So a few days ago, a question about Bash popped up, asking for a definition for it.

The question seemed rather unclear, and a little lazy, but I decided to answer it. (I didn't realize it was a duplicate, and I didn't really think it would be one.) I looked up the word bash, and Google gave me a nice definition, which I copied and pasted into an answer, with a suggestion to Google what something is before asking a question about it.

A few minutes after I posted it, a user (I wont say their name) commented saying they had downvoted my answer because, as they (somewhat) put it, "a 5k user should know better." I asked about what they meant, and they said that I shouldn't "encourage this type of question" by answering it, and that was the reason for the downvote.

The rest of the discussion (I felt) was mostly aggressive messages from this user to me, and me trying to respond without losing it. (There was another user, but they were much calmer about their shared opinion.) I know I handled this badly, and should definitely have pointed this out to a mod. If any mod decides to look at this question, take a look at the deleted comments (that's possible I hope). However, this question isn't about who was the meanest person.

The OP later commented and said that they hadn't understood the definition given by Google, and that was their reason for asking. So at least they had done some research. I feel this somewhat invalidates the unnamed users' argument that the OP was lazy about research, but again, that isn't so much the question (sorry for the long-windedness of this). I edited my answer and the question so that the Q&A resembled what it was supposed to be.

Now, finally, the question. If someone asks a question that is very easily searchable with Google, and doesn't seem to have done any research, should this question be "encouraged" (answered)? Should I avoid this in the future? Should I be a little more careful? I know most answers I have made are based on research, so I'm not completely sure. Or, Should I answer but suggest that, in the future, the OP actually does a little research before asking?

  • 3
    Related: The Help Vampire problem. I feel OP hits 3 out of 7 points here.
    – muru
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 3:56
  • AFIK - Another example of how the discussion goes down hill fast when people leave comments on why they downvoted. IMHO if you get a down vote, do not take it personally and move on , no need to debate
    – Panther
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 15:38
  • @bodhi.zazen good point, but I'm the type that needs specifics. If the down voter comments and says they did so, I like to know why Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 15:43
  • @muru - ignore rather then insult the vampires. There are people in this community willing to answer without feeling drained. Support vampires are staked on sight in #fedora however ;)
    – Panther
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


My answer keeps growing so the "too long; didn't read" answer currently reads:

  • The question was okay (but duplicate).
  • Answering an okay, not obviously duplicate, question is encouraged.
  • Don't fight/Meta in comments.
  • AU ♥ A

I get a bit fed up of Team "Ermagerd just Google it" at times.

While there are legitimate cases where I feel like head-butting a pony because they would get a result faster from Google (ie "What is Ubuntu"), many technical questions that are ohsoobvious to us, just aren't to normal people.

If you ask Google "what does bash mean", you see:

enter image description here

If you ask our search the same thing, you get a load of complex technical questions about things in Bash. And while in both cases you can eventually dig up a meaning, the first glance result is a load of overwhelmingly complicated or conflicting data.

Just to head off the...

But results 7 and 12 both mention UNIX and GNU, that's clearly relevant!! They're idiots for not having seen it! Why are we encouraging idiots onto the site?!1

If you don't know what Bash is, you probably don't understand that other terms like Unix are related to Ubuntu either. People can be a little unforgiving of beginners because they forget what it was like for them when they knew nothing.

That is all to say: I have complete sympathy with somebody asking the question.

You were also attacked in this process by somebody essentially claiming that answering stupid questions breeds more stupid. Or that as a more experienced user, you should implicitly know there's already an answer here for that question.

Well, again, neither our search results or Google's are particularly forthcoming for "what does bash mean" so I think that's a completely unreasonable argument. There are exceptions to this:

  • You have already answered an exact duplicate "recently". You should probably remember it and suggest it as a close target.
  • It's obviously and irreparably off-topic. And even then, there are cases where I've answered a question about a technically off-topic release or distribution where the answer would also apply to Ubuntu. Changing the question retroactively is okay as long as it still applies to the OP (explain that in your edit though).
  • Googling the question in simple English returns a prominent answer on the site.

You hadn't answered this before, it's clearly relevant, and even when you add "ask ubuntu" to the Google search, the results are muddy as hell.

So I have complete sympathy with you too.

Lastly, that people are blaming people answering for the quality of questions is ludicrous. If you don't like a question, deal with it in the way the site is supposed to deal with these questions: Improve it, ask the OP to improve it, close it, delete it, vote on it. Or some combination therein.

If you have a specific issue, bring it to Meta. Comment threads very quickly that dissolve into people trying to pull rank to make a point. That was you too, Zach. It's not pretty.

Help vampires are real but asking a bum question or two (which I maintain, this isn't), really doesn't form part of their definition. They are people who repeatedly ask bad questions. Dealing with these questions —as above— deals with these users.

Don't attack people for answering...
Ask Ubuntu ♥ Answers.

  • 1
    You forgot to compare the results for "what does bash mean linux" and "what does bash mean Ubuntu". Neither of those results are that muddy - at the very least OP could have clicked through a few of them.
    – muru
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 9:21
  • 2
    Sure, but knowing you need to add those words to your search is half the problem. The other half is not understanding those results. "Bash is a GNU POSIX shell". So what's {GNU,POSIX a shell}? Being accurate and concise is great but some basic questions deserve a bit of ELI5 treatment some times.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 9:54
  • 1
    As I say in my answer, there are situations that really make me wonder why people are asking us... But even there I don't attribute malice. We can handle this stuff by being helpful and informative without calling people idiots and fighting amongst ourselves.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 9:57
  • 1
    OP knew enough to ask on Ask Ubuntu.
    – muru
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 10:00
  • 1
    I really can't dispute that if you search for the right combination of words, you probably get your question answered. I just don't think that is justification for automatically labelling a question as bad or its poster lazy. And I do know squabbling about how easy or not it was to Google isn't a good use of anybody's time. LMGTFY is not the SE way. As above, there are more productive (and helpful) ways to deal with questions like this.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 10:25
  • Thanks for the answer. I honestly expected it to be the other way around :p Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 10:31
  • If you Google just bash, by the way, you get the Linux definition. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 13:43

I don't really care how much research has been done, we are here to answer questions and any question that has not been asked before has value to the site.

You could say that most questions on here lack research, as a lot of the answers can be found by Google but it would be silly to remove them all.

Also, just because something can be found on Google does not mean the information is good, many sites have very poor formatting of code and explanations that were written by people who clearly did not know what they were writing about, as we specialize in this type of thing we should absorb this information in to accurate and well written answers.

Sure, there are times when I think "This guy could of just typed that in to Google" but people come here for quick and accurate help, properly better help than using Google and just copying code they don't understand to a terminal with no explanation and here they can talk to some one and ask questions, we should all encourage people to stop copying random code from the Internet without understanding it, that is what we should be discouraging, come here for help, don't just copy crap from a five year old post, on some random site and then come here when it breaks your system.

I don't know who told you "a 5k user should know better than to encourage this", IMO, they are wrong, they assumed a poorly written question lacked research but it turned out the OP had done some research (Google at least) and seems to me they just let there personal opinion get in the way of actually helping the user.

In short, answer anything that is not off topic, as defined by the help section, if you think you can help, then help, if you find something that has not been answered here before (I know this one had but the dupe is not the point of your question) then it has value to the site, no matter how available the information is else where.

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