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In the span of a day, or little under/over that, there have been over a dozen questions about the newest web app on the block, .

The first handful were from users trying it out with fellow Web Apps users and maybe a Trello dev pitching answers.

But now we're seeing some of the newer questions being blatantly seeded from Trello's frequently asked questions. Even more that they're self-answers, questions asked only to be answered by the OP inside a few minutes.

It's no longer organic and instead feels like Trello has co-opted Web Apps as their own Stack Exchange. Without notice or a heads up. Is this a Flash mob like the R language on Stack Overflow we were not told about?

(In a slightly similar vein, Synergy was called out for dumping their support questions on Super User.)

Or is there some special case when the product is from Fog Creek, whose CEO and co-founder happens to be that Joel Spolsky you've seen here and there as the CEO and co-founder of Stack Exchange?

Is this forced seeding something we want?

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I'm the Director of Support for Fog Creek Software. I actually initially vetoed Joel's plan for using Web Applications as a support stream, and we went live with no reference to Web Applications on the site and no plan to use it.

A bunch of questions went up from organic users, including one inappropriate bug report, which I've flagged. We've answered those questions, and posted three or four today, all of which have arisen from customer contacts today.

I've also edited the tag wiki to direct people to the appropriate support streams for bug reports and feature requests. At some point relatively soon, we'll be pushing a new help page with a reference to Web Applications, At which time, the organic traffic will likely provide a question for us to answer, rather than us having to move them over from customer contacts.

Please let me know if there's a better way to interact with this community.

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    Thanks for letting us know. I think keeping the traffic "organic" is the best way to go for now. – ChrisF Sep 15 '11 at 20:52
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    Definitely prefer the organic. Even if you were pushing people to Web Apps from Trello (among other support avenues) and jumped on their questions as soon as they posted, that would have been more preferable to what seemed like second-guessing questions. – Eight Days of Malaise Sep 15 '11 at 20:57
  • So you're saying I can just let webapps take care of itself and check in every now and then? Done and done! – Rich Armstrong Sep 15 '11 at 21:03
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    Organic questions are excellent! And asking a question and self-answering is ok too. It's more that the questions that exist, particularly on the homepage of the site, and the number of them perhaps don't accurately represent the proportion to the members of the community here. – Rebecca Chernoff Sep 15 '11 at 21:19
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I'm more than happy to see Trello developers pitch in and answer questions from real users.

I'm fairly happy about them asking the odd (repeat odd) question and then another developer posting an answer a little while later.

However, obvious Astro Turfing isn't welcome - or indeed allowed - on this or any Stack Exchange site.

It doesn't matter who owns the company, it sets a bad precedent.

So, please stop and let the questions come naturally.

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    Roger that. We're learning as we go here. – Rich Armstrong Sep 15 '11 at 20:43
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As long as the questions are squarely on topic for webapps, I don't see what the problem is. If the questions have any quality problems, vote to close them. But as long as the questions are on-topic and useful, I don't see any peril.

As a matter of common courtesy, it would be nice if these questions came in gradually, as a flood of such questions will push other people's legitimate questions off the front page.

But there's nothing in the FAQ (other than the usual close reasons) that justifies closing questions that have been asked elsewhere, so long as they meet all of the FAQ requirements.

  • How would these posts or users fare on SO if they posted and self-answered about their brand new library? – Eight Days of Malaise Sep 15 '11 at 20:27
  • @Eight: Self-answered questions are perfectly OK, assuming that the library has broad enough appeal to other programmers that the questions are not too localized. There are question-asking throttles on Stack Overflow that limit the number of questions any one person (and possibly any one IP) can ask in a given time period, so it would have to be a coordinated effort by many people on different IP's to produce a true flood. – Robert Harvey Sep 15 '11 at 20:30
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    @Robert, that's part of the problem. Half a dozen or so questions on SO won't easily get noticed, here they're on the front page for most of the day. – ChrisF Sep 15 '11 at 20:37
  • @ChrisF: I'm open to an interpretation of the rules that forbids this, but I don't think one exists. If the site is that quiet, how is seeding it with questions a bad thing? – Robert Harvey Sep 15 '11 at 20:39
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    @RobertHarvey How about the FAQ? “The community frowns on overt self-promotion and tends to vote it down and flag it as spam. (…) If a huge percentage of your posts include a mention of your product or website, you're probably here for the wrong reasons.” – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 15 '11 at 20:49
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    @Gilles: Are we really calling these posts spam? If they're spam, that's a bird of another feather, but some people on Stack Overflow have historically bent the word "spam" to meet their own convenient interpretation. Spam is indiscriminate posting of advertisements, not posting of legitimate questions. On the SE network, that means you are promoting your blog, website or product with a sales message. Don't call it something it isn't. – Robert Harvey Sep 15 '11 at 20:53
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    @RobertHarvey I am using spam in the sense of unsolicited advertisements, which is the meaning I've seen most often (it doesn't carry a connotation of off-topicness; if you post message upon message about the jeans you're selling, it's spam, even on a clothes forum). Asking questions about your own product is unsolicited. Doing it in a large amount is advertising. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Sep 15 '11 at 20:58
  • @Gilles: Hm. Well, I should have done this before I posted, but I did just take a quick look at the front page, and I don't see anything at all unusual happening, other than Rich Armstrong has posted five questions in the last four hours or so. Note that there does seem to be a degree of official support for this kind of seeding. Folks may not like it, but it's not exactly unprecedented. – Robert Harvey Sep 15 '11 at 21:04

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