Vince Rants

To Death With Forum Culture

"Just Google It!"

Source: XKCD - Duty Call

Telling someone to "Google It" is by far one of my all times most hated phrases uttered on the vast glories of the internet. Now let me please take a few moments to explain why.

Source: XKCD - Wisdom of the Ancients

The only thing worse on a forum than no response at all is a single response that tells you to either search Google or search the forums. And why exactly is this annoying? Imagine searching on Google for a particular issue you're having. You find a single response on Google to a forum of someone asking the exact same question you are. You then get super excited to finally see what others have to say to solve the issue you're having! Upon opening said forum, all you see is that one single reply, someone telling you to use Google, the exact tool which was used to discover this non-response.

Source: XKCD - Self-Description

Remember, you're not only answering a question for the person asking when you post on internet forums. You're answering the question in perpetuity for all who will come after them and after you. You are sharing your knowledge with the entire globe when you respond.

I get the reasoning for the comment, though. "Why waste the time posting and asking on a forum when a quick search is easier?" - My rebuttal: "Why is replying on a forum with a non-answer easier than simply providing the answer?"

Another reason why people leave these non-answers is because they believe it is some form of simplistic knowledge that everyone must possess. But where did this knowledge originate? How did the person making this judgment come into this knowledge themselves? They obviously were not born with it. They too had to learn it from somewhere.

Source: XKCD - Ten Thousand

Now, to get to the reason for this post. This anti-community forum culture has been spreading like wildfire into other aspects of the internet, and I personally believe it is time to make it absolutely stop. I've been seeing this constantly on Facebook more so than any other place.

If someone asks a simple question, I'm seeing people screen cap it, and then share it on their personal accounts to belittle the person behind their back for asking a simple question. This is downright rude, disrespectful, and generally it sucks to talk crap about people behind their backs in such a blatant fashion.

Something I've learned in the earlier days of the internet, especially from communities on IRC: questions are asked for reasons beyond just the question at hand. Yes, there may be an easy answer just a search box away (except there wasn't when I started using the Internet, because Google wasn't founded yet), but instead they're asking for your personal experience, your vetted response.

When someone asks me a simplistic question on photography, or cosplay, or programming, or system administration, I do my best to answer it with my personal experience. If I don't have much time, I'll generally link to a particularly insightful article. I have a collection of bookmarks of good resources on various topics I'm knowledgeable on, much like most active interneters. And even if not, you probably know how to search for a specific article quickly yourself, which can then be shared.

Source: XKCD - Computer Problems

Please remember this, you're not only sharing the information from the article, but you're sharing the fact that you've vetted the contents of said article.

In my day job, I'm a mix between a software architect, database architect, or system administrator depending on the day. Each of these require a high level of specific expertise in very specialized areas that are constantly evolving. Searching the internet and reading articles is part of the day job, not just a side task for personal education. Certain technical web sites have implemented solutions to the problems described in this article, most noteworthy being GitHub and Stack Exchange (Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and countless others).

These are online communities which exemplify the requirement to post constructive comments by also enabling it as part of their platform. One of the key features is the ability to mark a question as a dup (duplicate of another question). This feature, however, isn't quite the same as a text comment reply. Instead, when something is marked as a dup, you must link back to the original question as well. This means anyone finding the newly asked question has a standard and dedicated way of locating the original question and responses.

Source: XKCD - Constructive