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Ultimately spurred by this comment by kalina, I think that I've encountered the term before lightly, and I'm able to find multiple instances of its use on StackExchange. In this case, it was used as a verb, but I think that it can also be used as a noun.

What is the definition of this term?
If it is a descriptor, what other types of questions are there, or does this apply to all questions?

  • I was gonna answer, but I'll let someone else more verbose than me answer instead with a more detailed post. Anyway, my definition is: Asking questions (and sometimes answering your own question immediately) for the sake of supplying content rather than needing to solve an actual in game problem that you are having trouble with. – l I May 31 '13 at 10:48
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    A personal example would be: I play diablo 3, but I don't really care about the DH and WD classes. If I ask a bunch of questions about them with no intention of actually using the answer in game, that's seeding. I (and I think most people here) don't consider seeding a bad thing though unless the quality of the questions are poor. – l I May 31 '13 at 10:53
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    I guess I'll take on the role of the verbose one, then. – Grace Note May 31 '13 at 10:56
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    Be verbose, Grace, be verbose! – user27134 May 31 '13 at 10:56
  • @spartacus fear not :P – badp May 31 '13 at 11:26
  • @badp thanks :P – l I May 31 '13 at 11:39
  • possible duplicate of Should I ask seed questions involving problems I've never experienced? – user9983 May 31 '13 at 15:29
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Seeding is a (generally derisive) term for asking a (potentially low-quality) question for the sake of having asked the question. The intent is generally not to have the question answered, but to reap some related/tangential benefits from asking instead.

For instance, if I know a game offers a particular feature, and I know that feature will be of interest to people, it might be considered seeding to ask that question to get ahead of the popularity. (How does romance work in Mass Effect 3? Where is the secret cow level in Diablo 3? etc)

A high volume of questions can tend to evoke accusations of seeding, since it is assumed that if you only ask questions in the moment when you want to know the answer, the only reason to ask multiple questions at once is if you are motivated by something other than knowing the answer.

Seeding is a weird term, and a difficult one to apply consistently, since it refers to the intent of the question asker. Thus, one can accuse someone of seeding, but only the person asking the question really knows for sure what their intent is.

In my experience, seeding accusations are usually leveled at established members of the site rather than newcomers. If an new user asks a simple or low quality question, they're viewed as having no expertise. However, an established user asking a simple or low quality question is sometimes assumed to know how to get the answer for themselves, therefore, their motivation must be something other than knowing the answer.

I mentioned seeding as being generally considered a derisive term. However, there are many occasions in which we encourage or condone seeding:

  • Asking a question and answering it immediately could be considered seeding. The intent is usually not to get an answer to the question, as you already know the answer. However, this behavior is encouraged.
  • Contests add additional rewards for asking questions. Thus, you may ask a question not to know the answer, but because someone has promised you a TV for asking some number of them.
  • Grants where SE hands us games in return for us asking questions are also seeding. You are being compensated for asking the question, so this likely taints your intent to a degree.

I generally attempt to assume good faith when people are asking questions, and thus unless the offense is clear and egregious, I don't think it worthwhile to accuse people of seeding. I find this to be one area where it's easy to rile up a torch-and-pitchfork wielding mob against a user, and one that is very hard to defend against as the accused.

  • I don't know if I agree with the fact that seeding is derisive, at least I personally don't view it as that way. – l I May 31 '13 at 14:38
  • @spartacus, I think some people consider or use the term in a derisive fashion. I would agree with you that there are definitely "seeding-like" behaviors that are considered positive by the community, despite the loaded connotations of the word. (Hopefully I made that argument in my post...) – agent86 May 31 '13 at 14:40
  • A defining characteristic of bad seeding is an extreme lack of detail in the question - if the question appears to be one that is being asked based on what you've heard about or read about the game, rather than based on your having played the game and not seeing the answer... you're heading down the wrong path. When you ask several such questions... there's a clear problem. (Note the use of appears to be - one way to avoid such accusations is to be sure to write detailed questions that make your experience clear. 'What have you tried?' in other words.) – LessPop_MoreFizz May 31 '13 at 14:58
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz, I think there's a venn diagram between "low quality" and "seeding" - you can ask a low quality question without seeding, and you can seed high quality questions. Certainly "bad seeding" and "low quality" exist in the overlap, though. – agent86 May 31 '13 at 15:07
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    The thing about 'good seeding' is that nobody cares. – LessPop_MoreFizz May 31 '13 at 15:30
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz, and yet here we are... the incident that spawned this discussion is over a week old now, and I only see 2 of 12 questions from that event that are negative. Still, it seems we care about this perceived seeding. – agent86 May 31 '13 at 16:07
  • Sorry for the necro - but I thought it worth mentioning: I've also seen 'seeding' being used for 'self-answered'-style questions (with mainly positive connotations). Of course, that also implies that the user provided their solution along with it, and generally those that do make the question/answer fairly high quality. – Robotnik Jan 12 '16 at 5:21
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I'm not sure if there is a universally agreed definition of seeding, I'm presenting my own views on the topic here. The main reason to post a question here is because you don't know the answer but really would like to know it. If you post a question and are actually not interested in the answer, that is usually referred to as "seeding".

The motives for seeding can be just reputation gain, or more altruistic to try and help the site to gain more traffic or good content.

One big danger with seeding is that the quality can be low, because you are not actually asking about a problem you face, but something that you guess might attract traffic or votes. Bad seeding is also very noticeable, and gives a bad impression to visitors and answers because it is obivous that the asker doesn't actually care about the answer.

With bad seeding we look more like a content farm that produces content just to get traffic and doesn't actually care about the subject, it just gives a very bad impression to visitors. We want to be a site about actual problems that users have.

Seeding can also lead to a large amount of questions in a very short time, which brings additional problems with it as they displace other content from the frontpage. Only asking questions when you actually encounter the issue in the game automatically spaces out questions appropriately and avoids this issue mostly.

There is a large grey area though, and not all forms of seeding are considered bad here. The worst kind of seeding are bad questions that just try to occupy certain often-asked topics or keywords like the "What is the best build for ..." questions badp mentioned.

There are patterns very close to seeding that I consider beneficial and engage in myself. When playing a newly-released game, I often ask questions directly when I encounter them (alt-tabbing out of the game) without researching them myself. This would be very bad form on SO for example, but I think it is useful for a question-limited site like this where we essentially change our main topic with every new major game. Most resources that exist directly after launch have rather low signal to noise and are often incomplete, compiling good information here serves a useful purpose.

But the important distinction is that I ask only about issues I encountered myself and that I think are relevant to other people that will likely encounter them as well.

  • Well, this saves me the trouble of being verbose, since this approaches the same definition I wanted to refer to. I just want to add, another component is about not just wanting problems that people have, but problems that people in our community have. We discourage mass migration from an existing site to a brand new site because, while the content is indeed real problems by real people, it's not actually a part of that community growing out, and so it fails to reflect the expertise and inquisitiveness of the actual community. Same goes for manual seeding. – Grace Note May 31 '13 at 11:55
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    I will also stress the end point of yours, "not all forms of seeding are bad". We're all humans in this community and what is actually natural but heavy question asking may look like bad seeding and someone may take action. Our main opposition is "content for the sake of content", so if someone just has a lot of questions about a subject, it's a defensible position to be in. – Grace Note May 31 '13 at 11:59
  • @Mad Scientist: (1) What do you mean by "question-limited"? (2) I don't understand the reason for the conjunction of the sub-clause starting with "compiling". Can you revise your last two sentences in your second-to-last paragraph? The non sequitur confuses me. – NiteCyper May 31 '13 at 12:45
  • @Grace Note, (1) what do you mean "a part of that community growing out"? The fact that you use the article "that" makes it sound like you're implying and referring to immigrants affecting a sub-community of Arqade, and referring to that community in the singular because, in your example, they come to form one, but not... (2) What's "manual seeding"? (3) I think I get the gist of your last sentence, but "content for the sake of content" sounds ambiguous because that can also define Arqade (like web 2.0). For this purpose, I like and perhaps you'd prefer the "signal-to-noise [ratio]" metaphor. – NiteCyper May 31 '13 at 12:53
  • @NiteCyper (1) Our volume of questions is very low compared to other SE sites with similar traffic, we could easily handle more questions. (2) For old games there are often well-established resources, we don't provide much value by duplicating the same issues here. For new games the answers are often hidden in forum threads, if at all present, and there are no complete resources available, we have a much better chance of providing superior answers then. – Mad Scientist May 31 '13 at 13:01
  • (1) So tell me if my construal is correct: Because, video-games are often ephemeral, questions that are less in-depth, less researched are more OK? I think I get it. The window of time in which the importance of questions for flavour-of-the-month video-games is shorter than other SE sites, so they don't need as much "research", as you put it. Or do you mean research as in finding the answer yourself, because the questions you have may be more obvious? (2) Understood. – NiteCyper May 31 '13 at 13:21
  • This has little to do with signal-to-noise, at least the point I was making. Noise would be stuff unrelated to our subject matter or which is of no interest. To clarify on what I meant by "part of that community", it's not so much specifically our own case but a general case of "Brand new SE site whose subject matter crosses alongside an existing site", hence the rest of that sentence. I do mean a sense of immigration, that's what content migration does. It basically becomes placing the content of the existing site, instead of the actual community running the new site. – Grace Note May 31 '13 at 13:28
  • "Manual seeding" I just used to mean seeding by asking questions, as opposed to seeding through migration of existing content from another site on the network. As for "content for the sake of content", our mission is to provide content that people ask for. Not all of the content. "Content for the sake of content" would be populating our site with content that no one is actually asking for - questions because one can write up a question, not because anyone cares to ask (or, occasionally, it's not how anyone who cares to ask would ask). – Grace Note May 31 '13 at 13:32
  • @Grace Note: OK, so when you said that you "discourage mass migration from an existing site to a brand new site", you're referring to content, not people...right? I reread the sentence, but it's ambiguous. – NiteCyper May 31 '13 at 13:37
  • @NiteCyper "Migration" is referring to the mechanism of the same name within our network that moves questions from one site to another. Had nothing to do with actual people moving, since people moving is usually helpful if they stick around and become the new community. – Grace Note May 31 '13 at 13:38
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Seeding is, generally speaking, asking many questions quickly in a row.

The idea is that if you have a garden and plant some nice seeds in them, they will grow into many plants making the garden more beautiful. However, even if the seeds are top quality, if you plant them haphazardly (too close together) there will be problems; the roots will be concurrently fighting for the same resources, draining the terrain unevenly; the plants will ultimately not grow as tall and high as beautiful as they could've.

Of course there's seeding and there's seeding. This problem emerged one hour after the genesis of our site, when people started asking the same question as fast as possible changing maybe one word in the title. The picture's gone lost to the mists of time, unless Juan can resurrect it, but it looked like this:

I hope you can agree that this is extremely abusive (and dumb). I hope you can also agree that asking a question every few hours is probably fine; you're giving the site plenty of time to look at your questions, vote on them, edit them one by one. Sure, eventually even 1/month for many months gets tiring, but that's a different story.

So, it's obvious that there is a line here between what's okay and what's not okay. You might be asking what is it; I don't know. It depends really on a number of factors:

  • how active our site is in the tags you're asking about;
  • how much activity is there on the site at the time;
  • how close in time are the questions are together and
    • how likely it is for legitimate votes across your questions to be detected as targeted voting and thus be incorrectly reversed;
    • how disrupting it is from the various different time-sorted question lists, the ones most useful for answerers, such as (but not limited to):
      • the homepage,
      • the question list,
      • the tag question list,
      • the various different feeds,
      • chat;
    • how likely it is that your questions fall down the cracks through sheer exhaustion of looking at many different questions in quick succession (mitigated by the review queue)
  • how good your questions actually are;
  • how different they are from one another;
  • whether it's part of a bigger, more organized, time-sensitive community seeding effort like one of our occasional contests;
  • whether the game is brand new and interest on the internet about the game is spiking.

Your incident last week scores well in some of those metrics and not so well in others. Moderators are human exception handlers; our duty is not to come up with a line (that's left to the community to determine, usually), but to feel whether something is or not beyond the line and enforce, ultimately, what we think is the will of Stack Exchange and the community. I felt that you went overall beyond the line and warned you accordingly.

The lack of a specific line might make our action seem arbitrary and cause frustration in people who enjoy "playing in the grey", but it beats being paralyzed by the lack of a hard rule. If we were only to enforce hard rules, we could easily be replaced by a very small Bash script.

If you don't understand why a moderator thinks why you're going beyond the line, you should at least try and ask why (which you did, but only a few days after the fact), rather than declaring yourself unconvinced and keep going full speed ahead. Unheeded warnings may result in escalation.

  • Not to be pedantic, but Monks weren't a class in WoW until long after the site was renamed Arqade, and Fighter has never been a class! Oh and Wizards are called Mages. One out of four isn't bad though! ;) – user27134 May 31 '13 at 11:36
  • (1) So, does the term usually have a negative or positive connotation? (2) Your assertion that I asked why a few days after the fact is patently untrue. (3) What counts as "in a row" and "quickly"? (4) How shall I gather activity levels and ask questions accordingly in a timely manner? – NiteCyper May 31 '13 at 11:56
  • @NiteCyper It is usually portrayed in negative light, but that doesn't mean it is always a bad thing, or that anything stated as seeding is, in fact, seeding. – Grace Note May 31 '13 at 12:00
  • (2): I was referring to gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/118237/… – badp May 31 '13 at 12:06
  • @badp, I could have guessed, but the fact that you use the wording "ask why" most strongly causes me to recall my immediate response to the suggestion posed to me. You explicitly accuse me of not having "at least tried and ask why" within moments, which again is patently untrue. The fact that I don't always visit the site hourly or even daily should not be held against me. Indeed, I don't receive email notifications about responses to my comments that would have spurred me to respond sooner. Furthermore, my log of activity clearly shows that, beyond the last question that I had posted after th – NiteCyper May 31 '13 at 12:19
  • the warning, I demonstrated no activity on the site until the session in which I took notice of your response. I probably left the site within the 8 minutes between my asking of the last question and the posting of your comment. – NiteCyper May 31 '13 at 12:19
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    @NiteCyper Okay; that's irrelevant however to determining what is seeding – badp May 31 '13 at 12:21

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