On Stack Overflow, I'm a pretty frequent contributor with over 3K in reputation. Almost all of which earned by answering real user questions about Windows programming and other topics.
Last night, somone posted a question. I knew the easiest thing to do would be to direct him to an appropriate documentation page on MSDN that I thought would help. And I literally did this:
- Copied the URL directly into the post.
- Below the URL, copied two lines of content from that page that was relevant.
- Small code snippit below that.
Literally, this is what the answer looked like:
This warning is automatically promoted to an error. If you wish to modify this behavior, use #pragma warning. For example, to make C4235 into a level 2 warning, use the following line of code
I felt that by cutting and pasting a quote from the website, and attributing it with the URL was proper form. Such that it's not ambiguous where the answer originated from - both from a copyright perspective as well as a courteous to the content owner.
About an hour later, I observed two things:
One moderator downvoting the answer and flagging it because "Copy/pasting. Nice. Did you see "© 2011 Microsoft. All rights reserved" at the bottom of that page"
Another moderator deleted it with just a link to the FAQ - which says nothing about cut and paste or copyright rules.
Well that was disappoining. It wasn't like I was pasting a writeup without giving credit to the original author. Just a small quote from a well known reference site.
So here's my questions:
What is the policy around answers coming from other online reference sources?
Is pasting a URL to a page with an answer OK?
Is pasting content from the URL OK? Even if it's attributed? Is there a proper way to attribute content when it originates from another site?
Is there a proper way to attribute an answer if it originates elsewhere?
Was I wrong to paste a snippet of content from MSDN, or was I wronged by aggressive moderators?
Now here's the real kicker - my day job is a software engineer at Microsoft. I am certain that my employer would not take issue at all with me helping the Windows development community by referencing pages they publish. So in some sense, the Stack Overflow communinity is just making it harder for the Windows experts to help the Windows community. It seems odd.