I understand the sentiment behind the comment

What do you want us to explain that isn't answered by a simple web search?

but I feel it's not a comment that needs to be typed in this SE site. It is something one can probably find in some of the higher volume and more presumed-thick-skinned and angsty sites (e.g. SO) even though it's not nice, but here I think it has no place.

There is something insidious about the use of "us" in this way. It presumes to put the recipient in the position of not one of us and it simultaneously presumes to speak for all of "us". I feel this kind of language taints the site.

The reason "us" is used is because "What do you want me to explain..." sounds silly, and it sounds silly because obviously the answer is "nothing you don't want to explain of course!" And the fact that that sounds as silly as it does is the first hint that the whole concept of this question is ill-fit as a stackexchange comment.

I'm looking for a more standard, accepted, well up voted answer, perhaps in another meta where the "us" vs "you" angle taken toward a new user is dissected and discredited in a better way than I was able to do below.

I will do "a simple web search" after I've finished typing, and if I find an answer I like I'll post it. But this is meta and I've asked here because usually better viewpoints than mine exist out there and they are worth reading.

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  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling you may want to respond to this directly. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 26 '17 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ I think the best way to prevent this is to minimize references to the community. Where one must invoke the community, try to avoid using "you" in addition to "we" as it tends to feel as uhoh portrayed above. Another way to phrase Michael's statement would be: "What are you looking for that isn't answered by a simple web search?" This avoids reference to the community, as it isn't necessary in this case. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jul 26 '17 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage perhaps a different question, is there any accepted guideline/general practice that suggests there's something fundamentally wrong with asking a question that could be answered by reading not-at-all-necessarily-simple technical explanations that could be found with a simple web search? Isn't the overriding idea here that one should describe what they know, or what they've found? There's no basis to presume either way that a search was or wasn't done, or a real book (remember those?) was or wasn't read. The principle is that it's best to mention in the post what you know/tried. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 26 '17 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ If the answer isn't apparent in the first few web searches, or the asker wishes to know details beyond what can be readily apparent, then you are correct. "that isn't answered by a simple web search" doesn't necessarily presume that a search was done, but that one should have, given that the effort it takes to search Google at least once is presumed to be lower than the effort of asking a Stack Exchange question, and that the user (as you mentioned) should include the results of their search in the post. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jul 26 '17 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ As you say, it is likely most productive to inform the OP that they should include their research in their post and direct them to the relevant help materials. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jul 26 '17 at 14:18

Avoiding any reference to the OP (no you), the community (no us), and even the commenter (no me), the comment could be close to the following:

Please edit the question to show what research has already been done, such as Google searches or books read, and state what additional information or explanation is needed. Doing so can increase the depth, and usefulness of possible answers, without repeating what is already known.

The comment also does not promise that the commenter will answer the question, or that the there will be any answers.


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