On other SE (meta)sites there can be found robust discussion about the acceptability of an LMGTFY answer (see, for example). If you are unaware of the acronym, then see http://lmgtfy.com/?q=lmgtfy.

Every so often, my inner grumpy-old-man becomes enormously frustrated at both OP who have clearly not carried out the most basic search on what they are asking and those readers who shower upvotes on an answer that shows no expertise other than the ability to read, type, cut and paste.

What is the polite but firm response that says "Your question could be answered by the trivial application of any reputable search engine. Why are you posting it here?"

Or am I completely out of step with the SE ethos and does the rest of the community regard these questions as desirable?

I see that Luke has provided the definitive answer to my question by using his (unchallengeable) powers as moderator to delete https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/2919 from the main site.

I will now have to find another contribution by the person who wrote that answer to restore the rep that he earned when I upvoted it as entirely appropriate to the question.

Perhaps a "gentle hint" in the comments might be deemed an acceptable response.

  • 1
    I've seen questions like these get closed on other sites.... I think.
    – user47
    Jan 6, 2013 at 1:39
  • It should have at least been voted on as to whether genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/2919 should be deleted. IMHO, it should not have been deleted. It was an appropriate answer. I respectfully suggest it be put to a vote given the annoyance this is causing several members.
    – ACProctor
    Jan 7, 2013 at 11:25
  • If it was a good answer that just happened to have a LMGTFY link in it (I don't know, I can't see it) you can just edit out the offending link/remark and flag the post for being undeleted
    – Ben Brocka
    Jan 7, 2013 at 14:14
  • 1
    @BenBrocka, if the link is deleted, the answer is empty, which is why Luke deleted the whole answer.
    – user104
    Jan 7, 2013 at 14:29
  • To be crystal clear, it is not merely OK to ask and answer your own question, it is explicitly encouraged. UNLESS a moderator decides that your answer should be edited into the original question (thereby reducing its visibility and impact). And although the site offers an undelete option, the deletion of the answer by a moderator cannot be challenged. Look into the mirror, into the mirror, into the mirror, ...
    – Fortiter
    Jan 7, 2013 at 23:11
  • 2
    @ACproctor, see genealogy.stackexchange.com/faq#deletion -- the answer in question was 'barely more than a link to an external site.' As such, it would have been removed whether it was a 'lmgtfy' type answer or a link to Wikipedia.
    – user104
    Jan 8, 2013 at 11:02
  • 1
    @Fortiter, I merged your response into the original post not because you answered your own question but because you didn't. If you're unhappy with my edit to your post, you can modify it yourself and/or generate a new answer. Also, moderators can be challenged, here on Meta. Post a question asking whether the community agrees with what I did. I might be in the minority, considering your answer to be not-an-answer. If I am, I'd be happy to discover so.
    – user104
    Jan 8, 2013 at 11:09
  • It is customary to post the deleted material in the meta question, so others can constructively contribute to the conversation. As an aside, give Luke and @ColeValleyGirl a break. They're still learning, and as she said, their decisions can be challenged here. If the community agrees the delete decision was wrong, I'm sure ColeValley and Luke have the maturity to correct any mistakes.
    – jmort253
    Jan 9, 2013 at 4:48
  • I have no idea what "It is customary to post the deleted material in the meta question" means. As a further aside, I have no beef with either of the moderators pro tem, I do have very grave concerns about the relative impact of SE house style and community participant decisions on how this group operates. That is why I initiated this meta thread BEFORE any action by Luke and ColeValleyGirl.
    – Fortiter
    Jan 9, 2013 at 4:59
  • I'm not wholly sure what jmort253 means either. What I aimed to do was preserve the material and associated comments, so that it continued to form part of the discussion, but move it to a more appropriate place.
    – user104
    Jan 9, 2013 at 12:28

6 Answers 6


Sometimes, what seems like 'the trivial application of a search engine' to me might be something the OP doesn't know the right search terms for. [I have a partner who is basically 'search-term-impaired' so I may be willing to cut others more slack as result -- he often struggles to construct a useful search even on topics he understands].

So (if I have time and inclination to answer at all) I would try to answer in a way that points the OP in the right direction in future as well as providing the information they need. Even if it was laziness and not inability on the OP's part, others might benefit in future from finding the answer here through a search engine, and come back again in future because of it.

If an answer is good, no matter how it's arrived at, I'll vote it up. I don't know enough about the skill-set of every contributor here to tell whether they pulled an answer out of their brain, a book or a Google search.

And if I think the question is a bad one for whatever reason, I'll downvote it.

Edited to add a further thought: It's possible that an OP wants a source for their answer that they trust to be reliable (i.e. this site) rather than something found via Google when they don't feel qualified to judge whether it's a nugget of wisdom or a mountain of trash.

  • 2
    This is a really great answer. It might be worth mentioning how you came to an answer via searches and what search terms were used, and it's always best to give the answerer the benefit of the doubt.
    – jmort253
    Jan 6, 2013 at 5:00
  • Sometimes, your generosity of spirit can lead you astray. Even the most "search-term-impaired" (and I look forward to seeing that in the next DSM) should be insulted by a description which says "I copied three contiguous words from your question and pasted them into Google Search".
    – Fortiter
    Jan 6, 2013 at 11:12
  • @Fortiter, if I can cut and paste the title of the question into a search engine and get a good result, I'll vote the question down.
    – user104
    Jan 6, 2013 at 11:19
  • I agree with "give the OP the benefit of the doubt". I think most of you use much more context than you realize when you search. You know which terms to search and how to pick the right answer out of the hundreds that show up. I consider myself more computer savvy than most, more search savvy than many, and more genealogical savvy then many of the people we are trying to attarct - and I still get comments on my questions showing how I could have found it in google. Yet I hadn't because I didn't pick the right combination or use the right context. Don't scare new people away.
    – Duncan
    Jan 6, 2013 at 14:52

There's a canonical answer on this at: Ban LMGTFY (let me google that for you) links

I'll add that an answer that just contains a link without any supporting information or explanation is always prone to being removed as Not An Answer.

Edited to add:

There are also practical reasons not to use lmgtfy (and similar). Google can return different results to different people for the same search, order those results randomly, and change the order of results with time. So referring somebody to 'the first Google result' from a lmgtfy-link is unpredictable -- and in time, it might even refer the OP back to their own question, which would be really unhelpful. Combine that with the possibility of linkrot and they're easily categorised as low-quality answers unless there's other content as well.

  • It would help if the "canon" could be defined. As I noted in the original question, there is discussion on other SE sites. Which, if any, of the resolutions of similar issues on other sites is "binding" on GFH (ex cathedra)? Does this community have the capacity to define its own rules without reference to Rome?
    – Fortiter
    Jan 7, 2013 at 23:15
  • @Fortiter, that's a good question -- and the answer is too long for a comment here. I'll raise a new meta-question and answer it there: meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/q/1555/104.
    – user104
    Jan 8, 2013 at 11:54
  • 2
    @Fortiter: meta.stackoverflow.com is the network-wide meta as well as Stack Overflow-specific meta. Unless it is (a) otherwise specified in the question or (b) overridden by a policy on a local meta, all policies over there are de-facto applicable here. While the final blacklisting was SO-only, the sentiment against LMGTFY is still a network-wide policy (just without any software to back it up). So that counts as "canonical". Jan 8, 2013 at 13:13
  • 1
    And yes, you have the capacity to define your own rules, just that you follow the Rules of Rome by default. Jan 8, 2013 at 13:14

I am reminded of a joke:

A critical machine broke down at a factory. The senior mechanic had retired and nobody knew how to fix it, so they called him up and begged for help. He complied, came to the factory, looked at the machine, and put a white 'X' on a part. "Replace that," he said, and went home. Sure enough, the machine started working the moment the part was replaced. The next week the factory got a bill for $10,000 from the mechanic. Shocked, the factory asked for an itemization. The mechanic responded, "$1 for placement of a white 'X'. $9,999 for knowing where to put it."

Sometimes, especially for experts in their field, what is obvious to them is opaque to the rest of us. When they can make the opaque transparent is when the site's value will grow for everyone.

By no means am I excusing people who come to the site looking for a handout. Still there are people who ask questions with good intentions, but just do not know how the site operates. The community should be able separate the wheat from the chaff quickly through communication with the OP, and their questions will be dealt with accordingly.

Regarding question answering, if someone is able to answer a question but does not find answering worthwhile, encourage them to skip the question. Instead, they should save energy for the questions they are interested in answering and leave the rest to others. This will improve the quality of answers and keep expert participants from burning out on LMGTFY-level questions. It will also give nascent community members a chance to tackle low-hanging fruit, get some rep, and feel more a part of GFH.


On the few occasions that I have tried to answer such a question, I have responded with little more than the link to a source such as Wikipedia, found through a simple Google search. Unfortunately, a moderator suggested that copying/paraphrasing the source would be a better response that a mere link, or at least should accompany it. Although I agree with the basic criticism, I didn't feel like spending much time on something that was easily findable. Worse still, since I didn't apply the moderator's suggestion, others responded independently, quoting the same source, and were upvoted as a result. Probably better to skip such questions than to make a point over them.


On a separate but related issue: if you find something of use in a Google (or other) search, can we put something in the guidelines that explains a link to www.google.com with the search parameters is not a good idea? Searches by different people, in different parts of the world, and at different times, will yield a different (or at least differently ordered) set of results. This means an answer like 'Go to and select 4th from top' does not work. we should always give the real link, not the link to the search that you performed to find the link.

  • I didn't realize the differences, Tony. It makes sense that the search would return different results over time. I didn't realize the results would be location dependent.
    – GeneJ
    Jan 16, 2013 at 16:06
  • Google's algorithm is a closely guarded secret, and they regularly change it to avoid people being able to force their links to the top of the results - thus combating those companies that try to make a living from it. I believe it also includes some targetting based upon other searches you have performed.
    – ACProctor
    Jan 17, 2013 at 10:00

There are plenty of good answers to this meta, but will my 2 cents.

Providing good answers seems less to me an issue of whether the references and/or information are/is available via the Internet or accessible via a Google search, but whether same is instructive for the purpose of answering the question. Ala, I like answers that show some thought, have a little body, provide good references.

Whoa, Nellie, though. See, I feel the same way about questions. The questions valuable to me include some context, have a little body. When you read the question, it is apparent why it is being posed here. Equally so, the context of the question is grounded. (Let's not send each other into the wild unarmed.)

I suppose my take on all this falls into the category of what's-good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-gander.

In the case of the Q&A that led to this meta, I'm a little biased. (Duck.) The question didn't have much body; there was little context--there was no summary of why had been done to solve the question.

I appreciate that we don't all bring the same experience or perspective to the task of developing questions or answers.* Experience and perspective are equally relative to an Internet search.

In my case, I know the person who posted the answer (at least better than the person how posted the question). If there is something that can be found on the Internet, then member Andy Hatchett is likely to find it; he's likely to express same using the fewest keyboard pecks possible.

For me, though, the circumstance of the Q&A that led to this meta fell into that category I mentioned--what's-good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-gander.

*P.S. I've asked question that I was sure couldn't be readily answered by click a few keys--only to have another member point immediately to a solution. (...Being among the reasons I think Genealogy.SE is going to be a hit!)

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