Please Don't Google that For Me

I’ll bet you have been on one side or another of the following conversation:

Person 1: What is X?
Person 2: Here’s a link that describes X. titter titter snort
Person 1: Let Me Google that For You? Ah, very clever, thank you…jerk.

Let Me Google That For You, a snarky site that demonstrates how to execute a Google query, was born out of frustration. We were a small group of engineers each of whom had to deal with “help vampires” – those too lazy or not Google-savvy enough to search on their own. We were tired of being asked easily Google-able questions like “How do I create a signature in GMail?” or “What’s PostgreSQL?”. We felt our knowledge and time were being abused. We vented about it at lunch one day, imagined how cool it would be to throw this site back at our colleges, then Ryan McGeary and Jim Garvin went back to the office and created it. An internet sensation sprung to life.

The success it achieved underscores how many people felt the exact same way we did. Now you see it everywhere, and if you have been on the receiving end of a LMGTFY link, you may – like I do – fear getting one again whenever you ask a question. Years later I now have mixed feelings about it.

Being engineers we’re not necessarily great with people so without having to say it out loud the site tells a person “Look, I’m pretty busy. Could you maybe Google it yourself next time?”. For us the passive-aggressive tone was just a bonus. On the other side it has it has helped show people how easy it is to Google for an answer. But some times the question “What is X?” isn’t always necessarily about what X is.

My brothers and I were discussing bit torrent over email. My oldest brother, Paul, asked me “What’s a magnet link?” My first instinct was to send him a LMGTFY link. That probably would’ve put an end to the discussion. It’s tough to respond to snark like that even when it’s good natured. I replied to Paul’s question with a helpful link and my thoughts on, and experiences with, magnet links. Now, Paul didn’t reply and the thread did die with me but I like to think I made the right choice.

In another email thread about a funny video I had wanted to ask “What is G-LOC?” but I was afraid of getting a LMGTFY link. I looked it up myself and went on with my day. I realized later I wasn’t necessarily looking for the Wikipedia definition (G-force induced Loss of Consciousness, by the way). Instead I wanted to convey that I liked the video and wanted to discuss it further. This is what the fear of getting a LMGTFY reply can take away from us – An oft used way of saying “I’m listening, please do go on.”

In person you wouldn’t get snarky with someone that asked you to explain what a term meant. In fact, I relish the opportunity to show off my passion and knowledge of a subject. That shouldn’t change in an online conversation.

LMGTFY is a fun answer to “how do I” type questions especially when asked by those that unnecessarily rely on you for help. For “What is” or “Why does” type questions, please don’t Google that for me. Let me hear your thoughts on it. I’ll learn more about it, and you, in the process. Now, is that so hard?

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