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I'm noticing a rise in questions that could easily be answered with a Google search and/or Wikipedia article. For instance:

The second question at least begins from a specific text but could easily be rewritten as "Describe first-century Roman slavery practices." The top answer for the first question is a direct copy and paste from Wikipedia and a comment linking to a Wikipedia article sufficiently answers the second.

I know that SE believes that it is rude to post LMGTFY links in response to such questions and has officially banned it, but I tend to side with this user (whose comment got more upvotes than any response on this question):

Questions with an answer that is trivial to find on Google are not helping the SO community. They are generating superfluous reputation, lowering the bar for asking genuine questions, and generally wasting people's time. Furthermore, the answers to these questions are almost always summarized, plagiarized or synthesized from the Google search results. Posting a LGTFY link is like tough love. It points the user to the right answer and does it in such a way that they will hopefully turn to Google for simple questions and SO for their more difficult questions.

Despite this stance, I understand that most consider it rude and an inappropriate way to answer such questions. At the same time, others have suggested that an acceptable answer could simply be showing someone the terms you used to Google the result and linking to the top answer. Would this be an acceptable response here on BH.SE - for instance on the above-listed questions? Would linking to a quality source be sufficient or would it be expected to summarize it even though the question shows no research effort?

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I'd like to see a "general reference" (or "trivial") close reason here at BH.SE.

General reference: this question is too basic; the answer is indexed in any number of general internet reference sources designed specifically to find that type of information.

As mentioned over at C.SE when dealing with this very same issue, this has been addressed by SE before. Jeff Atwood posted the following helpful chart in a blog post:

Chart For Simple Questions

Jeff further elaborates:

The key distinction to make here, in my mind, is that all questions are ultimately in service of the people answering them. That is the audience you need to satisfy if you want to have any hope of creating and sustaining a community of peers learning from each other. The minimum bar for a question is not “is this on-topic?”, but rather “is this somewhat interesting and on-topic?”. I’m not saying every question needs to be utterly fascinating, but please endeavor to make your questions more than a constant stream of no-duh underhanded softballs requiring nothing more than a quick cut and paste from Wikipedia, IMDB, or some other standard internet reference site.

There’s nothing useful any expert can learn from ultra-basic questions. Allow your Q&A community to fill itself with enough “General Reference” type questions and you’ll soon find no experts there at all.

I'd like to see a "general reference" (or "trivial") close reason here at BH.SE. I believe this is the best solution to this problem.

General reference: this question is too basic; the answer is indexed in any number of general internet reference sources designed specifically to find that type of information.

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  • yes, sorry. I will clarify
    – Dan
    Aug 6 '13 at 18:09
  • @GoneQuiet: That would help quite a bit. I don't like the idea of the general reference hammer being wielded because the answer turns up on the third page of a Google search or an introductory text for a college class. But if we could agree on finite number of references like ELU has, this could make a lot of sense.
    – Jon Ericson Mod
    Aug 7 '13 at 0:48
  • @GoneQuiet: I don't much care for "do a web search" in the chart. I'm convinced that finding stuff on the internet is an ability that some folks aren't blessed with. If you use the wrong search term, you could easily miss the relevant answer. It would have to be something closer to every hit on the first page.
    – Jon Ericson Mod
    Aug 7 '13 at 0:56
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    Here you go: meta.hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/639/423
    – Dan
    Aug 7 '13 at 2:08

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