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So, let me get this straight. Posting links is not against SE rules. However suddenly and it's the first time I hear this: "posting a link to a Google search could most certainly be considered rude by many users".

  1. I've got a lot of experience of dealing with users (as a support manager, as a systems administrator, as a frequent user of various help related forums, as a person who helps his acquaintances and family) and I've never ever got any indication that people were offended when being showed a Google search which resolved their issue. The only reaction which I got was "Wow, it's that simple!".

  2. Now, someone has personally decided what users of this website may consider "rude" or not, which sounds a little bit hypocritical.

  3. Lastly, in a number of cases when I posted links to appropriate Google searches (when they were not momentarily deleted) I was thanked and the questions were resolved automatically without reposting the information already available on the Internet here on SE.

So, I wonder:

  1. Why am I being threatened with a ban for posting links to google.com despite no rule on SE forbidding it implicitly or explicitly.

  2. Who and based on what actually decides what constitutes "rude" and for how "many users" by posting such links.

Case in point:

  1. People often post lmgtfy.com links on forums as a sort of mild mocking (it's not mocking per se, it's just a reminder that Google still works and does help too often than not). No one has ever called such posters "rude" or any similar words. Last time I checked it's not bad to teach people how to search the web. I see no reason to copy the contents of the web to SE just for the sake of it.

  2. Case in point: people continue to ask questions related to NVIDIA GPUs under Linux and in 99% of cases they get zero help, because NVIDIA has its own Linux related forums. Is redirecting them to https://forums.developer.nvidia.com/c/gpu-graphics/linux/148 "rude"? Maybe instead we should leave them high and dry and get no answers at all?

  3. Case in point: people here do ask questions for which we have no one to resolve them in any capacity, yet a simple Google search would have solved the problem for them. I presume the consensus here will be to remain "polite" instead of being "helpful" and "rude", correct?

I'm appalled. A URL makes me a "rude" person.

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  • Related Meta question: "Teaching how to fish" considered abusive?
    – Kusalananda Mod
    Aug 4 at 17:13
  • "suddenly and it's the first time I hear this" -- so, where did you hear that? Is there some context to this?
    – ilkkachu
    Aug 20 at 12:13
  • 1
    OK, Jeff Schaller now tells me to stop leaving comments as well. This is getting ridiculous but OK, I will try to restrain myself. Maybe I should just f* leave this website. Aug 29 at 14:18
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Thank you for posting this Artem because there seems to be a serious misunderstanding. We discussed this with the other mods when you first mentioned a "ban" and we haven't been able to understand what you are referring to. If any of us said something that made you feel you were being "threatened with a ban", then we must have not expressed ourselves clearly. As far as we can tell, none of us ever knowingly threatened you with any ban nor was a ban ever in question.

That said, the problem isn't leaving a link per se, there are various issues here:

  1. Leaving a Google Search link is pointless: Google will tailor the results to the user, so the results you see won't be the results the OP sees. And, since you are a *nix geek, you have probably trained your Google well over the years to show you relevant stuff. It is entirely possible that the search will be far less useful to the OP than you expect.

  2. Leaving a link to google with no explanation can feel like you're telling the user "just search, you lazy idiot". I understand this may not be the intention, but it can come across that way. In other words, this would be fine:

    You can find many articles explaining this if you try searching for "foo" and "bar". Please have a look and ask a new question if it is still not clear.

    This, however, is at best curt and at worst can be received as rude:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=foo+bar

    Believe me, I completely understand the frustration of users who don't even bother to run a basic search before asking. However, if you are not willing to put in the effort to write out an explanatory comment (which is more than understandable!), then the best thing to do is just ignore the question. Leaving a Google link is just not very pleasant for anyone involved.

  3. You mentioned LMGTFY links. Those are actually explicitly banned on the Stack Exchange network, so yes, please never use them.

Now, you also mentioned leaving a link suggesting a different resource such as the NVIDIA forums. As far as I am concerned, at least, that's absolutely fine! I would ask you to actually write a message instead of just dumping a link, however. So, instead of just

forums.developer.nvidia.com/c/…

Write something like:

NVIDIA has its own Linux related forums so you are likely to get better answers there: forums.developer.nvidia.com/c/…

Or, even better, make it clear that there is nothing wrong with the question, the OP didn't break any rule and the question is on topic here (assuming it is), but they simply could also use a different resource:

This question is perfectly on topic and welcome here, but you might also want to try over at the NVIDIA forums since they will have more expertise on this sort of thing.

Just something so the OP doesn't feel that we're kicking them out and they understand that you are actually trying to help.

There's another issue with link comments: when you leave a link to somewhere else, and that other place has the answer, then you have basically removed the incentive of anyone to post an answer, leaving us with an unanswered question and no increase in the net amount of information on the site. The entire point of the SE network is to provide answers here. Yes, that does sometimes mean repeating information, but frankly we often improve on the quality of what is available elsewhere. For example, someone with your knowledge and experience would be able to distill the information from the external link and make it more accessible to the OP and the next few dozen or thousand users with the same question.

So yes, we far, far prefer that you repeat the information (especially if you improve on it) and provide an answer rather than a link which is a signpost indicating where an answer might be found. Plus, links rot and break and are not always available. We want to build a library of answers here not a collection of links that might not work a month from now.

Finally, what constitutes "rude" is a very hard question to answer and one that nobody has ever been able to give a general answer to. What is rude for you might not be rude for me and what is rude in my culture might be polite in yours etc. That is indeed a problem and there is no good solution. The best solution we've come up with is to have people who are elected moderators and act as "human exception handlers".

What usually happens is that another user flags something as rude, and then we have a look. We will discuss such things between us and if we all agree something is rude, then we call it rude. We don't go around searching for these things, we see what users flag for our attention and what we happen to come across as users of the site ourselves.

Obviously, we won't always be "right" (whatever that means in this context) and we won't be 100% impartial, but we try our best and ask for the opinion of the other mods to be sure that we avoid ever having one person deciding on this sort of thing.

Yes, that isn't a perfect system but it's the best we have. When you feel that we've acted wrongly, please do exactly as you did now and open a discussion on Meta! We will explain our point of view and if it turns out that the community disagrees, well then the community's opinion will always overrule the mods.

So, in summary, you were not threatened with a ban or certainly not intentionally and my apologies if you felt you were. Posting links is not a problem, posting certain links and in certain ways (with no context) is the problem. And LMGTFY links are not allowed.

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Hi and thanks for bringing this to Meta.

Let me start by saying that I recognize the quoted phrase as my own, which means I will first address a fact that terdon already mentioned in his answer: Moderators are notified by users flagging questions, answers, or comments as "rude or abusive" (questions and answers) or as "unfriendly or unkind" (comments). It is the users of the site that decide that they think a comment etc. is rude or unfriendly and initially flag it.

When that happens, the flag appears in a moderation queue for us to look at. I tend to read the text and try to imagine whether I too would possibly be offended in some way if I was in the position of the user who flagged it (taking into account that the user that flagged it presumably was offended in some way). Sometimes it's clear cut, yes or no. Sometimes we may well have to talk it over in the group of moderators, like terdon said. Sometimes we get it wrong, but most of the time I hope we get it right.

I am well aware that none of us can decide what's objectively unfriendly or rude. We can however look at what others feel offended by and try to work out whether their flagging was warranted or not (in fact, this is one of the things that moderators are expected to do and I'm not aware of any other way to do it). Also remember that we are users of this site too, as much as anybody else. As a user, I too get offended and annoyed by certain behaviors, just like any other user.

I still stand by my statement that it would be rude to be pointed to a Google search as a comment-only "answer", because that is one type of comment that I see people flag as unfriendly, and because that's what I would think of similar comments on my own questions. To me it signals two things: 1) you have decided that I haven't researched my problem, and 2) my question is not worth your time.

Such comments are also lazy, which I believe I said in my interaction with you from which you took the title for this Meta post.

If you know of an answer, then please write it up in your own words, possibly pointing to online resources as support for your text or for further information. If you don't have the time to do so, or feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of people wanting help with various things, then consider that there are other users of this site that may well answer the "simpler" questions, and that you instead could concentrate on the questions that really interest you and that better fit your area of expertise.

Posting fire-and-forget links to other forums in comments also short-circuits the purpose of this site, which is to give well formulated and peer reviewed answers to question relating to the use and administration of Unix and Linux systems.

This aspect is discussed in two questions on the main Meta site, with the general conclusion that this site is the site to which Google searches about the use and administration of Unix and Linux systems should point. To say that in other words: You should ideally write the answer that "the obvious Google search" will point to.

You are absolutely welcome to refer people to external special-topic forums. However, do so while at the same time answering the specific question that the user is asking. This means writing an actual answer, which means spending some time being helpful by putting your experiences and thoughts into words for someone with a problem that needs solving.

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Yes, thank you for bringing up your concerns on Meta!

Beyond what terdon wrote, I'll add my two cents on this point:

Lastly, in a number of cases when I posted links to appropriate Google searches (when they were not momentarily deleted) I was thanked and the questions were resolved automatically without reposting the information already available on the Internet here on SE.

The mission of SE, as written in the U&L tour page is:

With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about Unix or Linux.

Comments that point elsewhere for an answer do not support SE's mission. Comments can add information, clarify corner cases, provide supporting documentation, etc., -- but they should not take the place of Answers. When you say:

when I posted links to appropriate Google searches ... the questions were resolved automatically

... the questions were not resolved automatically. The OP may have found a solution and moved on, but future visitors to the site will find an unanswered (or deleted) question instead of an answer.

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