I just had a conversation with a mod about a comment telling the OP to use Google.

When I see an exceedingly trivial question (and I mean exceedingly), I will

  • Google the question's title (or whatever the appropriate keywords are)

  • Check whether a crystal-clear answer to the question is among the first three to five hits (max) on a good site (preferably SO)

  • If it is, leave a comment on the question pointing out that this can be Googled using this and that search term; in varying degrees of friendliness, but never worse than, say, Google "how to add a number to a variable in JS".

The comment I mention was removed by the mod.

Now, I can see how "Google xyz" can be a bit on the curt end; I will see to it that I regularly pad that with a bit of nicety. However, I stand 100% behind the practice of telling people to learn to Google. How can you program machines when you can't use a search engine?

Is even mentioning Google now off limits, and comments to that end subject to deletion?

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    We must refuse to acknowledge that the rest of the intertubes exists – Aaron Bertrand Aug 13 '12 at 19:30
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    Did you google for "Google ban on Stack Overflow"? – Oded Aug 13 '12 at 19:31
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    @Oded that's so rude, man. :P – Pekka Aug 13 '12 at 19:31
  • Disagreement is putting it harshly, no? I think it was a civilized conversation. – casperOne Aug 13 '12 at 19:32
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    @casper really? I can't find a more harmless word. :) (Edit: ah, that's better!) – Pekka Aug 13 '12 at 19:32
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    What is this Google you speak of? – j08691 Aug 13 '12 at 19:32
  • BTW, what makes you think it's a moderator removing those links? If enough regular users flag your comments, they get removed too. – Martijn Pieters Aug 13 '12 at 19:40
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    @MartijnPieters Well, he spoke with the mod who deleted it... – Servy Aug 13 '12 at 19:41
  • @Pekka I just did. It returned this question. – Lee Louviere Aug 13 '12 at 19:49
  • If this wasn't Pekka, we'd all have pointed this out.. Unless the mod stated he removed the comment, you just don't know.. – Martijn Pieters Aug 13 '12 at 19:51
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    @MartijnPieters Oh, I removed the comment. Chances are though Pekka might not have even known if I hadn't told him that he should have known better. There's no debate about who removed the comment, and the conversation isn't about why I removed that particular comment, but rather what should be done on the site for these comments in general (in that it hasn't really been discussed before). – casperOne Aug 13 '12 at 20:07
  • @casperOne: Thanks for confirming :-) – Martijn Pieters Aug 13 '12 at 20:57

Questions of possible rudeness aside, Stack Overflow has a lot of Google Juice.

That means, in a very short period of time, someone searching for your suggested term will find that self-same question and answer highly placed in search results.

recursion (n.): see - recursion

It would probably be best to downvote and possibly close for lack of search effort.


Here's my take on it (being the mod that had the conversation with Pekka).

We have a very clear policy on LMGTFY links. What you're doing doing is LMGTFY without the LM, the FY, and the link.

So where's the value that you're adding here? If anything, you're taking the pageview away from Stack Overflow. Additionally, if you've taken such care to Google the result and make sure it was directly pertinent to the question at hand, why not turn that into an answer?

It should also be noted that Google won't always return the same results for two separate users. Robert Harvey and I actually came across this issue while chatting, I posted the results for a Google search, he posted his, and the order of the items was reversed (we were each referring to the "first" result, only to find they were different for each of us for the same exact search term).

Of course, over time, links will rise and fall changing what is shown in the top few results, and those links might not necessarily answer the question at hand correctly anymore, rendering your search suggestion moot.

If we want Stack Overflow to be the canonical resource for Q & A, then if you're going to make a search suggestion in the comments, then that comment should be canonical as well. The fact that it's not a direct link prevents it from being canonical over time (granted, not everything is immune to the effects of time, but there are things we can do to make it more immune).

If you're just going to leave a comment, then the best thing is to add a direct link to the resource that you feel answers the question. If you don't, it's very possible in the future that what you see now is not what will be shown to the user later. The web is in no way a static place, and while links do die, the volatility of a search term suggestion seems much higher than a direct link to a resource.

Specifically to your second point, if the link is to another question on Stack Overflow that answers the question, then you should be casting a vote to close as duplicate (assuming it is a duplicate).

If it's an exceedingly trivial question that borders on it being closed (or is an outright candidate for closure) then why not flag it or cast a close vote?

The point is, if you're going to take the energy to perform the search and find out what the best answer is, there are much better options that will benefit the site overall at your disposal than leaving a comment which just says "Google this".

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    Even if that were true, that wouldn't be an argument for deleting said comments. The argument that, "You could have done something else that is more beneficial," applies to literally everything that anyone ever does. We are not perfect. – Servy Aug 13 '12 at 19:39
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    @Servy No, but to be blunt, leaving that comment is lazy. If one is going to make sure that the link is a quality link, they might as well finish the deal. – casperOne Aug 13 '12 at 19:44
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    For the record, I'm very open to how to make these comments more productive. As said, I put a lot of effort in them – Pekka Aug 13 '12 at 19:45
  • @Pekka I mentioned in one of the initial comments (as I have here) why not an answer? Comments don't really help the site overall. And frankly, even if they were accepted, chances are some schmuck of a mod is going to go and blow away the comments anyways. Why focus on making the comment (which most everyone agrees are worthless) better when you can make a post better? – casperOne Aug 13 '12 at 19:47
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    @casperOne My point is that this entire answer is an argument to discourage people from doing this, but it doesn't seem to me that it's grounds for deleting the comment. The fact that it was lazy, or could be better, just isn't enough for me to justify that action. – Servy Aug 13 '12 at 19:47
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    @Servy It wasn't deleted because it was lazy, if you look at the comment trail that's left, the rationale is because of the first point, that it's a variation of LMGTFY, which is explicitly banned on SO. I urged Pekka to post this on meta to get a clear community consensus on the issue. – casperOne Aug 13 '12 at 19:49
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    Though not deleting it might leave those who are truly lazy (and did not put in the work that Pekka did) with the idea they can leave similar or perhaps even more crude comments without the underlying effort. – Bart Aug 13 '12 at 19:50
  • If someone leaves a comment with "Try googing for 'XYZ'" and I don't believe it will return good results I'll google it. If it doesn't return helpful results then would leave a comment saying, "Googling 'XYZ' doesn't seem to return helpful results". I may then proceed to provide a more valuable hint or answer if I knew enough about the question. While I can agree with the ban on LMGTFY due to it's rudeness, telling someone to "try googling for 'XYZ'", if it does return results, is in my mind just fine. If it doesn't help the OP, they can say so and go from there. – Servy Aug 13 '12 at 19:57
  • @Servy And therein lies the problem. If people come here and they see that the answer is in the comment, which leads them to Google and then somewhere else, then we've already failed in our mission here. Stack Overflow is not a link repository or Google dump, we're here to provide the answers here. – casperOne Aug 13 '12 at 20:08
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    "What you're doing doing is LMGTFY without the LM, the FY, and the link" and the rudeness of providing a link that fools the one who clicks it into thinking it might be a canned answer. Spelling it out like "Google for ..." is much, MUCH, friendlier in my opinion. To me, banning LMGFT is good, but I disagree that mentioning Google is the same. – Arjan Aug 13 '12 at 20:19
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    @casper If one is going to make sure that the link is a quality link, they might as well finish the deal. I get what you mean, and it would be zero problem to do that effort-wise, but I often can't bring myself to doing that anymore. It feels too much like kindergarten, especially when you do it the hundredth time and you can get the perfect answer by literally entering the question title into Google. Posting answers to those "questions" feels broken and makes you doubt the point of this great enterprise that is SE. But maybe I should just quietly downvote and closevote and walk away... – Pekka Aug 13 '12 at 20:39
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    @Pekka, for what it's worth: I still feel you're helping people a lot better with such link than with not commenting/answering at all. – Arjan Aug 13 '12 at 20:46
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    @Arjan thanks. Yeah, I think there is value in doing this. On the other hand, I can see the problem with "Go google" type comments... I think we keep coming back to the "General Reference" idea – Pekka Aug 13 '12 at 20:48
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    @Pekka It feels too much like kindergarten Heh, wait until you get a diamond, mate... – yannis Aug 13 '12 at 22:01
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    One might be able to make the argument that leaving a constructive comment that says "Hey Bob, try Googling XYZ" might help the person improve their next question by teaching them how to be a better user. I'm not sure deleting these comments is the right answer. – jmort253 Dec 17 '12 at 4:08

There has been a lot of talk about broken windows lately, and I personally begin to believe that the theory is not without merit.

And we are all social animals, whether we qualify as jackasses or not. This means, among other things, that we adapt to what we perceive as the accepted and/or expected behaviour of a new group we are about to enter.

If the group makes it clear that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for everybody's help (and time, and effort) to solve a problem that a decent programmer could be expected to at least solve half way by doing a bit of research by themselves, then that is exactly the behaviour you get from new (and even some old) users.

This being the Internet, the very first step of any research is to type in a search term or two in your favourite search engine.

Now, I contend that in order to avoid too many broken windows in the wall that protects the community's time and effort (and sanity), there needs to be a mechanism which guides users (old and new) to do some initial research before asking other people for a slice of their time and limited mental energy. I also contend, as mentioned above, that on the internet research is primarily done through search engines.

This is where I need some help to understand:

What is the best way to direct a user to do some initial research of their own, without mentioning the concept of a search engine, or specific brands of internet search engines?

Subquestion: Is it allowed to mention that doing this form of research is generally considered an easy task?

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