In my bio class, when we correct our tests our bio teacher asks us to compare the ones we got wrong on our test with our fellow classmates in order to correct our test mistakes. He also tells us to see how our classmate arrived at their correct answer in order to make us "better thinkers" so we will do better in the future and be more likely to get the correct answer.

Considering how (being a noob) I am always amazed that someone magically answers a question that I haven't found an answer to after searching for an hour, it might make me able to answer my OWN questions (and possibly post a Q&A) if I know how they found the information they did, so I can find answers to questions myself without asking. I believe that this would beneficial to the Ubuntu community as a whole. What are yinz's thoughts on this proposal? And if you think it is a good idea could it be instituted?


3 Answers 3


Answers should always explain. If they don't, they are bad answers even if correct. That said, in most cases, the magical source is simply man command which will print the manual of the command in question. Personally, I try to explain, for example, why I used a particular option for a program by writing something like

As explained in man grep:

  -f FILE, --file=FILE
          Obtain  patterns  from  FILE,  one  per  line.   The  empty file
          contains zero patterns, and therefore matches nothing.   (-f  is
          specified by POSIX.)

That gives both the source of my information and an indication that the man command exists. Answers that don't come from the manual fall into two broad categories:

  1. Google-fu: Either the answerer is better at searching than the OP, or more likely, the OP never bothered to search. Not much you can do about this, I tend to simply give the source and even sometimes hint that it was the first hit when I searched for "X".

    Alternatively, the answerer has the knowledge to understand which search terms are likely to answer the question. She might have an idea of what the solution involves, searches for that and finds the answer. Which brings us to the next point.

  2. Experience. This one can't be helped. Many of us have been using Linux for decades and have accumulated our knowledge the hard way, bit by bit, over many years. This is not something that can be transferred.

    For example, I tend to answer many questions on parsing and manipulating text files, I know a lot about it because I have spent the last 12 years working as a bioinformatician and my day job involves a lot of text manipulation. I have therefore picked up all sorts of tricks and various things are easy for me now that were extremely complex when I started. That's life, you live and learn.

Anyway, there are two main sources of Linux knowledge: documentation (such as man pages) and internet searches. Unfortunately, in most cases one can't explain how they found something out, just how it works. They should always explain the latter but it is rarely possible to explain the former unless it comes from man.

  • And many stack exchange sites.. Mar 27, 2014 at 11:29

I think in general life, every good answer should be accompanied by at least an impression of it's foundation.

If I give an answer on Askubuntu, I try to make clear if it is based (mostly) on an external source (I add the source as a link), if I speak purely from my own experience, or a combination of both. This gives the user an idea where to find information, the "weight" of the answer and in many cases the tools to "tune" the answer to his or her personal situation.

In some cases, I try to give a quick "hint" to a solution, mentioning a link. In these cases, I post it as a comment because it does not have the quality of an answer. The same with trivial questions, mostly asked by newcomers, that I feel I should not "earn" reputation from. In these cases, I do not feel the responsibility to point out how I got there.

According to the site rules, I "should avoid to answer the question in a comment", but for me this is the exception.


In simple and small, I think, answers should be explained because they need to be understood by the OP. but Why they got the answer? or How they got the answer? should not be part of the answer. However, The answerer may make remarks about the way he got the answer, but it should not be an essential part of the answer.

The bottom line is, This is a Question/Answer site. Answers for questions. It should not teach OP how the OP can be a good researcher, unlike the Bio class, where the aim is truly that i.e making good researchers.

Hope you got it.

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