I've started to notice a growing trend with some answers which I'd like to expose and try to stem early on:

It's very easy to answer a question with a link to an online product retailer, or with a suggestion to simply replace a malfunctioning component. Often, this really is the only solution to many bicycle-related problems, so therefore not an incorrect answer.

However, answering a question in such a manner does little to increase the knowledge of the asker. We should try to explain why something does/doesn't/will/won't work, instead of just stating that something else would work.

Additionally, although I think we can all agree Sheldon Brown's website is a fantastic resource for all cyclists, his articles (and other similar sources) are generally very broad and all-encompassing. We should try to specifically answer the question at hand, directly customized for the asker, perhaps citing sources like SB as needed, instead of pointing them off to another website like a mindless search-engine hivemind robot. =]

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2 Answers 2

I think there is value also in summarizing the link when you post it. If it's a full article, put up the important bits here, then link as a reference. Then it gets indexed as a solution to the question AND provides the reference where the reader can go for more.

Simply a link doesn't really help anyone.

So, yes, I agree.

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I'd like to add that while linking is a great way to augment an answer, users should be careful that the links they choose won't disappear.

For example, links to Sheldon Brown's site are unlikely to die anytime soon. (If that site went down, the community would probably find someone to host it.) Links to YouTube videos or individual products may break. (Archive.org's Wayback machine is a good tool you can use to construct a link that will last longer.)

Try to find a link target that will stick around, where possible.

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Couldn't finding broken be a part of the SE software? –  Shawn Sep 9 '11 at 6:21
    
Requests to add this haven't gotten much traction on Meta SO (see this and this question), we'd still be best off using links that were stable in the first place. Otherwise we'll be spending time fixing broken links that really shouldn't have been used in the first place. In other words, find a good, stable link now or find a wonky one and then spend time later on finding others. –  Neil Fein Sep 9 '11 at 18:53

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