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Background

Recently I noticed a few posts that link to external website links. These posts use the external links as the core of the answer.

Example

This is one example of a short post with an external website link: Example 1

Questions

What is considered the proper usage of a external website link?

Thoughts

Using website links as answer seems risky as the website link could become obsolete. A lot of answers refer to scholarly articles, therefore I feel this question needs to be addressed. I think quoting the article makes since, but if that is the answer other questions arise about how much of the article should be quoted.

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Other SE Sites have come up with these Q&A's:

https://meta.stackexchange.com/ - How can I link to an external resource in a community-friendly way? - Top answer has 102 upvotes.

https://meta.stackoverflow.com/ - Something in my web site or project doesn't work. Can I just paste a link to it? - Top answer has 323 upvotes.

https://meta.stackexchange.com/ - Your answer is in another castle: when is an answer not an answer? - Top answer has 110 upvotes, the question was written in 'FAQ Style' and has 518 upvotes.

From our Blog, if we ever get 'runnable code links': "Introducing Runnable JavaScript, CSS, and HTML Code Snippets".


For information about "How to link" (don't use "here") see: "H30: Providing link text that describes the purpose of a link for anchor elements". That suggestion was offered here: https://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/103320/link-description-to-external-website .

Of particular relevance to us are these examples (obviously we don't include the markup):

Example 1

Describe the purpose of a link in HTML in the text content of the a element.

Example Code:

<a href="quantumsite/quantum.html">
  QuantumSite's information page about all things quantum.
</a>

...

Example 6

The “MyCorp” company’s annual report is made available on the corporate website as a PDF file, and the annual corporate budget is made available as an Excel file on the web site.

Note: Many users prefer to know the file type when opening a file that results in opening a new application to view the file, so it is often regarded as useful to include this additional information. However, this is not required for compliance with this success criterion.

Example Code:

<p>
<a href=”2009mycorp_report.pdf”>MyCorp 2009 Annual Report (pdf)</a><br />
<a href=”2009mycorp_budget.xls”>MyCorp 2009 Annual Budget (Excel)</a>
</p>
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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note: Sometimes our related site's links are autoconverted to the text of the question (and displayed in light grey, instead of green) and other times they are not recognized and remain as an URL. This isn't strictly a 'filtering issue' as once m.SE.c was recognized and the second time it wasn't (so I used a link, resulting in orange text). Seems a bit hit-n-miss as to whether it's parsed correctly. The CSS for recognized links blends in too much with the choice grey - perhaps it should be changed. It's likely to be standardized once the 'Changes' to harmonize all the sites comes into effect $\endgroup$ – Rob Mar 26 '18 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ <a href=..., Ehh, you can put links in markdown with [text](url)... $\endgroup$ – Discrete lizard Mar 26 '18 at 7:34
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While Rob is nicely discussing how to make good 'link-based' answers, I'll discuss how to improve the situation as a third party (i.e. a community mod)

Rob has the right idea on proper usage. If it is proper, no action is required.

Otherwise, if, say, there is only a single link and nothing else, treat the link as the line "a source with this name exists". Clearly, this is too meager!

So, you will do the same thing as when an answer is too meager, tell the user to expand, such as :

Your link seems very useful, but we would like to have a brief summary of its contents, to increase clarity and let the answer remain valuable even if the link is dead. Thanks!

Also note that another reason is that judging answers by their links requires reading all the links. This is simply not a good idea. Hence, we judge links only superficially.

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