I know it's only the first day, but plenty of the questions I've seen so far appear to be easily answered by doing a simple search.

"What author wrote Title?", "What actor played Character?", and similar questions are easily answered by Wikipedia, IMDB, and/or ISFDB. They give the appearance of just being rep farming versus actual SE-quality posts.

Are they appropriate, or should they be closed?
(and if the latter, under what category?)

So far, I've managed to control myself from lmgtfy answers, but I've come awfully close a few times…

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    Not to get too semantic, but I think you mean to halt questions that are a matter of "general reference." Virtually anything is "Google-able" but I don't think you mean to suggest that questions that can be found elsewhere on the web should not be asked here. Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 2:25
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    @Dori: The general policy is that no question is too simple. But IMDB-able questions during a private beta make me sad. Read the Lessons for Area 51 at the bottom of this blog post: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/12/…. Then try and help the community see the problem with what they are doing. It's a tough sell and I don't know if its time just yet for me to go through and clean out these questions. Maybe. Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 3:08
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    It's early, give it time. My hesitation in closing these early good-but-just-not-now questions is that I usually do so under the premise of establishing the site's expertise. But I'm not sure this will be a site based on expertise; just different levels of enthusiasm and knowledge of trivia. So I can't honestly say that a question asking "Is Arthur C. Clarke really invented the idea of the satellites" is any more legitimate than, say, "Is I, Robot wrote by Isaac Asimov?" ~90% of the questions read like a question out of Trivial Pursuit. Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 3:43

4 Answers 4


Joel and I have never agreed on this.

I think you should only allow questions that are interesting to answer.

And a question so trivial, like .. oh .. I don't know .. How do I move the turtle in LOGO? .. simply isn't interesting for experts or even just enthusiasts to answer. (for context, podcast 58)

Let the site fill up with trivial questions like that and you soon won't have anyone (of any quality, anyway) left to answer questions.

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    Caveat. Answering the question yourself DOES provide value, as it may drive people to the site from google. Ask trivia, if you plan to answer the question yourself.
    – DampeS8N
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 15:51
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    +1 on that, it's not whether you can dig the answer with 30 minutes of google, it's whether it's an interesting question that counts!
    – Dr G
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 23:30
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    @dori I'm pretty sure Joel is wrong about this (and it isn't the first time heh) -- what matters is whether the question is interesting to the type of audience you WANT to have. Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 8:49
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    The "I, Robot" author question is an interesting case here. I, like many, assumed that it was indeed Asimov. It was only by reading the question that I learnt about the earlier story of the same name that inspired Asimov (and is perhaps closer to the movie story). I personally found that question (or rather the answer) very interesting.
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 9:53

While I agree with Jeff that a question should be interesting to answer, may I remind everyone that even 'trivial' questions can be interesting. Case in point:

What are the Windows A and B drives used for?

This question is dead simple and if you're old enough to remember you can't imagine someone not knowing, but it sparks interest in a lot of people!

It also takes an interested, experienced user to take a 'trivial' question and transform it into a learning experience for everyone who stumbles on to it.

In the end, I think you have to judge this on a case by case basis and also let the quality of the question and/or answers weigh in.

  • +1. I really like this point: "It also takes an interested, experienced user to take a 'trivial' question and transform it into a learning experience for everyone who stumbles on to it." (Not so much that it takes an experienced user, but that simple questions can be transformed into a learning experience. I've seen this happen a ton of times on SE.)
    – grautur
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 4:11

Everything is google-able. If you close a question because you can Google the answer, you won't have any questions left open.

  • Not everything is easily found on Google if you don't have the background to frame a query and omit irrelevant results, but yeah... I take your point. Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 0:48
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    It's still the same. Just because you can find the answer somewhere else doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed as a question here. You can find the answer to everything somewhere else.
    – Slick23
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 0:50
  • First of all, General Reference VTC reason (which is what you are talking about) has as of 2013 been officially removed from SciFi.SE as a valid reason. So the short answer to your question is "They are appropriate in a sense of you shouldn't vote to close them".

  • Having said that, absolutely trivial questions (as demonstrable by Google-searching for question title and finding an answer on IMDB or very relevant Wikipedia site) are NOT interesting at all (see Jeff Atwood's answer above).

    Because of that and other reasons; such questions very clearly fit the "does not show any research effort" reason that is displayed in a hover-over on "Vote Down" button - and thus, are both within the letter AND the spirit of the rules on down-voting a question.

  • As a caveat, this only applies to specifically very trivial-to-find-the-answer questions (Obvious topic-specific Wikipedia article or IMDB/IMFSB listing is in the top Google search results for the question title).

    More involved issues (such as "questions whose answer is googleable but is on a Wikia/MemoryX site", "questions whose answer is clear from reading a book") have been discussed separately on this Meta and were decided to be quite fine and appropriate and not "trivial".

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