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As most people who've been around the block a couple of times know by now: w3schools is bad news. It presents itself as an organisation, affiliated with W3C. Not explicitly, of course, but the name would have you believe they are.
Their goal is to make money, by selling these bogus certificates to naive would-be webdevs, which is, from an evolutionary standpoint, not that bad, but that's a different matter.

The main issue, IMO, is that we know w3schools is bad news, by freely allowing amateurs/ beginners/ enthousiasts (call them what you will) to post links to it, aren't we providing w3schools with the credibility they crave while at the same time undermining SO's credibility?

I've seen questions to blacklist w3school all together, and I understand why the site isn't blacklisted, or at least: I understand the reasoning behind the site not being blacklisted.
That said, couldn't w3schools be excluded from comments, in the same way as whathaveyoutried is? possibly with a link to w3fools, or at least the relevant tag-wiki, which should contain links to propper knowledge repos.

Take this question, for example the OP posted a link to w3schools in a comment, and both Spudley and myself then commented, pointing out that w3schools isn't a good reference, and redirected the OP to MDN. So the comment system does work, great, but it would, IMHO be more efficient if the OP were prevented to post the intial comment in the first place, and got to see both a link to w3fools and/or the tag-wiki. The OP would've been aware of his using a bad source, and the w3schools wouldn't have caused your reading this rant, nor would I've found the need to post this question here, either :P

Ready for your down-votes in 3-2-1 ;P

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    What is the problem with the OP stating what he used and other users kindly informing him not to use it? Blocking a link with some arbitrary message and alternative link is not going to send the same positive message I'd say. – Bart Jul 31 '13 at 10:00
  • @Bart: basically, by allowing w3schools-links willy-nilly, I feel as though it sends the massage that that site is a bona-fide resource, which it isn't. Rather than blocking the site in answers/questions, which is too much like censorship, I'd say a message saying linking to malafide resource does pack more punch, and is more credible (comming from SO) than it does comming from another user – Elias Van Ootegem Jul 31 '13 at 10:04
  • I'd say it will only serve to confuse and the actual message would be lost. I can't see it being a positive thing. – Bart Jul 31 '13 at 10:06
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    W3Schools as a site may not be well liked (for good reason), but it isn't 100% wrong all the time. It is very likely that some accurate information can be found on there. Treat each situation independently - if it includes correct information for a particular situation then I see no reason to stop people linking to it. – JonW Jul 31 '13 at 10:12
  • @JonW the first round in a Russian roulette only kills you 16.7% of all times. Should you recommend a friend to play Russian roulette for a shot of vodka each time you don't kill yourself, just because you know the next chamber is empty? – John Dvorak Jul 31 '13 at 10:17
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    @JonW, "W3Schools as a site may not be well liked (for good reason), but it isn't 100% wrong all the time", if you have to describe it that way, it must be really bad haha. – Old Checkmark Jul 31 '13 at 10:17
  • @JanDvorak: We're not talking about recommending W3Schools as something to use all the time, I'm talking about one-time linking to a particular example that includes the correct usage of markup and language. every other page on W3Schools could be wrong, but if one page is correct and it relates directly to the question being asked then I see no issue with linking to it. You could even prefix the link with "W3Schools finally got something right, here is how they correctly solved your type of problem". – JonW Jul 31 '13 at 10:23
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    @JonW I wouldn't recommend playing a round of russian roulette even if I knew the chamber was empty and the guy wanted vodka. He might want to play again, this time with a full chamber. "Only play this round and only because this time it won't kill you" is a nice idea, but I'd use it as a last-resort only. Most of the time MDN is not just correct, but also most complete. In the remaining single case, they point to an offsite resource (w3schools :-( ) – John Dvorak Jul 31 '13 at 10:26
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    "basically, by allowing w3schools-links willy-nilly, I feel as though it sends the massage that that site is a bona-fide resource, which it isn't." This is silly. Every site on the web that's not explicitly blacklisted is somehow being endorsed by SE as a legitimate resource? – Wooble Jul 31 '13 at 13:03
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I can't even figure what motivated this feature request. You acknowledge that banning links to W3Schools in answers is not a good idea, but you want to ban them in comments?

Answers are the most important thing on this site. Comments are merely second-class citizens, "noise" surrounding answers. Yes, they serve a useful purpose, but they're not critical. If something is not good enough to be allowed in a comment, then surely it should not be allowed in an answer, right?

Take this question, for example the OP posted a link to w3schools in a comment, and both Spudley and myself then commented, pointing out that w3schools isn't a good reference, and redirected the OP to MDN. So the comment system does work, great, but it would, IMHO be more efficient if the OP were prevented to post the intial comment in the first place, and got to see both a link to w3fools and/or the tag-wiki.

And no, I think this example is precisely why banning W3Schools in comments would be a bad idea (even though I might be able to support banning it in answers). Someone posted a link, someone else explained to them why it was a bad resource, and that person learned something. Isn't that what we do here? Isn't that exactly the kind of thing that redeems comments as a feature of this site?

If they'd just seen a message that spanked their hand and said "No, you can't post that link!", they wouldn't have learned anything. They'd just curse the site and move on. (Or worse, they'd obfuscate the link in any number of possible ways. Congratulations, now you've just made the site dumber and uglier.)

Even if you "improved" the error message to be a detailed discussion of the problems with W3Schools as a resource, you still haven't accomplished anything. Users don't read, that's a known problem. And if you make error messages paragraphs long, they especially don't read them.


Aside from all of that, we're not in the business of policing the rest of the Internet. Just because a resource gets linked to in one of the posts on our site does not mean that we endorse it in any official capacity. All contributions are signed with the name of their contributor, so we know who to hold accountable. If you suggest bad stuff, then that's on you, not on us.

Obviously, since this site is collaboratively edited, and our goal is to be the best possible resource, you're encouraged to edit inferior contributions and make them better. But that doesn't mean we should institute bans for everything out there on the web that might be wrong. Heck, we might well as just ban links altogether.

The only things that we should be banning are things that actively harm the way the site works—i.e. its process. We ban questions that contain only jsFiddle links without any code because we know that those questions are not going to be useful to anyone else in the future. They interfere with what we're trying to do here. In my mind, that's very different from policing the content of people's contributions.

  • K, users don't read, I'll grant you that. I think I might have phrased my request badly. The goal of my request was to at least try and take some of w3schools credibility away from them. I suggested only banning it from comments because they're "second-class citizens", and as I am strongly opposed to censorship, I can't really support banning anything (relevant) good or bad from Q&A (the relevant bits) – Elias Van Ootegem Jul 31 '13 at 10:09
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    Frankly, I can't help but agree with W3Schools's response to the W3Fools folks: wouldn't it be more productive if, rather than spending all this energy slamming us, you contributed to our website in a positive way? Like by pointing out mistakes and submitting corrections? That's kind of what we do here, too. – Cody Gray Jul 31 '13 at 10:11
  • Good point: banning bad links ~= 2/3 of the web. Damned, as always: censor one thing, and you open the flood-gates – Elias Van Ootegem Jul 31 '13 at 10:13
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    Also many OPs might assume the links are being blocked for competitive reasons, not quality reasons. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 31 '13 at 11:33

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