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There are some questions popping up, to be quite honest a lot, where typing the title into Google yields some pretty good results.
If you hover the cursor over the downvote button, its info text reads "This question does not show any research effort".

I think lowering the bar on questions is a good reason that we have a lot of answers that only quote and link to one of the first results on Google.

How much research should we expect from users?

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Please bear in mind how completely saturated the Internet is with information about pets. Also keep in mind that pets create a booming economy and quite a bit of that information is coming from someone that wants to sell you something. I don't know if pets is the most competitive topic we've taken on since Stack Overflow, but it's got to be close.

Over the last few weeks, I've been planning my first real attempt at aquarium. I had to decide if I wanted to go with salt or fresh water, how much coral I was hoping to grow, the kinds of fish that would make a beautiful display and get along together and nuts-and-bolts research on pumps and filtration systems.

I found:

  • A lot of people arguing with one another without any clear consensus, Aquariums are a lot like Javascript in the early days when it comes to that

  • A lot of really spammy looking content on sites that wanted me to buy the stuff I was hoping to learn about from them

  • YetAnotherWiki that basically just summarized all the crap that I had found to sell advertisement inventory

  • A lot of Google image searches you should never run.

From our /about page, to our help center and right to the user interface, we have an implied contract with every user that asks a question on the site:

Ask here, and you'll get a human that writes an answer for you, then other humans that know about this stuff will show you how sound the information is through votes

When you're in a sea of pure junk, it's really tempting to just ask your question after clicking through your first few results. We want this site to be an oasis in a desert full of junk.

With that said, we do need to be able to find out where the question author needs the most guidance, and the best way to determine that is by knowing what they've tried, where they looked, or what they searched for. There is a reason this information is useful beyond 'proof of work'. Sometimes it's really hard to just figure out what to search for.

To that end, I suggest this comment:

Welcome to Pets Stack Exchange! Would you mind providing us with some resources you searched before asking your question here, or the search phrases you used? We'd like to have a look to make sure our answers provide more depth and information. Your question is very common, we'd appreciate knowing what you found so far so we can do a better job.

If you get a reply, you've got an engaged user, and you'll have all you need to help them write a better question through editing. If you don't get a reply, then what you probably have is a stub - something you could turn into a better question if it makes sense to do so.

If it's pure junk, and covered in other questions or answers on the site, vote to close appropriately if you have the privilege and/or let one of the moderators know. And, of course, always use your votes as you see fit.

  • ... this should really be an answer to a real question on this, but the best thing you could probably do for yourself is to find a local aquarium enthusiasts group (usually the local pet shop owner / aquarium specialty store knows one), and sign up with them. My buddy who has about 8-10 tanks in his house at a given time really found a lot of help from his local community aquarium group. GRANTED we are in South Florida, so... YMMV. – JoshDM Oct 25 '13 at 17:27
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    @JoshDM I'm doing precisely that - this is just something I need to pick people's brains about. Fortunately, the pet store that stocks all of this stuff is usually full of people that just go there to hang out and talk about their tanks on weekends. – Tim Post Oct 25 '13 at 17:49
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We are a Q&A site. We want people to ask questions here. While we do not gain much from general reference questions sometimes the answers to them are better or more useful than the tidal wave of links from Google.

I would also realize that chances are people have done some research but do not know what to say when they ask a question. The question they are asking seems straight forward and the information they read may not have made much sense. So having them explain what they "know" already is not really productive.

So if the question is answerable, focused, on topic, and not seeking opinions about a topic, I think it should be generally acceptable on the site.

Answers on the other hand should be adequately explained, with links for references, and important parts of the link quoted as appropriate. Saying what is right should not be enough, the answer should explain why it is correct though a thorough explanation.

  • Having them explain what they "know" already is productive because (1) it adds to the bulk of the question, (2) it prevents repetition from the answerers, (3) it lets the answerers consider providing alternative solutions rather than the one the questioner has already attempted or has disregarded, (4) it lets an answerer post a solution that might resolve a wrong-headed notion posed by the asker. – JoshDM Oct 25 '13 at 16:38
  • @JoshDM - I do not disagree that it is better if the information is included. I am just saying that we should not bar entry to those people who do not "know" enough. – user9 Oct 25 '13 at 16:41
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    I would also say that I do not have a problem with having a higher bar for experienced users. The last thing we want is to discourage new users by telling them they did not ask it right enough. On the other hand You are I are not likely to be dissuaded from posting or fixing a post. – user9 Oct 25 '13 at 16:45
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As with your own question here, which links to an external example, I think displaying a minimal amount of research and citing why that research failed for the asker, should be required for questions.

When I post a question to Stack Overflow, I do my best to show that I've done some minimal research, in the least linking to external sources.

What follows are two 100% hypothetical examples, one I would downvote for failure to research and one which shows some minimal research that I would not downvote:


IGNORE or DOWNVOTE (WITH COMMENT and monitor responsibly for improvement or response):

Why does my pet barracuda prefer fish-food?

When I feed my barracuda anything other than fish-food, he doesn't like it. I've given him peas, carrots, celery and cow tongue, but he doesn't prefer any of it.

Why does my barracuda reject this food?


IGNORE OR UPVOTE (showing minimal research)

Why does my pet barracuda prefer fish-food?

When I feed my barracuda anything other than fish-food, he doesn't like it. I've given him peas, carrots, celery and cow tongue, but he doesn't prefer any of it. I've searched online in vain to find a site for more information; not even Carnivore Fish Blog has any info on barracuda.

Why does my barracuda reject this food?


UPVOTE (showing some good research):

Why does my pet barracuda prefer fish-food?

When I feed my barracuda anything other than fish-food, he doesn't like it. I've given him peas, carrots, celery and cow tongue, but he doesn't prefer any of it. According to Barracuda Today, my barracuda should at least be sampling the celery. Additionally, The Barr(acuda) Truth, recommends giving him a tablespoon of haggis daily, but I can't find any locally.

Why does my barracuda reject this food?

I would also appreciate if you could let me know where I can obtain haggis and if it's worth my time doing so; I'm in Saskatchewan.

  • I honestly do not see any different between your first and second that adds quality to the question. The OP did not find anything of use. That part can be assumed in the first question. In the second it may even dissuade the would be answerer from looking at the blog and finding an archived article about the barracuda. I think the first question is just fine. If you remove the I have tried part then i agree it needs to be fixed. But as it is we have a question and a limiting field of I tried X. That is answerable and a decent if not good question. – user9 Oct 25 '13 at 18:19
  • "OP did not find anything of use. That part can be assumed in the first question." - no it can't. He never even indicates that he tried to look elsewhere for a solution. – JoshDM Oct 25 '13 at 18:55
  • I will revise the word "tried" because that seems to be confusing to you. – JoshDM Oct 25 '13 at 18:56
  • My point is that since he did not find anything the second question has equal value to the first. The first question should be read as including "I have not found anything useful elsewhere." We should assume the best from our users even though we all know it is probably not true. There is no reason to subject someone to the 5th degree just so we can say "You must jump through our hoops to play on our playground". We want people to come here and ask their questions. Sometimes we will need to focus it. But the benefit of the doubt should be given otherwise – user9 Oct 25 '13 at 19:09
  • Now if you do a google search and come up with hundreds of seemingly relevant sites then I agree asking the OP to clarify is appropriate. The example question is narrow enough and I think that makes this a bad example. Maybe you should start with "What should I feed my dog?" – user9 Oct 25 '13 at 19:13
  • I've altered the tactic applied to the first question. Pray I do not alter it again. – JoshDM Oct 25 '13 at 19:13
  • The first question is already narrow enough. And that is my point. If it was "What should I feed my fish?" then I would agree. You could make it what should i feed my fish for 1, move your current 1 to 2 and remove your current 2 IMO and it would be right – user9 Oct 25 '13 at 19:16

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