I don't believe questions like the following deserve to be closed...

What are the (essential) Tools that every gardener should own?

The point of this site is to answer questions. Not all questions we have about gardening have a single best answer.

The link above is the best way to answer some gardening questions?

It is extremely discouraging that each SE site takes on the rules of a Technology QA site without giving the framework any thought.

3 Answers 3


Where the vast, vast majority of list questions go wrong is they stop being about a problem that needs a solution and veer drastically towards simply polling the community. So much so, that we simply choose to forgo them altogether.

The blog post Good Subjective, Bad Subjective covers this. The earmarks of bad subjective is when the thread quickly fills with many "I did this", "I did that", and "I did blah blah blah" responses. Honestly, if that many people have their own answer, was there ever really a question? When answers don't even purport to explain why their solution is better than any other, it goes from being Q&A to just a poll of the community. It's a conversation starter. Overly broad questions are just soliciting a collection of random answers. Folks will vote this stuff up, but it's just not good Q&A.

The Trouble with Popularity

This is a tough sell, but listen carefully because if you want this site to survive, you need a place where people are asking very interesting and challenging questions, not the uninspired poll questions that have all been asked 100 times before on every other site on the subject. If this site wants to rehash the same old conversations found in any random message forum, there's really no point in trying something different here.

If we can avoid questions that are simply asking, "Let's hear what everyone has to say about…", we can maintain the ideals of great Q&A. This is especially true during beta when you are still setting the tone and topic of what people will bring to this site; and you want this site to be interesting for those who come after.


When you say G&L is having to take on the "rules of a Technology QA site", I'm not sure what specifically you see as problematic about that. Some questions here have right and wrong answers and some are more about the gardener's personal opinion but that's the same for programming questions on StackOverflow. There are important differences between us (scale, geographic relevance) but that's a different discussion.

List questions and their usefulness (or lack thereof) have been much discussed at meta.stackoverflow. Find some of the discussion here:

Exceptional cases for list questions
Are recommendation questions acceptable kinds of Lists or just plain Lists that we need to close?
Why are people closing “What is best?” questions?

  • The meta rules surrounding a programming stack evolved within the context of that topic and those users and essentially became the ultimate tech-support wikorum around for programming questions. This is supposed to be a gardening Q&A site, not just garden tech-support (IMIO). The meta rules need to be based around how gardeners ask questions, not programmers. Feb 5, 2012 at 0:07

List questions are discouraged because they are endless and little more than opportunities for everyone to be able to have their say without a wrong answer.

Yes, the Stack Exchange started with programming and technology topics where things can be concise and finite. But that doesn't mean that when you get to the less tech-oriented fields you should kick open the flood gates and become once more with the forums and their discussions ad nauseum.

The force behind Q&A are the questions and answers. List questions aren't questions. They're topics of discussion and collation. Fielding as many responses and notes with a flagrant disregard to answers that help others better understand the craft in a constructive manner, whatever that may be.

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