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First let me state that good questions, regardless of the poster, should be treated with the respect deserved.

Sometimes there are questions posted which are not puzzling, interesting or problematic (nor per the FAQ), and which can be solved with a simple web search.

Generally, if the asker of such a question is a new user, I will leave a comment with a "Welcome!" and a link to the FAQs, sometimes including a link or two from Wikipedia, or some other online tutorial.

However, if the user has asked many questions, and especially if most of the users questions follow a "What is this What is that" pattern, there comes an urge to tell the user to get off his lazy rumpus, do a simple Google search and come back later with a real question — should he still have one.

Recently, a question was posted (What is this asterisk for?) by a user who had asked 206 questions. I posted a comment with a link to Wikipedia regarding C pointers, and a LMGTFY link. Another SO user commented about me being a dick by posting that link.

Was this a bad behaviour on my part? I expect that a user with so many questions would have passed by the FAQs at some point!

Another example: sometimes a user will post a question containing

1) an error message 2) a line number and 3) full source code ~50 lines long, which you can remember seeing before

Looking at the poster's previous questions, you see that he keeps posting his entire source code file, and every time he hits a error, a new question is posted; the only things different are the line numbers and the error messages.

Is it wrong to downvote such questions based on the fact that the user is — in my mind — abusing SO? Whereas if this was a new user, the question may be a semi-valid one.

What are your thoughts? Am I being too critical? Does SO accept all kinds of questions regardless of content? (Except subjective questions; those get closed while you are posting a answer before you get a chance to hit submit :-))

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5  
My 2 cents: Downvoting is fair game for something like this; as is commenting. In my experience, staying polite in the comment is the key: Something like "This is an exceedingly trivial question, its answer could have been easily looked up on page 1 of the manual, or googled using xyz" will drive the point home, but evoke less aggression. –  Pëkka Feb 15 '11 at 12:36

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You've got lots of editorial here, so let me see if I can answer your actual questions.

The link to Wikipedia? -- Meh.

The LMGTFY link? Banned by the entire SE network. The system would have told you that, except that you hid it with TinyUrl; strike two.

Another example: <snip> Yes, these are irritating. But that's what close votes are for. No, it's not wrong to downvote these.

Are you being too critical? No. You're just being a bit rude. The FAQ for all the sites deliberately includes the words, "Be nice."

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Thx. What can those questions be closed for? they are not exact duplicates nor are they off topic? –  The Scrum Meister Feb 15 '11 at 3:51
    
@TheScrumMeister: I would go for off-topic until Jeff gets around to adding "general reference" as a close option (well, I'm hoping he does add it eventually). –  Borror0 Feb 15 '11 at 4:01

I was planning to open by quoting the part of the FAQ that says "no question is too newbie or too trivial"... but it's not there anymore. Odd.

The FAQ does still state, however, that one of the primary rules is

Be nice.

Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you. We’re all here to learn together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know.

Since you said "I expect that a user with so many question would have passed by the FAQ's at some point!," it's rather embarassing that you're unaware of the no LMGTFY rule and the no URL shortener unless absolutely necessary rule.

There's nothing wrong with posting questions that are easily Googled. I've sometimes found answers to my questions with Google and still gone to SO to ask. How will SO have the answer for future Googlers to find if nobody asks the questions? There are two FAQ entries about that, too: one and two.

That said, there's no reason for anyone to call you a dick. Rudeness never justifies further rudeness. And Jeff supports flagging the truly poor users for moderator attention, as described here.

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Fair enough. To defend my unawareness, those 2 posts should be posted in the StackOverflow FAQ's. only recently did i discover the meta site. –  The Scrum Meister Feb 15 '11 at 4:08
    
Yeah, the disjointed nature of the FAQs has been a problem for a while. –  Pops Feb 15 '11 at 4:09
    
@popular-demand Personal thanks for editing my badly written question. –  The Scrum Meister Feb 15 '11 at 4:11

It was not so nice that the other called you a dick, but LMGTFY links are not without reason banned on SO. For what is worth, I've flagged the both comments.

As to your itch, just ignore that question and continue to be nice. If the question is really that poor, vote for close and/or flag for moderator attention and move on. If that doesn't help, leave the PC or SO for a while.

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Thx. My question is not about being called a "dick", rather is it "frowned upon" or not? –  The Scrum Meister Feb 15 '11 at 3:52
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Rudeness can sometimes evoke other rudeness. Not only on SO, but also outside. Your LMGTFY link should not have been posted and the others' cursing should not have been posted. –  BalusC Feb 15 '11 at 4:13

I went through a similar situation and learnt my lesson too, but got the Peer Pressure Badge for my trouble. *8')

I think the main issue is that there is a huge cultural diversity here on SO. What is an amusing josh to one person could be a great insult to another. I think most of us consider this a nurturing environment and would hope it stays that way, hence the requirement to "Be nice".

Also, I think that it more likely that The Scrum Meister tinyurled the LMGTFY link to make it less obvious what it was, for comic effect, than to get around the ban. That is certainly why I did it. But I agree, it could appear to be an attempt to circumvent the check.

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Yes, it's bad behavior. Using tinyurl to post a LMGTFY link is sneaky.

I don't accept your reasoning "But the user had asked 206 questions... I expect that a user with so many questions would have passed by the FAQs at some point!" A quick look at http://stackoverflow.com/users/170365/strawberry?tab=tags shows they are mainly a PHP/MySQL/JS/Java/jQuery person, not a C person.

If we rephrase it "a user who had only asked <= 12 questions on C", you agree you'd treat them better, right?

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