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It seems like Stack Overflow is being watered down by the same old questions and answers. I am constantly seeing questions that can easily be googled in less than 2 minutes. Does this bother anyone else that no one even tries to answer their own questions now? I'm starting to see an increasing number of easy to answer questions. I really don't know how to rectify this except making the rules more strict and start deleting posts or closing them more often.

I just want to see what everyone else thinks because it seems like it's becoming that way.

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Vote to close them with the appropriate close reason? (Dupe/Not a Question ...)? – cularis Aug 18 '11 at 11:25
@cularis sometimes it may not always be a dupe but just a 2 second google search. I thought SO was trying to avoid stuff like this. – Matt Aug 18 '11 at 11:34
Well your question started with "... by the SAME old questions" => dupe ;) – cularis Aug 18 '11 at 11:37
I've flagged this question as an exact duplicate :P. – Wooble Aug 18 '11 at 13:25
possible duplicate of Dealing with endlessly repeated questions – Lance Roberts Aug 18 '11 at 17:46
They do it for the same reason you posted this question which gets asked a lot, because search is a pain. – Lance Roberts Aug 18 '11 at 17:47
@Lance Roberts, except my question deals with more than just dupes. It also deals with questions that shouldn't be on here. – Matt Aug 19 '11 at 4:12
@Matt, yes, but the reason they shouldn't be on there is because the OPs didn't go though the minimal work (pain) of search. My broader context was the Internet as a whole, though in parallel to SO. – Lance Roberts Aug 19 '11 at 4:18

I don't know that I would agree it's becoming that way. Simple questions have always been asked on Stack Overflow, and they've always been acceptable to ask on Stack Overflow.

The problem is, what's "simple" for you may not be simple for another developer. I think Win32 programming is "simple", but that's not a very widely-held opinion and there are a whole bunch of questions asked about it. Because they're relatively easy for me to answer, I try to do so. People really appreciate those answers, because they've been struggling with that issue all day. Likewise, there's some seemingly obvious stuff that I don't know anything about because I either haven't been exposed to it at all or I spend very little time using it. I'd be a total "newb" in PHP development, for example, and ask some dumb/easy questions.

If you don't want to answer the question, then just move along. If you know the answer and have a bit of time, then you might as well provide a really good answer, get a few reputation points, and help someone out who might not know that area of development as well as you do. And, of course, if it's just a really badly-asked question, then you should downvote and flag/vote to close. We have a zero tolerance policy for bad questions, regardless of their depth and scope.

Some people think that we should add a "general reference" close reason for really simple questions. But I'm against that. To expand on an argument I made in a comment earlier today:

There is no such thing as a "general reference" programming question. Always assume that the asker has already read the documentation, but didn't understand it. Programming-related documentation has a not-undeserved reputation of being written in "techno-babble", no matter how "general reference" it is or is intended to be. The person asking the question needs an explanation of what it says and what it means and how to apply it to their situation. Short, "reference-style" answers are perfectly acceptable in these cases.

As I see it, the most important thing is that we get the content available on SO. There's no guarantee that the "official documentation" won't up and generate a 404 error in a few months. This is especially likely for some of the smaller open-source projects, but even MSDN links are notorious for breaking and ending up rather useless.

Simple questions, though, are an entirely different issue than:

It seems like Stack Overflow is being watered down by the same old questions and answers.

If they're the same questions and answers, then you should be flagging or voting to close (whichever is appropriate for your reputation-conferred privileges) those questions as possible duplicates. There is absolutely no reason for us to rehash the same issues over and over again. I agree that not only is that not helping anyone, it actually makes it harder to find the good answers in the long run because they're spread out over a bunch of poorly-asked questions. Closing and merging duplicate questions is the proper, built-in solution to handle this problem.

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This is true, but what it really comes down to is simply searching for it. Like you said you know win32, i don't, but I'm not going to ask how to print a string or buffer. I can search really quick and find multiple answers. it just really "grinds my gears". – Matt Aug 18 '11 at 11:39
@Matt: That's just the thing. Printing a string or buffer can be fairly difficult and complicated, depending on the circumstances. Sure, you could waste a bunch of time looking for the documentation and trying to figure it out. That's what I'd probably do; I don't ask many questions. But I don't see why people who ask first are unwelcome guests here. What started out as merely hypothetical in SO's early days has actually become reality for me: searching for an answer on Google, ending up with the first hit as a question on SO, and reading a rude comment that says "do a Google search, newb". – Cody Gray Aug 18 '11 at 11:41
i can see what you are saying. I definitely get it, but it just seems SO has lesser quality questions these days i guess you can say. – Matt Aug 18 '11 at 11:56
@Matt: I'm not seeing that. A lot of the questions asked in the early days were just as simple. Some were even for-fun-only questions, something that we've now cracked down on in trying to define the scope of the site. And not to be rude here or anything, but you asked this question about a year ago, and I definitely consider that "General Reference". I'm honestly surprised that I don't find a "consult your favorite C programming book" comment left there. (That's not to say I think it's a bad question; see above.) – Cody Gray Aug 18 '11 at 12:00

Per the tooltip on the downvote arrow:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

If you feel the question indeed ...

  • does not show any research effort
  • is unclear
  • is not useful

... do not hesitate to vote it down.

(and remember that downvotes on questions no longer cost 1 reputation to cast, and your daily vote allocation goes from 30 to 40 when you vote on at least 10 questions...)

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i have been utilizing this more. I'll post a comment and downvote. – Matt Aug 18 '11 at 11:48

I don't know. I think that there are a lot more n00bs and a lot more newbs, but there always have been. I mean, the site is getting 19k < 200 rep users per month (currently there are 700k listed in that category, divide by the number of months the site has been along). There will be newbs.

And, honestly, most of the questions will always boil down to RTFM of some form or another -- but most people don't know how to ask the right questions, look up the right indexes, or even use the right manual (ever find someone looking up help with Java when they need help with JavaScript?).

All of that said, I am frustrated by the fact that there is one, very annoying, series of comments (so, quick poll, who would win in a battle between Bobby Tables and Regex for HTML?) which need to be repeated to what feels like every user. I am just glad that I am better at handling that then some.

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Plus, most documentation is crazy hard to track down, and done poorly. – Lance Roberts Aug 18 '11 at 17:48

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