Forum: Embrace The Non-Googlers Of Biostars
8
gravatar for KCC
5.8 years ago by
KCC3.9k
Cambridge, MA
KCC3.9k wrote:

I want to start a discussion similar to this 'Embrace the non-Googlers' on Stack Overflow, and also respond to this How To Ask Good Questions On Technical And Scientific Forums , which says the following:

The first step is thus to search Google. This step alone should answer 95% or more of your questions so, as basic as this sounds, we cannot emphasis this enough: FIRST SEARCH GOOGLE. For example, if you received an error message from the program you are trying to use, cut and paste the message directly into Google. Posting a forum question that could have been easily answered with a simple Google search is often seen as disrespectful of other users, and such a question will potentially be closed or deleted on many forums.

In various comment sections on Biostars, it has been argued that people who fail to do the above are wasting the community's time, they are lazy and so on. I don't think it's an attitude which meshes well with the philosophy of Stack Exchange.

I would argue that: any easily googled question, as long as it's not off-topic, badly written, too vague or too localized, deserves to be asked once on Biostars and answered definitively.

Ideally, in the most general circumstance, a question posted on a stack exchange should be an improvement over search.

Quoting Joel Spolsky (one of the founders of Stack Exchange) on ways in which the Stack Exchange improves upon forums (Google search results):

  1. "... don’t have voting, so you have to read through every answer and decide for yourself which one might solve your problem."

  2. "They don’t have reputation, so there’s no way to see whether you’re getting an answer from someone who knows what they’re talking about."

  3. "They don’t have wiki-style editing, so collaboration is impossible."

  4. "You have to log on to ask or answer a question, so the burden of participation is higher."

Let me add a few additional points:

  1. What is easily googled changes over time.

  2. Biostars ends up being less comprehensive

  3. What is easily found via expert search terms is not necessarily easy for a novice to find.

  4. Biostars community might be able to improve on the most answers available via a google search.

I think a certain level of indifference to how easy a question is to google is an important part of how Stack Exchange works and adopting this attitude more widely as a community-wide ethic within Biostars might be beneficial to Biostars members. If you think of the Stack Exchange as a service we (collectively) provide to the individual questioners, then it makes sense to prompt askers to prove to answerers that they have done a minimum amount of work. If you think of Stack Exchange as a collaborative Wiki-type environment where both questioners and answerers collaborate to make a definitive community resource of high-quality questions and answers, then I think we should only care about good quality questions wherever they come from. I believe the Stack Exchange format is more conducive to the latter. In other words, I think the primary users of the answer to a question will be all the other people in the future that use that question and answer pair as a resource.

[Note: In this post, I set up a dichotomy of Biostars content vs. Google search results. Clearly, not mutually exclusive. Basically, I completely agree people should at the very least search Biostars so I am conceding that point.]

forum biostar • 3.6k views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.8 years ago • written 5.8 years ago by KCC3.9k
3

Hi George. Reading a second time, I think you could improve the readability of this post by trimming it down a bit to the essential. Long portions of it do not seem to have much with your central opinion. It may make the whole easier to read, think about constructively, and comment.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.8 years ago by Eric Normandeau10k

Thanks for the feedback, Eric. I will reread and shorten it.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.8 years ago • written 5.8 years ago by KCC3.9k
7
gravatar for Neilfws
5.8 years ago by
Neilfws48k
Sydney, Australia
Neilfws48k wrote:

Arguments in favour of "Google it first":

  1. Users here answer questions in their spare time, on a volunteer basis. Answering basic questions that have readily-available answers elsewhere is not a good or fair use of their time.

  2. We expect people to provide some evidence of having attempted to solve the problem themselves. One of the simplest (the simplest?) way to demonstrate that is to indicate that you have searched the Web. In many cases of course, that will provide the answer, obviating the need for a question. It's even very likely that a Biostar answer will feature in the top search results.

  3. To be useful, this site requires some kind of selectivity. Otherwise, we are just wading through a dumping ground for too many questions, many of which will probably not even receive answers. Pointing users to answers elsewhere is one way to avoid this.

ADD COMMENTlink written 5.8 years ago by Neilfws48k

Thanks for the response Neilfws. I just wanted to address part of your second point. In my article, I am only addressing answers not found on Biostar, but easily found via Google. So to potential questioners, I would say "at least search Biostars first". (Admittedly, our search is currently powered by Google.)

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.8 years ago • written 5.8 years ago by KCC3.9k
6
gravatar for Josh Herr
5.8 years ago by
Josh Herr5.6k
University of Nebraska
Josh Herr5.6k wrote:

Forgive me if I don't see the novelty in your forum post (not sure if your true point comes across in the ramble or not -- just seems like a stance I have seen hashed and re-hashed elsewhere), but I think you are missing the point of Eric Normandeau and Giovanni M Dall'Olio's excellent tutorial. I think their statement is just to encourage people to use Google to avoid wasting the time of the forum on questions like "Where do I download NCBI's Human Chromosome 19?" or "What does the "-db" flag mean in blast?"

Biostar is indexed by google, so quite frequently googled questions go right to Biostar, so I guess I don't see your point here or what you mean by "we should do things this way" -- I don't understand what you are saying we should change -- are you saying "we should encourage people to not at least try to answer their own question before posting it to the forum"?

ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.8 years ago • written 5.8 years ago by Josh Herr5.6k
1

I think the previous conversations have lacked the context of Stack Overflow/Exchange, hence the heavy quotations of Spolsky for instance and the length.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.8 years ago by KCC3.9k
3
gravatar for Eric Normandeau
5.8 years ago by
Quebec, Canada
Eric Normandeau10k wrote:

Those are very interesting points.

I do not condone replying anything in the lines of LMGTFY. However, in my opinion it remains the burden of the person with a problem to actually TRY to find an answer to it BEFORE that person asks a question on a forum (in most cases).

I see exceptions to that. I could, for example, ask a naive question (to which I may even have an answer) on the forum in the hope to foster useful answers for future users. This strategy has been used here before.

I am all for improving the tutorial you were referring to (How To Ask Good Questions On Technical And Scientific Forums), especially the last sentence of your quote:

Posting a forum question that could have been easily answered with a simple Google search is often seen as disrespectful of other users, and such a question will potentially be closed or deleted on many forums.

However, I think in the tutorial it remains pertinent to warn new posters about the fact that, on certain forums, an easily-googleable question may be edited/closed.

Thanks for sharing the ideas :)

ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.8 years ago • written 5.8 years ago by Eric Normandeau10k
1

I particularly like the last sentence of the paragraph in the tutorial and think it should remain as is. I think it is highly pertinent and the honest truth.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.8 years ago • written 5.8 years ago by Josh Herr5.6k
1

Thanks for the response. I enjoyed your article and upvoted it. I read it as being generally about forums and really good advice. However, I kept thinking what about Stack Exchange type thinking, which at least to me, is an improvement on the typical forum. So, I just wanted to take the time emphasize such ideas and how they might contrast with at least one aspect of your excellent article.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.8 years ago by KCC3.9k
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