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It would be really nice if SO scanned posted content and checked detected links, and then notified the user of bad or redirected links so they could verify links are still valid and/or fix them.

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This would mean SO "continually" (for some definition of continually) scanning posts and checking links were still live. Much easier and actually more efficient to encourage users to post a comment when they find one. –  ChrisF May 24 '10 at 15:05
    
@ChrisF - Moreover that a "dead link", can be for example that the article moved, but the site is still there, and how to detect a "broken link", then. –  Gnoupi May 24 '10 at 18:34
    
@Gnoupi - ah yes, one of many edge/corner cases I think –  ChrisF May 24 '10 at 19:19
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If a system is ever created to do this, then it might also be useful to think about scanning (old) posts for missing images as well. That might be hard, as many online image hosting services always serve some image, even if all it says is "image not found". But hopefully many will also give the correct HTTP response code along with such error image. –  Arjan May 24 '10 at 22:21
    
I dont think the benefits would justify the overheads involved. –  AsheeshR Jan 2 at 17:29
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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I don't think adding an additional system to check links is necessary when we already have a notification system: comments.

Usually if someone finds an answer with a broken link, they will add a comment to the post, thus notifying the poster. (I realize that users need a minimum amount of reputation to comment, but they could also flag for mod attention at a lower threshold).

The Trilogy sites are repositories of knowledge, and as such, users are encouraged to add referenced content directly to their posts wherever possible (with proper citation, of course) -- if a link does break, the relevant content will still be available through the site. These same concepts also apply to images.

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Much better than comments would be flags sending out notifications to the OP. Because comments tend to turn stale once the link is fixed –  Lukas Eder Jun 3 '12 at 16:35
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Don't agree with this. Visitors, who make up a large share of all traffic, can never comment or flag. They have no means to point out broken links. –  slhck Jan 2 at 16:01
    
@slhck: First of all, this answer is years old. What happened to anonymous post feedback? Second, the last paragraph still applies. If the post can't stand on its own without the link, then it's a low-quality post, and should have been improved while the link was active. I'm not disagreeing that link rot is bad. There used to be enough ways to let people know about it. –  Jon Seigel Jan 2 at 19:21
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I know your answer is old, but nothing really changed since it was posted. Anonymous feedback was disabled (and I guess the data was thrown away) because nobody ever looked into it, and it wouldn't have helped in combatting broken links either, because you could just up/downvote and that's it. 2010 and now, there are still no ways for guests or users < 15 reputation to provide explicit feedback. –  slhck Jan 2 at 19:39
    
@slhck: Ah right. Thinking about it again now, I would rather have seen anonymous feedback extended to add other options, i.e., report a broken link. I don't see why an opportunity for that kind of data acquisition was removed, even if it wasn't being analyzed. Many other sites have that kind of thing. Do you know off-hand when that was done? I just looked at the 10k tools and I think some of the options are missing ("overrated" and "underrated" posts rings a bell?) from the last time I checked which wasn't that long ago. –  Jon Seigel Jan 2 at 19:55
    
The anonymous feedback was removed in December 2013: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/209655/… — I agree a "report broken link" option would have been nice. And easy to implement. –  slhck Jan 2 at 20:14
    
@slhck: Yeah... that's a big mistake. Nick said the only issue was the reporting part, not the data collection. Maybe that should be revived (plus a new Report Broken Link) with a feature request separately from this question, even if the report isn't implemented. –  Jon Seigel Jan 2 at 23:37
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I believe that there should be a script that would run on a monthly (or daily if possible) process that would let users know that a certain post (or posts) has a broken link in it and should be updated

There used to be a comment that popped up telling people that there was a dead link in their post.

What I am suggesting now is that we utilize the new top bar and notify a user when there is a dead link in one of their posts.

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There seems to be a new review queue in the works - LINK VALIDATION REVIEW QUEUE. This was active (although hidden by default) for a couple of days in April-May 2013.

The system automatically attempts to identify broken links and sends that post to this review queue, where we can review them to fix those broken links. The queue works like any other review queues and anyone can review the items - not just the person who made that post.

I had posted a to allow expanding comments in this review queue, which proves its existence:

I guess this Review Queue should be up again in about 6 to 8 weeks time period.

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Within a limited context, this scanning you suggestion could add value / usablility.

I think "SO" is too wide a context taken as a whole (for scanning on a regular basis), but maybe a narrower target, e.g.:

  • Unanswered q & a showing activity within a relevant timeframe (like the last week, or what have you);
  • Answered q & a showing a sufficient amount of popularity (views, follows, etc.);
  • NOT certain types of links (that there is low expectation would or could be repaired after they go bad -- such as sqlfiddle, etc.);
  • etc;

I think most links will break over time -- and we can't expect to fix them all -- but if we could target the more 'important' ones somehow, it might be worth the added effort.

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I do think it's worthwhile to do this in a mechanical way for a subset of content, and activity seems like a viable measure to determine what content should get checked. –  Tim Keating Jan 3 at 20:58
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I use links in major cases to:

  • Help users continue their search
  • Add source of information

(That not including images).

I try to add the content to the answer, or part of it, with the corresponding source or full link, so that if the link is broken the answer is still good.

So, I don't want to be bored by that notifications, because if the link is the full content, and you don't find alternatives to it, what would you do?! If your answer is like I said, it will be still helpful, and the answerer and reviews try to fix by comments if needed.

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That's fine, but I think it's a regular enough occurrance that a third party source shuffles around URLs (Adobe, Apple and Microsoft have all done this to me in the past), so the content still exists but is no longer properly referenced. Right now, the stuff just stays broken. –  Tim Keating Jan 3 at 20:57
    
@TimKeating yes, true. But putting a little part of the content will help find the link again in search engines, or even in the page proprietary search if available. I don't think that work should be put on the writer, as like I said if the answer is a bit complete the broken link would not break the answer, so it could be left to reviews, comments, editors, and of course if the writer have time, if can do. –  Diego C Nascimento Jan 4 at 18:31
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