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I've seen this sort of thing happen multiple times. We get a lot of questions that ask 'How do I do something that is built into the language?'

For example, How to divide array into small arrays?

Then we have a bunch of users see it as a really quick answer, find the man page, post it, we get about four answers in 30 seconds, then these answers get up-voted by people who agree (because they're right), and run along, and everyone without an up-vote deletes their post.

I feel like these questions don't really add anything, and it leads to a higher ranking for contributing very simple answers to a simple question, to a greater degree than more complex questions with more complex and more dedicated answers that show some thought.

I mean, the upvotes are nice and all, I've received some points questions like this too. But I don't feel like its more worth-while than my other answers with less up-votes and more thought.

So to summarize: We have really simple questions getting lots of the exact same answer in a span of less than five minutes, all the answers say RTFM with hyperlinks.

Here's the question: Is this a problem for the community? If it is, we can think about ways to solve it, if not, we can carry on.

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Possible dupe:… – John Jan 21 '11 at 17:05
Possible dupe:… – John Jan 21 '11 at 17:05
The problem of easy questions and RTFMing is built into the community. – abel Jan 21 '11 at 18:43

This is not a problem.

I think that part of the goal of the site is to be 'TFM', or at least a repository that covers most, if not all, of the info in 'TFM'.

The easy questions are a great way for new SO users to get their feet wet as well. This is a win-win situation. People get super fast answers to their questions. And users get reputation.

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Here's the question: Is this a problem for the community?

The answer hinges on what you consider 'the community'. If you include everybody that ever posted to SO then, no, it is not a problem. The vast majority of SO users just love a quick answer without having to RTFM.

If you apply the more traditional meaning, people that know each other and meet from time to time, say Hi and How are you and Good morning to each other when they meet on the street, that complete their profile to say something about themselves, enter a name instead of just leaving it userxxx (hint hint, nudge nudge) then, yes, this isn't great.

After passing the one million questions mark, there are no easy questions left. Somewhere there's a better answer for them, an answer that should get the votes, not the quicky replies. This devalues SO as TFM. It makes rep pretty meaningless as a measure of community recognition and participation. It ought to be closed as a duplicate. But that's hard and unrewarding work and a rather boring way to participate at SO. More boring and less work than posting the simple answer.

This does get old in a hurry btw, contributors that only ever post to easy questions don't usually last more than a couple of months. Out of boredom but also because it is very hard to compete with the old-timers that know every trick in the book. Keep it interesting by tackling the hard questions. Yes, that won't get you a lot of rep. But it does make you a better programmer. Or problem solver, same thing. You measure your success by answer marks, not upvotes. Good for the user, good for you, that's the real win-win.

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I actually like user142287, I feel like a special tap-dancing snowflake because most userxxxxxs don't stick around. Or some kind of borg drone. – Incognito Jan 21 '11 at 18:30
"You measure your success by answer marks, not upvotes". Absolutely. – Dour High Arch Jan 21 '11 at 18:34
So, is that identifying a lack of displaying a "correct answer" count/ratio? – Incognito Jan 21 '11 at 18:45
Well, possibly. There is some of that in the user leagues for SO, but only for the top ~20 contributors, those that regularly max out their rep for the day. Any scheme that uses a different measure is going to be a very hard sell. – Uphill Luge Jan 21 '11 at 18:58

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