Can we have a policy specifically addressing editing in links that add no useful content to answers?
In general, no. Editing each other's posts is a big part of the site, and we can't really be clearing every website with the post author before linking to it, particularly well-known sites like Wikipedia. In this case the links seem pretty unnecessary though, we don't need to link every phrase in a post to the corresponding Wikipedia entry.
What would the text of the policy look like? "Do not add links to sites the OP doesn't like"? That is simply not a reasonable request, especially when the site is Wikipedia... among the most credible sites on the planet. Besides, I believe those edits were made by people who wanted to make the post better.
Am curious, what is it that you mistrust about Wikipedia?
As terdon points out, you don't have an exclusive license on the content you contribute here.
While I agree that the links in this particular case are extremely superfluous, they don't at all detract from the post except perhaps in a minor, subjective sense -- because they are so superfluous, they make it seem a bit silly. If this were my post, I'd probably be a bit ticked too and roll it back.
However, in general I think these kinds of (reasonably stable) links, particularly to Wikipedia,1 are a good thing. I notice them quite often in the "suggested edit" queue and I am happy to approve of them, although not as an unbreakable rule: Again, in this particular case I would probably reject it noting that they are superfluous/don't add value.
All that said, you have the right to roll back an edit if you feel it is justified. We don't have a rule that says, "You can't remove Wikipedia links". If you do it to one of my posts though, I'll roll it back ;)
1. Which I think is a terrific, very well conceived and executed resource, much like this one.
Proposed edits should not be accepted unless they make the post substantively better (see existing policy, below), and the purpose of the review system is for higher reputation users to coach enthusiastic newcomers in best practice.
The incentives the current software implements are problematic: they reward overenthusiastic newbies with an arduous but low-risk source of reputation, and they implement a Pavlovian reward to bored, trinket-loving experienced members in the form of hard-to-earn badges for clicking 'accept' thoughtlessly on poor edits. (This is not, I should make clear, what happened in this case, but it happens a lot on Stack Overflow, and it started to happen on tex.sx until an agreement was reached about how to handle).
It's quite true that no great, direct harm is done by weak edits being applied, because the worst edits tend to get rolled back, but if the site culture does not address the issue of problematic incentives, the quality of editing on the site can suffer. Fewer, better edits, rather than a loosely converging Brownian motion of sloppy edits, make the place more rewarding for the users who value and understand the site best.
Proposed policy on editing-in links on answers
Since irrelevant links are distracting, and may possibly be tiresome for users who hunt large pages in the expectation of finding useful information that isn't there, links should only be edited into an answer if the refer to content that is:
- Clearly relevant
- Well-organised, in the sense that the relevant content is easy to find
- Lack bias (especially for non-wiki answers, where links suggest endorsement by the original answerer), and
- Expected to retain its relevance over time
If a potentially interesting link fails to meet all these criteria, it is recommended to draw attention to the link in a comment, rather than editing it into the body of the answer.
Existing Stack Exchange / Trilogy Policy
From the edit privileges page:
When should I edit posts?
Any time you feel you can make the post better, and are inclined to do so. Editing is encouraged!
Some common reasons to edit are:
- to fix grammatical or spelling mistakes
- to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it
- to correct minor mistakes or add addendums / updates as the post ages
- to add related resources or hyperlinks
Try to make the post substantively better when you edit, not just change a single character. Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged.
An aside about Wikipedia
It is perhaps a mistake to debate the benefits of Wikipedia, but since goldilocks said it is "a terrific, very well conceived and executed resource, much like this one", I'll say that Stack Exchange is far smarter about finding the golden mean between expertise and usefulness than Wikipedia.
To be clear, while I find Wikipedia to be important and useful, I also think it is problematic in principle --it sets up janitors to be judges of content-- and in execution: e.g., founder Larry Sanger managed to get blocked for criticising the content of an article about Wikipedia in a talk page, constituting 'disruption' in the eyes of some: http://wikipediareview.com/index.php?showtopic=29482, which is as ironic an illustration of the cost of not separating expertise from janitorial duty as one could hope for; for a more painful illustration of how systematic the harm from this can be, look up the story of how FT2, a systematic pusher of anti-scientific POV, managed to get voted to Wikipedia's highest court, the ArbCom.
In particular, relatively few Wikipedia articles will meet my proposed criteria, though there are classes of good articles, e.g., articles on important IETF standards tend to be good.