2

Many answers, including some of my own, provide sources with implicit links, like this. That works fine, but in the long term, links decay: URLs change, sites close down, content moves.

The better way to source material, is to provide both the text and the URL for the link. Like this: Wikipedia contributors, "Diderot," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

This way, if the link breaks, it is still possible to find the source from the description. What do you think?

Update: I am now going more radical than originally suggested to prevent link decay. The idea is to use a footnote that points to an explicit link to an archived snapshot of the page (via internet archive).1

I would suggest adopting this as our default style.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_Diderot
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1

Disagree, however quoting relevant parts of articles for 'one-off' articles is definitely valuable (as per the SE default policy). That way they can be found in the majority of cases with Google afterwards. And for simple encyclopaedic links and other "quick fact check links"... well, if they rot, those are the kind of facts that should be easily found on other sites as well. Plus enforcing the kind of policy is nearly undoable as nobody is going to downvote good answers because they didn't make their links 'beautiful'/future proof enough.

I would however be perfectly fine (understatement) with a proposal over on meta.SE to automate following links and caching them (either by SE itself, or at archive.org). Though they might be fearful that that will motivate link-only answers too much.

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  • +1 for suggesting that this could be a new, automated site-wide feature. My guess however is that SE are reluctant to implement new features. – ChrisW Nov 23 '14 at 14:13
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If the link contains relevant text then you can fix a broken URL by searching for it again; but if the link only contains "this" then, when its URL breaks, it's unfix-able and might as well be deleted.

I often put only the search term not the source in the text, e.g. "Diderot was a French philosopher" not "Wikipedia's article about Diderot says that he was a French philosopher" because the source is implicit in the URL.

As for using archive.org I suspect that's more trouble than it's worth. Better is to use block quotes to extract the relevant sentences from the reference into the StackExchange answer, for example as I did in this answer. Even if those URLs disappear, the relevant quotes remain.

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