How to deal with google questions?
Do you google for answers to put on SO?

There are a few posts which make me wonder if users google first before asking questions on StackOverflow. They seem to let other people do the dirty work of filtering the thousands of pages of results the search engine returns.

On the other hand, if the community wants to grow large enough so it will come on top of a lot of google queries, it needs to host redundent content already available elsewhere.

When I was relying on experts-exchange, question points were worth real dollars so I would search by myself for days before asking. Why should I now bother searching more than say, 5 minutes before asking?

closed as off topic by Marc Gravell Aug 28 '09 at 21:01

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11 Answers 11


On the contrary, you should ask first before googling, so that the information gets here :) you don't even need to search SO first, just as you're asking check the list of possible duplicates

No one agrees? See the following picture from the 'about' page:

alt text

If we're really in the Digg circle, we'd post links to the best google results.
If we're really in the Wiki circle, we'd collaborate to find the best answer even if one already exists
If we're really in the blog circle, we'd expound upon previous answers with our own insights
if we're really in the forum circle, we'd paste picture of lolcats OK, I dont' have a good reason here.

  • Yeap. And after all, if the question may be answered very easily by googling it, we can always vote it down!! – OscarRyz Dec 11 '08 at 1:00
  • I agree that this site is something of a combination between Digg/reddit and a forum, although calling it a wiki is a stretch. I see no resemblance whatsoever to a blog. – titaniumdecoy Dec 11 '08 at 2:04
  • @titaniumdecoy - I see the resemblance to tech blogs, where people frequently post code and technical snippets for archival by Google. For instance, I sometimes write blog posts just to post information I wasn't able to easily find via Google when searching for it. – Jay Dec 11 '08 at 4:04
  • it will become more and more of a wiki as more people get enough reputation to edit any post :) – Jimmy Dec 11 '08 at 16:09

Instead of RTFM we should have a GTFQ (google the ** question) rule before posting the question.

  • This is actually completely against the spirit of SO. People should be encouraged to ask /any/ programming related question here. – GEOCHET Dec 11 '08 at 0:58
  • Personally I'd rather banal questions to be answered using Google. Especially since those kind of questions tend to repeat themselves quite often – Eran Galperin Dec 11 '08 at 1:00
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    We close duplicate questions, not an issue. – GEOCHET Dec 11 '08 at 1:02
  • No prob if people can't find an answer in a few minutes on google, but not trying is just lazy – seanb Dec 11 '08 at 1:04
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    The not-googling mentality is similar to not searching for duplicates on SO. I don't think that's the SO spirit – Eran Galperin Dec 11 '08 at 1:06
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    I agree on the whole 'spririt of SO' front but isnt it basic etiquette to take that 60 seconds or so and google the question? if you dont get a hit in the first few results then so be it - seems from a productivity perspective that might be quicker than typing question and waiting for an answer – keithwarren7 Dec 11 '08 at 1:18
  • If you google the question, two things happen: 1) It never gets on Stack Overflow, 2) the community doesn't get reputation for helping you. Want Easy Rep? Post a Google-answer to a Google-Question. – George Stocker Dec 11 '08 at 1:53
  • @Eran: You don't seem to get it. Maybe a read through the blog and FAQ would do you good? – GEOCHET Dec 11 '08 at 2:08
  • ...it is kind of embarassing when the FIRST google match is exactly your answer though – Simon Apr 4 '09 at 20:00
  1. type in the question
  2. if the suggestions doesn't help, post it!
  3. Google for it.
  4. Answer you own question!

(and if you find another question that is more or less the same, cross link them)

  • 1
    Did anyone notice that the suggestion often helps better then the search? I have never had any luck with the search. – Boris Callens Jan 8 '09 at 20:43
  • @boriscallens I see what you mean. Another (i assume) under-utilized function is the related questions on the bottom right side of the screen (underneath the tags and stuffs). It gives about 20 or so related questions to the page you're on. – d-_-b Nov 23 '12 at 3:06

Sometimes. It depends on how specific a question I'm asking and the types of responses I'm aiming to get. I've found that Google is great for error messages and basic language questions, but Stack Overflow is better for pretty much everything else. The turnaround time here is pretty fantastic, too. You definitely don't have to wait long if you're stuck.

Interestingly, on several occasions I've Googled something and a Stack Overflow question is one of the top hits - and usually contains the exact answer I was looking for.


Yes, but I'm starting to find, more and more often, that the answer Google provides is actually a Stackoverflow page :)

  • That's a good thing, off course! – Rik Dec 11 '08 at 1:23
  • Same here, I think I started noticing it about 2 weeks ago. Often times I haven't even thought of going to SO to look for the answer, now it's often the first place I check. – Blair Scott Dec 11 '08 at 2:24

"Why should I now bother searching more than say, 5 minutes before asking?"

(Note: I say "you" because you asked in the first person. It's not a reflection on you personally.)

If all you want is a quick answer to an "easy" question, frankly, you shouldn't spend much time googling it, because the disposition of the SO community right now is to rush to your aid and answer it for you. Hey, that's great for you!

But is it best for you? That's a question you'll need to answer yourself, and the answer lies in how badly you want to learn for yourself.

There are people here who will enable you to be lazy, and there are people here who will empower you to fish rather than just handing you a fish. You're free to choose which set of people you want to attract to your questions by the way you phrase them.

  • haha you just added a whole new layer of meta to this question! – d-_-b Nov 23 '12 at 3:07
  • Huh? I answered this question nearly four years ago. What's the new development? – John Nov 23 '12 at 16:42

Yes 100% of the time. Everyone should. In the immediate sense it's about finding an answer to a problem, not building up the SO knowledge base. Since building up SO is of great importance, it is your duty as a good SO user to add the question/answer as a community wiki if you do find an answer via Google to a question that is not covered on SO.

Search SO first
If no answer, then Google
If answer found, post community wiki
If no answer is found post question on SO

  • Well, your view differs from the view of the community I would say. – GEOCHET Dec 11 '08 at 2:58
  • I just edited the question to my my view a bit clearer. My need to get an answer is greater than the state of SO. However as a fan of SO I believe in filling in the gaps when SO has no answer. – Daniel Auger Dec 11 '08 at 3:09

There do seem to be a lot of questions that deserve LMGTFY / GIYF treatment.

Personally, googling has become a reflex action for most things these days, getting older, so I guess I'll be googling my for own address soon enough...

GIYF == "Google Is Your Friend", as to the other interpretations, I don't hang out on 4chan or /.

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    one of these days Street View will be updated (crawled?) daily and I won't ever have to look out the window again. – Jimmy Dec 11 '08 at 0:58
  • No question here deserves the GIYF treatment. – GEOCHET Dec 11 '08 at 0:59
  • Is google not your friend? They're not evil... – seanb Dec 11 '08 at 1:02
  • Oops... I read 'GIYF', and immediately thought it stood for... .. "Google it, you f***wit". Sorry... – ChrisA Jan 8 '09 at 22:12

The problem with Google for a nontrivial answer is that Google is simply an index... one day the perfect answer to your question might not be there because whoever answered it decided that his blog wasn't getting enough traffic, or the forum where the question was answered decides to kill all older posts, or any number of other reasons.

Having everything in one place is nice. What's also nice is that SO has an active community that will revise answers over time so that they remain correct as the technology changes.

The only bad side of having everything on SO is that if SO bites the dust, we lose all of our answers!

  • The SO corpus is downloadable for offsite storage. – Thomas L Holaday Jun 24 '09 at 12:04

Pretty simple answer for me. Stackoverflow at this stage in it's existence seems to be one of the best references for two areas of questioning (from a software developers perspective)...

  1. Advice for general programming interest (career advice, approaches for developing applications and systems, information about best practices, etc...)

  2. Short, concise answers for a detailed question on how to program using a specific feature in a specific language or platform.

... so basically, if I'm looking for an in depth explanation of some technology (say, .Net Cake PHP's Routing infrastructure) then I'll probably check out google first to look for the documentation website or an expert's article.

How-ever, if I'm trying to find and answer to a really specific problem I find that it's easiest to just check here first real quickly before I go diving into google.

Also, I trust the information here a little more then I do on any random link I get from google. I found myself too many times looking though a blog post link from google that at first glance seems to have the information I'm looking for, but then after I take the time to apply it, I later figure out that there's better information elsewhere. I pretty much always find that the information here is quality content.


Personally, I think that Stack Overflow should become the content that Google feeds on. Even if the answer is available on some other site, I don't think that most other programmer forums have the wiki features needed to keep the questions and answers relevant and correct as time passes. Personally, If I want an encyclopedia type answer, I don't even go to Google, I just go straight to Wikipedia. Because I know that is where Google will probably point me anyway. In the same way, I would like Stack Overflow to became the place where people go first when the have programming questions, without even bothering to look at Google.

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