Since when is http://whathaveyoutried.com/ banned? And, who took the decision? Edit: to be clear, this is was banned whether on its own, or with other content.

It's an incredibly popular summary of how to ask a good question.

Update 2: Apparently it's working again, even on its own, over at SO.


Since about 8 hours ago.

One of our ever-vigilant devs came across it, and interpreted it as a lmgtfy-like bit of nonsense. I can understand why - the use of it has always been a mix of honestly helpful folks offering a good resource to those struggling to ask a good question, and lazy wags slapping in bare URLs on posts whose authors aren't suitably penitent in their tone.

It's hard to find fault in the blog post itself - it's a well-written resource, and for someone who repeatedly flounders when trying to ask on Stack Overflow I expect it could prove very valuable.

But it ain't no magic fairy dust that you can sprinkle on any post to quickly and painlessly enlighten the author. If you've neither the time nor inclination to read the post you're responding to and explain what's lacking, perhaps with a link to Matt Gemmell's site as the cherry on top...

...Then you're best off finding a new hobby. The blacklist will be refined a bit tomorrow to exclude comments that don't at least try to communicate directly with the author they're addressed to. [Edit: tomorrow / six months later... Anyway, it got done eventually. You can post the link if you put something else in with it. Hopefully something useful. ]

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    I don't know what you mean. Whatever snark you're trying to lay down, the fact is it's banned whether or not there is further explication. – Marcin Sep 15 '12 at 3:02
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    Why don't you come out and ask your actual question rather than being passive aggressive? If you're asking what I did, I posted a comment asking OP to "read ssce.org, and as a bonus whathaveyoutried.com". I could not post it because it was banned. I doubt this gives you any more information than the fact that I included both the link and other text. – Marcin Sep 15 '12 at 3:07
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    @Marcin: whathaveyoutried.com is a redirect. The actual site is mattgemmell.com, and the redirect goes to a specific post of his, neither of which are blacklisted. But... I gotta ask you, please, when you link to this stuff try to help the person you're writing to relate it to what he's asking - the post is a couple pages long, and I doubt too many people read it unless they're given some reason to do so up front. – Shog9 Sep 15 '12 at 3:09
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    sigh... It's Friday night, and I quite honestly don't have the energy for this. The blacklist is off for tonight - it'll be turned back on tomorrow, with the restriction that there has to be something else in the comment - not just a bare link. – Shog9 Sep 15 '12 at 3:12
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    @Marcin Lemme spell it out: since it's a redirect, you could just link to the actual address instead of "whathaveyoutried.com". This would raise the bar a bit and help ensure that folks who are just keen on leaving a curt "whathaveyoutried" comment and moving on are blocked while comments with a bit of effort behind them get through. – Adam Lear ModStaff Sep 15 '12 at 3:17
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    @AnnaLear The full url is truncated. Accordingly, it looks like any other random resource. The redirect leaves the title of the post visible. As a result, people clicking it know, at least slightly, what they are getting. It also poses the question the title is made of, emphasising however it is spelled out in the comment. – Marcin Sep 15 '12 at 3:31
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    That's fair. I'll note, though, that you can use Markdown to format the link however you like. For example, [what have you tried?](http://mattgemmell.com/2008/12/08/what-have-you-tried/) will yield "what have you tried?". – Adam Lear ModStaff Sep 15 '12 at 3:35
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    It bothers me that a dev would do this without bringing the topic up in Meta, especially since the previous question on the topic showed the community is strongly opposed to such a ban. – David Robinson Sep 15 '12 at 4:01
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    @David "especially since the previous question on the topic showed the community is strongly opposed to such a ban." Yes, because this would totally be the first time the devs have done something the community didn't approve of or like. The community may get to speak it's piece here on MSO, but don't take that to mean that you have any actual power. – Nicol Bolas Sep 15 '12 at 4:20
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    I know that Stack Exchange isn't a democracy and all that, but I'm with @DavidRobinson. First Shog9 decides one day that he'd like to delete WSOiN without any warning and simply deletes it with no discussion, and now this... Is there a reason behind this recent, blatant disinterest in user feedback? – user164207 Sep 15 '12 at 4:20
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    @Jack: "Is there a reason behind the blatant disinterest in user feedback?" Because user behavior is exactly what we're trying to correct. Community feedback stops being useful when you're trying to change community behavior, particularly that of the more vocal MSO users. However useful what lies on the end of "what have you tried?" is, simply posting a link to that site and nothing more is rather condescending to the OP. And we want to stop condescension. That's why the WSOiN was deleted: to end the condescension. – Nicol Bolas Sep 15 '12 at 4:24
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    @JackManey: "How is it condescending to point an OP to resources to help him/her ask better questions?" Did you miss the part of my post where I said, "simply posting a link to that site and nothing more"? However good a resource may be, links alone are not helpful. And in this case, the condescension due to the implicit assumption in the question that the OP hasn't tried anything. – Nicol Bolas Sep 15 '12 at 4:38
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    @TimYiJiang - The community has made it pretty clear that WHYT links should be acceptable. – user164207 Sep 15 '12 at 4:39
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    @Jack: And the devs (and basic courtesy) have made it clear that pure WHYT links are not acceptable. The devs own the site, they make the rules. – Nicol Bolas Sep 15 '12 at 4:40
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    @NicolBolas - "However good a resource may be, links alone are not helpful." That's absurd. Links to quality resources don't necessarily need paragraphs of boilerplate or context. Otherwise, documentation would be useless. – user164207 Sep 15 '12 at 4:41

Based on usage here are the last 12 attempts to use the link whathaveyoutried.com as a comment while the blacklist was enabled:

Most usages include only a link to whyt.com and do not elaborate on what might be helpful to help understand a question. As a side note - the first of the 12 results included a link to both lmgtfy and whyt. We have seen helpful usages of a link to whyt, however, without context it's not helpful - especially to new users.

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    hmmm, you have tried so much :) – Lucifer Sep 15 '12 at 5:24
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    Even police officers will stop and explain what you did wrong. "Son, do you know how fast you were going?". They don't just silently hand you a ticket and a copy of the drivers handbook and drive off. Similarly, I support more helpful context in comments. It's not hard to explain to someone specifically what it is that's wrong with their post. +1 for compiling this data to demonstrate how unhelpful these comments really are. – jmort253 Sep 15 '12 at 8:02

I cannot upvote Shog's answer as I disagree with the way this has been done, especially after the previous question asking for this got downvoted to oblivion. However, I agree with the point that the only use for the following comment is to link a questioner to a valuable resource:

What have you tried?

I've also seen this before, which I find even more objectionable.


I went looking for the last time I actually posted a comment that linked to this site, and found it on page 7 from the 26th of August, almost 3 weeks ago:

Welcome to Stack Overflow! Generally, you'll get more help if you also post what you have tried when attempting to solve your problem. It's also important to tag the question with the appropriate RDBMS, (Oracle, SQL Server etc), as each has individual methods that may be of use when solving your problem.

Here's another one of my comments:

Hi, and welcome to Stack Overflow. With questions like this it's often a lot better if you also post the result-set you want. This means that people have something to work to. It's polite if you post the methods you attempted when trying to solve your problem. This provides an indication of your thinking and helps others to help you. It also proves that you have attempted something for yourself and are not just asking for other people to do your work for you.

The grammar may not be top notch, it's a comment, and people may disagree with the way I worded them, but the point is that there is no need to just comment "What have you tried?" and leave it at that. You can at the same time explain why you are leaving this comment. In both cases I didn't even use whathaveyoutried.com; I linked directly to the article.

In some ways a comment is exactly the same as an answer; if it's just a link without context then it's pretty useless.

Just to doubly highlight this; context is everything. A link does not necessarily provide context. A tiny effort on your part to craft a small explanation of the link is far more helpful.

As long as the site isn't black-listed completely and I can still link to the post in the context of a wider comment I don't see a problem with this. To sum up:



I came to this question with the intention of upvoting. Having read your comments, which are aggressive and rude, I'm about to downvote this question. You've actually done the community a disservice by acting in this way. What should have been a straightforward "Why has this thing that has widespread support been banned?" question is now in danger of being downvoted to oblivion and the central point about the banning may be missed.

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    To clarify Ben, the links themselves weren't banned. They're only banned when lazily posted without any context. From your example comments, I imagine you'll have no trouble at all continuing to use these links. – jmort253 Sep 15 '12 at 8:10
  • I realised. As I said I won't up-vote Shog's answer; and I needed to respond to the OP. – ben is uǝq backwards Sep 15 '12 at 8:14
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    You also wrote a very good explanation, with examples, on why removing link-only WHYT comments is best for the community. In other words, you seem to agree, which is why I was a bit confused. Sometimes it's best to listen to your users' feedback, but implement the product according to your vision and what you think is best. – jmort253 Sep 15 '12 at 8:41
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    Really? Would you care to explain what I have said is aggressive? – Marcin Sep 15 '12 at 11:33
  • +1 for the rudeness part. – ɥʇǝS Mar 21 '13 at 4:25

Think back to a time when you walked into an empty department store you've never been to before, one that you're not familiar with. The only customer in the store is you, and the only clerk in the store looks exactly like the stereotypical loser who sits behind the counter, chewing gum and doing her nails, or talking on the phone to his friend about how the boss is a jerk for making them have to work and deal with all the stupid customers that come in the building and ask dumb questions. "What are they, blind! Can't they just look up and read the damn signs!"

You stand there in front of the clerk, who ignores you, until you clear your throat. "Ahem!". "Do you happen to sell shoehorns?", you ask. The clerk, without missing a beat in his/her conversation, extends his/her arm and points vaguely in the direction of the back of the store, without even making eye contact with you or looking in the direction he/she is pointing.

Flabbergasted, you walk to the back corner of the store, looking through aisles of housewares, pots/pans, books, birthday cards, socks, until finally you see some shoes. "Shoehorns must be near here", so you continue scouring the aisles until you finally discover that the shoehorns they sell won't work for your particular brand of footwear.

The picture that I'm hoping I've painted here is that our community is better than that person behind the counter. Pasting just a link in as a comment is no better than just silently pointing in a broad direction, leaving the other party to search through mountains of material.

It doesn't take much for the clerk to say "How may I help you" and then explain where the shoehorns are, or maybe even ask what kind of shoehorn the person is looking for; similarly, it doesn't take much time to write a brief, polite comment that teaches, guides the new user, and encourages him/her to learn more about how our community works.

People learn better when they're in the right mindset. People who are angry, upset, shocked, disappointed, or frustrated are less likely to learn from their experience with you. On the other hand, people who feel welcomed and respected, even if they didn't immediately see our signs, are more likely to learn more about how to be a good contributor; they're more likely to change their behavior.

Removing the "Whathaveyoutried" link-only comments is the right thing to do. Of course, you can still use the link, just add some context as Ben suggests so that your comment encourages someone to learn something, rather than just serves to belittle them. Hope this helps!

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    How on Earth could it possibly be the case that a shoehorn would be incompatible with certain kinds of shoes?! – user164207 Sep 15 '12 at 20:13
  • Lol, I'm not sure @JackManey. It was really late and it was the first thing that came to mind. – jmort253 Sep 15 '12 at 21:20
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    The clerk is paid, as is the store. SO users are not. – Marcin Sep 18 '12 at 15:58
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    The point, @Marcin, is to convey what it feels like to be dismissed, free or paid. – jmort253 Sep 19 '12 at 1:04
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    @jmort253 It's not dismissive to require some effort of those who seek help from volunteers; nor is it impertinent to dismiss those who fall far too short of what is asked of them. In your parable, all that is asked of the customer is cash. – Marcin Sep 19 '12 at 12:57
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    You're missing the point, and contradicting yourself a bit there. By all means, downvote. By all means, offer constructive advice. Don't let the help vampires walk all over you, but don't be a jerk either. Summer of Love was never about lowering our standards, and if we expect everyone else to put in some effort, perhaps we should do the same. As I said in my answer, people are more likely to learn something when they're talked to constructively. I'm sure you were at one point new to something and appreciated patient guidance from those who were experts. – jmort253 Sep 19 '12 at 14:45
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    The clerk handed you a map of the store with the location of the shoehorns circled. The clerk didn't vaguely wave. Links can be clicked, and in this case the link is pointing directly at a resource to solve the customer's problem. – Yakk Jun 26 '18 at 15:03

Not an answer to the question, but I think it's important: what if the domain expires?

It's been around for almost 4 years; next expiry is in December. Do we need to cross our fingers and hope the registrant (actually the blog owner; same day the article was posted) renews the domain? Otherwise it might no longer be a nice redirect to a helpful blogpost at all, but might become some ad page as soon as it's dropped.

Of course, all links can go bad. But using the redirect domain makes posting it much easier, hence its usage much higher?

I'd say: if we want to link to something like this, then there should be some Stack Exchange page to link to instead.

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    I want to point out that this is also another reason to support putting context in the comments. If the link were to ever break, briefly explaining to the op what he/she can do to fix the problem is still valuable. – jmort253 Sep 15 '12 at 9:09
  • +1: this is the most reasoned argument that I've seen that could be used to support the ban. – user164207 Sep 15 '12 at 20:15

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