I'm not going to give examples to avoid calling anybody out, but I have come across a few instances where the search terms a user has used to find the information for their answer/comment were labeled and listed somewhere in their response. Whenever I see this I get a look-how-easy-it-was-to-find-this-information vibe, and to me it comes off as condescending. Is there a community policy/opinion regarding this behavior?

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  • Related: scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3674/… – Möoz Sep 20 '17 at 0:21
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    Tell a user the answer, and you solve their one question. Teach a user how to find the answer, and you solve all their questions for eternity. – Rand al'Thor Sep 20 '17 at 7:03
  • Since it would appear that this has gone in a different direction than you were (evidently) expecting, are you now willing to share those answers/comments you felt weren't appropriate? – Valorum Sep 25 '17 at 15:32

It's actually a good idea, in my opinion, especially for story identification questions.

Think about it this way: instead of it being 'oh look how easy it was to find the info', think of it as teaching the OP - and anyone else who reads it - how to find answers.

If someone asks a question, and someone answers without including the search terms that they used, that doesn't help anyone who wants to improve their Google-fu. If they do include the terms, however, they teach people about what sites to use, what keywords to use, where to put quotes...

Searching is difficult. Knowing how to use the correct search terms is hard. It's good if people include the terms - it helps people know how to find their answers better next time.

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  • An interesting perspective. I never would've thought of it like that. I've seen so many people chiding others about "how easy it was" to find what they wanted to know that I assumed giving the actual search terms was doing the same thing. – DCOPTimDowd Sep 19 '17 at 20:05
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    I used to put it in as comments for that reason. I've since been asked enough times to add it to the answer itself that I've started doing that as a default. When it was in the comments, I often listed a few things that didn't work to find it even though they were perfectly fine search terms. – FuzzyBoots Sep 19 '17 at 20:29
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    Yes. This. I've even proposed (on another site; perhaps I should do so here too) mentioning search terms used as a recommendation for story-ID answers. – Rand al'Thor Sep 20 '17 at 7:03
  • So is doing this only acceptable with id questions, or is that the only place where it's recommended? – DCOPTimDowd Sep 20 '17 at 15:21
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    I personally think it's acceptable anywhere. – FuzzyBoots Sep 21 '17 at 13:27
  • @DCOPTimDowd - everywhere. Just it's even more helpful on Story-ID questions because those are easier to answer via Google than other questions on this site. – Mithical Sep 23 '17 at 17:49

I wouldn't consider it rude

As you suggest, it is possible that the answerer's intention was to point out how easy it was to find the answer. We expect users to do some research before asking a question, and this would be a relatively non-confrontational way of suggesting that the user should do more research in the future.

It is also possible that the answerer's intention was simply to document how he or she arrived at the answer, so that others can verify it.

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  1. The user was probably educated in American modern school. As I found out to my horror, they grade you not on how well you solve the problem in Math, but on how anal you are about documenting your solution process. So, people are trained to show their steps, on pain of downvote lower grade.

  2. Leaving that rant aside, showing how the answer was arrived at is actually a useful thing on a Q&A side. Yes, it has a slight whiff of possible condescension. The usefulness - to both OP AND to everyone reading the answer - outweighs that downside by a large margin.

  3. Orthogonally, there is a category of answers where search terms are basically 100% required for a good answer. More specifically, any answer where either whole or part of the answer is "we don't know".

    At that point, exact proof of how you arrived at "don't know" conclusion is required for the answer to be any good, which absolutely requires you to list exact efforts you put in to find the answer including exact search terms, so people can see if you missed any possible searches and try to improve.

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    I've provided search terms, but never to show superiority! I assume they searched plenty to, and I would just hate not knowing how someone found something after all the work I put in. I've seen other people find answers I was looking for and when I see they're search it's like a lighbulb moment "OH! I see, now!" – user31178 Sep 20 '17 at 5:10
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    Is that first paragraph really necessary? It seems like just a small rant about US education which isn't really that relevant here. (Btw, have you heard the story about the geometry problem which Americans could solve and Russians couldn't? A load of students were given a triangle's side-lengths and asked to compute its area; the Americans plugged it into their formula and wrote down the answer, while the Russians thought about it for a while and realised that no triangle with those side-lengths could actually exist.) – Rand al'Thor Sep 20 '17 at 7:05
  • @Randal'Thor - not it's actually needed to explain why. People educated in New Math or whatever it's called are more likely to put in long winded un-necessary explanations of showing their work, whether the context calls for it or not, as that's their unconscious mode of operation they had to adopt to survive school. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 20 '17 at 12:15
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    @CreationEdge - I know. I usually feel rather sheepish when someone points out "oh that's how you search" but quite a bit more pleased that I learned something. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 20 '17 at 12:16
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    Yes, I agree with @Randal’Thor. We all have opinions on political, educational, and religious matters. But is frequently inserting them into completely unrelated answers necessary? It’s not helpful to the answer, and it’s probably not great for your score (I doubt the four downvotes have anything to do with the quality of the parts of the answer that actually address the question). – Adamant Sep 24 '17 at 17:53
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    And what’s more, you actually say in the next point that it’s useful to include this information, so I’m completely at a loss as to why you’d attribute it to some negative effect of the US education system (note that one of the people who most often posts search terms is Valorum, whom I believe was in the British educational system). – Adamant Sep 24 '17 at 17:57
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    And reiterating the point about political views: when I write an answer about Palpatine’s possible prejudice against clones, say, I don’t make snide references to President Trump, for example. Or when I write an answer about Umbridge’s quality as a teacher, I don’t go off on a tangent about the UK education system. I’m sure it’s crept in somewhere, but I make a good-faith effort to keep my answers on-topic and free of extraneous social comments. – Adamant Sep 24 '17 at 18:04
  • @Adamant - I tend to add some commentary (be it tone, humour or straight up snark) to most of my answers. You've got to toe the line between funny and political very closely though. – Valorum Sep 28 '17 at 11:27

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