In "How to Ask", or preferrably, after you click "Ask Question" and before it allows you to type anything, there needs to be some kind of feature that warns against astonishingly vague questions like this one, which are quickly becoming a plague on Serverfault. Those who are interested in answering questions need to know:

  1. Have you Googled it? This question may have already been asked, and as such, the answer is probably already out there.
  2. What are you trying to do?
  3. Why are you trying to do it?
  4. What equipment are you using? Operating system? Software?
  5. If this is a question about a specific error, what is the error message?
  6. Does this question actually belong on Superuser.com?

This also applies to Superuser.com, since it's definitely going to attract noobs like AOL does, all with the same level of technical savvy. Not that that's a bad thing, of course, but we'll need something to prevent questions like "My computer doesn't work" that give roughly as much detail in the body.

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    5 is not relevant, though. 1-4 are. I hate having to post a comment that says "Are you getting an error message? If you are, post it." – Thomas Owens Aug 7 '09 at 19:02
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    I don't think you need to disclose if you're getting paid for the error. If you do thousands of programmers on SO might be out of a job. – Ian Elliott Aug 7 '09 at 19:02
  • There are only 35 people on SF with enough rep to vote to close?! How does anything get done on that site? – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Aug 7 '09 at 19:05
  • Okay, edited question 5. – Ernie Aug 7 '09 at 19:06
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    @Pesto: Oh, that's easy. Evan Anderson appears to do nothing but monitor SF all day. ;) – Ernie Aug 7 '09 at 19:08
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    @Ernie: You guys have your own He Who Shall Not Be Named and everything? How adorable! – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Aug 7 '09 at 19:15
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    Oh, and this applies to SO and SU as well, IMO. At least 1, 2, 4, and 5 do. 3 in some cases, but not all. – Thomas Owens Aug 7 '09 at 19:15
  • Also, "Have you googled it?" should be number one, moving all others down one step. Edited to add this. – Ernie Aug 10 '09 at 15:48
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    @Ernie disagree 100% that Googling should be a prerequisite to posting the question. – Rex M Sep 1 '09 at 18:00
  • -1 for "Have you googled it?" – Ladybug Killer Sep 9 '09 at 6:58
  • On superuser, before being allowed to post your question, you should be asked if you tried using 7-Zip or VLC. It's usually the answer to everything, much like 42. – alex Sep 9 '09 at 13:21

Warning this is a rant and my moment on the Soapbox

My official feeling as moderator and member of the community on 1:

Google is the SU/SF/SO home page. Until every question has been asked on these sites and the first 3 pages of Google point only to SU/SF/SO LMGTFY is not an answer nor a solution to any question.

The moderators openly ignore any flags that indicate this and we will not close a question because someone else believes that the person should have used Google first. Believe it or not, but outside of your small little IT world there is users out there that doesn't know how to use Google, or doesn't know how to ask the question. This is why SU/SF/SU exists. Am I harsh? Yes. Because I am extremely tired of seeing people use Google as an excuse for people asking valid questions. I am a certified trainer and deal with some of the brightest minds in the IT industry everyday, and most of them don't know how to ask questions, but can answer them brilliantly.

On SF I can understand 2-5 however on SU they make no sense. The average person does not always understand the terminology. I have been in IT for 14 years and recently asked questions regarding Linux networking, which turned out to be a bridging question, however I did not know about the term and therefore the question made no sense, and I could not find the information using Google because I wasn't sure what I was looking for. However SF provided useful, intelligent and quick answers.

If you are not willing to accept that there are people that really don't know, and won't have the ability to Google it, I strongly suggest that these sites are not the place for you

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    Deleted comments due to edit :) – Diago Sep 9 '09 at 14:29
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    Now that is abuse of power! Each comment of mine is a work of art; only I may delete it, and only just before Welbog has answered it! – balpha Sep 9 '09 at 14:43
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    Yes! Abuse of power! I wished I could upvote him twice... – Ladybug Killer Sep 9 '09 at 14:57
  • @balpha - Will the pony I "borrowed" from TheTXI and the "waffles" I confiscated of Welbog make up for it? :) – Diago Sep 9 '09 at 14:58

I don't see a problem with asking a question again even if it can be found with a search engine. The more information that's available on a problem the better. A question on the SO family of sites also directs it to an appropriate audience that often have great and well explained answers. This can often beat what's already out there.

Also: do you really think the sort of people that ask the question you've linked to are going to bother reading a check list?

Surely this would be better solved by the outcome to the Handling “Problematic” Stack Overflow participants question.


Your list seems to mostly assume that questions will only be asked when the user has a problem, which isn't the case by any stretch of the imagination.

With regards to #1, I believe Jeff has stated (can't remember where, maybe on the blog, maybe on CH, maybe elsewhere) that "google it first" is not an appropriate response to "basic" questions, since the idea is for SOFU to become a deep repository of useful information, such that when someone does "google it", they'll arrive at SOFU, and find an answer.

  • To add - We have stated on various occassion that Google is the SO Home Page - Therefore every question should lead here. – Diago Sep 9 '09 at 14:11

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