Can we have a policy specifically addressing editing in links that add no useful content to answers?

E.g., https://unix.stackexchange.com/posts/178457/revisions

4 Answers 4


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.

  • Is there a problem with adding the links in comments? Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 10:24
  • I quite often disagree with the presentation or content of pages on Wikipedia and I am too busy to WP:SOFIXIT. The links edited in contained (i) links to mostly irrelevant information about SIM cards, and (ii) links to all the OSX products I named, with the feel typical to Wikipedia coverage of Apple that I find distinctly fanboyish, but no links for the Microsoft products I linked to. Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 10:43
  • Does anyone think the typical unix.sx reader needs help finding information on the various incarnations of OSX? Would any of these links have been voted up if they were posted as comments? Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 10:45
  • 2
    @CharlesStewart if you disagree with an edit simply roll it back. No reason to have a policy about it. Especially when the site in question is Wikipedia. Just remove the links. That said, remember that the content you post here is under the CC license and does not really belong to you as such.
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 13:47
  • @terdon: I've suggested a policy on editing in links to answers at meta.unix.stackexchange.com/a/3341/5197 - it is existing policy that edits must clarify the meaning of a post without changing it. Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 16:35

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:

  1. Clearly relevant
  2. Well-organised, in the sense that the relevant content is easy to find
  3. Lack bias (especially for non-wiki answers, where links suggest endorsement by the original answerer), and
  4. 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.

  • 2
    While I agree with Goldilocks that these particular edits were not really necessary, I do think you're getting worked up about nothing. If you don't like an edit, simply reverse it. I and at least some of the others who have answered here don't share your view of Wikipedia and, as far as I can tell, the edits to your answer meet all of your proposed criteria anyway. I realize you disagree but, again, just revert the edit.
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 16:42
  • @terdon: I hoped it was clear that I was raising a wider point. I removed the links before I posted here, but the issue has been raised on several other sites, e.g., meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/273197/… Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 16:54
  • 1
    I'm sorry but I just don't see a problem here. The meta Q you linked to talks about making added links easier to spot in reviews. That sounds great. It also refers to users adding links to irrelevant resources. You are talking about links to the relevant wikipedia pages. You may dislike it and they may well be unnecessary but they are relevant. Anyway, we'll let the community decide. Personally, I think this is a storm in a teacup but I will gladly enforce the policy if that's what the community decides.
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 16:57
  • @terdon - OK, that is fair. I'll just say that I think we should be aiming for a higher standard than minimal relevance when we audit suggested edits. Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 17:21
  • There is a new Slate story on some problematic social dynamics in Wikipedia that supports my last aside: slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/12/… Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 11:11
  • I'd say based on that author's interpretation of the "Cultural Marxism" issue -- which is blatant historical revisionism -- that he's either an angry wingnut, a pompous ignoramus, or both. Wikipedia is a much more ambitious project than S.E. and has correspondingly greater challanges. I think if you look around the non-technical S.E. forums, you start to see the relevance of expertise sharply drop off and descend into arbitrariness; e.g., the quality of Philosophy Beta in relation to articles in wikipedia is low.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 16:24
  • No offence to Philosophy Beta, of course. The limitations are in the format. What makes S.E. great for some things makes it kind of dubious for others, my point being that despite the problems, I have yet to hear of anyone doing wikipedia better than wikipedia.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 16:26
  • @goldilocks - The articles within the scope of the WP Philosophy Wikiproject are an embarassment, a den of relativism, unsourced assertions and POV pushing; this is especially sad since they were an area of particular strength at the start because of Larry Sanger's initial contribution. Anyone who cares about philosophy uses the Stanford Encyclopedia instead. Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 11:04
  • @goldilocks - Wrt. Cultural Marxism: I'm not sure I understand your point: actually the AfD was substantial and well-closed, but the failure of WP to be able to maintain a useful article in the face of culture warriors highlights a problem with WP. Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 11:05
  • My point is it's an encyclopedia, not a radical news weekly. The people behind Cultural Marxism have extremely controversial views that would be laughed out of 95% of the university classrooms in the modern west. That's fine, and they have the right to free speech -- just like ISIS or the KKK. However, if their views appear in an encyclopedia, it should be in an article about them (as it is now). They should not be allowed to weasel their way into the organization so that they can create articles that present these views in an anonymous way...
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 14:17
  • ...e.g., if ISIS wrote a normal wiki article about 9/11, most likely we would say this encyclopedia is absurd to permit it. An article or section explicitly about their views, attributed to them by name, makes sense. As another analogy, consider an article on Bigfoot and what it could contain and how that information should be presented. I have a B.A. and I studied critical theory and some of the Frankfurt School and I am aware that there are lunatic political extremists in the U.S. that see the spectre of communism everywhere, just like their are lunatic elements that see Bigfoot...
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 14:18
  • ...on a regular basis. This does not entitle them to write complete encyclopedia articles as if their views were somehow considered objective by other people. They are not, and no amount of anti-intellectual obfuscation will change that. I think there is a tendency in people who have only studied the sciences to think the arts are just all made up mumbo jumbo and anyone's opinion is equally valid. This is incorrect. There are standards, accepted canons, academic rigour, academic honesty, etc. ISIS, the KKK, the wingnuts behind "Cultural Marxism", etc. do not meet these standards.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 14:19
  • Currently Wikipedia contains mostly textbook quality on academic subjects. It's astounding they have done this with such an open framework. It should stay that way. If the people behind it have to hurt some feelings or raise some ire to keep it so, bravo. There may be some good examples of dysfunctionality in the organization, but anyone who thinks this particular incident should count against them has completely lost the forest for the trees. That kind of person has some kind of grudge and is acting out. The right to free speech is not the right to be taken seriously.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 14:21
  • Point being: If someone is suggesting a change in procedure that would enable these kinds of people to present their views anonymously as objective, I don't care what the procedural issue is or what some foolish dupe might see in it. If their manipulations fail, the system is working.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 14:24
  • WRT the SEP, they have some great stuff on a fairly limited range of things partially reflecting the schism between Anglo-Analytic philosophy and Continental in the English speaking world. It's philosophy as practiced at a particular institution which has some particular expertise. E.g., I would not bother researching post structuralism there or going to Stanford to study it. So the SEP is great, but Wikipedia covers philosophy in a more complete and inclusive way.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 14:33

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