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Links are good. They allow one to easily extend his knowledge on a topic. Many users constantly links their answers to outer sources, making their answer/question much more clear to any readers.

Two trivial examples:

  1. I believe an answer that suggests a usage of a certain java class is better, if it is linked to the javadocs of this class.

  2. A user suggests an algorithm as a solution, and uses an existing algorithm for it. Linking to the wikipedia page of this algorithm [or to an article describing it], makes the answer, again, better in my opinion.

    • Also, a user that links to an answer, is more likely to use the correct terminology, as he had just looked for the term he's using and linked to it, something that can be very important where many users are not native English speakers.

Suggestion: advocate the use of links, by adding a badge/badges for a certain amount of links provided by a user in answers/questions.

  • Note: This is different from the announcer badges family, since it refers to external sources as well.

  • p.s. this also might increase the rating of SO as a hub in HITS ranking algorithm, without harming its score as an authority. :)

EDIT: As mentioned in answers, an automatic adovation of links might prove harmful, I'll modify my suggestion: a badge for "+X votes on answers/questions with links", it might make the evaluation of links more affected by community and not automatic.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Links are both, good and bad.

Assume the following answers:

http://link.to.manual.com

RTFM --> http://link.to.manual.com

It's clearly described in the Manual located at http://link.to.manual.com. You just have to blablabla blablabla blablabla…

Only the last one is a good usage of links; the other two do not deserve to see the light of day. Rewarding users which are spamming links is a very bad thing; we can't for sure tell (in an automatic fashion) what a good answer and a good usage of links are.

So far, I'm against this request.

Edit: As for your changes to make this only apply to "+x answers," I'm uncertain of certain implications. I here for withdraw my downvote and stand neutral to that request, because I can't say if that would be a good idea or not.

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2  
What is your opinion then of a badge for something like: "total score of +X for answers that use links", it will prevent the issue you [correctly] mentioned, allowing more wise advocation of outter sources. –  amit Sep 27 '11 at 10:42
    
Better, but still no 100% save from spaming...but way better. –  Time Traveling Bobby Sep 27 '11 at 10:54

While stating your sources is certainly a good habit and referring to articles etc for further reading indeed helps other people to get more insight into a certain topic, the idea of simply 'rewarding' someone because he adds alot of links might not be wise.

Arguments:

  • external sources tend to be limited in time, with the exception of a few; even java.sun.com is history now, remember?
  • there is no garanty of quality with external sources; you mention wikipedia but as helpful as wikipedia can be, the content isn't always correct, let alone of a high quality
  • links added by people could easily be 'biased' as in referring to only one possible library or solution for a problem, thus narrowing the possible gain of visiting such a site
  • ...

What I would certainly applaud is that the wiki of a tag is often kept up to date with links that are recognized by the community as good reference. For this to be possible (maybe also for your proposal) this would require a voting mechanism on the links added in questions. Feasible I guess but it would require somewhat work from the part of development.

UPDATE Whether someone gets a lot of upvotes for an answer or question has in my experience not much to do with the links (or quality of links) that were added to it. They can contribute to the 'has put much effort in it' factor or make an answer a bit more useful than just 'do it like this and it'll work' but only to a small degree. (There are plenty of references to 'how to write good questions/answers on SO?' that I won't link to here ;-) In the end the community votes for the answer and not for the links in the answer.

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What is your opinion then of a badge for something like: "total score of +X for answers that use links", it will prevent the issue you [correctly] mentioned, allowing more wise advocation of outter sources. Though it doesn't solve the long term reliability issue you have mentioned. [but then again, all answers might get wrong/inaccurate after some time...] –  amit Sep 27 '11 at 10:44
    
I've always learned that comments shouldn't be used for extended discussion and I'm afraid this could lead to exactly that. And it's messy when you ask almost the same question in a comment to another answer. Maybe you could update your proposal or rethink the whole thing for a moment and write a new one. –  Wivani Sep 27 '11 at 10:48
    
I modified the original question, the comment's idea was to let you know I did.. –  amit Sep 27 '11 at 10:50

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