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I'm preparing for the imminent beta phase for the Gaming proposal on Area 51 by thinking up some good questions to seed the site with. However, after thinking about some questions I wanted answers to, I googled them and hit upon the answers I wanted quite easily.

I know that asking and answering your own questions is fairly common (and sort of accepted) practice on SOFU, since people routinely find their own answers/solutions. But should I seed a new site with questions that are trivially google-able? Or should I try and come up with more substantial questions for the beta phase?

I ask because I haven't taken part in a beta yet for any of the Trilogy sites. The issue of whether easily google-able questions are valid has been asked before, but those questions seem more relevant to a more mature SO. I'm wondering if the issue should be approached differently for a beta phase, where part of the focus is simply on getting our foot in the door to become a go-to resource for information on a given topic, whether or not it has already been covered elsewhere. Having that "common" information there may help to attract more attention to the site.

Thoughts?

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I can't wait for this proposal to go into beta. –  Earlz Jul 1 '10 at 20:42
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5 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I hate the connotation of the phrase "seeding the site" with questions. Maybe it's just me, but in doing so, I would like everyone to remember one really important point:

This is the actual, live site. The early participation is really, really important. The earliest questions will set the tone and topic of the site for a long time.

In short, you are going to get the site you build. If you want to ask question just for the sake of asking questions, at least make them really good ones.

Back when Stack Exchange 1.0 sites were struggling, there was a culture of "get questions at any cost." So sites were arbitrarily "seeded" with questions. Quality suffered and sites failed. Maybe I'm reacting to that. We don't need that seeding, per se. We have plenty of people using the site organically.

The quality early on is hugely important. Just use the site like you normally would. Hopefully, if you are interested in a site, you have some real problems you would like solved. Failing that, here's what you do:

Robert's Unexpurgated Guide to Asking Good Questions
(When You Are Already Too Smart)

  1. Listen to this song: Faces - Ooh La La
  2. Say to yourself the following: "Man, I wish I had Stack Exchange back when I needed to know about ..."
  3. Then, write down whatever comes into your head (as long as it's on-topic and legal).
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Thanks, this is very helpful. I guess I was getting hung up on the part of the commitment where you pledge "to ask at least three questions during the beta phase". I was having trouble coming up with good questions, since I foresee myself using the new Gaming site like I use SO (i.e. answering lots of questions, but probably not asking many). I'll take your advice and try to think back to some of the questions I've had trouble finding answers to in the past. –  gnostradamus Jul 2 '10 at 14:52
    
The "problem" is getting a "critical mass" of questions that tell the average user who stumbles across the site that "yes, this is a viable site". Only having a few really excellent questions could imply that the site is hardly used and you won't get an answer to your question. We need to have a fairly large number of questions that have answers and those answers need to be posted quickly - that's why SO is successful, you have a problem and you know you've got a fair chance of getting an answer within the hour. –  ChrisF Jul 2 '10 at 15:02
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Meat of Answer

Consider how "immediately usable" a resource you find on Google is. For a category like Gaming especially, the resources you find on Google can be extensively comprehensive, covering every last detail of the subject (and often in multi-page plain-text files). Comparatively, the exact problem a person may be very simple and short, which makes the single-question format of a Stack Exchange site much more appealing. As ChrisF points out, if it's trivially google-able, then you might exercise caution, but remember that we can offer a convenience that other resources may not.


Alternative Options

If you still find yourself short on questions to ask, consider asking the other users for good questions. Some of us might have questions that we are unsure that other users are able to answer, and it would improve things actually to have different users ask the question than having a whole bunch of self-answered questions, I might think. For Gaming specifically, there's always the chance that only one individual in the Beta group has actually played a certain game (especially in the case of obscure games and independently developed games), but that individual knows there are a whole slew of gamers out there who are playing the game that could use some help in a particular problem.

So maybe in the early Meta, during the one-week private beta, it might be a good idea for some people to pass around questions. That way, other people can get the reputation for asking certain questions, and we get to help share participation and form stronger community bonds.

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I'd say quality is much more important than traffic in the starting phase to attract serious contributors.

People are going to look for the quality of what's on offer first. If they see too much trivial stuff, they may not stay.

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Just use the site as you would normally use it

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See this question on the meta site (only viewable if you've committed of course). For those of you not on the beta here's the question:

See Meta question http://meta.webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/22/how-generic-is-too-generic/27#27 For the no seeding desire.

I am reading through some of the questions and as said before some require one word / sentence answers or copy/pasted answers. lmgtfy already does that whole googling for us feature. If the question can be solved by a google search that explain the steps then the question should be closed.

It is my understanding that this site is for expert and advanced users of web apps, so these users should be tech savvy enough to search for it first.

In the the way of the Trilogy, if and only if the OP cannot find what he/she is looking for he/she cant then consult a community in this case WA. So far there are only a few questions that come close to the level of detail of the trilogy.

There's only my answer at the moment, but we seem to have agreed that trivially google-able (as you succinctly put it) should be avoided, but you do need to think of questions that an average user would ask as well as the expert user.

The problem is that there are only a few hundred of us and we don't yet have many (if any) real problems we need solving.

If we were to limit ourselves to such problems then the site wouldn't have many questions at all and it would never get out of beta.

I agree that there should be good questions, but if you look at a lot of questions on Stack Overflow they could have been solved by a Google search or using the MSDN (for example). That said, a lot of these "basic" questions often turn up quirks and intricacies of a language or framework. I can see that happening for some of the questions being asked at the moment.

Don't forget that while we do need to attract the expert to provide the answers, we don't want to put off the vast majority of users who are (or will be) just after an answer to their question.

And the comments on the answer:

Okay well then I am stuck/confused with what @Ivo Flipse and @Robert Cartaino are saying can there be some unified definition of what private beta users are supposed to be doing otherwise I do not want to put effort in trying to answer a question if the OP already knows the answer. I want to help but I rather someone did not waste my time. – phwd 4 hours ago

@phwd - Actually, it's perfect reasonable to ask questions you already know the answer to. You could be after a better way, or even just verification you're doing the right thing. But I do take your point. I'm definitely treating it as a seeding exercise, but trying to ask questions that I think someone would ask. – ChrisF 4 hours ago

Great Example : webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/902/… 3 people answered the same exact thing for something so trivial – phwd 4 hours ago

@phwd - maybe we need a "too trivial" close reason during the beta phase. If people start seeing that they might get the message. – ChrisF 4 hours ago

+1 yes please ! :D – phwd 4 hours ago

Hope this makes more sense now.

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