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I was just wondering whether posting a link to an application I am currently working on violates any policy. Obviously, users frequently post links to articles, forums and the like, but I'm curious to know what the policies are for this.

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You mean like making people do debugging work and then having the external site and the question itself become useless when it's over and needing to close the question as too localised because it's no longer meaningful in any way? –  random Sep 29 '11 at 21:28
Did you mean post a link to something you're working on as a question or as part of an answer? –  agf Sep 29 '11 at 21:29
@random: That's a good point. If the link is no longer valid, the question loses context. Someone asked me if that was against policy, and I wasn't sure if there was any granularity to the policy regarding links. –  James Johnson Sep 29 '11 at 21:46
Are you talking about linking to a pastebin that contains your codebase? –  Won't Sep 30 '11 at 11:21
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Links that are helpful in diagnosing a problem or illustrating a solution are reasonable. Be careful that the link isn't the only thing you post, however. Your question/answer should standalone in the absence of the link or in the event that the link becomes unusable.

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That makes sense. Someone else asked me about it, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I didn't want to give advice that violates policy, but this makes perfect sense. –  James Johnson Sep 29 '11 at 21:59
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If you are referring to the link used in an answer, then it is valid what reported for links to blog posts, or article you wrote: Make clear the link is for an application you wrote. Differently, the link would be interpreted as self-promotion, and it could be flagged as spam.

Of course, the link must be useful for answering the question, which means that posting the link when the application is irrelevant for the question is not welcome.

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+1 I appreciate your input on this, and I agree wholeheartedly. You made solid points with regards to making sure that the application/link isn't misconstrued as self-promotion, and that it is relevant to the question –  James Johnson Sep 29 '11 at 22:09
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(This answer refers to questions that don't include code but a link to code that is stored on another site)

StackOverflow is not a debugging service. Asking users to download and run your code to fix it is not acceptable for the following reasons

  1. According to the faq, questions should be about a "specific programming problem." If you cannot identify in your code what your problem is, then you have not yet determined what your specific programming problem is.
  2. This is the definition of "too localized". A question that requires you to download source from another website and compile it "is unlikely to ever help any future visitors". If you cannot identify and describe the problem within the body of your question, it is unlikely that a searcher will even find your question.
  3. When the link rots, the question will in all likelihood become useless. If the answer references code that cannot be read, it will be very hard to understand it without that needed context.

In order to get good answers, you must ask good questions. Good questions are clear and illustrate, with a minimum amount of well-formatted code, the issue so that people browsing questions can quickly understand what your problem is. If a question requires them to download and compile your code, they are much more likely to continue on to the next question.

Rather than upload all your code to a third party website, create a prototype which reproduces your issue with the minimum amount of code. Give your variables clear names and format your code so that it does not require users to scroll vertically or horizontally to view it. Break up code blocks and describe what is going on, rather than simply posting a single contiguous chunk. Alternatively, use comments in code to describe what it is doing.

Simply linking to your codebase and expecting users to debug for you is a violation of the site guidelines, won't help anyone else but you, and even that is a long shot. Don't be lazy. Find the crux of your issue and put it in your question.

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I talking more about posting the URL to the application, so users can view an exception or behavior that pertains to the question. –  James Johnson Sep 30 '11 at 16:04
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