I humbly propose very basic citation system that allows users to stipulate sources for answers and questions. The new tables collecting citation information could be queried for very interesting data and even monetized. Before you downvote me for the mortal sin of excess complexity without very much benefit, please consider the following:

  1. For users posting answers, it will be fully optional, and could be neatly integrated into the existing views without adding much complexity.

  2. It will generate a lot of very interesting data for users. For example, it would be possible to tell which books and blogs are mentioned the most often in questions and answers. I think this would be fascinating and would significantly enhance the visitor user experience.

  3. It could be monetized in several different ways. For example, popular book sources could be listed on the right column of relevant questions and tag view. Affiliate links could automatically be generated to amazon by using the Product Advertising API. Of course this will have a lower click value than other targeted advertising but this block could be cycled in where targeted advertising is not performing well. I would be willing to bet that these would have a higher click through rate than the existing targeted advertisements, which may improve impression value.

Yes, I agree with the general sentiment that developers are buying and reading less books. However, a quick look at a rough estimate of the audience profile for stackoverflow.com seems to suggest that most of the visitors would be financially able to buy a technical book if it is recommended properly. I can't think of a better suited platform than stackoverflow.

Any implementation could be rolled out evolutionary fashion and could be very subtle.

  • 1
    I think what the audience profile shows is that everyone is a broke college graduate. Commented Aug 8, 2009 at 18:04
  • 5
    +1 for the general idea. Have you spent any thought on concrete implementation? How do you want the user to provide the citations?
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Aug 8, 2009 at 18:18
  • 1
    So: 1) Read question on SO. 2) Post answer on my blog. 3) Post answer on SO. 4) Cite my blog. 5) Profit
    – EBGreen
    Commented Aug 8, 2009 at 20:43
  • ebgreen: Good point, any source link should probably be marked as pr-crushing "rel=nofollow" as ordinary links on stackoverflow currently are. Regarding direct referring traffic, if your blog post is so clearly valuable that it is mentioned repeatedly by users then maybe you should profit from any resulting traffic. This is something that happens now to a lesser degree and I don't think it constitutes abuse.
    – novatrust
    Commented Aug 8, 2009 at 23:16
  • To be clear, I don't think a citation system is a bad idea, I'm just generally in cynic mode.
    – EBGreen
    Commented Aug 8, 2009 at 23:44
  • Focusing on blogs is, I think, missing the main point. First you can already link to your blog. Second, most citations I've made in SO are from books (probably more than half from them are from Bertrand Meyer's OOSC/2) and in these cases there is (generally) no online content to link to, so the citation would not be in the form of a link (unless it's the link to Amazon so that you buy the book, but that would be discriminating other online book shops :) Commented Aug 9, 2009 at 3:49
  • You can already provide book citations also. My understanding is that this suggestion is to formalize the citation process and provide a means to collect citation data.
    – EBGreen
    Commented Aug 9, 2009 at 15:39
  • I guess, on second consideration, unless the citation system provided some way for others to provide feedback on the applicability of the citation itself (Up/Down votes for instance) I don't see a lot of added functionality.
    – EBGreen
    Commented Aug 9, 2009 at 15:42
  • Relevant: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/364683/… Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 19:18
  • Hasn't it been implemented, e.g. on Physics? Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 11:55
  • I will just point out that citation helper is enabled on a few sites: Which sites use citation helper?
    – Martin
    Commented Jul 4 at 6:13

3 Answers 3


I'd love if citation data were in the CC database dump.

  • 2
    ... what citation data? Commented Aug 9, 2009 at 5:53

Zotero would be a great model for grabbing the cite and standardizing the format. More answers might include citations with a tool like Zotero to make it easier.


There is public domain code offered on GitHub such as the OSTI / DOE Code repository (written in React) which provides selectable citation formats with a convenient copy to clipboard link:

Screenshot of OSTI.gov webpage: https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1828120

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