikely to read a thread stuck at the top.

If people can't follow instructions then it's best we just delete their posts. 

28th Jan 2020 10:44 UTCPaul De Bondt Manager

We could put a thick button " I have read the .............", " by not giving details, your message will be deleted" and if they thick the button and give no details, we have a good reason to delete.
Deleting before this could be felt as " rude or bullying ".

28th Jan 2020 10:54 UTCJolyon Ralph Founder

Its ruder to post and not follow the rules

28th Jan 2020 11:17 UTCPaul De Bondt Manager

I agree but then the rudeness comes from them and not from us !

28th Jan 2020 12:39 UTCDavid Carter

It must be just me then that finds it mildly entertaining when someone posts a blurry image of a clear crystal or a dark lump of rock expecting to be told they’ve found a priceless Diamond or a previously undiscovered meteorite!
On the other hand it would also be a shame if we missed out on seeing an unusual crystal, mineral or rock (or even fossil) because someone wasn’t that tech savvy or they weren’t familiar with the workings of this website or they were just plain rubbish at taking photos!
I realise that much of the material posted for i.d. clarification is probably ‘just’ Quartz or Quartz related, but some of it isn’t and what might start out as a poor discussion thread could develop into something more interesting?
There is no obligation to enter into a specific discussion if the subject matter isn’t of any interest at all.

28th Jan 2020 13:02 UTCEd Clopton Expert

Patience, grasshoppers!  Yes, I get tired of "whatsit" inquiries about ordinary driveway rocks, but we must strike a balance between insisting on following our rules and alienating potential friends who just don't know yet how to ask their questions.

Someone with reading difficulty (e.g., dyslexia) or a language barrier could see the page of ID guidelines, groan, and either skip reading and post anyway or skip posting their question entirely.  The ID guidelines are reasonable in themselves and make our Mindat life easier if followed to the letter, but en mass they look daunting to a newbie.  The info is available to everyone who can be induced to read it, but except for repeat or flagrant  offenders, I would argue against summary deletion or blocking of posts that don't conform to the Rules.

One more item to add to the already daunting list of guidelines might be a statement that "Identifying a rock is more difficult than identifying a mineral.  A well-formed crystal or solid mass of a single mineral may (or may not) be identifiable from a photo, but often it is not possible for Mindat members to identify a rock consisting of a combination of minerals (often having a streaked, granular, mottled, or layered appearance), even if you provide all of the requested information.  Don't be offended if we ask for more information or just throw up our hands and say 'I don't know'."

28th Jan 2020 13:13 UTCPaul Brandes Manager

Well put, Ed!

28th Jan 2020 13:37 UTCDale Foster Expert

Ed Clopton Expert  ✉️

Someone with reading difficulty (e.g., dyslexia) or a language barrier could see the page of ID guidelines, groan, and either skip reading and post anyway or skip posting their question entirely.
True, but just giving a little background such where was it found could potentially assist in giving a qualified assessment.

28th Jan 2020 15:54 UTCDon Windeler

Thanks all for the comments.  Ed's addition sounds like a good one.

I'll add one subtlety here that might help.  When I read Jolyon's comment I thought, "What is he talking about?"  I didn't even realize we showed those comments when a discussion is started in this forum.  

I tried it and see the issue:  at least for me, when I hit the "start discussion" button it starts the new page and immediately jumps down to the subject and text entry at the bottom.  I didn't notice them because they scrolled past so fast.  (Yes, part of this might be familiarity but it's just my user experience I'm describing.)

Maybe this is browser-driven and not changeable, but my initial suggestion might be answered more simply by having the page open and start at the top, rather than jumping down to the text entry box.


28th Jan 2020 18:03 UTCDon Saathoff Expert

I've always held to the idea that Mindat is a learning site.  I feel that the first responder  to a question from a "newbie" should ask the leading questions: 1. Have you sent the photo to yourself in an email to check sharpness; 2. can you scratch it with a pocket knife and feel the scratch with your fingernail; 3. can you scratch glass with it and feel the scratch with your fingernail;  4. does it feel heavier or lighter than a pile of nails of the same size; 5. where did you get it. 

Then, if the person is truly interested and answers these questions, there is a chance of helping that person learn something.  If not or an argument ensues then just inform them that they are not really interested and end the conversation.  But, we will have, at least, tried...


28th Jan 2020 21:51 UTCDebbie Woolf Manager

Hi Don

Just wanted to say thank you for how you reply to these type of questions, it's a fine example hopefully others will follow.

28th Jan 2020 20:40 UTCFrank K. Mazdab Manager

And perhaps I'm alone in thinking this (or maybe I'm just becoming more of a jerk as I get older), but maybe a bit of snark for the most flagrant cases of people posting blurry photos of some nondescript river rock and asking "what is this?" is warranted? Sometimes one has to really ask, whether rhetorically in silence to oneself or even sometimes screamed out loud in all seriousness, "what are you thinking, man‽" A bit of snark may at least be worth a bit of a chuckle for the rest of us.

Now, not so much in the context of the sincere newbie collector who may not yet know the difference between a rock and a mineral or who may not yet appreciate that most of the ~5000 mineral species can't be identified just by sight, but more so in regard to the plethora of weekend prospectors we get touting their latest gold, diamond and meteorite discoveries,  I often wonder what it would be like if mindat were instead "mushroom-dat", and our get-rich-quick-scheme prospectors were instead foragers certain their poisonous finds were somehow their new gourmet prizes?

I suppose we'd probably be getting a lot less repeat visits from those people...

28th Jan 2020 20:45 UTCBernadette G

Hi All,

I'm fairly new to this forum and have started three ID help requests so far. 
Yet, I have never seen the "message" when starting a new thread.
Just as Don Windeler posted above, the site whisks one to the bottom before one has a chance to see the message, and there - very conveniently - the "Start a new discussion" window 
is open and ready. Once there, a newbie has no reason to scroll back up, I didn't either. 
If this website feature can't be changed, then, it seems to me a sticky thread uptop might improve the quality of newbie's help threads, even if they just skim the paragraph titles.

28th Jan 2020 21:31 UTCKeith Compton Manager

When you start an identify request in the correct forum (identity help) there are a series of questions and instruction posted at the top of the page (as David pointed out above).

We are all volunteers on this non-commercial site and I for one certainly expect users to try and "follow the rules" and not to waste our time.

28th Jan 2020 23:00 UTCBernadette G

Hi Keith, 

When you start an identify request in the correct forum (identity help) there are a series of questions and instruction posted at the top of the page (as David pointed out above).

We are all volunteers on this non-commercial site and I for one certainly expect users to try and "follow the rules" and not to waste our time.

I certainly agree with you about users following the rules of a website. 
Just checked again on the ID help forum, I can't see any questions and instructions on top of the page.  All I see is this: 

"This group contains current requests for identity help. Can you help answer these questions? If you are able to help please do.

Please don't reply if you're just guessing about something, only reply if you can genuinely help, thank you!"

If you mean the instructions that open above the  "Start a new discussion" window, they are not visible to me once I've been whisked down to that window.  
I would imagine the visibility depends on what type of computer/laptop/tablet or phone, people are using. On my laptop, all I see is the " add text" window. 

28th Jan 2020 20:54 UTCDon Windeler


Shared your response with my wife.  According to her, the mushroom messageboards she frequents have the same problem with blurry photos and people unable to follow directions.  No word on how many don't make it to a second post.

"You can test that potential picropharmacolite by licking it, but it only works once." 


28th Jan 2020 21:39 UTCJohn Christian

We need to put the posting guidelines in the most visible spot; more than one would be great.

As an educational website we are given the semi sisyphean task of making the same corrections and answering the same questions from our newer members. Hopefully our most patient members with great bedside manner will help the newbies. We have the same problems with our new members at The Fossil Forum. I have seen some of the most clueless new members become, in a few months, some of the better meeter and greeters that help with posting problems of new members.

28th Jan 2020 22:28 UTCScott Rider

I don't mind all the rock IDs, I usually just check the posting to see if its interesting (is actually a mineral), and if not (or is just a pebble) I  move on... Its the blurry images that are intolerable.  I don't care if they are new to minerals or not, it is simply COMMON sense to post detailed images no matter WHAT it is.  Those should be deleted automatically...  

If they don't follow the rules, I say don't delete immediately, at least see if the poster will attempt to follow the instructions, but we should politely ask them to do so.  If they keep posting without doing so, then delete the post.  I think if the first attempt is deleted, MinDat will appear elitist (or whatever adjective you want), and will turn off new people to the website.

29th Jan 2020 04:38 UTCGregg Little

Echoing what Don Saathoff wrote;
Throwing in my two cents worth I really think we should always take the high road in our initial responses to the new comers. Admittedly much of it is rather mundane but once in a while a real “gem” comes along and, to miss it would be very disappointing.

Newbies who truly are interested and eventually participate will respond appropriately to our requests for additional information and better pictures. The “lazy” inquiries will drop away, much like the ardent metaphysical crowd as we will only entertain them so far.

Posting a note in the guidelines “rocks are much harder to identify than minerals” though usually true, is the very reason that person is visiting our site. This site has a strong and praiseworthy educational component and we should persevere on that high road, trying at times as it might be.

Expanding on Scott Riders elitist comment; it is important that the Mindat community foster scientific understanding at this time in our history. Humanity is entering a perilous period where understanding the natural world, and more generally science, will likely be our only route to survival. Apologies for proselytizing but one thing geology has taught me is that our existence on this planet is at best tenuous. Turning laypersons into citizen scientists could be one of our unspoken rules.

29th Jan 2020 07:17 UTCDale Foster Expert

Just a thought, when a 'new discussion' is started in the identity help section, instead of just a blank text box as we get now, can the system be set up to have a set of basic questions to be answered, e.g.

1. Where does the specimen come from.

2. Does it feel heavy or light relative to its size.

3. Have you undertaken any testing.


Perhaps this would help to get better ID requests.

A possible format could potentially look as below:

29th Jan 2020 07:32 UTCDale Foster Expert

1. Where does the specimen come from?

The specimen was found at Cligga Head, near Perranporth.

2. Describe the specimen, size, weight, colour, transparency and general appearance:

It is approximately 60mm by 55mm by 50mm. 
It weighs 400 grams.
It appears to comprise two different minerals, one dark grey / black in colour the other white.
The material is not transparent.
The dark mineral shows some smooth faces.

3. Have you undertaken any tests e.g. hardness?

The white mineral is not scratched by a pen knife blade, but the dark mineral does get scratched. 
No other tests performed.

29th Jan 2020 08:13 UTCKeith Compton Manager


It's a black and white rock !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ((-:)

Seriously, I do like your suggestion

31st Jan 2020 15:01 UTCEd Clopton Expert

Dale's outline or form with blanks to fill would be a good idea, especially if prefaced with "We don't expect anyone to answer all of the questions, but the more you can answer--the more info you can give us to work with--the better we will be able to help."  Even an example such as Dale's--perhaps reached via a conspicuous link ("Click here for a sample inquiry")--could be a big help to a first-timer.

1st Feb 2020 17:45 UTCDonald B Peck Expert

I   believe I am a fairly patient teacher, and I don't mind explaining my answers to queries (I only get a bit upset with those who think they have a diamond, or such, and won't give up in the face of contradictory advice).

Bernadette is perfectly correct in her observations concerning a new posting.  Further, the information at the top which scrolls rapidly out of sight is too wordy. I think what we need are a few questions, like those that Dale offered, that always appear above a new entry and are concise and easily scanned (and carefully thought out). 

I don't know what is possible, but I think the top of this forum needs a little redesigning.   Too many of us who respond are showing too much frustration.

2nd Feb 2020 11:29 UTCPaul De Bondt Manager

I really like Dale's idea.
Should be a button to thick at the end of the message " to make the message valid ".
Today, it's to easy post " gold, diamond and meteorite " questions.
That's why we have so many lately, all with the same result !

2nd Feb 2020 12:05 UTCDale Foster Expert

Ed Clopton Expert  ✉️

Dale's outline or form with blanks to fill would be a good idea, especially if prefaced with "We don't expect anyone to answer all of the questions, but the more you can answer--the more info you can give us to work with--the better we will be able to help."  Even an example such as Dale's--perhaps reached via a conspicuous link ("Click here for a sample inquiry")--could be a big help to a first-timer.
Precisely Ed, my suggestion was a rough idea, I didn't go through all the potentially worthwhile aspects.

2nd Feb 2020 15:53 UTCDonald B Peck Expert

I think we need Jolyon to weigh-in on this.
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