From time to time, circumstances arise where it's helpful to link someone to a meta post that explains a new feature on SE. When such a link is necessary, is it better to point it to the question, or the answer?

For example, a user recently expressed confusion to me because his title was edited out from under him immediately. When I asked what the title originally was, I learned that it had ended in an ellipsis (...). I recognized that from a meta post I had read just the previous day, and wanted to link him to it as a citation. I then had to make a choice, do I link to the question, which neatly outlines the context, or the answer, which actually explains the resolution?

Neither is particularly ideal.

  • By linking to the question, I'm granting the luxury of immediate context, but it might not always be obvious to read the tag, let alone the answer. Particularly since they click the link and find themselves immersed in a full page of text, so the tags and answer likely won't be visible without scrolling.
  • By linking directly to the answer, I'm showing the user that it's already been done and guiding them directly to the completion status, but--at least in this particular case--I'm pointing them to a context-less post that basically says "great idea, this is implemented." Then they have to work to find out what was implemented, and discover its relevance to the original point.

Clearly, neither case is the end of the world. Either the user scrolls up or down, and they've found all the information they ever could have received. But as I find myself doing this more and more, I'm curious: is there any precedent, or does anyone have any good reason to pick one over the other? Is it better to provide solid context that requires some work to find the relevant part, or is it better to provide the relevant part that requires some work to place in context?

Now, to be clear, I'm not just responding with the link. I am, obviously, including a brief explanation and basically saying "click here to read more." So a lack of context isn't really such a bad thing. But it still feels a little odd to be linking someone to a screen that says "great, this is implemented and these are the results of the implementation" without first defining what "this" is.

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    if the feature is listed in Recent feature changes... log, consider using the link referred in that log - be it answer or question, or even comment or chat transcript, it is usually picked as being best to describe a particular feature – gnat Oct 6 '14 at 11:44

Link what's actually useful to what you're trying to convey. As a general rule of thumb, if they should be reading the question as a whole, then you should link the question. If they should only be reading a specific answer, then you link that answer. Link them to where you think they need to start their reading. There's no universal choice between answers and questions because where the weight and importance of a post is depends on which question it is. Sometimes the question itself contains very important stuff - other times the only stuff of importance is found in an answer.

If the answer doesn't have enough on its own, or as you noted if it's just "This has been implemented", then linking to the question and noting "This was implemented" in your link would suffice. If the implementation differed from the proposal, then linking to the actual implementation in the answer would be more useful. This is really just an extra paragraph reiterating everything in the first paragraph, if you think about it, though.

Which one you should link should be pretty apparent to you as you look at the question yourself. You should be able to get a quick idea, and if not, that's actually a likely sign that linking anything in there is probably going to be more confusion than it is worth.

  • Fair enough. As I said, the links are never really necessary, and they're provided more as an "if you don't believe me, here's proof." So it's not really that much of a "they should be reading the question as a whole" situation, in most cases. But yes, I certainly didn't expect an end-all solution, and these sound like good guidelines to follow. Thanks, Grace! – Matthew Haugen Oct 6 '14 at 19:21

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