We've had a couple of recent discussions about what constitutes a good answer:

Both, I think, come from a problem where the information to answer the question is freely (or at least, easily) available elsewhere. Many of these types of questions are "fact recitation" questions, where it's hard not to copy from an external source, even if you know most or all of the answer, because your answer would not be substantively different from what's already out there.

On a couple of sites (SciFi.SE and English.SE), there exists a "general reference" close reason:

general reference

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

The idea being that Stack Exchange is for the stuff that isn't easily found elsewhere: that we don't do the Internet a solid by copying other people's work.

Something along these lines has been discussed here in the past, with a flowchart provided:

Flowchart http://blog.stackoverflow.com/wp-content/uploads/interesting-question-decision-tree-flowchart.png

Does having this close reason make sense on Gaming? Would it help solve these problems at all?

4 Answers 4


I'm semi-active on SciFi.SE, and from what I've seen, the "general reference" close reason has had mixed results. One thing they decided early on was to only count Wikipedia as a general reference: you can freely copy Memory Alpha (for Star Trek) or Wookiepedia (for Star Wars) in your answers, on the pretense that a newbie to the genre wouldn't know about those reference guides.

And there's the rub: depending on what you accept as a canonical reference, a case can be made that every question is general reference, and a case can be made that no question is general reference. So using the close reason becomes a very subjective thing and it's hard to say if it's ever been used correctly.

It seems Jeff came to the same conclusion earlier this year, and SE has nixed rolling out the close reason network-wide because of it:

Per the discussion in Stack Exchange Podcast #20, and after evaluating the close reason on english and scifi, I now agree with Joel: I believe this close reason has too much potential for abuse and misunderstanding. It is unlikely we will ever adopt this close reason network wide.

So while in theory this would potentially kill two birds with one stone, it has very dubious effects in practice. I'm not sure what the best solution is for handling questions that attract easy or copied answers, but the "general reference" close reason doesn't seem to be it.

  • I agree. And what might appear to be "general reference" or "type it in and take the first Google hit" to one person may not be to another. In particular, this answer did a good job illustrating the problem of how a complete newbie might not have enough knowledge to phrase the question in an easily Googleable way.
    – Sterno
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 19:33

On Cognitive Sciences.SE we've decided nothing is too basic so long as the user has demonstrated some research effort and asks their question well. Being a scientific site we expect a bit more personal research than I feel is necessary for a gaming site.

There's a lot of questions here that can be solved by any given game's wiki (there's ALWAYS a wiki), the problem is the large majority of people won't know such wiki exists nor will they think to look for one.

Wikis really aren't a substitute for Q&A anyway, I have to know what I'm looking for to find stuff in a wiki; I'm looking for this boss' stats, I'm looking for a map of this place, ect. That's different than having a specific problem you don't know how to solve.

The "just google it" excuse can be a problem too; it's hard to know what to google. Unless you can google their exact question title and find the exact answer, it's probably not easy to "just google" their problem. And honestly, even if it is, we want to be a resource for gamers that are going to Google.

We want to be in Google results, so if someone has an answerable, well asked question that's likely to help others, just answer it.


I am on the fence with this one Mark.

On my personal side, I think that these types of questions (I know I have asked a few of them) can help our community. They can be answered without needing outside sources if the person answering the question is willing to do some grunt work.

My question about the SWTOR Launcher for example. I Googled, Googled, and Googled some more. I found dozens of forum posts that didn't help me. When I finally figured it out I could have just had my sigh of relief and left it at that, but I decided that I would use our excellent community to help others that might have the same problem that I did. And in this case, although the answer was removed because it wasn't an answer and should have been a comment to the post, at least one person was helped because of my post :D

From the StackExchange side, our community benefits from questions getting views. This is why the site does gaming giveaways. Skyrim, SWTOR, Minecraft etc, have questions with large view numbers. Some of these types of questions get picked up by the Google bots and put to the top or near the top of searches. Most of these questions could be found via some Google searching. Especially some of the SWTOR answers that cite other websites in their answers. IMO the views generated by these types of questions help the site grow even more.

  • 2
    Our goal isn't merely getting views though: SE isn't intended to be a content farm, but to make the Internet a better place by providing expert knowledge. Ignoring that, or reducing it down to "well whatever gets us Google juice or views", I think ignores why people like SE over alternative resources.
    – user3389
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:07
  • @MarkTrapp And I agree with you 100% which is what my part was talking about in my answer. I separated my answer into why I think some of the questions can help the community, and why I think StackExchange would be okay with some of the easier (more Googleable) questions being on the site as well.
    – Adanion
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:12
  • @downvoter Sorry you don't like my opinion? Without reasoning behind the downvote that is all I can assume.
    – Adanion
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:34
  • 1
    Downvotes mean disagreement on Meta, don't sweat it. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:39
  • @MatthewRead I have a terrible problem with taking downvotes personally on SE. Especially drive by downvotes. At least if I am given a reason behind a downvote, or given another side to my story, I have something to work with and improve my opinions on things. I have been trying to improve how I handle downvotes, but I haven't quite figured out how yet :D
    – Adanion
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:43
  • If it makes you feel better, I have 2 so far :P Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 21:11

We need a general reference close reason, but it needs to be used judiciously.

I see two primary use-cases,

  1. Blatant reference questions
  2. Questions that aren't quite as blatant but with information that changes fairly quickly (but not too localized...). Many popular games have communities that will obsessively keep up-to-date information whenever changes occur (Minecraft, TF2, SC2...), so it's flatly better to point someone there versus replicate that information here where it will rapidly become stale.
  • Seems like both situations could be handled by answers that include a link, rather than a close reason.
    – bwarner
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 15:06

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