I want to cite Stack Overflow answers in scientific publications.
For example, I could be tempted to cite an answer that has provided a good benchmark analysis to a special problem (e.g. arrays vs. pointers).
But since basically anyone can edit the answer, such a citation won’t do. I need a reliable way of linking to a specific revision of an answer.
For answers that have already been edited, this can be done by looking at the edit history of a posting (e.g. once again arrays vs. pointers, different answer). But for at least two reasons, this is insufficient:
- It only works for answers that have already been edited.
- It only displays the Markdown source code as text/plain. Formattings included would be much preferable.
Furthermore, linking to isolated answers might not be enough; it would be much better if it were possible to link to a specific revision (kind of a snapshot) of a whole discussion, i.e. a question with all its answers and comments from a specific date/time.
Wikipedia solves this problem by providing each revision of a topic with a unique
oldid attribute to construct a permalink.
Is there already a (hidden) solution for this? If not, I posit that Stack Overflow needs one.
By the way, I realize that this may be controversial but I think it’s completely fine to have Stack Overflow discussions as scientific references. After all, discussions in mailing lists, news groups and private communications are bona fide scientific references, and some of the answers here are prime examples of rigorous research.
(One solution would be to link the normal question, along with a “retrieved on” timestamp but I don’t particularly like that solution since it makes it much harder for readers of the publication to check the source.)
(I’ve seen “How should the Trilogy and Stack Exchange be cited in external works?” and “Stack Overflow as a reference in a professional paper/presentation” but these are different questions.)