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We Are Not a Link Farm

Stack Exchange is not a search engine. By definition, the most interesting Q&A questions will not have "point me to the reference" answers; if they did, they probably should be answers folks are using a search engine to find in the first place.

While I understand the motive that drives folks to want reference links in answers, not every answer will have a canonical external reference. As a case in point, I posted an answer to a question where I was asked for a reference link. The request itself was polite and reasonable, although difficult to fulfill, given the nature of the actual question. However, I was actually pretty unhappy about the post being edited to include links which weren't really directly relevant to the answer contained in my post.

In the interests of conforming to whatever site policy is at play, I went ahead and added a link section to the post, but I strongly feel that linking just to have links isn't useful, and creates unnecessary clutter.

Important Note: I'm trying to make a broader point, and really don't want folks to get sidetracked by the specific editing history here.

Different Classes of Answers Need Different Approaches

Any stack will have different types of answers, depending on the nature of the question at hand. Some questions will have canonical answers (e.g. "See page 77 of the PMBOK.") while others require deductive or inductive reasoning for a meaningful response.

This is why we have voting. If folks make an Appeal to Authority in their posts without adequate references, by all means vote it down. However, cluttering posts with tangential links as a sort of de rigueur defense against "Says who?!" comments seems...well, insulting to both the readers (who I choose to assume are equipped with a full suite of critical thinking skills) and the writers who are attempting to provide answers, rather than a bibliography for a dissertation.

Provably Correct?

Part of the issue here is that, unlike sites like Stack Overflow where an answer (or set of answers) can be tested meaningfully against some contextual corpus, the answers on a project management stack are a bit...squishier. If your question is about the defined meetings in Scrum, there's a set of (more or less) canonical answers available. If your question is about how to apply the Scrum methodology to a given situation, then only empirical trials will suffice to "prove" the value of the answer, and I'm not sure that making appeals to external sources is useful since the sources are no more (and no less) authoritative for being external.

The Question, Restated

What's the underlying problem that we're trying to solve with an "add links to everything" policy, and what is the evidence that this policy improves answer quality in a meaningful way?

  • I just thought you might have some info that might help the op learn more about how Scrum and software design really aren't the same thing. If you think the references actually detract from your answer, please remove them. – jmort253 Jul 29 '12 at 1:00
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    @jmort253 I have a bit of a bombastic writing style, so please don't take it personally. I understood your intentions with the edit, and my post above really isn't directed at you. I simply thought the example was illustrative of the point I'm trying to make. I'm truly asking a broader question, because I saw a number of related posts about external references here on PMSE meta, and wanted to weigh in on the other side of the debate. – Todd A. Jacobs Jul 29 '12 at 1:04
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I think you may have taken my comment just slightly out of context. I just thought you might have some info that might help the OP (the asker) learn more about how Scrum and software design really aren't the same thing as I thought you made a really great point.

If you think the references actually detract from your answer in this case, please feel free to remove them with an edit. My comment was intended to be helpful suggestion since I didn't really have anything meaningful to add.

As far as policy goes, there is a section in the FAQ that covers references:

If possible, it helps to cite references. The community will judge whether or not your answer is sufficient. If in doubt, it's a good idea to cite an official reference or explain what makes your answer correct.

This is not a moderation job to enforce this, and I sincerely doubt anyone will disagree with your answer, although they are welcome to challenge it ;)

Again, it's not a moderator's job to say "you need to cite a reference". Unless of course that person disagrees from a project management standpoint. We've attempted to make that clear that this would primarly be a scalable, community-driven effort. I hope that's clear; we can definitely clarify that in the FAQ if needed.

With that said, I can see how my comment and subsequent edit may have come off as slight over-moderation on my part, and you're welcome to rollback the edit if you think your answer is better without it. I'm removing my comments to help keep the post clean, but they're listed below for reference and context to this thread:

One suggestion to make your answer more helpful: Can you include a reference link for further reading? – jmort253♦ 2 hours ago

@jmort253 I'm not sure what you're asking for. The methodology is well-defined; see scrumalliance.org/learn_about_scrum or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_%28development%29 as a starting point. Specific development practices are clearly extrinsic to the framework, but please feel free to ask a question if there are interesting edge cases. – CodeGnome 1 hour ago

Thanks, I edited your answer with the reference link. – jmort253♦ 1 hour ago edit

Thanks again for bringing this to meta.

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