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I recently asked a banal question. That was banal for someone, but not banal for me, since I never heard about that particular thing. Banality is in the eye of the beholder (the big eye), and the fact that something can be solved by a single google shot is not the point.

The point of SE is to collect questions so that people can find them. "Google as an interface" is a core tenet of stackoverflow (see at minute 24), and of all SE as a consequence. Hence, the point is to gather knowledge so that the first result on google is towards an SE answer. This issue has already been discussed on meta.SO here and here.

As a consequence, I advise to consider banal questions not as something to fight against and downvote, but as an equally valid resource for all the points said above.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Tangential note: let's not be dicks to each other. Being snappish and cranky will hurt the site, and I'm as guilty of that as anyone. It turns out that you don't get extra rep points for being snarky. Who knew? Some of the comments on both the FUDGE dice question and the retro-clone question were pretty snappish, and I absolutely include mine among that. \$\endgroup\$ – Bryant Aug 30 '10 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bryant : I'm guilty too, for that regard :) but I felt the downvoting like a kick in the ass right at the first question I asked where I didn't know the actual answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Stefano Borini Aug 30 '10 at 13:44
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I think these questions are appropriate.

When answering these questions, we have to remember:

  • The need of the OP is to find the answer
  • The needs of the community are to ensure users don't get into the habit of not bothering to Google, and to not turn away new users who don't understand the site/system/community yet and make a wee mistake.

Therefore, I suggest the solution is to answer briefly and concisely, subtly pointing out that one can Google the answer.

Example:

Fudge uses customized "Fudge dice" which have an equal number of plus, minus and blank sides.

You can read more about them on Wikipedia, in the the Fudge RPG System article's section on Game mechanics.

A quick Google search also led me to the web site of Grey Ghost Press Inc, the Fudge System's publisher. Their web site has a statement about "WHERE CAN I FIND FUDGE DICE?!?" if you need to buy some.

With an answer like this you...

  1. Give the OP a fish by answering the question.
  2. Teach the OP to fish by demonstrating that the information is easily Googled and Wikipedia'd.
  3. Don't end up turning away any new users who haven't fully integrated into the system/community, nor any upstanding, respectable users who don't appreciate being accused of banality.

If a user intends to invest the energy in maintaining/defending the site from banal questions, they have to do it in a way which also doesn't hurt the site by being snappish and cranky; threatening the communal nature of a Stack Exchange site is worse than threatening the quality of questions & answers.

In conclusion maybe we shouldn't be anal about questions which are banal. (GET IT? Waka waka waka)

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My opinion is that no question is too banal or simple to be worthy of an answer. It could have other issues (not a real questions, argumentative, etc). RTFM and variations responses annoy me to no end when I see them used as response to these type of questions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The only time I'm ok with a RTFM answer is if the question asker obviously has (or at should have, to ask the question) access to a source (let's say the question is tagged dnd-3.5) and that source has the answer as a pretty big obvious core tenet, not a corner case (let's say the question is "is there a spellcasting class?"). In those cases, an answer of "[required source to play the game] answers your question in the [chapter] chapter." are totally appropriate ("Yes, read the Classes chapter. Or the Classes section of the SRD."). ^_^ my 2cp \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 May 10 '15 at 20:42
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Answer those suckers. I allowed my elitism to get in the way of considering this clearly, but I think the links you provided explain the matter thoroughly. I would recommend browsing through the related questions to those to get a good sense of the SO philosophy in this regard.

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I think banal questions should be answered, but the simplest do not require anything more than a link and a short explanation. It's fine you didn't know what Fudge dice are, that shouldn't be downvoted. (Here I will note that in our other "what are good questions" faq we have voted that questions on gaming-specific terms are OK but common-use terms aren't, so "mcguffin" I would vote down...) And your question was answered.

But it's pointless to have a bunch of verbose answers to that question. The Wikipedia link and a statement that "They are special dice used by the FUDGE game system" is perfectly adequate. Google as a front end does not mean we need to just copy content to this site to "have it here." Duplicating wikipedia etc. content is a very poor long term idea in my opinion.

And it smacks of wanting other people to do your work for you. If you think the full description of FUDGE dice should permanently reside on RSE for whatever reason, then you can read the provided link and sum it up as an answer to your question. But the default mindset is that you are asking a question that you really want to know the answer to in order to use it to do something. The link and "they are dice for a game named FUDGE" is more than adequate for that purpose. Seeding fake questions, wanting answers to "boost SEO," etc. are second string purposes that I don't mind if people don't serve.

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I was the one that called it banal, because it can be gained from Google. If you Google something and the top result doesn't answer the question then there is all good reasons for making sure an SE has a good answer. In this case, the Fudge Wikipedia page was the top answer. In other SEs, the questions are posed because there isn't already a good answer on Google and so the SE answer becomes #1. In this case, the #1 answer in Google was the wiki page for Fudge. That's a waste of the SE power.

It's not about whether a question is particularly easy to answer, it's about the unthinking blatting of questions into a SE having not given a reasonable effort into finding the answer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I hear what you're saying, but I don't think previous discussion bears out the theory that there's an obligation to use Google first. \$\endgroup\$ – Bryant Aug 31 '10 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm more than happy to stand corrected and will vote more prudently in the future! \$\endgroup\$ – Dr Rob Lang Aug 31 '10 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ It has been really tricky to get my head around SO paradigms, personally. I'm still trying to figure out if I even agree with some of them. \$\endgroup\$ – Bryant Sep 1 '10 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rob Lang - I guess this is where it gets complicated... you felt the question was a bad question as it was banal, and therefore, as a member of the community, you are entitled to vote accordingly... I guess this is part of why so many users on meta insist that down voting should be anonymous and not require commenting all the time. \$\endgroup\$ – LeguRi Sep 1 '10 at 13:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bryant and @Rob : this is a mistake I am probably doing, and for this I apologize. Most of the people I interacted with on SE already know how it works, due to the experience on stackoverflow. I always (and wrongfully) assume that everybody knows the concepts behind SE. On the agreeing, it's hard to say. We know the formula works great for stackoverflow. It's more than one year and it's really great, with an insanely fast, efficient and skilled community, so it's hard to debate against the facts. However, nobody knows how things will work for a non-programmer audience. We are learning this. \$\endgroup\$ – Stefano Borini Sep 1 '10 at 23:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the big problem is that "reasonable effort" is very subjective. Is it reasonable to search SE, but not Google? Is it reasonable to search Google, but not SE? Is it reasonable to search both, but not search tvtropes to find out if the term you're wondering about is RPG-specific or general-use? Especially since the domain here is "questions that are very easy to answer," it seems "answer the question" takes less effort than "conduct an inquiry into whether the questioner has put enough effort into answering the question" and much less than "define a standard of reasonable effort." \$\endgroup\$ – kodi Sep 3 '10 at 13:25

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