A good number of fairly popular questions were solved by someone who had simply read the man page of the program in question and made it easier to understand. For this particular example, it may be the case that the person didn't read at all, but I think even advanced users can sometimes miss or mis-read parts of manual pages. For instance, the
screen man page is 2400+ lines long--I'm still not clear on the difference between
-D -RR and
At the end of the day, if an answer can't be found online, then the only people answering the question would be those who somehow had the obscure printed manual related to the question. Thus, for the large majority of the questions asked, it will likely be the case that the asker could have found the information with a well-formed google serach. However, knowing how to formulate that search is the hard part. For the example you mentioned, for the user to figure out what the carat meant, he would have to know that he was asking about regular expressions. Say that he knew how to get help on grep by running
man grep. If he has the same man page I do, "regular expression" isn't mentioned in the "Description" section. In fact, the meaning of caret in the context of his question isn't found until line 328 of the manual page. (Then again he could have searched "grep pattern", based on the first 20 or so lines of the man page.)
Further, part of me feels that the RTFM spirit of many of the people who would identify with a "Unix and Linux" stack exchange is the main reason our question volume is so low. When I run into a problem I'm far more likely to read manual pages and search the web until I find the answer rather than ask here.
My personal opinion is that when you see questions like the example you mentioned:
- Don't upvote them.
- Perhaps add a pointer to this awesome question
- If it makes sense to (in your particular example, I don't think this applies), answer a more general version of the question and perhaps even edit the original question.
The only downside I see to questions like these, is they don't seem to reflect "the community of experts" spirit that seems to be the goal of stack exchange. Then again, I'm not a expert.