I'm honestly being serious. It's just not on this forum either. Why do people put in the time and effort to post a question they can simply google the answer for? Posting their question on a forum like this takes more time than it would to google the answer, so why do people do it?

migrated from security.stackexchange.com Feb 4 '16 at 2:32

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Google-searching is a rarefying skill. It seems to be a question of generation. Let me put some historical context.

In days of my youth (say, 25 years ago, in the late 1980s and early 1990s), when you wanted to learn about something, you went to the public library and looked it up in an encyclopaedia. You also scanned the books on display to see if there was one about your research subject. If you wanted more data you had to invest time and money to order specialized books in a bookshop. All this learning was very active.

Then, from the mid-1990s onward, the Web began to grow and accumulate data, and search engines appeared (remember Altavista ?). People who were used to the library-searching began to use search engines in about the same way: to locate and pinpoint sought-after information.

In the early 2000s (2001, to be precise), Wikipedia appeared and the searching process began to change. The aggregation of information in Wikipedia meant that it became a relatively natural entry point. If you wanted to learn about a subject, you began by reading the Wikipedia article, and possibly followed some of the internal and external links; there is little googling involved in such a process. This also forced search engines to somehow change their stance: while in 1995 you wanted to learn who was the 6th emperor of the Qing dynasty(*), in 2005 you go to Google to know when the nearest restaurant opens. This is still information, but not the same usage context.

Then social networks appeared. They completely reversed the way people use the Internet. This is especially apparent in young people (say, 20 years old or less), who spend inordinate amounts of time connected to Facebook and its ilk. They use the Internet not by going forth and exploring the information jungle with the help of search engines or even Wikipedia; they simple receive a lot of the stuff from their extended network of relations. A youth who grew up to the Internet through social networks has hundreds of Internet-friends, and has barely enough time to simply sift through all the data that they push unto him. For him, Google-searching is an almost alien concept. When he really wants to learn about a specific subject, he asks: he pushes a message so that his Internet-friends, not an anonymous robot like Google, gives him the answer.

Different site, same people: when social network users come to StackExchange, they keep their Internet usage habits: they don't look things up in Google; they ask. Many do not even look up other questions in StackExchange, which is why there are many duplicates.

The amazing thing is how fast this transformation occurred: in two decades, search engines transitioned from "bleeding edge technology" to "tool for dinosaurs".

(Of course I am talking generalities here; there are still people who use search engines, and even people who go to public libraries. And there are good reasons to ask questions as well. But my point is that the googling reflex is not as widespread as it used to be.)


(*) It is Qianlong, or Daoguang if you do not count the first two dynasty members who ruled before the conquest of China from the Ming. But you could get that information by simply typing "6th qing emperor" in Google and read the two first hits, which are Wikipedia entries.

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    Amusingly enough, my teachers actually taught Google skills during the library periods. Then again, I'm part of the social media generation. – Ohnana Feb 4 '16 at 13:56
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    I agree. All the millenials I work with seem to suck at Google searches. Especially when they feel that they receive even half of an answer. They do no hypothesis testing, assumption challenging, or using the search results to create new refined queries to get a different perspective. "Instant Answers" requires research effort... – schroeder Feb 4 '16 at 15:48
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    I'd never quite thought of it that way before, but I think you're exactly right. As a person who is very proud of my own Google-fu skills while being relatively young, these developments make me sad. – Mr. Bultitude Feb 12 '16 at 20:15
  • As another option, the search engines continue to present URLs of people answering similar questions, plastered across multiple scrapper sites, with "go google it" responses. Tired of being told to do what they're doing, they seek human interaction from a site less likely than most forums to yield this type of a response. Your inversion of search engine relevancy and power is not just a social phenomena but a failure of the googling paradigm. The "key word" barrier to getting answers is erased on a site like stack exchange. – Dave Feb 16 '16 at 19:16
  • And how can the semi-illiterate friends of a 20 year old semi-illiterate answer an interesting IT question? – peterh Feb 17 '16 at 9:08
  • This is an interesting perspective I never considered before as I'm from the end of the library and beginning of the internet generation. It's incredibly coherent. – Raystafarian May 13 '16 at 17:21

Plenty of good reasons:

  • there might be only partial, disparate answers and no central knowledge repository the size of StackExchange with an authoritative answer
  • there might be contradictory answers and expert help is required to make sense of them
  • existing posts on other sites might not cover the context / hardware / software the OP is interested in
  • the OP might not know how to search the question because they might not know terminology (a fair share of my edits consists of entirely rewriting questions because of that)
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    +1 for the second point. Google provides a vast array of answers which may or may not apply and may or may not be right. How is the questioner to know which is what? Q&A sites provide the likelihood that someone with expert knowledge has filtered those results (or the equivalent knowledge) and tailored them to the specific question. – gowenfawr Feb 4 '16 at 14:14
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    Additionally it is very easy to find a vast array of responses concerning previous versions of X for IT searches. It becomes increasingly difficult to get meaningful results for new technologies or those with archaic names/acronyms that do not surface well in search engines. – Dave Feb 17 '16 at 16:58

There can be very real cultural reasons for asking strangers over asking a primary source.

Also, there can be an element of trust in a source. How does one know that the answer they found is authoritative? On a forum, one can at least get an average of answers and deduce an authoritative direction.

  • thanks for the serious answer schroeder! I think it's partly stackexchange's fault also for requiring everyone to write a post or answer a question to gain rep. The question or answer has to get more than a +1 which, on stackexchange is a long shot since the pple on here - by all appearances - are more motivated by the opportunity to criticize and insult others to make themselves feel better than they are to provide genuine assistance. If I could, I'd upvote you. :) – Snipercatz Feb 4 '16 at 5:30
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    @snipercatz i believe this is what you're seeing because this is the state of mind you came here with. I don't personally feel that there is any gratituous criticism going on here. – Steve DL Feb 4 '16 at 9:18

Most of the times I search for anything, (apart from wikipedia) There are just too many cleverly disguised advertisements and promotions in the first few pages in google - after awhile I feel like I am in a southpark episode.

Also Articles that show up in google may not always fit my specific problem, in here I have the flexibility to comment and even correct my question.

The answers you find on Google have to come from somewhere and one of the aims that the Stack Exchange founders had was to be that somewhere. As such, asking simple, easily Googleable questions isn't inherently bad... And can generate interesting answers and as someone who has produced detailed answers to simple questions on Serverfault I can tell you that writing detailed answers to simple questions can be quite educational.

None of that excuses simple and bad questions, of course. There's a limit to what you can do with "LOL how do I security teh computerz".

  • This was my first thought as well – Raystafarian May 13 '16 at 17:20

exchanging with people (sepacially experts) it is more benefical than asking the google. you could save time and effort. google is not always a good search engine and it gives you a custom answers related to your location/researched words..... that sometimes is not the best answer

Googeling is easy and quick on subjects you already know a lot about. Googeling is hard on subjects you know little about. Why? Three reasons:

  1. What should I google?
    If you don't know the correct terminology, you will not get the right result.
    Example: You want to know how the webpages you visit are encrypted, it might be hard if you don't know you should google HTTPS.
  2. What if I don't understand the answer?
    You might end up on a technical page or a documentation way above your level, so you cant understand any of the results. If there only was somewhere you could ask for an explanation and ask follow up questions...
    Example: On your quest to understand if the webpages you recieve over the web are encrypted, you end up trying to read the TLS standard, without understanding a word.
  3. What results should I trust?
    You get loads of results, and they seem to contradict each other. There might not be an actual contradiction, but you don't know enough to tell the difference. Better to ask someone with a nice profile picture and loads of magical internet points - they would never lie to you.
    Example: One page says that "the web is inherently insecure" and another says "HTTPS makes the web safe". What is true?

So no, I don't think it's about generation or culture or laziness or the thirst for rep. It's because what might seem like easy for you might be hard for someone else.

One marginal point other answers seem to forget about is reputation. As long as "I'm feeling lucky" questions are upvoted, they will be asked just for that reason.

I'm not saying that basic questions are not OK, they are welcome here*. Just don't upvote questions which are not clever or show no research effort, and things will be fine.

(*) though I personally don't share the feeling that replicating basic knowledge for the sake of google hits is necessary, this seems to be the official position of SO.

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