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Recently, whenever I found a good SFF answer I wanted to share, I realized that I might as well just share what it linked to because there was no actual content on the page.

Take Explanation of seasons in "A Song of Ice and Fire", for example. I'm able to arrive at the actual content by clicking a link in the comments and then follow another link from that page to the actual interview. There is no reason for the answer not to contain both a quote of George R. R. Martin's answer and a link to the interview. (I'd do it myself, but I'm scared of spoilers.)

The same goes for Does the intro sequence to the Game of Thrones TV series have any meaning?, only in worse because the upvotes answer doesn't actually answers anything; you have to click the link to get the actual answer.

This is bad. Really bad.

First of all, links do rot which mean that, eventually, the answer might not guide you to an answer. Thus, at that point, the answer becomes just a waste of space. Secondly, it means that SFF doesn't answer questions; it just directs you to answers. All in all, that's bad for the site.

On Skeptics, we encourage users to summarize in their post the content of important links (usually, they opt for a quote of an important is which just fine). SFF should do the same.

  • I've edited the intro sequence answer, but the season answer isn't that good: the link is to a secondary source which doesn't cite primary sources (books or interviews). – user56 Jun 5 '11 at 16:05
15

We encourage quoting the relevant context with the link, because:

  • the link might go dead

  • it's irritating to have to click through to get "the answer" when you could read it in-line

And OF COURSE provide a link to the source material in a click here to read tons more detail way.

We don't want users to copypasta entire pages of content since that's contrary to fair use (and who wants to read that much anyway?) The right way to do this is quote just the most relevant bits, under fair use:

The [legal] loophole in copyright is fair use. Under the banner of fair use, you could legally upload a video without the copyright holder's permission. Anyone who contributes anything to the web should have the four factors of fair use commited to memory by now:

  1. the purpose of the use
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the relative amount of the portion used
  4. the market effect of the use on the copyrighted work

These are the four factors courts use to determine if something is fair use.

We regularly smack down anything that copies wholesale; we want a contextual quote with the most relevant information to the answer, and always a link to the rest.

  • You never let me "copypasta" anymore! – Möoz Oct 3 '14 at 2:27
4

Absolutely!

An answer should never consist of just a link. Always at least summarize the contents of the link. Copying the contents wholesale is often not possible because it's copyrighted, but reformulating the information in your own words is always legal. Links should be citations to justify your answer or places to go for more information, but your answer should have some meat.

If you see an answer that lacks inline content, feel free to edit it to add content. If you feel that the write-up is more work than finding the information in this particular instance, feel free to post another answer with the same link plus your write-up. Also leave a comment such as this one, to educate the poster:

[Please provide context for links.](http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/how-to-answer). At least [summarize the contents](http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/8231/are-answers-that-just-contain-links-elsewhere-really-good-answers) directly in your answer.

I personally don't upvote answers that lack content (though I feel systematically downvoting would be exaggerated).


Funny, I thought you'd have the opposite complaint: I see many answers without citations. I welcome speculative answers with citations to back them up, but (especially for ongoing series) we get quite a few answers which are just shots in the dark. These aren't particularly interesting. I delete the really egregious ones when I see them, and feel free to flag them (when the whole contents of a post is “i think maybe 1500 years ago, just a guess lol! …”, it's not an answer).

  • 2
    In my hierarchy of bad answers, answers prone to linkrot rank slightly just higher than unreferenced answers. Unreferenced answers and mere speculation are more likely to get downvoted. – Borror0 Jun 5 '11 at 16:54

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