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I notice a recent post by a first time user where they give a one sentence answer and a link to their commercial site where an extensive and good answer to the question is given.

On other SE sites it seems like you can do this if you acknowledge that it is your site or you are employed by them.

What are people's thoughts on this? Links that lead off site don't really do much for content here and are subject to link rot. I can also see the thought that why cut and paste when it's complete elsewhere.

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I just saw the massive link dump from a new user and flags from several users. In addition to my answer below, which is my general opinion on this issue, I think community members can also use some good judgement before flagging stuff.

Everyone who flagged also had the privilege to comment... The user is obviously new — they could've left them a comment telling them that they should disclose their affiliation/paraphrase the information. I'm not saying you shouldn't flag — you should, and the flags were all good and to the point — but I found it surprising that people left a detailed note in the flag message, when the same would've also been useful as a comment.

Apparently, this user has been around before (1 and 2) and posted similar link-only answers, which were also upvoted. Perhaps pointing it out the first time would've helped... I'm hesitant to delete those answers since a few people found it useful (at least for the first one), so it might be worth salvaging. But if you feel it adds nothing more to the discussion, mention so in the comments here or flag it.


Linking to something and not summarizing it is never good. If the external link dies, we're left guessing as to what it might have contained, and the frustration only increases when you see lots of votes and comments suggesting that it was useful. I talk about some aspects of this in this question:

Response #7 references an earlier answer (could also be an external link), but provides a crucial summary so as to make the answer self sufficient. This is important for two reasons: having the summary helps in the case of link rot (i.e., external links are dead because their site shut down) and to not have to make people click through a whole bunch of links just to get to the answer. They can proceed if they like what they see. Remember, in all these cases, you should cite the source(s) that you quoted (it is a good practice to make it explicit that you're quoting yourself).

Always quote (if the license allows) or paraphrase the information, regardless of whether you are linking to your own site or someone else's. If it's your own, the standard disclosure policy applies, as you have noted. We have allow users to link to their blogs/sites as long as all these conditions are met.

  • Adding the points above as a comment to the users answer so they can see it is helpful to them. It's always a fine balance between encouraging anyone to help out and diluting the usefulness of the site. – kevinsky Jun 6 '12 at 19:16
  • @kevinsky I added a bit more to the answer... I saw the flags on the main site after I had answered this post. I found it surprising that some users had detailed flags, but no comments. Anyway, it's always good to leave them a comment so that they know they've been heard and their content has been edited/removed for a certain reason. – Lorem Ipsum Jun 6 '12 at 19:19
  • People will find it hard to correct and amplify someone else's answer. There is no sense of ownership nor is there any connection to a new user. I would be more likely to edit someone else's answer to summarize a link if they had good reputation here. – kevinsky Jun 6 '12 at 19:42
  • @kevinsky I fully understand that. In fact, I feel the same too, and I edit a 1 rep user's half-spam post only if the link is absolutely stellar and if I have tonnes of time on my hand. I've not seen any that are absolute gems... On the other hand, I'll gladly correct and fix posts by people who are contributors here. I was just pointing it out as a possible option. – Lorem Ipsum Jun 6 '12 at 19:44
  • @kevinsky Apparently this user has been around before (see my edit) and probably felt that their link droppings were welcome because no one caught it and let them know. – Lorem Ipsum Jun 6 '12 at 22:49
  • When I was a forum moderator for a MMORPG making multiple accounts or resurrecting old threads was grounds for an instant but ineffective ban. However the intent of this forum to provide the best answer to a question is quite different. I think your points about providing a summary of the web site link are relevant. I hope other meta users will comment as this issue will arise again. – kevinsky Jun 7 '12 at 0:35

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