There seems to be a fairly constant stream of low quality questions being asked on the site which are often followed up by a 'welcome to the site please provide more information' type comment

I'm curious to what if any procedure should be used for pointing people in the direction of a well targeted search on Google? I appreciate we don't want to do the legwork for new users, but equally should we be encouraging them to widen their search?

A classic example of this is this recently asked question: https://gis.stackexchange.com/questions/124270/how-to-access-layers-from-current-toc-into-python-window-in-arcgis I typed 'ArcPy List' into Google and the first few hits appear to give the information the user requires.

My question is should I tell them this or let them figure it out for themselves? Or for that matter make use of one of my favorite (tongue in cheek) sites for these situations: Let Me Google That For You

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    The question you mention is definitely poorly worded, but in the OP's defence, "arcpy list" isn't a natural thing to search for if you're just starting out... Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 23:07
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    @StephenLead I agree - googling something more like "arcpy layer source" may have been more likely and would have lead quickly to support.esri.com/en/knowledgebase/techarticles/detail/40100 - I think we are seeing a lot less researched questions than this one where the asker at least spent the time to write a few paragraphs.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 23:39

2 Answers 2


I too have noticed an increase in low quality questions as the ranks of our site's users rapidly swell.

There has been Meta SE discussion on LMGTFY, and I don't think using that site is a good strategy.

I think a simpler deterrent to posting of unresearched questions is downvoting (as that button tip encourages - see below), preferably but not necessarily accompanied by a comment.

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The type of comment I might write could include something like "I found this by googling 'arcpy layer source'" but I think wrapping it in http://lmgtfy.com/ is too much like rubbing their noses in it.

It's a fine line and I am glad you asked the question.

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    Here is an interesting response from the author of WhatHaveYouTried.com Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 1:58
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    The quiet “downvote and move on” (a variant of mefi's FIAMO) builds a better site than snark such as lmgtfy.
    – scruss
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 11:06
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    With the revision I fully agree with this answer. I'm sure we've all felt a bit snarky when seeing an obvious question and might like to vent that. But in the context of 'making SE be all it can', lmgtfy is more a detraction than improvement. The same thing can be said (and is) couched in more polite/tactful terms, such as the 'what have you tried' bit. The voting mechanism is specifically there for your distaste (hover down arrow, it says 'shows no research effort'). There's nothing that says you have to respond in any way, but something that can be negative doesn't help the site much.
    – Chris W
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 22:01
  • @ChrisW You reminded me to add a graphic.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 22:41
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    Stack Overflow now has a new review queue, triage. Currently, it is in testing, while the algorithm gets tuned, but the general idea is that the 'pleaze give me the codez' type questions get automatically booted off the home page. I applaud the comments here, but anyone who has spent any time on one of the more popular tags on SO, would have to be a saint not to occasionally give in to snarkiness. Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 13:45

A couple of points:

  1. Some people really aren't that great at googling. They don't think of the right synonym, or aren't specific enough, or just can't even think of what it is they need to know specifically. In those cases, it might be reasonable to just answer, "googling your search terms gave this link: ...".

  2. Even if the answer is readily answerable by information found on Google, isn't it in the StackExchange mission to have a canonical question/answer that specifically addresses it? The next person bad googler might hit this Q/A...

  • 1
    I challenge you to spend an hour in one of the Java, Python, C#, and/or Javascript tags on SO and still maintain that this issue is down to difficulty with Googling :D. Yes, there are some obscure terms that would be impossible to know them, until you know them, so that is fair enough. But, given the resources, minds as well as data centres that Google has put into search, I do think in most cases people should really try a little bit harder before typing, "How do I reverse a list in Python" type stuff. It is laziness, and trying to do it yourself is a huge part of effective learning. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 10:23
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    No need to tell me that, I'm an excellent googler. But not everyone is. Does downvoting their question help that? You assume that laziness is the cause - but surely writing up the full question is less lazy than simply googling the answer? Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 12:16
  • That's a fair point (and I wasn't suggesting for one second you were a bad googler). I think I am somewhat conflating bad Googling with "gize me the codez" -- they are related, but not identical. I didn't mention downvoting. So, +1, point taken. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 12:19
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    I think I have spent too much time in the review queues on SO this year. In an attempt to contribute positively, I have just ended up being a bit depressed and disillusioned about the whole thing. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 12:27
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    W.r.t. 2. I think we are trying to hit the sweet spot between what's not easily Googled and what's not in the documentation (but perhaps should be). Two Meta Q&As that get this across I think are meta.stackexchange.com/questions/244216/… and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/179035/…
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 4:17

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