Here's an example of what I mean:


Googling "XPath Query" returns a plethora of resources. What's the best way to respond to this question? Everything I can think of is flippant.

  • 1
    We should ban them forever. We should also ban those people who ask questions on meta without searching for duplicates first. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8724/… FOREVER
    – hobodave
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 20:31
  • 3
    @hobodave should we also ban people who don't know the difference between a question and answer? Your "dupe" is asking about answers that only provide a google link. This question is asking about questions that are easily googled (and is probably a dupe of something else, just not your link).
    – user27414
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 20:46
  • 3
    @Jon: Interesting, look at the "Frequently Asked" section on the MSO home page. It's titled "How to deal with Google questions?". I admit to not reading it. I should be banned forever, as well as whoever labeled it in the FAQ.
    – hobodave
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 21:04
  • @hobodave - don't worry, all the most interesting MSO users are banned :)
    – user27414
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 21:10
  • Slighty related: Are answers that just contain links elsewhere really “good answers”?
    – Arjan
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 22:09
  • @Jon, I think that duplicate is actually about questions, not about answers. But its title was recently changed. (I just changed it back though.)
    – Arjan
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 22:19
  • @hobodave Yes, I guess I'm being hypocritical. Didn't find that post. But in my defense, go to "Ask Question", type in my subject, and press Tab. Then try to find a post that's asking the same question. Also, try to find the post you referenced. Commented Sep 4, 2010 at 0:54

6 Answers 6


In your example the OP is looking for someone to vouch for a tutorial/guide. Google results don't provide this.

In more general terms, as long as a question is clear, specific, and at least somewhat well worded, it doesn't matter that it can be answered through Google. Stack Overflow is a repository for good programming questions and answers - even easy ones that are answered elsewhere.


Repeat after me: SO is a canonical source of information which feeds Google. Therefore any question that can be googled should be answered on SO, as if Google never existed.

There is a specific goal with SE, and it is often joked that the SE home page is Google. For that reason, and that reason alone, either answer the question, or ignore it and move along.

If you feel a question is too simple to answer, then it is not the question you should be answering. Leave them for those that are willing to spend time answering them. There is a specific reason LMGTF links are banned on SO, and more can be read on the topic here

  • That makes a lot of sense. Your explanation was very helpful. Commented Sep 4, 2010 at 0:59

It takes a special type of patience and flair for communication to be able to answer beginners' questions in a way that is useful to the beginner and not merely amusement for everyone else.

If you're not capable of doing this, simply skip that question and do not answer it.

  • -1 because I just plain don't think that the first sentence is true.
    – Pops
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 21:41
  • @Popular - Which part of it do you think is untrue? Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 22:04
  • I don't think any "special type of patience" or "flair" is required.
    – Pops
    Commented Sep 3, 2010 at 1:56
  • @Popular - Ah, fair enough; thanks for the response. Commented Sep 3, 2010 at 4:49

The answer, same as any other valid question.

A better question might be, how should we deal with users who ask questions that are clearly displayed in the FAQ section on meta?

How should we deal with Google questions?

  • So meta.stackoverflow.com's FAQ is a resource about meta.stackoverflow.com that is, in turn, a resource about stackoverflow.com. That is so many levels that I never even looked for it (the FAQ). I was trying to find information about stackoverflow.com. I assumed that meta.stackoverflow.com was where I should ask the question. | Also, Go to "Ask Question", type in my subject, and press Tab. Then try to find a post that's asking the same question. Also, try to find the post you referenced. Commented Sep 4, 2010 at 1:07

If the question isn't answered on SO yet, I wouldn't bother if it's easily answered via Google. If there already is a good SO answer on the topic, link that.


For those I personally know, I find http://www.lmgtfy.com to be useful :)

The particular question in question is as Jon B said looking for a strong tutorial. There's lots of resources on Google but sifting through them isn't as straight forward for a novice.

Keep in mind though the "paradox of knowledge" which is essentially that knowledge must be possessed of how to obtain new knowledge. This fundamental hurdle does include effectively using Google.

  • 8
    Responding with lmgtfy is not acceptable.
    – hobodave
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 20:26
  • 2
    @hobodave Or possible Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 21:37
  • @hobodave Hence "those I personally know", you know, like friends. Thanks for the parade!
    – Rob Olmos
    Commented Sep 3, 2010 at 4:44

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