We've done it. We've reached the answer character limit for (one of the few) wikis that are actual wikis on Stack Overflow.

Now that we've reached that limit, what should be done? Should the limit be increased? Or is it, "Sorry, game over. We can no longer improve this answer."

  • 7
    Hit that limit on that answer a while back. You just have to go through the list and cull the now dead links. Of which there are plenty. Or use the inline version of links
    – random
    Feb 24, 2012 at 1:54
  • 2
    Did a quick conversion to the inline links, freed up a bit over 1K.
    – Shog9
    Feb 24, 2012 at 2:52

4 Answers 4


Seems to be an edge case not worth bothering with.

When was the last time someone went through and checked that the books and PDFs on that list both:

  • Are still online and available
  • Actually free for distribution or whatever the beer was?

That's how you can improve that answer if you really want to keep trimming its hedges. Or use the inline version of Markdown hyperlinking. Saves you both characters and sanity tracking the titles to their corresponding links.

That list post is a mutant of epic proportions. One where people will slap on a new book here and there, but never quite go through the list as needed every now and then to prune its ratty pubic hairs.

  • 9
    Or just delete the whole thing?
    – casperOne
    Feb 24, 2012 at 2:54
  • @casperOne: Yes, because throwing away vital information is such a good idea... Feb 25, 2012 at 2:48
  • @Nicol "Vital"? You're kidding right? Calling it vital doesn't make it so, you have to prove how it's vital. Go ahead, I'll wait.
    – casperOne
    Feb 25, 2012 at 7:04
  • 1
    @casperOne: Vital may be an exaggeration, but so too is your needless pursuit of deleting anything and everything that doesn't perfectly fit with the site. You can't say that the information isn't useful and important to people. So why the urge to delete? Feb 25, 2012 at 15:36
  • @Nicol I highly recommend you read the close description as well as /FAQ. As moderators, it's our job to handle matters such as this, for better or for worse. No one is arguing its value, but as has been said many times before, that place isn't here. That said, in this time you could have copied the content from the question and put it on another site, which you are allowed to do given the CC license.
    – casperOne
    Feb 25, 2012 at 16:12
  • @casperOne: Yes, and nobody who came here would benefit from it. The Internet suffers, because useful information is not in a place where people actually look for it. Feb 25, 2012 at 16:15
  • 2
    @Nicol so now you're shifting your argument from "throwing it away" to "it needs to be here because no one looks anywhere else". Ok, I'll play that game, if it's valuable content and stored somewhere else, Google will bring it to the top of its search ranks, and people go to Google first, not SO. That said, people will look for it and they will find it because everyone goes to Google to search for eveything. Troll harder.
    – casperOne
    Feb 25, 2012 at 18:13
  • @casperOne: Right. Because someone who has a different opinion from you is a troll. If you can't engage in a reasoned debate without invoking an ad-hom, then what's the point? Feb 25, 2012 at 18:20
  • @Nicol There is none =) You actually started the ad-hom attack in your second comment with the characterization of moderator behavior which was rooted in very, very little information you had available to you. You also switched your point when it was made apparent that your original point was not valid. That's very much in line with the textbook examples of troll behavior. Tons of people here disagree with me (and tons agree, it's the nature of the beast), but there's a constructive way and a non constructive way to express differing opinions. Your approach, IMO, is the latter.
    – casperOne
    Feb 25, 2012 at 18:44

GEOCHET sez: "30k characters is more than enough."

But y'know...

Each of those sections - with the possible exception of "Language Agnostic" - could just as well be its own question, with its own wiki answer. And with its own tags.

To where if I looked for, say, free Forth books I'd get more than just those two (good as they are).

And I wouldn't have to scroll through a nightmarishly-long list to get there...

Surely the folks who actually spend time hanging around a given tag are better equipped to answer questions like this anyway... Especially for the more niche topics.

Of course, if you want to still link all the questions together in a big master directory, that should stay well under 30K for a good long while. Or... Just link to a tag search and call it a day.

  • 1
    Have already saved into the Python and Ruby tag repos so far
    – random
    Feb 24, 2012 at 3:07

I wouldn't even be worried about it. Something like this is going to happen in the near future:

  • People are going to raise hell about it being there
  • (Optional) Prolonged debate about the worthiness of it's existence at all on meta
  • Moderator deletes question
  • More hell-raising on meta
  • (Optional) Someone undeletes the question, but leaves it closed

While being somewhat facetious, there is a serious problem with that post. If the post is that large, just how much use can it actually have?

Who is going to go through and read all of those books? At this point, you might as well just search for "programming" on Amazon and you'll come up with pretty much the same thing.

How does one even decide which book on the most highly upvoted answer should be read first? It's impossible to tell and your feature request will just make that monstrosity even more unwieldy.

I can't see the reason for a mechanism that takes something that is unmanageable and exacerbates the very thing that makes it unmanageable.

  • Can you link to a question where someone actually raises hell for the existence of a question? Because usually, I only see "questions" that raise hell upon the deletion of old dinosaur questions. Feb 24, 2012 at 3:39
  • @Cody See the range of comments on the post, the answers, and the comments on answers on "The Great Question Deletion Audit of 2012"
    – casperOne
    Feb 24, 2012 at 4:26
  • 1
    That looks like Gilles and Robert Harvey (weakly) defending deletion, and mainly for want of a better solution. Nearly everyone else there is crying far louder to save the questions. I don't understand why we can't just leave them alone until people would agree on a better solution. It seems like there's a lot more butt-hurt involved in the deletion. I don't know why the moderators are so gung-ho about this. I really don't feel like the overall quality of the site suffers because of a few old questions, and if it did, a banner would be sufficient to solve that problem. Feb 24, 2012 at 4:30
  • 2
    They may cry out, but they are very slow to even quote or copy across to their own blogs and sites in the spirit that the license allows and permits. @cod
    – random
    Feb 24, 2012 at 4:45


  • Curate the list. Review all the books in each category and present only the top three.
  • Split the list up into more answers. Perhaps by popularity, by application, by interpreted vs virtual machine vs compiled, etc.
  • Use a URL shortener for each link - should save a bunch-o-bytes
  • Encourage someone to move the list off-site to a blog or elsewhere, and have them maintain it
  • 2
    I can't see how splitting it up into more answers is helpful. That makes it even more not constructive than the list is now. Using a URL shortener makes the whole answer NARQ because it's just links at that point (unless you are recommending just the URL and not the link text). The best option is moving it off-site, followed by the first option, IMO.
    – casperOne
    Feb 24, 2012 at 2:54
  • 1
    -1 for URL shortener. Feb 24, 2012 at 3:38
  • I agree - splitting it up and using URL shorteners are not good options. If I were to order them, I'd shoot for moving it off site first, then curating the list next. I'd only want to shorten the URLs or split it up if there were no better options - but there are.
    – Pollyanna
    Feb 24, 2012 at 4:05

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