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iamthemob's avatar

Although users aren't supposed to dismiss them, should questions that really should be addressed with a search engine (e.g., google) be flagged?

Asked by iamthemob (17147points) August 28th, 2010

I just joined yesterday, and I haven’t tried any of the flagging options (out of concern that I might accidentally flag with my touchy trackpad). It seems, however, that the utility of this site is that you get to, in essence, crowdsource problems that must be solved with some sort of creative intelligence, instinct, or outside expertise as opposed to just crawling boolean-style through the web. Are these questions, which generally can be identified if they have objectively correct answers that appear within the first one or two posts, regulated by an administrator? Do other users flag them for the administrator? Or is the attitude “ignore them and move on.” If so, that seems to open up the site to a whole lot of junk content.

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22 Answers

marinelife's avatar

No. We just answer the questions. Sometimes, if it is very obvious and it’s not a new user, we may gently suggest that search engines are your friends along with providing the answer.

AmWiser's avatar

I’m a little confused at the question, what are you flagging..the question or the answer. If you’re asking should a question answered with a google searched answer be flagged, then the answer is no. There is nothing in the in Fluther rules that say you must answer a question using personal expertise. You can PM the moderators as to what kind of posts are flagged. As far as junk content on the site (as they say, one man’s junk….) you can “ignore them a nd move on.”

KatawaGrey's avatar

At times, I have asked a question that may have been answered by a google search but when I ask it, I want answers from people with experience with the problem. For example, I just recently asked this question which I’m sure could be answered with a google search, but I wanted answers from people who had actually disposed of prescription drugs. There are several methods and i wanted to know the best, most effective one. Also, asking here on fluther eliminates all the hassle of having to dig through thousands of links to try and find something useful.

iamthemob's avatar

@AmWiser, in this case it would be the question itself that would theoretically be flagged. Again, I wasn’t sure what flagging options there were, and wondered if there was something along the lines of “miscategorized” as there is on Craigslist. And of course, an expertise requirement would be both unworkable and off-putting – but it seems this community would be better utilized for lay opinion questions as well as ones more suited to individuals with an expertise. For example…you can google cable rates in your area, but trying to get accounts of customer service that are current may be much more difficult, and you’d be stuck with the static answers on something like yelp.com. Knowing that inquiries obviously more suited for a search engine decrease the natural efficiencies of the members here, I was mostly wondering how strict either the member or admin policing was regarding questions that were, although not in violation of site rules, not really “right” for it.

iamthemob's avatar

@KatawaGrey – the prescription drug question is one that, although there are probably municipal regulations that may provide an answer for you, seems more suited to getting a group opinion. I more wonder about the questions where there is clearly a way to get the answer much faster with a search engine with a couple go’s experimenting with your boolean terms (e.g., what are Duane Reade’s Saturday hours or how many units are in a baker’s dozen).

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I know what you mean…they are usually in the General Section, but not always. There are a lot of reasons that might explain why. One person was new to using a computer and was not familiar with the fact that medical web-sites exist, for example.

Some people would prefer to get an answer from someone who has experienced the same situation vs. relying on a web-site that could be misleading. An example is the person who was looking for recommendations on purchasing a cheap, yet trusty vacuum cleaner. They could sign up for a reputable site like Consumer Reports, but it’s free to ask the fellow Jellies first.

People learn in different ways. Some people want relatively instant answers, which is rarely the case on many other sites.

For the questions you just gave examples of, some people may have a passion for answering and providing additional information on the topic. They may provide more insightful info. or links that the person asking the question might not find doing an internet search. While your question, and possibly frustration, is understandable, sometimes we just need to be patient and ‘play nicely’ in the Fluther ocean. And as @AmWiser points out, we can always ignore the question. I’ve done so.

As for flagging, it helps if you know what the category options are. If you haven’t tested it, go ahead and click on the “Flag” for a question and an answer to see what comes up. Nothing will happen unless you submit it. @KatawaGrey is much more equipped to address this point than I am.

Aethelwine's avatar

I agree with @KatawaGrey. I’m new to owning cell phones, and when I had to renew my contract after the first two years I didn’t know if a credit card was still needed, or a credit check. My credit declined terribly the two years of owning a cell phone. I looked online and couldn’t find my answer. I tried calling USCellular to find out, but they had a very long wait time. this was during the holidays I had to get to USCellular to renew the contract, but didn’t want to waste my time if they were going to decline me, so I asked Fluther.

Did I get hell for that! I thought I would be able to get a quick response because I know most Fluther users have cell phones, and have gone through the process of renewing their contracts. I didn’t expect to get “Google it” and “Call US Cellular”.

I wanted real life experience! :(

iamthemob's avatar

So it seems the appropriate response here would be to answer the question and suggest the alternative (albeit nicely, and perhaps not in short, harsh, declarative sentences). Again, dealing with some of the policy aspects of service providers is a little more gray-area, and you can probable get a clearer idea from real-life experience offered here than google.

Seek's avatar

I would think that questions like “What is the definition of ‘facetious’?” would be flaggable as “Doesn’t meet Fluther quality standards”, since there’s no possible way it could turn into an interactive discussion.

Kayak8's avatar

I wondered about the same thing,and it was pointed out to me that Andrew’s mother doesn’t Google, so we shouldn’t ask people to look up their own answers, but must simply answer the questions or walk away. I understand that it is OK for us to provide links to help people who are not able to google (or otherwise research an answer) on their own for whatever reason. Apparently, it doesn’t matter how factual an answer is to the question, we are not to suggest the use of search engines, but instead do the search ourselves and post the links. This is not a bad idea, because you never know what might happen . . . .

So, for example, a question such as “How many items make up a dozen?” is open to opinion and conjecture because there IS always the “Baker’s dozen” if you know what I mean and you might learn something.

What might seem like an obvious factual question: “Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of gold?” can result in a stellar discussion of the respective avoirdupois and troy weights.

So you see, we can’t assume something has an easy answer, particularly on Fluther because people here are smart and will see right through your simple “at what temperature does water boil” question and will immediately ask the altitude of where you are boiling things. Some will even ask the circumference of the container into which the liquid is placed prior to boiling and its starting temperature before adding it to the container. And someone will inevitably ask if the liquid was stored in a frizzer prior to trying to boil it. This is what makes Fluther a wonderful place to learn stuff.

augustlan's avatar

As @Kayak8 says, we can’t take it for granted that the asker even knows how to search. If they ask, we answer. We can post a link to a search we’ve done, but not in a condescending “Let Me Google That For You” kind of way.

iamthemob's avatar

True, @Kayak8 – questions that appear to be purely factual can result in a more in depth discussion once some of the assumptions surrounding them are stripped away. But I think it would be generally counterproductive to assume that such questions are more complex than they first appear. If, for instance, the question is regarding the temperature of boiling water, I think it should be safe to assume that the answer is the standard, average temperature (I’ll say 100C because that’s the easiest). The onus of narrowing down should rest ultimately with the person asking the question…so if it requires something more specific (e.g., as you mention, factoring in altitude variables), there’s a follow up.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop the person from answering “Well the standard is 100C, but in reality there are some other variables to consider. We’ll need more information if you’re asking for information regarding a specific case.” However (and I am obviously revealing my obsession with efficient allocation here) asking the specifics without providing the general answer would probably more often mean bringing in superfluous considerations that (in the best case) the “asker” will just ignore (wasted effort on the “answerer’s” part) or (in the worst case) possibly confuse the asker about what’s actually necessary for his or her situation.

And I totally agree that asking people to search for themselves is generally inappropriate (after all, the purpose of this seems to be to help others, and dismissing them is utterly contrary to that). I believe that there’s more value to providing an answer, telling them that the question could probably be answered faster if they plugged some of the relevant terms into an engine, and then point them to an engine (google, dogpile, yahoo, etc.). I would assume (I admit it) that anyone on here is probably familiar with search engines generally, but either way if they were just asking a factual question (e.g., the “homework” question of the lowest discussion value, like “if x + 7 = 12, what is x?”) discussing the value of asking that question here, and considering alternatives, might be the best (if not only) way to actually begin a discussion in the thread.

So it seems to me that just ignoring the question, or just providing the links without informing the person about the process to get the links, won’t add as much value as determining why this venue was chosen over another.

Kayak8's avatar

I am just sayin’ that Andrew’s mom doesn’t like looking things up, so give her a freakin link! In a kind and polite way (if you know what I mean). I already got blasted for this, so I am sticking with the rule of thumb to offer links with kind words even if the answer is obvious.

lillycoyote's avatar

It’s now the policy of the site that easily googleable questions can be asked, so when people ask them they don’t get pulled or flagged. I either answer them or ignore them. After all, I myself am an a complete idiot about 25% of the time, absolutely brilliant about 25% of the time and the other 50% of the time (I’ve obviously given myself a lot of leeway in terms of rounding those percentages up or down)? I muddle through and do the best I can and I always appreciate it when people are patient and polite in their dealings with me in all of my incarnations.

How hard is it to either answer the question politely or blow it off and ignore it if you can’t? Really, it’s not that hard most of the time unless you actually enjoy allowing small things and small people to irritate you. But sometimes, it is hard. And in those cases:

This is what I do when I encounter a question asked by a complete idiot: I take a deep breath, then I think and only just think what I’d really like to say, then I count to ten, and then I say/write the decent, respectful, helpful thing. Well, most of the time I do, I try to a least. I’m not a saint. :) Or I just ignore the question. It has been my experience that fluther seems to be sort of “self-cleaning.” The wheat separates from the chaff pretty much by itself, with a nudge or two from users and the moderators. The people who ask the simple questions that can be answered by a quick internet search just don’t stick around. It kind of sorts itself out. You haven’t been here very long at all, but stick around, see how it all works. Welcome.

iamthemob's avatar

@lillycoyote :

I actually figured that this was more than likely the case. I just wanted to be sure that I was nudging in the appropriate way (and yes, my instinctual method is to provide the googled link with a suggestion that they search for more resources).

@Kayak8:

Who’s Andrew’s mom? :-)

bob_'s avatar

I’d say yes, but I don’t make the rules.

lillycoyote's avatar

@iamthemob I am hoping that when you say “I actually figured that this was more than likely the case” that you are referring to my entire answer and not just the part where I said “I myself am an a complete idiot about 25% of the time” :-) Anyway… I kind of do the same thing. If it’s just straight up facts, like someone’s batting average I might answer the question, I might not, depending on how bored I am, maybe post a link and that’s that. If it’s something else, something more nuanced I might do what you suggested doing, post a link and suggest further research. But sometimes, miracle of miracles, someone asks an easily googleable question about something I know absolutely nothing about, something I never thought to google, something I didn’t even know existed and then I’m off… and it can sometimes be a lot of fun, to go off sleuthing, and it can sometimes end up with me learning something I didn’t know before, even if it’s just some stupid slang phrase that I end up finding on UrbanDictionary.com or something like that, still, it’s something curious and interesting that I didn’t know before and now I know just because someone asked a question about it. You have to be open, open to the fact that anyone, at anytime can enlarge your world. Sometimes even an idiot can point you in an interesting direction, though it may not have been the directect he intended to send you in, because, after all, he’s an idiot. But so am I sometimes. And being an idiot myself sometimes only makes me love the village(s) that allow(s) me to be one of their’s even more.

iamthemob's avatar

@lillycoyote : of course, it was to the entire statement. :-) To address your solution (or approach), sure, researching to discover factual information does have it’s rewards, both in terms of additional knowledge, as well as perhaps helping you hone your research skills. However, and this is more about how I think something like this network can be utilized, doing that both deprives the poster potentially of figuring out how to utilize their own research tools more efficiently, and also directs attention away from questions without already-discovered answers, which are generally solved in a better way the more numerous, diverse, and independent the input.

Jabe73's avatar

Well even a google search may turn up several possible answers to person’s question so like several others have said, they might want to rely on someone elses personal experience for their answers. In some instances people might not be able to fully comprehend what some of the articles on some of these websites are saying when it comes to helping with a certain problem. There are people on here who are experts in quite a few fields.

iamthemob's avatar

@Jabe73 – Sure, that’s a possibility. However, I would hope that most people who can’t understand the material that they’ve found would reference that material (or at least reference the fact that they’v e done the research, stating “I read X but need it explained”.) So I think that the situations you outline above may be more clearly (on the face) discussion-worthy topics.

augustlan's avatar

@iamthemob Andrew is one of the site’s founders. His mom is a sweetie, though she isn’t here very often. I think as long as you’ve actually answered the question, it’s ok to help the asker learn how to utilize search engines, if it seems appropriate. Just be sure to do it kindly. Saying “google it” or using “LMGTFY” is dismissive and/or snarky and that’s what isn’t allowed.

iamthemob's avatar

@augustlan – I thought that was probably the case (I was about to look through the contacts to confirm if there was an Andrew there). Ironically, it’s kind of the straight-answer flat question that I’m arguing against, right? :-)

And thanks, that clarifies things. I abhor textspeak myself…so we’re good there. I just don’t necessarily think it’s appropriate to privilege any user with the right to demand work out of another because they are unwilling to learn it themselves (unable, of course, would be a different story). Being on here, I should think, is a strong implication that you WANT to learn things, right?

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