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Seed questions are questions about hypothetical situations. Any user may post them, and they often receive really great answers and increase the value of this site -- that is the purpose of seed questions.

There has been an increase in seed questions lately. Sadly, not all of them are really great, but we lack an agreed measurement to sort them into "good" and "bad" seed questions.

  • Some of them are extremely obvious, but that's not a bad thing in itself because they may still be good.
  • Some of them are extremely poor and do get closed eventually, but usually that is preceded by some moderator evaluations on a case-by-case basis.
  • Some are mediocre and these are the annoying ones because it's usually obvious that they are seed questions, but not so obvious that they are poor ones. Larger SE sites have enough users that vote to close and things happen automagically, but Parenting.SE is not that big yet so we moderators do that manually. And we don't want to do that, especially not if the closing reason is subjective.

I would like to have a meta post that I can point to and say, See, this is why I am closing this half-assed seed question.

So: When is a seed question bad enough to be closed?

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"Seed questions" become harmful when folks come to believe that the author doesn't really care about the answer; or worse, the author doesn't even need any help at all! I wrote a blog post about this cited below, but worth a full read:

From Your New Site: Asking the First Questions …

Seeding the Site

I was a bit put off by the context implied by “seeding the site.” The word seeding suggests to me that we’re coming up with questions just for the sake of asking questions. My concern is, if people feel that the author doesn’t really care about the answer, the whole exercise would likely be perceived as a waste of time. …

The downside is that those hypothetical questions tend to be somewhat pedestrian for an expert Q&A site. When put on the spot to post content, we’re likely come up with uninspired questions that anyone would ask. And they’ve all been asked 100 times before on every other site on that subject.

One of the motivations driving this site the belief that you are helping others. Folks love to help others… but folks do not want to be given homework assignments or busy work.

If you have particularly interesting information to share, it's okay to share your knowledge, Q&A-style. If you have a particularly intriguing question asked out of genuine curiosity; that's okay, too. But I would stop short of flipping open that book of oft-asked questions to start seeding the site here.

So ask about problems you actually face. Encourage others to do the same. When you encounter obviously "seeded" questions, always moderate for quality. Questions with little effort or research should be closed with helpful guidance. But try not to let it devolve into endless interrogations of the author. They're likely just trying to help the site in good faith. But we have to continue to attract the experts we need… and the best way to do that is to keep the quality on that front page high.

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    This post doesn't include a category of "canonical posts" where often-asked questions are finally asked and answered comprehensively with everything you can do to overkill it. These are often detailed, step-by-step, ultra-clear guides for questions which get asked too often. That's a great way to have the best possible answer to the common problems and questions people have on this site. – Robert Cartaino Oct 9 '12 at 16:33

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