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Stack Overflow sites can give good answers blazingly fast, I have asked questions which have been answered in minutes which no amount of Google-fu could help me with. This is makes it a great resource.

However some questions could simply be answered if the question was typed into Google, with potentially good answers elsewhere. Is it yet considered bad etiquette to do this? Should it be?

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Im not sure which your question is referring to. –  Ian Elliott Aug 13 '09 at 14:40
    
None specifically, just a tendancy to read some questions and prehaps look for an answer and realise that it is just a search away. –  Jeremy French Aug 13 '09 at 15:42
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3 Answers 3

Although it is realistic to say "You should just google it", one of the goals of Stack Overflow and other related sites is to make our answers the #1 hit on Google and other search engines. If that is the case, then telling them to "go google it" makes no sense.

If they ask a question and you can provide an answer from Google, it may help if you provide some relevant links with descriptions about the information provided. Maybe give some short quoted material and examples. There is nothing wrong with providing information from Google, but don't just go and say "Just Google It, dummy".

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(-1) I would still want "php.net" to be the definitive source for php. I would still want people to check blogs and MSDN and other sources to find the OBVIOUS answers to some of their questions. There is a constant new flow of information coming at all times, and duplicating it on SO just because people can't manage to figure out a search engine is just ridiculous. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 14:58
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@devinb: that's why your answer should link to the definitive source and quote only the most relevant portion (not the whole article / API doc). Users looking for documentation on a PHP function on SO can and should be directed to php.net; users looking for help finding the right API for a task in PHP can and should be answered directly, with links to supporting information on php.net (though PHP.net certainly provides a facility for this as well, SO provides the discrete Q&A format to aid in searching...) –  Shog9 Aug 13 '09 at 15:14
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If a google search of the exact title of the question yields the correct answer on the first try, then I would consider the poster to be wasting everyone's time. We seem to be moving toward a world where people aren't expected to do their own work, they just crowdsource it. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 15:20
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@devinb: I understand your argument, but disagree with it. SO's mission is clearly stated. @Shog9, @TheTXI and @rcartaino have it in my eyes -- SO is designed to be the peer-reviewed repository of information. Yes, Google is a great resource and Google-fu should be practiced, but at the end of the day, LMGTFY questions still belong here so that their correct, community-vetted answers can have a final, stable location. And for Google to pick that up. :) –  John Rudy Aug 13 '09 at 15:27
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When we let people post questions that they could easily find for themselves, it won't MATTER if google picks it up. We are saying DON'T BOTHER SEARCHING. We are encouraging duplicate questions, we are encouraging a splintering of information (because StackOverflow might get a higher page rank than the ACTUAL definitive search). We will get INCORRECT responses. (When google searching, I found an SO question where the "accepted" answer was "that's not possible" and a few pages later (and many hours) I found a blog post showing how to do it. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 15:32
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@devinb: Perhaps you missed the point of SO. See: How do I move the turtle in LOGO? stackoverflow.com/questions/1003841 If you find an incorrect answer on SO, CORRECT IT. It's a bloody wiki-hybrid for a reason. –  Eric Aug 13 '09 at 15:37
    
@eric that is not possible for people of lower rep, the best you can do is to put a comment saying that you have found it to be wrong. –  Jeremy French Aug 13 '09 at 15:46
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@devinb: many searches produce answers quickly. And also produce quick answers that are misleading, incomplete, or flat-out wrong. If the search produces an existing answer on SO, then close the question as a duplicate - but otherwise, let it stand so that we may have the opportunity to <strike>LAY DOWN THE ROD OF TRUTH ON THE BACKS OF THESE CONFUSED SAVAGES</strike> provide a correct, comprehensive answer. –  Shog9 Aug 13 '09 at 15:58
    
Anyone who is incapable of doing a google search is not going to last. SO is not for homework questions. If you can't manage to type "Move the Turtle in LOGO" into a google search, then even SO can't help you, your bosses will eventually to discover that you have the programming ability of the common tree. I know Joel Spolsky asked it, but he did it to prove a point, not because he couldn't have figured it out on his own. AND, it should be noted, most of the answers just GOOGLE'd it. Why is it acceptable that we (the answerers) be forced to do a google search the poster could have done. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 17:23
    
Ultimately, the question is: When I come across a problem at work, should I try to figure it out? or should I just blindly post it on StackOverflow? –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 17:28
    
No, ultimately, the question is: when, while trying to figure it out, you google your question, should you get a random blog, or a question & answer on SO? The folks who can't use Google, don't know about PHP.net, and can't find anything on MSDN aren't going to do any better on SO... but the ones that can may well benefit from having community-rated and edited answers on SO. –  Shog9 Aug 13 '09 at 17:42
    
But someone has to put that question up there. And it's going to either be someone who didn't bother to search, or someone who searched, found their answer, and then posted it anyway. Why bother asking the question if you found the correct answer elsewhere? –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 17:48
    
And, if that is your opinion, then we should begin posting all function in the Java API, as "What does functionname do in Java?" We'll start with "a". I mean, how many Java functions can there be? Surely we should have all of them on SO. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 17:49
    
@devinb: you're taking this idea and running with it to the point of absurdity. Most questions on the use of a given API can be answered easily from the canonical documentation... but in cases where the documentation is vague, misleading, or fails to properly cover some common use, what's wrong with a question asking, say, "How should I use FormatMessage()?" (in that case, the best answers might come from Ramond Chen's blog, rather than MSDN - but why not have an answer on SO that's easier to find and can be kept up to date?) –  Shog9 Aug 13 '09 at 18:08
    
Because SO answers aren't kept "up to date" either. They can be just as stale as a blog-post. Except that I'd trust a year old Eric Lippert post more than I'd trust a year old obscure answer on SO. There seems to be a belief that SO is some how different from "the internet", which is, quite frankly, laughable. But, I have to get back to work, and I know you do too. I think we understand each other, and we just don't agree. Unfortunate but inevitable sometimes. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 18:13

Anyone can "Just Google It" but that defeats the entire premise of Stack Overflow.

Results on Google have not been scrutinized by a community (i.e. Stack Overflow voting). Programming information found on the Internet can be incomplete, outdated, or just wrong. Blogs and such are typically written by one person without any sort of technical review. Stack Overflow provides several answers from many different points of view. Each answer is rated and comment on by the community for its merits and completeness.

Stack Overflow is supposed to be a canonical archive of all things programming, reviewed and scrutinized by a community of peers. Just because the information can be found on other sites, it still has its place and purpose on Stack Overflow.

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The concept of "ignoring all the information on the internet" is just foolish. We're kneecapping the ability of young programmers to think for themselves if we say "Don't trust other websites, ONLY TRUST SO". They should learn how to use the WHOLE of the internet to figure out what is probably true. Or try technical solutions to see if they work. They shouldn't just spam SO every time they come across a hiccup. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 14:55
    
sorry, I forgot to note that I (-1)'d for that reason. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 14:56
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Who said anything about Ignoring the Internet? The question is whether it is okay to ask Stack Overflow even though it is easily found on Google. My point is that Stack Overflow adds much more value to a Q&A because it is community reviewed. –  Robert Cartaino Aug 13 '09 at 15:02
    
If it's easily found on the rest of the internet, use the rest of the internet. If you can't find it there, post it on SO. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 15:14
    
@devin: Disagree whole-heartedly. SO provides community review, which is a higher confidence of answer than most of the crap out there on the intertubes. I downvoted this answer (stackoverflow.com/questions/1272561/…) for that reason. –  Eric Aug 13 '09 at 15:28
    
@eric That's exactly my point. On that question, if the poster, or the answerer had done their own searches, they would have found the answer. But instead we get an extra post on SO, filled with responses, some correct, and some incorrect. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 15:35
    
... When they could have google searched it, and tried things out for themselves to check if they work. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 15:35
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@Devin- I just disagree with your view of the purpose of Stack Overflow. Listen to any of the early podcasts. Stack Overflow wasn't started to answer questions that cannot be found on the Internet. Quite the opposite. Joel and Jeff continually talk about building Stack Overflow as an alternative to address the problems of the information that is on the Internet. Experts-Exchange, phpBB forums, old blog posts, etc. –  Robert Cartaino Aug 13 '09 at 15:43
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I'm not talking about experts exchange and forums, etc. I'm talking about official information, MSDN, JAVA API type stuff. Things that are actively being supported by the manufacturers, and questions that are dead simple. "How do I allocate memory for my string object in C#". Even if we answer it (You don't need to, just declare String myString = "") this person will still not be any better off, because they clearly need a C# tutorial. SO is not supposed to be a crutch that does people's work for them. –  devinb Aug 13 '09 at 17:17
    
If people just ask questions without looking for it, it won't matter if SO has a huge base of knowlegde, because they won't look for that either (except maybe for the suggested questions). –  Ikke Mar 6 '10 at 9:43

One thing to note is that your Google search might/will not turn up the same results as my Google search. Depending on your geographic location (or at least where Google thinks your IP is located) and if you're logged in to Google, you can receive different results.

I've no idea if other factors (user-agent for example) affect the search algorithm, but it wouldn't surprise me.

So it's not enough to say "Google for it - and here's the search I did" - link to some of the results, by all means, but linking to your search might not be as helpful to me as you think or expect.

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