Are answers that just contain links elsewhere really “good answers”?
I'm new to Stack Overflow, but have been around on various forums for a while. I have noticed something that has me a little concerned. I was going to post this over on UserVoice, but I realized that I didn't really have a great solution. So I thought I would solicit the opinion of the community, and see what you all thought would be a good approach to solving this problem (if, in fact, you agree it's a problem).
I see a lot of answers of this type:
Everything you need to know about <question> is here: <link>.
Now, often the answer is correct, the answer is there. The user accepts the answer, and we all go on our merry way. But my concern is link rot. I've been following the Jeff/Joel blogs, speeches, etc. and it seems their intent is to make this site a repository of answers. Three years from now, if I Google a question (or use this site's search feature) and get to a thread that had linked to an answer, what happens if the source site has restructured/disappeared/moved/etc?
Even though linking is expedient, I wonder if it will be detrimental in the long run.
This is in response to lothar's comment, but since it expands on the discussion I thought I would move it up here:
And with the necessary rep anyone can edit the answer and update a link if necessary
That's true, and I did think of that. But my concern is lost information. If the site that vanished had really great/hard to find information, a few problems will happen.
- The person discovering the link rot will most likely be someone looking for an answer.
- There is a decent chance said person will be new to the site and may not even be a member. So they may or may not ask the question again on the site (which we hold to be undesirable). OR they just drift off into the ether, leaving the link still rotting.
- In the event that the link rot is discovered by a responsible user... then what? If it was a particularly esoteric question, they still have to find someone who knows the answer, and cares to write it up again. And how will they find that person? They will open a new question.