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I frequently find myself repeating instructions about how to treat spider mites, mealybug and scale. These pests are common indoor and out on a wide range of species. For example there are many questions about spider mites but when I search for treat spider mites the first five questions each have a portion of the information that would be a definitive example of how to treat spider mites.

Is is better to repeat myself for each question or provide a link to best of the breed answer on pest control?

The goal is to provide a link to a detailed answer in this site so visitors use all the resources on the site rather than getting a summary in my answer.

I note that this question also supplies a detail for this question. Why do high rep users become inactive? They get tired of repeating the same information over and over.

I am also aware of the obvious answer to this question: ask it and upvote. My point is that this question "how to control spider mites" has been asked many times but there is no answer that is easily found that is definitive.

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    Would this be a good topic for a community wiki? – Debbie M. Mar 22 '16 at 15:57
  • @DebbieM. Somewhere close by is an explanation of what a community wiki is but I am pretty sure that it does not boost it in the rankings for search. Does anyone know for sure? – kevinsky Mar 22 '16 at 19:10
  • @GardenerJ Looks like I asked the same question three years ago. Hm, looks like I should vote to close... – kevinsky Mar 25 '16 at 15:01
  • Well, if nothing else this question is currently on the Hot Meta posts tab, maybe we'll get some new ideas. Also, given the number of duplicates or almost duplicates we have by now there might be something to be said for trying to figure out (a means of deciding) which question gets the honor of being the best, and which get marked as dupes. – GardenerJ Mar 25 '16 at 15:11
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    let's see if this works gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/23708/… – kevinsky Mar 25 '16 at 16:38
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I think the best way to distinguish a single answer to the question "How do I control Spider Mites" as the definitive answer would be to first either find or create the 'definitive answer', preferably on a question that isn't plant specific.

Then we close all other 'how do I control Spider Mites on [plant]' questions as duplicates of the "How do I control Spider Mites" question that has the definitive answer. Which is fair because really the plant the Spider Mites are on rarely matters to the answer of how to control them.

Repeat as necessary for any other pests that have been asked/answered about frequently.

  • This idea works within the SE structure but would result in the closing of dozens of questions. Not a bad idea, certainly one that deserves more input from the community and moderators – kevinsky Mar 25 '16 at 14:43
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    I suspect there also might be some benefit to merging a number of answers from other questions into the resulting 'best question'. But that's definitely a mod-level question. – GardenerJ Mar 25 '16 at 14:51
  • Moderators, I summon thee! Wonder if that will work? – kevinsky Mar 25 '16 at 14:53
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    @kevinsky Duplicates aren't necessarily bad per se, and closing an older question as a duplicate of a better, newer one is not unknown either. Copying information from other people's answers is allowed, provided you reference the source material correctly; you can, of course, do whatever you like with material you've provided yourself. – Niall C. Mar 25 '16 at 17:19
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I question the premise of a definitive answer. Knowledge changes all the time, and what was true changes.

Also it is not common to see accepted answers having incorrect statements, and other answers for the same question, also highly rated, containing conflicting information.

Closing a question by referencing another question also may inhibit another user from providing a better answer because the other question has already been accepted.

As we get more international users (most questions don't state location assuming USA) different cultural practices may emerge in answers.

  • We'll have to agree to disagree on the control of spider mites. After the introduction of permethrin in 1973 which had residual activity there is not much new in control methods. – kevinsky Mar 25 '16 at 22:54
  • @kevinsky I was talking about definitive answers in general. I do have some spider mites amongst my carrots so await your definitive answer! – Graham Chiu Mar 25 '16 at 23:03
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As it is, this is a discussion site - ask a question get an answer or answers. Hence it will tend to be exploited as a way to be 'spoon fed'; that is to avoid the possibly hard work of finding answers for one's self on the web.

Maybe it is just easier to link to your favorite past answer when responding to a duplicate question. Or maybe just provide a link to the query search results. Question-user gets some assistance and nobody must rewrite the response they've provided umpteen times.

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I understand the frustration of people who end up answering the same question over and over again, and definitely don't want that to be the reason people get tired of participating. However, the same concern about attrition of our current user base applies to the potential narrowing of a new user base. As with identification questions, these leaf issues are frequently the reason why people come here in the first place. To them, it's a new question, pertains to their own plant, and wants it's own attention from the community, and we don't want people to feel unwelcome. You people have spent years trying to create that perfect balance between knowing when it's better to answer, link, or duplicate, hence the reason we're here in the first place!

I'm far from qualified to help, but I'm wondering if there's a way to supplement the definitive answer you're in the process of building. It's based on something I found at Cooking:SE, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was born out of the exact same type of frustration. (@Stephie, I know you spend a lot of time doing great things over there, so maybe you could correct me if I'm wrong.)

Is there anything to be said for creating lengthy tag descriptions, including references to certain questions on the site where people can look? For example, at Cooking, the tag has a long description designed to incorporate everything your definitive question would.

It has categories, each with lists and links, including:

  • Overview of food safety

  • Fundamentals, including top 5 things you need to know

  • Precautions to take

  • The answer to the basic type of "most asked question" from the community

  • Links to helpful outside resources

  • Links to further reading/most frequently asked questions on the site.

The format is legible, and the actual categories could be tweaked to work for our most common leaf or plant problem tags.

If the OP hasn't used the tag, we could add it once a diagnosis has been made. Even if the tag's there, that doesn't mean they've "studied" it, so we could add a comment linking to the tag description, as we do now for possible duplicates or things like query results, as Jim Young suggested. We could even add a message nicely asking the user to read it.

In a perfect world, people will look at potential duplicate questions as they write there own, or even after. In the same perfect world, people will read a novel-length tag description. This is not a perfect world, so I'm not saying this is the best suggestion, just a thought.

I know that adding tags is something we try to avoid, but we have a tag with no wiki or description. If anyone agrees, and feels like writing it, we could use it as a test.

  • wrote that spider mite tag up, one thing done – kevinsky May 15 '16 at 20:36
  • That looks great! – Sue May 16 '16 at 21:02
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I made a scale tag and starting tagging questions that are appropriate. Feel free to expand on the tag which I quoted from Wikipedia and tag more questions

  • I just noticed that. You're a busy beaver! – Sue May 21 '16 at 22:27

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