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Personally, I like to add relevant links to the questions/answers I provide. Usually these are simple links to API documentation, or wikipedia articles.

Following the SE motto of "making the internet a better place", and trying to provide as useful/reusable answers/questions as possible I feel adding links should be promoted. Adding links makes terminology less ambiguous, prevents users from having to 'copy/paste-google', and indicates effort.

Couldn't a badge (or three) be awarded when you added a certain amount of links to your posts? To prevent gaming the system, only up voted posts would count towards this amount, and down voted posts could actually subtract the amount.

I am aware of link rot which could be a problem. To address this I wrote the following suggestion, which basically comes down to custom social bookmarking integrated into SE per sub-site.

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But how are you going to determine that the links are indeed a) Relevant and b) Correct? Something like this would need to be automated for badges to be awarded. –  Oded Nov 4 '11 at 20:21
@Oded: I would suspect irrelevant links are down voted. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 4 '11 at 20:35
Anecdotally I think that answers containing relevant or interesting links are likely to get more upvotes anyway. –  Martin Smith Nov 4 '11 at 22:52
@MartinSmith: Now that's a reply which I can live with. Consider posting it as an answer, I rather accept that than any of the others. ;p –  Steven Jeuris Nov 4 '11 at 22:55
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I like the basic idea: Many people, especially newbies, aren't aware that the SE sites hold reference links in very high regard.

I would support a bronze badge for the first external link to raise awareness, but I agree that there are quality problems - it would be impossible to determine automatically whether a link is useful or not. For that reason, I don't think this is a good basis for any advanced badges.

But maybe a bronze badge for the first post with an external link with more than two upvotes would be feasible?

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Great idea. People might just be conditioned by the badge to continue doing thorough research in future posts. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 4 '11 at 23:18
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I myself don't particularly like the idea.. there's just too many things that can go wrong. The links can die easily, and might not even be correct. With the internet, checking validity is immensely difficult. It would be difficult to keep having the system making sure these are still working and not edited to be incorrect.

I think that we already have something like this in place - I call it Editing. You can add links into posts yourself already like that, and there's even some badges for it, such as Copy Editor, Strunk and White, Editor, and in some cases, Excavator.

I also don't agree with letting people insert links and fork rep off others.

In short - You already can do this, and earn +2 rep from it (if under 2k), as well as badges.

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I don't see how all of the problems you formulate are solved by editing (link rot?). Also, while the editing badge promotes you to 'clean up' posts, the intention of my proposed badge is entirely different. It promotes to add links in the first place. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 4 '11 at 20:39
@StevenJeuris But that's the solution that's already in place - Your idea is a good one in theory, but practically it just brings up more issues, that can already be resolved by users going to edit - something that is promoted on many sites already. –  Simon Sheehan Nov 4 '11 at 20:40
Well, this is a different discussion, and relates more to my other suggestion. But the editing principle would still apply. Only, when you edit one old link, it is adjusted across ALL posts which link to it. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 4 '11 at 20:42
@StevenJeuris but what if someone adds a link to help fix a post, and it gets downvoted. Why is a helpful editor being punished by a users crappy post ? –  Simon Sheehan Nov 4 '11 at 20:43
You are reasoning from the 'editor perspective'. Like I said, the focus would be for the OP to add links, to improve posts. The links which the OP adds would count towards their total count, not the editors. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 4 '11 at 20:46
"letting people insert links and fork rep off others" ... I didn't mention that. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 4 '11 at 22:27
@StevenJeuris thats what I see in the "only up voted posts would count towards this amount" –  Simon Sheehan Nov 4 '11 at 23:09
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This badge seems to imply that every post needs a link or two. They really don't. I don't think we should be encouraging people to find ways to shoe-horn links into their's and other people's posts to earn badges.

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I would only count the links you add into your own posts. The intention is for post authors to improve their posts, not to encourage editing. For that, you have the editing badges. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 4 '11 at 22:57
@StevenJeuris That doesn't address meagar's assertion that not very post needs a link or two. You begin by asserting that a link or two will invariably "improve" a post. Ironically, you have not sourced or cited this assertion. –  Fomite Nov 6 '11 at 0:34
@EpiGrad: What about the links I provided on your answer. ;p –  Steven Jeuris Nov 6 '11 at 1:05
@StevenJeuris Your provided links don't help. "Standing on the shoulders of giants" is a concept, not evidence. And it's just as easy to go about an argument from authority using linkspam as it is anything else. –  Fomite Nov 6 '11 at 1:18
@EpiGrad: K, then. In a more scientific context, just consider the basic scientific method which is entirely built around doing background research first, and continuing on that. "It is not enough to base scientific method on experience alone" If you want to call it linkspamming, I'd prefer linkspamming. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 6 '11 at 1:24
@StevenJeuris Again, you're assuming providing links is integral to the doing the research first. There are things which in a scientific context, are simply known by experts in the field. Science can - and does - have a great deal of comfort with this concept. It's why its not routine to cite general knowledge. It's not surprising that in a site full of experts, the answers to most questions are general knowledge to experts, and thus not in need of citations. –  Fomite Nov 6 '11 at 1:28
@EpiGrad: The papers I read, often even reference the most rudimentary concepts, even if it is just to exclude ambiguity. More importantly, in the long run SE exists to help those who need help concerning a certain question, not for those who are already experts at it in the first place. A quick (correct) answer, backed up with material for further research when interested is a winning combo. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 6 '11 at 1:36
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I'm not a huge fan of this idea for a few main reasons:

  • Many of the StackExchange sites are based on personal expertise, rather than "Are you all better with Google than I am"? As such, many answers are uncitable, and this creates a weird skewed badging system where people who occupy certain site niches or answer particular types of questions are rewarded for the nature of the question, rather than the nature of the answer.
  • It's easy to abuse. What counts as "a reference"? A blog post? What about a blog post from an academic in the field in question? What about a blog post from an academic in the field discussing a peer-reviewed paper? What if its the answering poster's blog - is that actually more "evidence"?
  • It's irksome. I have expertise. Much of it is cited if I felt like going back and figuring out where I first found it. But to use CrossValidated as an example, I'm not going to go dig up a citation every time I tell someone a confidence interval for an odds ratio or relative risk is only symmetric on the log scale. It's known.
  • I find it often gives answers a false feeling of authority. The internet is not a reliable source, and StackExchange should be more than a directed link aggregator. For that matter, many of the best citations will be useless to Average Joe Poster if they're books or behind a paywall.

Beyond that, as a question-asker, I often come to StackExchange when my problem solving resources have failed. I don't want links to references, I want help because my understanding of those references has failed. I'd rather an answerer spend another 10 minutes thinking about my question than digging for a badge citation.

This is also tremendously contrary to the growing number of research oriented sites, where there may very well be no accessible citation. Many of those communities have a culture of encouraging Real World names as StackExchange names essentially to strengthen the weight of personal expertise.

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"personal expertise" ... really? Whatever happened to "standing on the shoulders of giants"? Ever heard of "argument from authority"? –  Steven Jeuris Nov 5 '11 at 23:42
@StevenJeuris One doesn't really contradict the other. It's entirely possible to have learned the foundation of one's knowledge from one's intellectual predecessors, yet have expertise of your own, techniques you have developed, etc. I ask experts because they are experts, not because they have a collection of citations for how they got there. –  Fomite Nov 5 '11 at 23:46
Well, I listen to experts, when they can back up their facts, not because they are experts. –  Steven Jeuris Nov 5 '11 at 23:47
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