Problems and questions aside, I found that in SO, many questions are either

  • Have very similar ones in SO
  • Easily searched via google etc

Sometimes despite me knowing the answer, I really just felt like telling them to improve their searching skill.

As a developer, relentless learning is important. New things/ideas/technology pop out everyday. We have to keep updating our skills/knowledge. Knowing where to find these pieces and knowing how to 'find/search' solutions to newly encountered problems are essential.

Frankly, I do not know if this 'question' is a question, just voicing out what I felt.

To Add: After reading a couple of answers, I think I didn't phrase my 'question' properly. I put it in brief here:

Do we teach someone to fish? Or do we give them the fish? The urge to tell them to improve their searching skills doesn't mean I do not give any sort of answer. Spoonfeeding direct answers are not helping them (I'm refering only to the group of users that I described above).

  • 27
    Has been debated here already ad-nauseum. Apparently you don't know how to search either.
    – user102937
    Oct 16, 2009 at 4:46
  • @Robert: Ha, this is a good one. Ok I'm guilty (hands-up). Was too hurried to post this discussion before searching. No excuse though.
    – o.k.w
    Oct 16, 2009 at 8:50
  • 1
    I totally agree with you .An old Chinese proverb says that to teach fishing is better than to give fish. Dec 6, 2010 at 5:56
  • 1
    An old American proverb says that it is better to teach old maid than go fish.
    – mmyers
    Mar 15, 2011 at 19:49

7 Answers 7


Stack Overflow rewards asking duplicates.

If you ask a duplicate (or a 'near' duplicate) of a popular question, you're guaranteed to get attention, votes, and badges. Look at the questions like:

What's the most [adjective] [noun] that you've seen

It's amazing the number of views and votes they get; but they aren't the only one. Questions about basic things like Arrays draw thousands of views; and each new asker tries to ask the same question a little differently, and people buy into it.

Don't believe me? Do a search for any question closed and re-opened as a duplicate; and see how much reputation or views a user got out of asking the question. I guarantee it's a non-trivial amount -- and when you have low reputation, any amount helps.

That's why I believe that any question that is closed as a duplicate should have the points for both the question asker forfeited from it, and the answerer should have his answer merged with other answerers.

  • Agreed. As it stands the incentives are to ask and answer duplicates, which results in behavior counter to the stated goal of collecting authoritative answers in one place. Though as cletus mentions the existence of duplicates is not per se bad: they improve searchability. Oct 17, 2009 at 14:47
  • 2
    They do improve searchability; but I think that duplicate answers should be culled (and have the reputation removed from them) and duplicate questions should have the reputation stripped from the question. Otherwise you just reinforce the idea that as long as you can get 50 reputation from asking a duplicate, you're ok. Oct 17, 2009 at 16:09
  • Maybe duplicate questions should be "linked" as answers to that question, so that the same answer can be sort of shared among all the duplicates. That way, one answer will float to the top and we'll stop giving away free reputation for easy questions answered before they get closed. Oct 18, 2009 at 0:55

I think there are two things that people need to get over:

  1. Duplicates; and
  2. "Googleable" questions.

Duplicates can be closed. In some cases it's hard to find the others (like how do you search for === if you don't know what it's called?). In other cases the search just doesn't find them. That's fine. The new duplicate will link back to others. There is simply no need to get snarky about it (as I see some people comment).

The other is questions that can be answered with Google. People really need to get over this. Google simply returns results it finds. By having the question on SO, SO will be one of the search results and unlike a forum will have the benefit of comments, votes, etc. The other thing is you may find outdated or contradictory or just plain incorrect information on Google. There is no or inadequate feedback mechanisms to find this information out on forums and mailing lists. SO provides a superior mechanism for determining the best answer.

So get over it, basically. If you don't like the question, don't answer it. If it's a duplicate and you can vote to close it, then do that. No other action is required or justified.


If a question is a duplicate, and you have the power to close questions, then close it as a duplicate. If you don't, then post a link in the comments to the question that it duplicates.

If the question is not a duplicate, then it's free game, even though it could be easy to answer. The end goal is for Stack Overflow to become a knowledge base for all programming questions, even the easy ones. I suggest you take the free rep when you can get it.

While I can sympathize with the desire to educate these people about how to effectively search for the answers to their questions, on Stack Overflow the primary objective is to answer the question. If you want to slip something in at the end about how to find more information, feel free, but lmgtfy answers are frowned upon, and are likely to get downvoted.

  • @Klye, your points are noted. Please read my question again, I've elaborate further.
    – o.k.w
    Oct 16, 2009 at 0:41

Just because a question could easily be searched for and yield a result elsewhere, is not a reason it shouldn't be asked on SO. In fact, part of the goal of SO is to be the end result of those searches. As for questions with similar ones on SO, that is certainly a problem, and can always improve, but that's why there's a system for closing questions. Regardless, it is not appropriate to reply with "let me google that for you" or some similar response, if you don't want to answer questions that you deem to easy or simple, just move on to another question.

  • @yshuditelu, we are in SO to help one anohter. I would like to help some of them, just not plain spoonfeeding. However you do have a point. Please read my question for some more elaborations I've added.
    – o.k.w
    Oct 16, 2009 at 0:43

Most of the times (with me) the problem is that I don't know what to search for (the keywords, the modules, the idioms, etc.)

It happens to me quite often when trying to apply one concept from one language to another.

Doing a Google search would take me about 5-10 minutes dealing with obnoxious results (like those in the hypen site).

While, if properly formulated, the question could be answered in less than a minute using Stack Overflow.

Plus, you give other opportunity to increase their reputation.


Stack Overflow for the lazy (newbie) developer?

  • @Oscar, yea, I kow what you meant. For something totally new, some can feel quite clueles what to search in the first place. My emphasis is on those whose questions already contained the keywords. I do agree on the reputation part. I myself benefited from some cheap points. :)
    – o.k.w
    Oct 16, 2009 at 1:22

I was just going to ask the same question as you did. I also got the feeling that many people just ask a question on SO instead of searching on their own. The reputation system somehow supports that by giving points for questions asked.

In the past days I have been taking a closer look at SO and I was able to answer many questions of fields I'm familiar with by googling for the concrete answers. Usually, it took 2 or 3 minutes.

I don't know if it is bad or good that people ask instead of searching, but at least I also noticed this behaviour as you did.


If I may, searching is a very hard task. Google is a very powerful tool, but some people are better at using it than others. I ridiculed my friend's hour-long attempt at finding information by searching for the same thing in French (and finding said information on the first try). I have also been ridiculed by another friend making great use of those special "something:" keywords. (like site:perdu.com) I could say that the former is "bad at searching", but the latter could say the same of me. I would suggest you answer those people and tell them how they could have searched and found by themselves, thus doubling the amount of stuff they learn!

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