Stupid People, Stupid Questions, and the Lazyweb

Scott Adams has a great quote:

If there are no stupid questions, then what kind of questions do stupid people ask? Do they get smart just in time to ask questions?

This quote came to mind as I was reading a post by Jeff Atwood on the word Lazyweb:

It’s hard to pin down the exact etymology of the word Lazyweb, but it seems to have one primary meaning:

1. Asking a question of an internet audience in the hopes that they will be able to find a solution that you were too lazy or inexperienced to find yourself.

I don’t mind Lazyweb requests, within reason. Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as a stupid question. It’s asked by people who failed to do even the most basic kind of research on their question before they asked. I’m not expecting everyone to read a 32 page document before asking a question, but at least cover the basics before casually deciding to make your problem everyone’s problem.

My wife can attest to my love of answering questions, especially engineering/technology questions. At the same time, one of my biggest pet peeves are questions which are asked simply because the asker has not done any level of work to answer the questions himself1.

For a while, I used to respond to such questions with my Larry and Sergey story. Ask me a lazyweb question sometime and I’ll tell you my story.

When I needed help from a professor in college, I learned to preface the question with a synopsis of what I had done thus far in my attempt to answer it. This seemed to help direct their answers more specifically to my particular failure of knowledge, as well as assure them that I wasn’t being lazy.

  1. please do not ask me what time it is, I’m pretty sure you have a cell phone with a clock on it