The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

This isn't Google...

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MarkS's picture

This isn't Google...

I have been on a broad gamut of discussion forums for many years now. One thing that I see quite a bit, and is a pet peeve of mine, is when a question is asked and then a member "helpfully" directs the original poster to the search function or Google.

The search feature is a great tool... So long as you know what and how to ask the question in the correct format. Adding, removing or changing a single word can have a vast impact on the result. This gets even harder when you don't know what to ask.

This is a discussion forum. The point is to discuss. It is inevitable that there will be duplicate topics. It is guaranteed! But that is OK! Remember that there are many ways to do something and techniques can and will change. What results I find via the search tool may not be the results I need, and may be outdated or even completely wrong.

If you see a new topic pop up that has popped up dozens of times before and you don't want to repeat yourself, feel free to skip over the topic. I have been new to many hobbies, all with their own discussion forum, and I can tell you first hand that directing someone to the search feature does not come across as helpful, but dismissive and rude. It feels like you're saying that you do not have the time or desire to bother with my question, so I should find it myself. Regardless of the intent, that is how it feels to be on the receiving end of that.


dabrownman's picture

anyone being dismissive or rude when directing a newbie to the search function  Like me, They usually have gone there themselves and tell the person what to type in to get some good results and point them to a few good ones too.  The folks here are very helpful and very kind by and large.   The usual answer I see most often when a newbie asks a question and is directed to the search function is  'why didn't I think of that?'

Not using and or directing others to this great archival function would be a travesty of the greatest kind in my book.  Sorry you feel slighted when folks just want to help in any way they see fit.  Thank goodness we all don't think the same and realize  there are valid viewpoints on each side of every issue - even something so basic as bread making.

I heard somewhere that God helps those that help themselves first.  I always took that to mean that you should really load upon the first serving of food so that maybe someone else might bring you seconds if you asked nicely.

And you are right, nearly every question about bread has been asked many times on TFL.  What surprises me is that any of them get answered - even if the answer is wrong :-)

Just my 2 cents which now only worth a half cent if i have calculated correctly.

Happy baking

Floydm's picture

I agree, generally.

It is nicer/quicker/worthwhile to do a quick search first before asking a question, but many of best answers are buried and hard to find or don't come up at the top of of the search results.  The site homepage is by design more of an activity flow a la Facebook or Twitter rather than a knowledge store like Wikipedia, so good stuff does disappear often.

I'd encourage folks to search first (I do), but replies that simply say "use the search" aren't particularly helpful. If you've been here a while and know of a good thread that answers someone's question, please point them to that thread. If not and you have the time and knowledge to answer their question, please do. And if you don't but just want to discuss the issue with them, that is fine too.

MarkS's picture

You misunderstand. I get that members telling others to use the search feature are *often* well meaning. What I am saying is the members to whom the comment is directed at do not look at it as helpful and well meaning. It *feels* rude and dismissive.

Answering the question, AND THEN mentioning the search feature is one thing, but sadly, often times the member is told to use the search feature and that's the end of the comment. Also, the assumption is that the person asking a question that has already been asked a million times is lazy and didn't try the search first. That line of thought is incorrect. First off, you don't know if the member used the search feature, and as I mentioned earlier, it only works if you know what to ask.

And, as a Christian, I can tell you that God helps those that need it, and that quote does not appear ANYWHERE in the Bible. Just, FYI...

Antilope's picture

Did you ever know someone that thought they knew everything? ;-)

dabrownman's picture

I don't believe that I mentioned the Bible at all - did I?  I doesn't sound like something I would do since God means a much different thing to me or to so many different people the world over - say a Muslim like my brother, a Christian like my Dad, a Jew like my wife  or a Hindu like one of my friends.  I think I said 'somewhere' since I really couldn't remember were I had heard or read it, and assuming things is always dangerous but, it does sound little like something Mark Twain would come up with - and his satire on religion is legendary.  So I will look it up. 

It seems to have its roots in the Greeks - From Wikipedia here :

The phrase "God helps those who help themselves" is a popular motto that emphasizes the importance of initiative.

The phrase originated in ancient Greece and may originally have been proverbial. It is illustrated by two of Aesop's Fables and a similar sentiment is found in ancient Greek drama. Although it has been commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the modern English wording appears earlier in Algernon Sidney's work.

The phrase is often mistaken as scriptural, but it appears nowhere in the Bible. Some Christians have criticized the expression as being contrary to the Bible's message of God's grace. A variant of the phrase, however, can be found in the Quran (13:11).

So this phrase predates the Bible  by a very long time.  We have one side of God thinking the saying is contrary to God's grace and another side of God including it in the Koran.  This must be very confusing to those of neither faith who make up much of the world's population.

But, this is is Wikipedia and some folks think it is totally bogus for facts too.

I suppose that I find it best to be just as tolerant of the very, very few in the minority who say 'go use search' as it is to be tolerant of the many who ask the same question that has been answered time and time again - No?  It may be that protecting the minority and their rights is way more important in the scheme of things than protecting the majority even though this case may not be one of them.   Just another idea or even fact often forgotten in time and not worth much to those doing the forgetting.....

It must be time to bake some Ezekiel Bread.:-)

Happy baking.


MarkS's picture

Thanks for the information! I really had no idea where that phrase came from. I did enough research to find that it isn't Biblical, and was done. Very interesting!

Anyway, this is far off topic...

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Well if 'God' helps those that need it, shouldn't everyone just by-pass searching or posting questions and go straight to prayer instead?  I'll remember that the next time I need some help with my starter...i'm sure all will be answered! ;)

Anyway, I do recall when I first started using this site, there were a few unhelpful answers to my questions.  Very short and direct, and not offering answers but simply re-direction to other sources.  I was surprised to see how many members quickly came to my defense and even ended up scolding the unhelpful members.  THAT is what kept me on this site.

All in all, it may be a pet peeve, but when it comes to this forum, there are plenty of users that are willing to give all they can.  And that's all we really helpful neighbours....not G.....ok I won't go there.


Heath's picture

Lots of good points on this thread.

I agree wholeheartedly that just telling people (especially newbies) to use the search bar can come across as rude and dismissive (not necessarily the poster's intention though).  I've done it myself once or twice and subsequently regretted it, because it can turn people away from asking again (and possibly from attempting to bake their own bread again).  I've never noticed you being dismissive, though, dabrownman - in fact, you're one of the most helpful posters here on TFL.

It is good to gently nudge people that the search bar is available for their own sakes.

I think that many internet-savvy people don't realise that they're very priviledged and that lots of people can't navigate websites as easily as they can.  My mum is a case in point - an intelligent person who uses the internet reguarly, but when I advise her to google something, she's lost.

I felt I achieved the right balance in this comment I posted yesterday.  I searched myself, found the most relevent thread, linked to it and then suggested that there were many more recipes to be found using the search feature.  Hopefully, it came across as helpful.

I'd like to add that many website's search engines are just not that good.  For instance, I read a post earlier that advised to search TFL for "magic bowl", which I duly did and was presented with two relevant results.  I did the same search using google to search TFL (type in: magic bowl and was able to find more results, which isn't a widely-known trick.  (Note: I'm not dissing TFL's search engine, just saying that google is more powerful :-) .)

DavidEF's picture

I also find it very rude or at least supremely unhelpful to say something along the lines of "use the search" and then stop there. Unlike dabrownman, I have seen it happen on TFL, but only once! On some other sites, it is all too common. I know at times the information is really very well laid out in some past post, and re-hashing the subject may not be as fruitful as reading what has already been said. But, then there are times when the person's situation is just different enough to warrant a whole new bunch of answers! With bread, it's easy to get into a unique situation, because there can be at least hundreds of variables!

So, what I generally try to do when faced with a question that I think is already well answered, is link to the exact post, if I can remember it. Secondarily, I will try to give a concise answer to the question myself, if I think I can handle it. In those times that I cannot remember the post, I search for it myself first. If that fails me, I'm not going to suggest anyone else try it!

BobS's picture

I think different sorts of questions require different kinds of responses.

A question along the lines of 'I am having trouble with this bread recipe. Here is what I did, can you help?"  should and typically does get a  detailed, involved response on TFL.

Another type of question is along the lines of 'Can anyone tell me some good whole wheat bread recipes?'.  I think the best thing to do here is 'teach a man to fish' (another non-biblical phrase) and suggest that they search first. In this day and age, on a web forum, search is a fundamental skill and you do someone a service by helping them get better at it.

dabrownman's picture

non biblical phrase.

I still say when a newbie, someone who knows nothing about this website or what is available after registering 15 seconds ago,   says 'I need some good WW recipes', it is best say welcome, I need some good WW recipes too and I found them by searching this great website by using 'whole wheat bread recipes' in the search box and this is one I found.........from my blog index here!  Good luck and Happy Baking.  There really is no post, question or request that  doesn't deserve a polite and welcoming answer - but they better not ask Lucy either !

PMcCool's picture

I know that I've been sometimes terse in responses to questions when I have directed people to use the Search tool.  I know that I have also been rather long-winded in answering other questions.  Sometimes it is due to the nature of the question.  Sometimes it is due to the time I have available.  In all cases it is due to an intent to provide the questioner with useful information.

Since TFL's inception, there are some questions that have been repeated hundreds of times each.  (My top three: 1. What kind of mixer should I buy?  2. Why didn't my bread turn out (no other information provided)?  3. Does anyone have a recipe for __________?)  Pointing the questioner to the Search tool is often the very best response, so long as some tips are included that will make their search successful.  The questioner may not perceive that to be helpful advice, especially if they wanted a customized answer.  That doesn't negate the value of the response, unless they choose to reject it.

One of the things that I have learned in navigating different fora is that there are some genuinely nasty individuals out there.  It usually doesn't take more than one or two posts from them to remove any doubts about their behavior and attitudes.  I have also learned that a blunt response is not an accurate indicator of malice.  Nor does a less-than-salutory response from one individual mean that a community is rife with jerks.  Having observed various individuals take umbrage at responses (other than my own) which appeared to me to be innocent, I'm also aware that some people are more than willing to feel injured.

Since this is turning into a long-winded response, I'll try to bring it to a close.  Yes, each of us needs to be polite to one another.  Equally, we should not assume that people are trying to be impolite just because their response is different than we expected/wanted.  


DavidEF's picture


You said "Pointing the questioner to the Search tool is often the very best response, so long as some tips are included that will make their search successful." That is really the bottom line. Saying "Use Search" and ending your post there is not helpful. I was looking through another forum a while back, and they actually addressed this issue, along with several others, in a sticky thread about how to use the forum the most effectively. The statement was something along the lines that "If you have nothing else to say besides 'Search For It' then you really shouldn't say anything at all, because you are being no help at all." Adding tips, such as what key words to use, or a link to the post which may have the best answer out of all the 500 posts that come up from that search, or a brief answer to help the OP get pointed in the right direction, makes the response more helpful.

Keeping it short isn't really a bad thing, even if the wording is a little terse. I've seen lots of helpful answers that went something like "Just search for [exact (helpful) keyword phrase] in the search bar." I don't have a problem with that, because it gives direction and guidance, while still being concise.

suave's picture

On the other hand, when I see a question asked for an umpteenth time I get a distinct feeling that the OP wants answers served on a silver platter and could not be bothered to look for them.  What's worse questions like that are often answered by the most opinionated, not the most knowledgeable.

chris319's picture

I also find it very rude or at least supremely unhelpful to say something along the lines of "use the search" and then stop there.

In law, this kind of answer is called unresponsive. I call it a non-answer. is the worst for this. I recently had the following exchange:

ME: What are the dimensions of this item?

RESPONSE: "I don't know, it was a gift."

I'm thinking to myself, this doesn't answer the question. If you don't know the answer then why did you post anything at all?

Another unresponsive answer that comes up is "We just discussed this.". It doesn't answer the question, so why did you bother posting this non-answer???

Here is are some fun facts: a search on this board on the word "starter" brings up 1,114 PAGES of responses. One THOUSAND one hundred fourteen. Not 1,114 individual responses, 1,114 PAGES of responses.

Adding the word "yeast" to "starter" brings up 655 pages of responses.

Searching on "wild", "yeast" and "starter" brings up 171 pages. We're really narrowing it down now.

The word "sourdough" brings up 1,375 pages.

"San Francisco" brings up 112 pages.

"KitchenAid" or "Kitchen Aid" brings up 195 pages.

"Bosch" brings up a mere 66 pages.

"Ankarsrum" brings up a paltry 7 pages.

MarkS's picture

The search tool is great and there is a wealth of information to search through... Too much information! You can narrow the results, but ONLY if you know what terms to use.

This leads to the inevitable catch-22 situation where the member is so overwhelmed by the search results that they post another topic, which further adds to the search results, thereby confounding future searchers.

With this in mind, if the member truly appears to not know, directing to the search might do more harm than good.

breadbabe's picture

A day before this thread started, I was looking up 'definition of artisan bread'. Google brings it back to TFL. I found it humorous that a google search of almost anything in baking refers back to TFL, usually in the top 5.

Time to brush up our game, people!