I have some photos of a weed that I'm having trouble identifying. Is that a valid question?

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If they're going to crop up and continue to weed about, we should at least edit the titles to be less than generic.

Here's a question title that's too vague and doesn't help external traffic:

What is this weed?

In fact, it probably doesn't help internal traffic when doing a search or browsing the site.

A great title gives you a heads up to what's ahead. Asking a vague question like the above gives none of that courtesy.

A better version could be something like:

Identifying a weed that has stocky roots, thorny stems and blue leaves

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    The plant puns, they are endless. – Paul Turner Jun 9 '11 at 9:45
  • I love this distinction. – Alex Feinman Jun 9 '11 at 19:45

Yes, plant (weed) identification questions are a natural part of gardening. In the case you cited, proper identification of the weed is the only way to know how to properly treat for it.

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It does raise the problem of duplicates though; having lots of "what is this plant?" questions without any way for that to be especially useful as a long-term resource, with the same plants being asked about repeatedly. It's a limitation of the Stack Exchange software that it's almost impossible to search for a question by trying to find similar images.

In general, Stack Exchange sites are trying to build a searchable knowledge-base of expert information; these questions feel like they'd not be very easy to search though and won't add much value to the knowledge-base.

Plant identification feels like a very niché thing though. Maybe we don't mind as long as it's under a specific tag? I almost want to see a big library of thumbnails of differnt plant pictures so I could search them for one that looks like the plant I'm seeing.

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    I agree, and that's why I asked here first. I've posted the actual question at gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/142/… with as much searchable metadata as possible. Hopefully someone could search for "red hairy stems and white flowers" and find my question. – lukecyca Jun 8 '11 at 22:37
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    @lukecyca - Your question is a good prototype for this sort of question. I have similar questions to post. One suggestion: some of keywords/metadata in the title will make it easier to scan when searching. – bstpierre Jun 9 '11 at 1:28
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    Would a glossary of common weeds (by country, region or climate zones) help at all? This may be out of scope for an SE site... – wax eagle Jun 9 '11 at 2:03

I thought I would post a generic "how do you identify stuff?" question to head off these sorts of questions (and because I genuinely want to know). Gaming is full of "identify this game" questions and I'm pretty doubtful about their value to the site. Not to say I'm against "identify this plant", I just think we should keep them to a minimum if at all possible by referring people to general resources (if any exist). Plant identification seems like it should be easier than game identification.

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    And SciFi has a lot of "identify this book I read 20+ years ago." – Michael Todd Jun 9 '11 at 4:32

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