What content exactly triggers the "Sorry, posts can't contain that content" warning?

A little explanation would be nice.

After a bit of trial and error I realised it was the LMGTFY link (that I'd qualified with "I don't usually do LMGTFY links").

I know LMGTFY or letmebingthatforyou are usually used in a snarky tone, but sheesh on cheese, some kind of heads-up would be nice.


Enter image description here

  • 3
    There's a lmbtfy too?
    – Amarghosh
    Jan 12, 2010 at 14:59
  • @Amargosh yep, there is. I think it was Phil Haack, but I could be wrong
    – Dan F
    Jan 14, 2010 at 10:42
  • I've added an up vote. I agree. Clear error messages are definitely appropriate. LMGTFY while unacceptable here is used elsewhere with no problem. A moderator at forums.asp.net used it as a reply to one of my first posts there. I did not take LMGTFY as snarky ... myself and others enjoy someone preparing a LMGTFY when it is done in the right spirit. I doubt that Google created LMGTFY as a weapon of sarcasm. Many things can be abused. Personally, I would allow LMGTFY at SO. Regardless, your question is about something far more important: clear, consise, helpful, and friendly error messages.
    – gerryLowry
    Apr 17, 2010 at 0:25
  • @Amarghosh Let me Bing that for you?
    – nyuszika7h
    Mar 12, 2011 at 17:00
  • @NYu that'd be so kind of you :)
    – Amarghosh
    Mar 14, 2011 at 14:50
  • @Amarghosh tinyurl.com/4dlw5cl
    – nyuszika7h
    Mar 14, 2011 at 14:53

4 Answers 4


Jeff Atwood's answer wins.

But seriously, I agree with Dan F that an explanation is in order. Especially since this isn't a minor technical point, but an issue about which we need to educate users. The explanation shouldn't just be that LMGTFY is banned, but why these links are discouraged completely disallowed.

  • 4
    You remember the whole 'users don't read' thing, right? :-D Jan 12, 2010 at 14:24
  • 6
    If we tell people where the cliff is, it won't be as entertaining for us to watch them falling off. Over and over again. Ooop, there goes another one! teeheeheehee...
    – Pollyanna
    Mar 9, 2010 at 14:48

I recommend checking here.

  • 4
    Haha, that made me giggle. Thanks Jeff. Srsly tho, put that in the "Sorry, posts can't contain..." message then? Normal users will see the funny side. Idiots will, er, what does an idiot do?
    – Dan F
    Jan 12, 2010 at 11:35
  • 23
    You are not indirectly suggesting that he should use is.gd or similar services instead, are you? ;)
    – Stephan202
    Jan 12, 2010 at 11:35
  • 1
    Whatever it takes to get the message through to thickheads like myself is fine in my book :-) As long as Mr Atwood doesn't decide to rickroll us it's all good
    – Dan F
    Jan 12, 2010 at 11:37
  • I agree with the sentiment of not allowing/encouraging lmgtfy links. If you get a "thickhead" who has clearly done zero research before asking the question then you can downvote and/or leave comments to suggest they do more research. This should help that user ask better questions in the future, or make them edit their question to explain why the Googled results didn't meet their needs. Alternatively, answer the question with the first few hits found on Google. LMGTFY comes over as aggressive, makes those new users who overlook Google feel bad, and wont stop the persistent offenders. Jan 12, 2010 at 12:51
  • 4
    well, like I said in google result #3, the goal is to make doing the wrong thing (posting lmgtfy links) a bit more difficult than doing the right thing (posting relevant comments and answers). Jan 12, 2010 at 12:51
  • 2
    @Jeff: Google results are for everybody different... actually, for me, there is no relevant link (except for this very page) in the first result page, at least nothing you said.
    – fretje
    Jan 12, 2010 at 12:57
  • 9
    @fretje: Thank you!! :) This is a perfect example of why LMGTFY is a waste of time. (I mean on Stack Overflow it's a waste of time. It's still hilarious to email LMGTFY links to your co-workers. Carry on with that.) Jan 12, 2010 at 14:01
  • 2
    I was wondering how long it would take people to notice and admit this ;-p Jan 12, 2010 at 14:56
  • 3
    Round 1 to Jeff, hands-down. And for me, the "Ban lmgtfy" post was result #1. :)
    – John Rudy
    Jan 12, 2010 at 16:57
  • 1
    Yes meta has the top search result!! :D Feb 12, 2010 at 0:41
  • I would be up for a ban on url shortening.. asynchronously replace all urls that respond with a redirect to their final target
    – user165187
    Sep 15, 2012 at 7:46
  • It's funny how the first google result is this where the top answers (and top rated comment to the question) are against banning lmgtfy!
    – Shahbaz
    Nov 14, 2012 at 12:51
  • 3
    @JeffAtwood i agree with banning this link. but that's not what OP is asking. you can't honestly think this is a good way to word this error message? i've read your blog, i know you advocate for usability and human factors. this error message is awful-- if i could, i'd flag as 'not a real error message'
    – Jeff
    Dec 13, 2012 at 0:59
  • @jeff so you want to give everyone reading it a solution key for bypassing the check? Perhaps think this through a little more. Dec 14, 2012 at 5:54
  • 1
    @JeffAtwood i was under the assumption that once the user realizes what is wrong, he will remove the link and post a normal comment, rather than try to circumvent it. this was certainly the case for myself and OP. i don't think people are really that insistent on posting lmgtfy links, they just don't know it's not allowed, and this error message doesn't help.
    – Jeff
    Dec 14, 2012 at 5:56

Ok, let's follow through with your suggestion as a thought experiment.

Tonight, Jarrod Dixon gets word from Jeff that you're right, and that they should implement something to tell everyone that LMGTFY links are banned.

Implementation time

  • 20 minutes: Time spent discussing this with Jarrod
  • 30 minutes: Time spent specifying the changes
  • 30 minutes: Questions from Jarrod and refinement of specification
  • 30 minutes: Coding a regular expression (uggh) or Server-side parsing to figure out when someone is using a LMGTFY link
  • 30 minutes: Testing
  • 5 minutes: Checkin, writeup

Total: 2 hours, 25 minutes

Time getting around that barrier

  • 1 minute later: Someone complains that the responsiveness of the site is just a little bit slower (either due to having to run this server side check, or due to extra JS loading)
  • 5 minutes later: Someone who enjoys posting LMGTFY links decides to get around it by using is.gd

Total: 6 minutes


  • <1 minute: When you see a LMGTFY post, flag it.

Or: You can just clutter up space that people don't read with yet another piece of text.

  • If they'd have to write down everything we're allowed and not allowed to do, plus examples of how it's done, plus little pointers on how to do it better, the whole thing would read like a legal document and would take up a few screens. That's why it's sometimes best to let users figure stuff by themselves, such as in this case (the OP figured out it was the lmgtfy part that was not allowed).
    – alex
    Jan 12, 2010 at 14:10
  • 4
    Most of that work has already been done, since the OP did get a response "Sorry, posts can't contain that content." The only changes involved would be to change the error text to something more descriptive, and perhaps throw in a link to the relevant FAQ.
    – Ether
    Jan 12, 2010 at 16:45
  • 2
    yes, but this ties in with other anti-spam blacklist measures, where providing specific feedback is tantamount to saying "oh, here's how you get around this." Not gonna happen, my friends. Jan 13, 2010 at 1:29
  • @JeffAtwood % of people trying to bot post who will try less due to not getting detailed errror message vs. the % of people who will not bother posting an answer due to lack of information in error (with added weight that the user is less likely to try and answer in the future). I guess that hope is that the posters who are turned off post sub optimal answers anyway.. Why not just split your rules into two groups: bot stoppers and civility.. if its a bot stopper then say nothing if it relates to civility then tell them why.
    – user165187
    Sep 15, 2012 at 7:33
  • if the refactor is a bitch just start by making everything a bot stopper until someone gets a chance to review or there is a meta post about it.
    – user165187
    Sep 15, 2012 at 7:53

I've never thought of lmgtfy as a rude thing. I've always found it funny. I was going to use it here, but changed it to go directly on google after reading all this (and Jeff's link that leads to the other question).

It took me a while to realize that was the issue. First I had a smiley face and thought "is it the smile?!".

I don't know how this message could be better without tying it to a blacklist or ban thing or whatever, but I think this is not done in a good way right now. It's confusing at least for people, like me, who don't intend any bad or rudeness.

  • Even if you don't intend it to be rude -- think about what the question poster's impression might be. There's also a difference between a post saying "you should just google to find the answer" (which is discouraged, because SO is meant to be a canonical source of information) and saying something like "a google search for 'AJAX COBOL best practices' finds three or four interesting blog posts on the subject that are worth a read."
    – balpha Staff
    Mar 9, 2010 at 13:36
  • 1
    @balpha Yes, I understand all that... I'm just talking, like the OP, about the error message in itself, nothing else. But since you brought the subject, and still on a side note, I don't really agree with banning it, I'd go with a solution like google's "did you mean" rather than "you can't do that". But I understand the reason - it's a way to make it much more difficult (or maybe not that much) to do a bad thing (or something perceived as bad for a large enough number of people).
    – cregox
    Mar 9, 2010 at 14:37
  • Have you actually read the message LMGTFY shows on the page? That plus the delay and you still don't consider it rude?
    – Gnome
    Apr 8, 2010 at 18:14
  • @gnome yes, I've read it, I never considered anything there as "rude" until I've came to this question. I'm not saying I can't understand why people consider it tho, it's just it never crossed my mind before. People get offended way too easily from my point of view, but again, I'm not normal.
    – cregox
    Apr 12, 2010 at 18:30
  • 1
    cheeky yes, rude no.. I agree some people will be bothered by it, but is it worth banning? why not leave it to the usual risks of getting downvoted etc? it takes all kinds of people to make the world go round and I for one would be chuckling at getting a lmgtfy answer - so long as it shows me the correct search term to use. I suppose it depends on the wider context and for that reason I am defo against an outright ban.
    – user165187
    Sep 15, 2012 at 7:41

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