I have observed many times that people ask questions that have the specificity to be solved by a Google search. Yet they come to us and ask us. Often it could be fro a reference on a statistical method. Sometimes I refer them to Google and at other times I will answer the question after finding the answer through a Google search and people will reward me with reputation points for that! Why are we relied on so much in situations where the OP could easily get the answer through Google or Wikipedia? Is it just that we older folks haven't got the hang of search engines yet? Do people not understand how quickly google can come up with thousands of references of which many of the early ones will be very useful?

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    $\begingroup$ Google is a primary search engine for the Web. StackExchange has an internal search engine which serves the same role: access to it appears at the top right of every page. With it, you will find that this question is an SE FAQ. Is that ironic or what? :-) $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    May 31, 2012 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Hilarious, @whuber. I believe the modern term for that is "Oh snap". Seriously though, I thought the search field in the top right only queried whatever board you were on, not the entire network. $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    May 31, 2012 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Macro True; you need enough experience to recognize when a meta question--because it might apply network-wide--should be searched on Meta SO. But even a naive search for "Google" here turns up 23 threads, many of which discuss this issue. I don't mean "naive" in any pejorative sense, but only to emphasize that people like me whose search strategies tend toward simple combinations of keywords can still find satisfaction. Nor did I intend to imply the current question is redundant. But its somewhat self-referential nature is amusing :-). $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    May 31, 2012 at 18:28

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure if this question was meant to be humorous Michael, but I'll take it as a serious question. :)

I've noticed this a lot and I tend to ignore questions like this and let someone else handle it because I think at least some of those who post such questions are just being lazy. Occasionally I'll flatly say something like "Have you looked at the help file" or "Have you googled '....'".

Giving these posters the benefit of the doubt and supposing they're not just being lazy, I'd attribute this phenomena to people not being fluent enough with statistical terminology (or not confident with their fluency) to correctly search or, if they have found something, to determine if this is the thing they should've been looking for. They are relying on someone who knows more about statistics to give it their "seal of approval" that this is indeed what they should be looking for. I don't think this is such a bad thing, since this, overall, leads to better use of statistics.

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    $\begingroup$ (+1) Particularly for the last paragraph, and, specifically, for the point regarding familiarity with statistical terminology. As one becomes more knowledgeable about a subject, it becomes easy to forget how important a command of the basic vocabulary is toward your understanding and ability to find things. $\endgroup$
    – cardinal
    May 31, 2012 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro I like your answer and gave iy a plus 1. I was very serious about the question and I appreciate your answer. I would accept it but someone else already has. Why can someone other than the OP accept the answer? $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2012 at 1:31
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelChernick, thanks. I don't think anyone has accepted the answer though. $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    Jun 1, 2012 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ Now this question is only half serious. Do you think that by answering with a citation from Google merits reputation points. I guess it goes to show that I am adept at Google. But of I do that it means I didn't know the answer myself. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2012 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ Yes I do think that merits reputation points. You had to put forth some effort to do it,right? $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    Jun 1, 2012 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber Do you really compare the StackExchange search engine to Google? $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2012 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Macro I saw a check mark. But it was in gray. I checked it and it turned green. Did you get the 15 points from me? $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2012 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I got the check mark. You don't get points for meta posts though. $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    Jun 1, 2012 at 2:45
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    $\begingroup$ Michael, the comparison of SE search to Google is not in terms of capability, but rather it speaks to the spirit of your question. One interpretation is that it asks "why do people rush to ask questions without first doing appropriate research?" Well, on SE sites appropriate research includes using the SE search: "Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question?". Perhaps turning your comment around would be illuminating: do you really think Google is the only way to do research on the Web? (I'm sure you don't.) $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Jun 1, 2012 at 15:19

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