What should we do?

  1. Answer them with a link?
  2. Answer them with a copy / paste?
  3. Answer them with our own words?
  4. Close them?
  5. Something else?

Please can we establish a rule for this.

Note: if you don't agree with one of my examples above write it in the comments by all means but note that this question is about the principle of what we should do.

  • 11
    The Tom Bombadil question is a poor example. Compare the question and its answers with the information on Wikipedia. Our data here is far superior, and includes much that Wikipedia does not.
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 23:09
  • 1
    @Tony - thing is, do we want to compete with Wikipedia? Maybe we should go over there and update that entry, or add a link there to the question here... =:-) Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 8:01
  • 2
    I think the SE model has a lot of benefits over the Wikipedia one, so I would rather answer/ask/read here, personally. I don't see how asking a question here leading to updating Wikipedia is a viable model.
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 9:48

5 Answers 5


Increasingly, to a point where it's becoming ridiculous, any question that I have unless it's a question about a non-English speaking area (Québec, France, Spain, etc.) is easily answered by Wikipedia. Basically, almost anything that falls within Wikipedia's systemic bias can probably be answered by Wikipedia.

I think that all questions should pass the following test:

enter image description here

When it says "close as 'general reference'", it's referring to this possibly new close option that Jeff brought up. Until it's implemented, or if it's not implemented, read that as "close as "off-topic.'"

  • @Borror0 - I nearly agree - but at the top I think you should write Google / Wikipedia. Otherwise, pretty good! Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 15:06
  • 3
    @Wikis: That would only be redundant. If the answer can be found on Wikipedia, there's pretty good chance that Google will show you the relevant page in the top five results.
    – Borror0
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 15:17
  • @Borror0 - yeah, you're right. I just tested my four examples and the Wikipedia entry was the first for 3 of the 4 responses - but not "Prophets" - that was another Wikipedia page! :) Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 15:23
  • 9
    this flowchart is great! Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 17:49
  • @Jeff - it is - it should probably be on all sites! @Borror0 - nice one. Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 20:42
  • 6
    I'd like to see a fancied up version of the chart in the FAQ. All of the FAQs.
    – DampeS8N
    Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 13:25
  • This goes in my folder of "general reference" bookmarks. Nice! Commented Feb 10, 2011 at 20:42
  • 1
    I've just posted a link to this chart on Seasoned Advice. (meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1023/…)
    – Martha F.
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 5:36
  • 1
    @MarthaF.: I just fixed the typo in the previous version, if you want to use the fixed version.
    – Borror0
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 6:05
  • 4
    your answer is featured in blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/02/are-some-questions-too-simple Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 9:36
  • Just to let you know, Borror0, that I've posted this answer over at Christianity SE as well. Thanks again for this great flowchart. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 6:44
  • This looks good, but it should be noted that the last step is very subjective. No one should get upset because they think a question is trivial and uninteresting, but others want it open to answer it.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 17:15

Joel was always of the opinion for Stackoverflow that asking and answering questions found easily found elsewhere was perfectly fine, in fact encouraged, as it made SO a more comprehensive compendium of knowledge

  • 1
    should that be linking to the information or copy/pasting? Also, I guess that was back in the SO early days. Now, does that still apply to sites like this one? Commented Feb 13, 2011 at 8:05
  • @ Wikis At Area 51 I would personally say it was redescribing the information rather than regurgitating or linking (though maybe provide a link as well). As for its relevance in the other sites, you'd really have to ask Joel, as I was basically stating his opinion
    – johnc
    Commented Feb 13, 2011 at 8:34

There is now a new experimental close reason, as previously discussed:

general reference

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

Give that a try; we're evaluating the results. Also refer to the blog post on the topic with its handy chart:



The problem with those question is not only about the fact that they could be answered by Wikipedia, it's about the nature of the question.

When the question is the only subject of an article on Wikipedia on a universe-specific wikis (Who is X, What is Y), the answer to the question is a single link, that fully, completely and easily answer the question. The answer to those questions is encyclopedic information and, I don't think it would be useful to repeat the content of Wikipedia or those universe-specific wikis on this site.


I think that a combination of option 3 followed by option 1 or 2 would be best.

Anyone can Google for the answer, so people (should) come here with the idea of getting an expert or group opinion, along with sparking some discussions which defend or prove an answer. That implies option 3, right? Maybe to back up your answer you can post a link as a reference... like a "Would you like to learn more?" thing.

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