I find many questions on https://unix.stackexchange.com/ which, I feel, should be searched for on Google before asking here. I am sure that there are many others who feel the same. Does SE have some provision for preventing such stuffs?

What I feel is that people who ask such questions here are either too lazy to Google or they're too conscious of reputation score on SE. Recently I came across few such questions and that's what made me write this post.

Can such users be requested via email to try to do some homework before posting here? Or, in extreme case, can they be suspended/banned? In this case homework just involves querying the question on Google.

  • 6
    Sometimes you query Google, but you don't use the right words. I myself am very lazy, and proud of it. I google, look at a few results, and if I don't find it I go to SE. Next time I look for the same thing, odds are that I will use very similar wording, and this time the SE answer will pop up first.
    – ripper234
    Mar 22, 2011 at 8:09
  • 2
    I've noticed a more nefarious version of this: rather obvious questions being asked that are answered in the first page of google results, that are then answered by the original poster - sometimes very quickly.
    – jamespo
    Apr 3, 2011 at 20:05
  • 3
    @ripper234: And I've considered downvoting some of your questions on the grounds that they don't show any research effort, which is the primary use stated on the tooltip of the downvote button. I realize the value of having questions asked and answered in a way that gets found, but if you can't show in your question sone sincere attempts at solving your own problem, expect downvotes!
    – Caleb
    Jun 25, 2011 at 9:41
  • @Caleb - be my guest, downvoting questions is free.
    – ripper234
    Jun 26, 2011 at 6:06
  • @ripper234- Downvoting costs rep
    – beatgammit
    Jul 5, 2011 at 9:41
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    @tjameson That's only answers.
    – wizzwizz4
    Aug 22, 2017 at 11:01
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    When you write "Google" do you then really mean "search engine of your choice - including those that respect your privacy and do not track you"? Because if you really mean Google, then I can explain why I do not use Google: I changed to startpage.com as my primary search engine due to Google's privacy invasive tracking.
    – Ole Tange
    Dec 1, 2017 at 17:41
  • 3
    Using DuckDuckGo or another search engine is also fine by the way. :-)
    – Nemo
    Dec 3, 2017 at 9:10
  • @Caleb, when I search a question on <search engine of choice>, I always look first to see if any Stack Exchange links have shown up —even if they're not result #1. Only if they haven't, do I click the top link to elsewhere (with some disappointment). So there is value in having the questions answered on this site. Exception is things for which there is excellent documentation readily available, but then I'm searching the docs directly. When I go to a general search engine, I want to be pointed HERE. So I don't think ripper234's questions merit downvotes for your reasons.
    – Wildcard
    Jan 23, 2018 at 2:02

3 Answers 3


As Tshepang pointed out, the current thinking is in the blog post Are Some Questions Too Simple?

The TL;DR version of it is:

Can we improve on the resources that are currently on the Internet for this question? Yes or no, and why?

As expressed in handy chart form:

interesting question decision tree flowchart

  • So according to the chart, all questions should be answered if they're not trivial. Hope I understood it correctly. :) If that's the policy then I don't have any issues. After all it's founders' and community moderators' lookout. Thanks for the response and the chart. :)
    – Dharmit
    Mar 18, 2011 at 15:05
  • 26
    Add to this chart: "Is the answer posted on Expert's Exchange, but only visible if you pay $12?" -> Yes -> For the love of all that is holy, answer the question. (Keep knowledge free!)
    – eckza
    Mar 22, 2011 at 16:24
  • 8
    @kiv I would file that under "otherwise in need of improvement" :) Mar 22, 2011 at 22:01
  • I think this is the right way to go about this problem. I believe Google's algorithms put a lot of stock in stackexchange content. Having well-answered questions available on stackexchange sites via Google searches is surely a good thing.
    – boehj
    Apr 12, 2011 at 7:06
  • 1
    The image link is broken; it should be blog.stackoverflow.com/images/wordpress/…. (Unfortunately, I can't edit it (button is greyed out); don't know why.) Jul 8, 2016 at 5:36
  • 1
    @g.rocket: Thanks for finding the current location of the image. The edit button was greyed out for you because you aren't allowed to suggest edits on Meta sites; you can edit a post only if you wrote it or if you have editing privileges (rep≥2000). I took care of it. Aug 20, 2016 at 7:02

Official Stack Exchange goal is to have Google queries reach its sites, unless the questions fulfill this criteria. Note however that the founders of these sites are split on this one (as mentioned on that link).

  • 5
    I’ve always thought that if the goal is to stop really basic questions being asked, then answering them was the best way to do that — because then they come up in the auto-search that the ask box performs – as opposed to closing them, which doesn’t prevent anyone asking them in future, and may well put a first-time asker off the site for good. But I do get it’s a tricky balance between the hoards of clueless, inconsiderate casual askers, and the experts you need to make sites like this work. Mar 29, 2011 at 16:18

I am afraid that searching for a solution on Google has become a quasi-synonym of searching on Stack Exchange, seen the number of posts from Q&A sites that come up at the top of the results.

Sometimes I have experienced that getting hold of definitions of something on the www is discouraging because the number of people who struggled with that something is so high that the number of Q&A is overwhelming. The so-called general reference disappears towards the tail of the listing.

Skimming through search results can be so exhausting that one just throws down a new question, only for a greater sense of helplessness and urge caused by the search itself. Moreover, smaller devices only augment the eye discomfort and often invite using poor-quality time for activities that actually demand sustained focus and critical thinking. Hence, a shorter attention span and so forth...

Also, in many a parlance, search it on Google, google it or you'll find it on Google has become a sloppy replacement for you'll get it sorted yourself, won't you or I am a great expert, but thanks to Google I don't need try and explain myself, right?. This creates inflation of questions, I presume. (Not to mention that this may sound unfair to other search engines that are not Google...)

I believe that we should take into account the potential role of these situations in figuring out the trends within SE and the like. The risk that I see that the more search engines tap from Q&A questions (fair in itself), the more fractal the path to the understanding of what the question is about in the first place.

Possible mitigation measures. Have Q&A forums glossaries where the visitors can first figure out what they are trying to target first, and then formulate their questions? Would it be useful that to give more prominence to the tags and make their definitions serve as path-finders ahead of the question? Should search engines privilege the what is? questions, rather?


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