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How to deal with google questions?

If this is a duplicate, sorry for not finding it :)

When someone asks a question, and the answers provided are from a google search, the form I've generally followed is:

I googled "your question here" and found the following: ...

Personally, I've found that helpful from other folks because they're identifying what/how to search better for so I can be more self-reliant in the future.

Is this the Right Way to go about it?


I don't ever do this. I'm sure you can do it in a nice way but I'm also sure it could still be misconstrued by the asker as being "talked down to". You also see comments like "Have you heard of Google?" which is (imho) completely uncalled for.

The point of SO is to build up a comprehensive set of questions and answers that Google can search. The fact that same information can be found on Google is basically irrelevant.

I think in this day and age you can assume people know about Google so there's no need to mention it.

More importantly, being able to type something into Google doesn't help you discern what information is good or bad so a lot of the time you need some sort of filter on that information anyway.

  • 3
    Repeat after me: Google is the [S]OFU home page, it shouldn't point back to itself. – BinaryMisfit Sep 23 '09 at 6:55
  • Gah. I hate when this comes up, because I always end up disagreeing with everyone else. – devinb Sep 23 '09 at 11:55
  • +1: There's no upvoting on Google. – Bill the Lizard Sep 23 '09 at 12:15

When I ask a question on one of the sites, I do so hoping that someone will answer who knows the problem and has solved it himself. Of course I know how to use Google, but finding some forum post buried amongst spam and aol-ish "me too!" responses doesn't exactly make me trust the answer. The other extreme is marketing material. If my question is "What is a good software for xyz?" and you refer me to some web site just because Google served it up, I still don't know whether it will work or crash every other minute.

So, to finally answer your question, if you don't know the answer to a question, please, please don't answer the question.


On Super User I often post something along the lines:

I found this on a forum...

But since I only (well 99% of the time) use Google, you could read it as: I Googled your question and found this forum, which said...

The big difference off course between Stack Overflow and Super User is that the SU audience is more likely to be less experienced with using a computer, so they are likely to be less able to find what they need. And like cletus mentioned: then decide if it's the right answer for them or not.

So while on SO this might be a bit offensive, SOME users on SU could benefit from learning where to look and what to look out for. But still, I wouldn't phrase it as "let me Google that for you". It would be better to answer their question and describe why you think this is a good idea.

You never know, they might learn something from it ;-)


on SO this is likely to be helpful only for a short time. I've found that after a while (sometimes a *very short while) the question itself appears as one of the top results in Google, which can result in a circular reference:

  1. ask a question
  2. be referred to google
  3. question comes up on google
  4. back to 2
  • 1
    Did you mean: google.com.au/search?q=recursion ? – random Sep 23 '09 at 7:06
  • just about :) – Nathan Fellman Sep 24 '09 at 8:13
  • I've seen this happen with questions on forums too. They ask, I google, and there question is the top result :) That is google for you organising items based on time relevance. – JonWillis Feb 27 '11 at 18:26

Sometimes there is value in teaching the asker what search terms are actually related to the question. In that case, mentioning that searching for some specific phrase produces valuable info is a good thing. It amounts to knowing what the true names of things are.

Even then, I try to salt the right vocabulary into my answer without specifically saying "google these words".

Of course there are times that using LMGTFY is just really, really tempting, but I do try to resist.

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