Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

When answering questions, I often times will explain how to use a specific function or set of functions in the answer. Every time, I will go out to, find the actual page for the function, class, etc. and be certain to give that information along with the answer. I like to think this practice helps the OP learn something about the function or where to get more information in the future, instead of just getting the answer and copying it verbatim.

What would make things super convenient is if we could wrap functions for common languages in a special markdown tag that would do the linking to the official documentation for us. For example, in Stack sites, you can use [tag:PHP] to create a link to the tag. Perhaps in the future we could type [php:array_key_exists] and it would create array_key_exists.

In some cases, such as PHP, it's pretty cut and dry how function names are addressed in the PHP manual. In other cases, it may not be very well automated. However, if these symbolic links are created and managed by the community, much like the tag wikis are, it could be the communities job to keep them up-to-date. If at some point, I try to follow a link created by using [php:mysql_escape_string] and it fails, I could update that entry manually (with enough reputation, of course).

share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't know about the feasibility of implementing this request. I am just stating my thoughts regarding this feature request.

  • I understand that you have used PHP as an example to state the reason behind this request. However, there are hundreds of other languages answered every day on SO. Think about all the different links that we could create for various keywords/functions on Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN)

  • The tag I mostly deal with has tons of functions / keywords that I could think of even though the production itself has undergone only 4 versions. It is a very tiny part of SQL Server product from Microsoft.

  • Most of the stumbling block for new users is the terminology or finding the correct keyword. Once they know the keyword that is associated with their question. In my opinion, it is OP's responsibility to search on Google to find its usage.

  • Constantly changing documentation URLs due to version changes / new releases might also lead to lots of broken links if not maintained properly.

Sorry, I don't mean to belittle your feature-request. I just want to point out that there are other numerous number of languages that are constantly being answered on SO.

share|improve this answer
It depends, are you referring to 'keywords' as being "words that somewhat explain what the user is trying to accomplish"? Or are you using 'keywords' interchangeably with language defined functions? – Michael Irigoyen Feb 27 '13 at 5:36
In your example, array_key_exists seems to be a built-in function of PHP. There are similar functions available in all the other languages too. If you have stated array_key_exists in the answer, is it necessary to provide a link to documentation too? – user213400 Feb 27 '13 at 5:39
As an educator, I would argue yes. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Michael Irigoyen Feb 27 '13 at 5:42
Sorry if I misunderstood, isn't giving the link to documentation for every method like handing out a fish? If you give the keyword or function name, it will teach the OP how to search on the web, isn't that what teaching them how to fish means, figuratively speaking. – user213400 Feb 27 '13 at 5:48
I see your point. I would rather the OP get real information from the official source though. You know you cringe every time someone posts a link to a PHP function on W3Schools. But at the same time, I think a lot of people get their answer, see that it works, and that's the end of it. They don't do the research to learn why it works. Thus why I always give official documentation links. Especially when being vague enough to answer their question when the function is actual much more powerful or customizable. – Michael Irigoyen Feb 27 '13 at 5:51
@MichaelIrigoyen: You are correct that users should be pointed out the right place to look for documentation. I try to add a section title ##Recommendation on my answers, where I specify where OP could proceed from the given answer. You could use something like to give the root URL to PHP's official documentation website. Just a thought. – user213400 Feb 27 '13 at 5:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .