13

To put it another way: Can we assume that someone who asks a question on Super User has tried to find the answer elsewhere first? For many (most?) people, the first step in finding an answer to just about any question is to google. If an answer can be found easily on Google, does that make it too easy for Super User?

Do we want Super User to become the first place people go for answers to questions related to computer use? Does Super User 'compete' with Google in that sense?

Certainly, the quality of the answers on Super User often exceeds what can be found elsewhere, and the idea of Super User being more relevant than Google for finding answers in itself sounds appealing. But in practice, if Super User becomes everyone's first stop for solving computer use problems, we're going to see a lot of questions that are incredibly basic. Is that a problem? Perhaps not.

So my question comes down to this: are there questions that are too easy for Super User? If so, how should such questions be handled? If not, then it should be interesting to see what happens to the quality of Super User questions as the site becomes more popular. If the Super User moderators spend all their time reframing Google search results in easy-to-consume packages, the task might grow wearisome.

19

This is going to be a short answer since this topic gets hashed and rehashed a thousand times however:

Google is the Super User/Server Fault/Stack Overflow home page

The Trilogy and SE is attempting to be a canonical source of information regarding each topic it represents.

As long as the question is phrased and meets the criteria of the site, it should be answered, correctly, without a link back to a Google source, apart from potentially the search terms used to assist users.

  • 3
    Diago that sounds a lot like recursion – JNK Sep 15 '10 at 15:58
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    +1 @Diago - @JNK not really.... People will Google and find their answer then leave or if the question is too different, they will ask another one. The best way to get them here in the first place is to have as many questions / answers (that are on topic) as possible! – William Hilsum Sep 15 '10 at 17:15
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    @Wil - sorry was an attempt at a joke (notice what google lists as a suggestion in the link) – JNK Sep 15 '10 at 17:52
  • @Diago: I did spend some time searching for discussions on this topic but didn't find anything definitive. I guess I missed all the rehashing. Can you point me to some of those conversations? Now, if I'm interpreting your answer correctly, no question is too easy for SU, and ideally we want Google search results for computer use questions to point to Superuser. If that is indeed what you're saying, then you've answered my question and it remains only to confirm that this notion is shared by the other moderators and (possibly) the founders. +1 – boot13 Sep 15 '10 at 21:18
  • @boot13 something similar on SO meta.stackexchange.com/questions/63247/… – Sathyajith Bhat Sep 16 '10 at 0:06
  • @boot13. Good luck. I won't hold my breath. On the original MSO this topic has often been discussed, in different forms, with different titles many many times. Jeff & Joel have both on many occasions made mention of the fact that Google is the home page, and that itself should answer your question. As a moderator team, we don't consider any question to be to easy, and the keyword in that is team. The moderators work together, not independently. – BinaryMisfit Sep 16 '10 at 5:36
  • @JNK I fell for it :( – William Hilsum Sep 17 '10 at 11:45
  • @Diago, Sathya: Okay, thanks. I guess I didn't look hard enough. Google is Superuser's home page and no question is too easy. Got it. – boot13 Sep 17 '10 at 14:24
  • More questions: If I find the answer on another site and want to use that information in my answer, should I provide attribution? Should I link to the source? Is it acceptable to quote from the other site, as long as I provide attribution, or should I reword or simply copy the information? – boot13 Sep 19 '10 at 17:00
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    @boot13 always quote + link – Jeff Atwood Sep 20 '10 at 7:45
  • @Jeff: That makes the most sense to me as well. Thanks for the confirmation. – boot13 Sep 20 '10 at 14:37
3

This is covered a bit in Podcast #58

Joel says that the only bad simple question is a duplicate simple question. I say simple questions are OK as long as they’re actually interesting (in some way) for other users to consider and answer. To prove his point, Joel actually asks the question on Stack Overflow: How do I move the turtle in LOGO? Do you think this question adds value?

Naturally, I stand by my viewpoint: simple questions are only good if they're interesting to the people who will be answering them.

Though in a way we are both correct, since almost by definition a simple duplicate question is never interesting , but I think it goes deeper than that -- what makes a question interesting? what's the difference between a simple interesting question and a simple boring question?

  • 1
    I'm not as concerned with duplicates as others appear to be. If a question is asked more than once, the relative quality of the answers should eventually decide which question appears higher on search results. Rather than bag at people for duplicates, I would be more inclined to quote from and/or link to those other answers. – boot13 Sep 20 '10 at 14:43
  • My view on simple questions is that as long as one person finds value in a question and its answers, it is worthwhile having it on the site. If the SU mission is to help people and a question helps someone, mission accomplished. My only concern is that the site could become a bit unruly if overrun by simple questions. Only time will tell. – boot13 Sep 20 '10 at 14:50
2
  1. This is not related to the "easiness" of the question, but related to the general rule that you should always search for an answer first, before you ask it. If it is an "advanced" question, but is a common problem and answered before, it is still wrong to ask it again...

  2. From the faq:

    Super User is a Q&A site for computer enthusiasts...

    I think that if someone is not a computer enthusiast, they would not bother to ask a question here if he/she had some problems. Non-computer enthusiasts will just bang the keyboard an swear a bit, and go ask a co-worker or a friend that is a computer enthusiast. If the enthusiast friend does not know how to answer it, it will probably not be too "easy" to ask here anyway.

1

I think it's safe to assume that people who don't know what a terminal is will probably end up on a forum like the Windows 7 Forums anyway. Why can I assume this? Here are two prime examples:

Exhibit A

I love the Welcome banner http://desmond.yfrog.com/Himg201/scaled.php?tn=0&server=201&filename=selection001j.png&xsize=640&ysize=640

Exhibit B

Person 1: Hey bud, I was wondering if you could help me change the wallpaper on my new laptop thing?
Person 2: Yikes, I'm gonna have to say you're going to have to check SuperUser, it's pretty tough.

v.

Person 1: HELP ME FRIEND!!! MY MOUSE REACHED THE END OF THE MOUSEPAD AND NOW I CAN'T USE IT!!! HELP!!!
Person 2: Calm down, we'll do this quickly and swiftly. I'll check on Google. (20 seconds later) Apparently all you have to do is pick up the mouse and put it back on the mousepad.

Which one is more realistic?


That said, more complicated questions that are still Googleable (e.g. finding the best antivirus), they should be answered anyway because SuperUser is also part wiki.

  • 5
    ...except there IS no "best antivirus". Which means a discussion thread with no actual answer. – JNK Sep 16 '10 at 2:37
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    @jnk 'Best' questions make me shake my head too. Far too often the answer is, "it depends," or, "they all suck." – SysAdmin1138 Sep 16 '10 at 14:28
  • don't joke about the mouse thing... I actually had a call about that on a laptop trackpad... – William Hilsum Sep 17 '10 at 11:45
  • @Wil That's where I got the idea xD. – digitxp Sep 20 '10 at 21:17
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    The "I love the Welcome banner" image isn't working. – Donald Duck Mar 5 '17 at 9:21

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