I have seen questions closed because they constitute "trivia". I believe that sometimes this is offered as an option when voting to close or delete. (Perhaps I am mistaken...)

For example: Strange jeep-hold cable used during Operation Horev - a popular question which I enjoyed answering. But why isn't it trivia? Who cares about one strange protuberance from one jeep in a relatively obscure military campaign that never actually achieved its objective?

I suppose the answer is that anything related to military gear deployed in the field is good History, and I can understand that.

Still, I'd like some more guidelines regarding what's trivial and what's not.

3 Answers 3


From the "Close" dialog:

Requests for trivia or basic historical facts are off-topic if they can be easily answered by looking up the relevant topic on Wikipedia.

That makes your example question not trivia or basic historical fact, as it can't be easily answered by looking up the relevant topic on Wikipedia.

  • OK, that is one good guideline - can be easily answered with Wiki. But that's not the only criterion. Just because it can't be found on Wiki doesn't mean it's not trivial. For one thing, maybe it's too trivial to be found on Wiki.
    – user2590
    Sep 15, 2013 at 2:58
  • @Vector Yeah, good point. But then it would be quite obviously trivial, I would think. Sep 15, 2013 at 4:58
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    Just as a clarification, I know many of our users will take this as roughly "can I find the answer to your question on the wikipedia page for the noun in your title"? IMHO, that's a bit too restrictive. If you aren't very conversant on a topic, synthesizing the information out of a long wikipedia article may be beyond you.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 15, 2013 at 20:35
  • @T.E.D." If you aren't very conversant on a topic... may be beyond you." Indeed. What to an expert on a subject might seem trivial, "Why wiki has whole article on this", to a non-expert might be virtually indecipherable, "I didn't understand a word of what wikipedia said - it's filled with technical terminology that is not within my field of expertise. Can someone explain it to me in clear and simple terms?"
    – user2590
    Sep 16, 2013 at 1:43
  • @Vector Right. That's is then something that are not "easily answered by looking up the relevant topic on Wikipedia". Sep 16, 2013 at 4:57
  • @T.E.D. and Vector Too damn bad! Am I to spoon-feed people too mentally handicapped and/or linguistically challenged to read and understand a WP article? Not my job! They can ask for clarification on the WP article's Talk page or, for a quicker answer, go to WP's Reference Desk where they usually get an answer within the hour. Sep 16, 2013 at 14:09
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    @EugeneSeidel - You certainly don't have to answer anything you don't want to.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Sep 16, 2013 at 14:27

If I'm not sure whether a question is trivial, I copy the question, paste it into google and look at the first five answers. If that amount of research reveals an answer, then the question is quite probably trivial. It suggests that OP didn't do any real research before posting the question.

  • That is an interesting criterion. But isn't it possible that the answers revealed by your google search were not satisfactory, so the question was asked here? (I suppose that if that if so, a questioner should state their research and what they found unsatisfactory about the possible answers. If they don't, it means they haven't bothered)
    – user2590
    Sep 17, 2013 at 19:03
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    Entirely possible; there are cases like the one you reference above where the "answer" is impenetrable without additional education/background. But these are unusual. I agree with your parenthetical; our site would be much more valuable if documenting prior research and asking for specific answers were the norm.
    – MCW Mod
    Sep 17, 2013 at 19:12
  • @Vector Then, in those cases, the OP should specify why the results were not satisfactory.
    – Luke_0
    Sep 28, 2013 at 0:25

My test for a trivial question is something like: "Would a historian be interested in this as possibly changing history?"

The jeep and the cable strike me as NOT trivial. They didn't do much during operation Horev. But I (and probably most historians) could see them as possibly being critical to the success or failure of some other campaign.

  • "possibly changing history" - that makes it very broad - consider the Butterfly Effect! It also perhaps requires predicting the future or speculating about the unknown.
    – user2590
    Sep 15, 2013 at 3:01
  • "When did the war between X and Y start" strikes me as being both trivia and a history-changing event. Sep 15, 2013 at 5:15
  • @LennartRegebro - "trivia and a history-changing event" If it is "history changing" doesn't that make it non-trivial, by definition?
    – user2590
    Sep 16, 2013 at 1:38
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    @Vector 1. Trivia and trivial are two different words. 2. The event and the fact are two different things. An example of a non-trivial history changing event is Columbus landing in America. An example of trivia is "Which year did Columbus first go to America?" Sep 16, 2013 at 4:55
  • @LennartRegebro: Trivia: Matters or things that are very unimportant, inconsequential, or nonessential. "example of trivia is Which year did Columbus". IMO no: Example: If we know he went in 1492, that explains other things that happened in 1492; not so if he didn't go until 1493- so the date has importance. In school they focused on dates. I understood the reason was that the date of a historical event sheds light on its context and other concurrent events-so the date of an important historical event is never trivia.
    – user2590
    Sep 17, 2013 at 19:16
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    I find this discussion silly and unconstructive. Also inconsequential and unimportant. ;-) Sep 17, 2013 at 19:40

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