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Recently I saw a comment / discussion on Stack Overflow about answers that just contains a link. A moderator told a rookie that they should improve their answer, as it just contained a link to a different site, I think it was a blog. The site did give a good answer to the question, but the argument was that SO should contain complete answers. That way SO would grow and contain knowledge even if the remote page disappeared.

Should we strive for the same here at photo.SE?

One example of this happening here is the question Is there a formula to calculate DOF? Two answers, both linking to remote resources.

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No.

Websites go down, change their organisation, and loads of other things that stop links working. One of the aims of the site is to have the answer, not a link to the answer.

Whilst background links can be useful for citing references, I wouldn't consider it an answer (nor vote for it) if the text in the answer didn't answer the question.

  • Note that in many cases it's possible to archive a site at webcitation.org/archive and then link to it there. This is done sometimes on Wikipedia, for example. I'd recommend this for any answers that get a lot of views. – D Coetzee Jul 19 '12 at 22:45
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A link is acceptable, but at the same time the answer should contain a citation, complete enought so that the reader does not need to follow the link, except if one wants to read more on the subject.

  • It's also important to include a complete citation (author, page name) so that the page can be relocated if it's been moved elsewhere. – D Coetzee Jul 19 '12 at 22:46
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It is borderline. While it is true that we should try to contain answers, there are some times when all we do is copy a valuable and stable resource. Wikipedia is a great example. If some asked for something and Wikipedia has its own page on it, then that page is likely to stay and be kept up to date. The same thing with camera specifications. Plenty of websites have them, including the manufacturer for the most part.

Often people ask for something temporal such as "Which cameras have GPS?". One could have an answer here which would be valid for a few months but I rather have it linked to a search query for those terms somewhere so that the up-to-date information is always easily reachable.

  • 4
    I think Wikipedia is a great example because they may not always be around. It is more and more frequent these days that they have to beg for operating cash, and are relying on larger and larger volumes of donations to keep operating. I love Wikipedia, but I am not really sure they WILL be around forever...if their operating costs keep going through the roof, and donations flatten or drop, they may not be able to keep operating. – jrista Jul 5 '12 at 18:06
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    Wikipedia in its current form may not be around forever, but I have no doubt that they'll seek alternative funding if absolutely necessary. Even if they shut down the whole project anyone can start a fork based on the database dumps. It's the closest thing to a perpetual resource the Internet has. – D Coetzee Jul 19 '12 at 22:48
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Also a no for exactly those same reasons. If that was all we wanted, why not just disband and point our URL at google.com?

What makes this site great is both the depth of the answers and the "one stop shopping" for your photo education needs.

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