3

I see lots of questions being asked for which a simple Google query which includes just the title of the question is enough to answer it, e.g. this one.

IMO they'd better be deleted/hidden from view because they pollute the Internet and Google search index with redundant data and make finding answers harder because Google cannot decide which of them deserve to be ranked higher.

What do you think about this? Sometimes I feel like the SE form for asking a question not only should include similar previously asked questions but also Google results.

5
  • 4
    If we delete these questions, how will the users get their answers? If they don't find their answers on the web, they ask us. If you find their answer on the web, what stops you from presenting that knowledge to the users in form of a well written answer? If there is a duplicate on U&L, then mark the question as a duplicate. If this is something that upsets or irritates you, you may choose to not engage with this sort of questions.
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Mar 4 at 16:21
  • Related on the main Meta site: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5280/embrace-the-non-googlers
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Mar 4 at 16:25
  • If it weren't for trivial, easily answerable questions, then how could the "reputables" gain their reputation?
    – qubert
    Mar 4 at 16:54
  • 1
    @qubert Note too that "easily answerable" questions does not always lead to good answers, sadly. Most of the time, they lead to "try this" type of answers, which nobody learns anything from. It's not easy to write a good answer, especially not to easily answerable questions.
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Mar 4 at 17:10
  • feature-request is for "an idea for a new feature, or for a change to the existing functionality" and if I'm understanding you correctly, the existing closure and/or deletion functionality would accomplish your goal of hiding them from view. Is this a request to implement Google search results on top of the existing SE search results during question-asking? I hear your frustration and I'm just trying to figure out which way this question is headed.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Mar 4 at 18:53
18

No. Because...

I'm not going to deny that some people who come here are pretty lazy. This is true of any forum and probably the main reason why "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way" was written.

However I don't generally agree with closing questions just because I can find answers on Google. This is for a few reasons:

  1. Filter-Bubbles: More than once, I've suggested someone google "x y z" and choose the first result... Then found that the first result for me wasn't even on the first page for them! Google personalises searches in a way that's really easy to miss. Even when you think you just started using a "clean" device, Google will start a new profile for that device and really rapidly figure out that the profile belongs to you.

  2. Top rated Google results are not automatically authoritative or even correct. How-to articles and blogs are frequently not peer reviewed frequently contain severe flaws which can mislead readers.

    Sometimes users will choose to disregard the top results from Google because they can't be sure they are correct / safe. On the other hand SE answers are usually read by many people and who vote and comment. This offers a level of peer review.

    I've added an example to the end of this to demonstrate this point

  3. Knowing which words to punch into Google is a learned skill, not something we're born with.

    Your comment was a helpful one because the link contained the search terms you used as well as a link to a useful article. This helps the user know what to search for next time. For extra credit you can add the search terms into the comment body.

  4. SE questions and answers have a life independent of the rest of the web. How-to articles and blogs come and go. So SE answers help pin knowledge in a more permanent way.

  5. Sometimes users miss an obvious step. They can wonder about something, google it, leave it for months or years, google it again, leave it again and then finally ask forgetting to google right before they ask. By the time they ask, their search would have yielded more helpful results.

    You linked a page < 1 year old and the subject matter (Windows 10) is 5 years old. It's unclear from this question when they first wanted this.

These questions are frequently (not always) less lazy than they appear and again the transience of blogs and how-to articles makes me feel these questions should be answered not closed.


Google thrives on redundancy

IMO they'd better be deleted/hidden from view because they pollute the Internet and Google search index with redundant data and make finding answers harder because Google cannot decide which of them deserve to be ranked higher.

This is a misunderstanding of how Google works. Redundancy helps Google not hinders it:

Google still uses PageRank (or some secretive proprietary form of it). Linking to a page increases the "importance" of that page raises it list of search results. SE use nofollow to prevent the site being abused by spammers; but it still remains true that "rubbish" questions and answers will draw few links in and sink to the bottom of search results, where well written and authoritative answers will draw many links in and rise to the top. Simply writing about a topic will never put you top of the results.

... this is why Wikipedia is ranked so highly despite ONLY being redundant and banning original research. (citation needed): people link to Wikipedia a lot...

By discussing the content of that page, they inform Google of other synonyms on the same subject. One primitive algorithm for this is LSA, though I believe Google uses something much more sophisticated. By discussing and paraphrasing the content of another page and providing a link to it you help Google identify other relevant search terms and phrases.


Top rated Google results can give really bad answers

A while ago I was setting up an NFS server so typed into Google the terms:

setting up nfs server

The top result was this dangerously wrong article: https://vitux.com/install-nfs-server-and-client-on-ubuntu/

The article suggests this: (WARNING DO NOT DO THIS)

sudo chown nobody:nogroup /mnt/sharedfolder

The users nobody and nogroup are supposed to be unprivileged with access to nothing. But the article suggest giving nobody and nogroup access to your entire NFS share.

This is a really good example of a situation where an "answer" is easily available on Google and yet very wrong indeed. How can a user know the difference between this situation and one where the answer they are reading is correct... U&L ultimately becomes more authoritative in many cases than Google results with conflicting view points presented on the same page and discussions about their correctness there for all to read.

2
  • 1
    Upvoted earlier for being a thoughtful and comprehensive answer. I thought I’d let you know that links from U&L answers don’t actually boost the destination’s page rank. Page Rank was a fabulous – and very elegant – innovation but spammers won’t let us have nice things. Many sites that rely on user-generated content (including Wikipedia and Stack Exchange) remove spammers’ incentives to wreck the site by adding the nofollow link relation to all external links (<a rel="nofollow" href="…). Mar 5 at 13:10
  • 1
    @AnthonyGeoghegan I've edited, I think what I say on PageRank is true now. Mar 5 at 20:57
7

A relevant issue I see is that

for which answers could be trivially Googled

is hard to define and harder to make universal enough. As others have pointed out, both here and on the main Meta, the search engine I use may be unavailable to the OP, or to other readers; the results they get may be different from the results I get; the results may change in the future; some of the top results may contain bad advice; the material in most search results is not reviewed. Other points could probably be added to this list.

A second point concerns the scope of Stack Exchange: as stated on the tour page,

we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about <site topic>

I am not being unable to find any primary source, but "library" and "every" have apparently been part of Stack Overflow/Stack Exchange's mission since the beginning. Meaning that on-topic, answerable questions are welcome here, regardless of the answers they have elsewhere.

Some discussion on the subject has happened on U&L Meta, too. Michael Mrozek's answer, positively received, states that:

All questions are welcome, even if they're easily googled, since future searchers will find us instead of whatever's on Google now, and hopefully our answer is more helpful

A special case may be the questions that happen to simply be really trivial, which are likely a subset of the questions search engines find lots of answers to. A "General Reference" close reason was proposed, but the idea was abandoned out of a too high potential for abuse. Regardless of whether we consider trivial questions an issue, it seems unlikely that new features will be introduced to address it.

As a personal note, among the results search engines show me, other things equal, I tend to prefer those that point to Stack Exchange sites. On average, they are less likely to exist solely for making money from advertising, they tend to have more useful comments and warnings and, despite the scoring system being far from perfect, they have a score.

1
  • To add to your last point: I've run into cases where I searched a question, got a top search engine result pointing to stack overflow, and found people commenting that the question was foolish because the first google result would answer it. Very ironic.
    – Wildcard
    Mar 9 at 19:41
5

The usual approach is voting. If I easily find an answer via a search engine, then I ask myself a couple of questions to decide how to vote. My proposal, in order of weight,

  1. No clear signs of attempts or research? I emphasize "clear" because there are many who write something like

    I have tried a lot but cannot come up with anything.

    Don't let such claims annihilate your judgement. Drop a comment requesting an edit with the attempts, consider postponing your decision or assume no attempts and reconsider your decision later if the asker ever adds her attempts (use the "Follow" button for new users because they may fail or forget to @ping you).

  2. Is the solution findable by simply querying the very keywords the asker has used to compose the question? There is a lot of difference between

    1. Difference between terminal, shell and TTY?

    2. How to replace the 4th | by a % in each of the first 10 lines of my file?

    3. How come port=3128; echo $port:localost outputs 3128ocalhost?

    Any search engine will find What is the exact difference between a 'terminal', a 'shell', a 'tty' and a 'console'? for the 1st example so you can be sure the asker did not bother to use one and want you to do his work.

    The 2nd example is certainly not an exact duplicate of any question but the asker should know that he should not search it verbatim if he wants to find an answer, but to generalize and divide and conquer that question by using more general keywords, along the lines of "replace nth character for each line" and then upon finding a Sed solution, proceed to search "Sed replace only on given lines", thereby joining the pieces to form his tailored solution. If the asker does not present any of those, I assume he did not put his share of effort.

    The 3rd one is puzzling and quite tricky to search because it relies on Zsh's :l modifier, which is not easy neither to search for nor to recognize (especially if the asker has no idea he is using Zsh), even though it has probably been asked and solved many times.

  3. Is the answer in a Stack network? Maybe it is in a random blog or forum, but not in Stack. How can folks know the solution is sound if there is no peer-review? Bring it to us!

If the answer is "yes" to all items, downvote and consider casting a "need more focus" or "lacks details or clarity" vote. Otherwise, weight it.

In any case, cast a duplicate vote if it the question was answered at Unix & Linux. Remember good duplicates exist, they have different wordings and help people find them! As the points above and Philip's answer argue, do not automatically attribute demerit merely because you can google the answer.

0

tldr; YES

Often these Stackexchange pages are ranked amongst the highest results by search engines, so any questions who's answer may have been easily found in a google search should be welcomed here with open arms. Often times the actual answer is displayed in the results page of a google search, so that is a bonus.

The real issue is that we should be concerned about is the quality of the answers. After all, this is a learning environment, and there truly are dumb questions in learning environments, but there are an abundance of dumb answers.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .