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What do you think of taking this approach so that we can get more of a subject matter specific focus?

  • I like the underlying idea, but think this just sounds too negative and is prone to overzealous interpretation. I've slapped together what I hope is a more constructive spin on this here. – Todd A. Jacobs Jul 23 '12 at 2:25
  • @CodeGnome - Your self-answered question is awesome and does an excellent job of clarifying this item. I added the faq to it so that others will see it from the main page. With that said, have you seen any evidence that having this in the faq has caused problems? – jmort253 Jul 23 '12 at 3:49
  • Do you think we should revisit the "If you can Google it, don't ask it here" line in the FAQ? I'm not suggesting lowering quality, but I keep reading Shog9's warning below and think maybe we should look into how English Language and Usage solved this problem. Should we model their "General Reference" solution or some version of it? – jmort253 Aug 7 '12 at 8:15
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If followed strictly, such a policy would effectively kill the site: anything you can't google won't be found by folks who could benefit from answers.

What's your goal here?

  • We've had issues in the past with questions which are simply looking for definitions or people to do their homework for them. This has negatively affected participation on the site by experts on the subject and diluted the value of the site. – Mark Phillips Jul 6 '12 at 0:18
  • Focus on that then; as a community, you're free to define your scope as necessary to ensure the questions you want are included, and undesirable questions are excluded. This can - and should - be considerably more nuanced than simply, "this can be answered using Google." Attempting to provide better results than Google is laudable; attempting to fill the gaps in scope a fool's errand. – Shog9 Jul 6 '12 at 1:13
  • I understand what you're saying. But we are not trying to fill in the gaps for Google. We are using the expression as short-hand to get the idea across. Have you seen that approach work/not work on other sites? – Mark Phillips Jul 6 '12 at 1:17
  • Probably the best "success story" is EL&U, for which the "General Reference" close reason was created. Even there, "dictionary" questions were just a symptom of a larger problem - but the idea that there was a canonical reference that anyone interested in the topic should already have at least works there. Conversely, I've seen the "google" shorthand backfire horribly when folks latch onto it who don't realize it is shorthand - for instance, closing non-trivial questions on SO because they (knowing the answer and thus how to search for it) managed to find an answer documented somewhere else. – Shog9 Jul 6 '12 at 3:04
  • @Shog9 - We have a great community here, and the vast majority of users we've spoken with are critical thinkers who carefully weight the value of each individual question against the guidelines. I don't think we'll have a problem, but we'll definitely keep our eyes peeled for any issues. Also, please see my answer here: meta.pm.stackexchange.com/a/377/34, which highlights an example of what we hope this guideline will help us overcome. Thank you for your feedback, I really appreciate it! :) – jmort253 Jul 6 '12 at 5:49
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In a completely unrelated post I pointed out that someone's question was a great question because:

This is a tough question to Google for unless you know the right search terms.

To the extent that you would expect a Scrum Master to know what a "daily scrum" is, or a PMP to know what a project charter is, I think you could certainly define certain classes of question as too basic to be asked without some context showing why the question is on-topic.

On the other hand, using the fact that search results can be found on Google is not, ipso facto, sufficient to disqualify a question. I would certainly classify an easily-searchable question as having a smell, but I think there needs to be more than one axis in the metric.

Perhaps a better metric is whether the question shows a lack of research, or is asking for a complete and predigested tutorial. I will go so far as to suggest that a "failure to Google" is a prerequisite for both these conditions, but is not sufficient in itself to make the diagnosis.

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To clarify what we mean when we say "If you can Google it, don't ask it here", here is an example closed question that falls squarely under this guideline:

Someone who claims to have 5 years experience -- see this question -- should be able to find this information on Google. At the very least, the asker could use that information as the basis for a more in-depth beginner question, and I suggested this as a starting point and even gave the asker a link to such material.

We welcome and embrace beginners but expect them to show that they're enthusiastic about the subject. We ask that users have done a little research before asking. Even spending 5 minutes reading about design documents may have given the asker the tools to edit his existing question and sculpt it into a much better beginner question.

With that said, our site scope is in a state of change, and we'll be keeping our eyes open looking for any problems early on so we can make adjustments as necessary.

If anyone sees or experiences any community issues as a result of this new guideline, please bring this up on meta as soon as possible, along with an example of the problem.

  • I think your example is excellent, but I just think the overall result will lead to LMGTFY links. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/15650/…. – Todd A. Jacobs Jul 23 '12 at 2:30
  • @CodeGnome - As of today, I'm not too worried. Our community is filled with very respectful people who play nice with others, almost to a fault. As an example, see Zsolt's comment to the user who asked a NC question., which is an excellent way to ask for more clarification while also providing a helpful link. If we do find people becoming rude, the faq does say "be nice", and we'll gently remind people of this. :) – jmort253 Jul 23 '12 at 3:46

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