Reusing previous content


Continuing the discussion from Is it ok to ask and answer my own question?:

What is the preferred way to cite answers from elsewhere? Stack Overflow is an obvious source, but in the Swift world, the Apple dev forums often are the source of answers. Sometimes the answers involve non-trivial code.

Are link-only answers good form? Stack Overflow disallows link-only answers because they go stale and the answer becomes meaningless. (Obviously sometimes the code in question is enormous, so that isn’t copied over, but if it’s reasonably short, it’s generally supposed to be copied over with credit given to the original author.) I think that’s a pretty good policy and it’s served SO well, but I can see arguments for embracing link-only answers (it lowers the barrier to people answering questions).

If “here’s a link to a Stack Overflow answer” isn’t considered a good answer by itself, there’s been some discussion on meta of writing up what you’ve learned elsewhere, giving credit to your sources, and giving that as the answer. I think that’s really good. In fact, I think building a culture of citing sources could be good generally, both out of respect of those you learned from, and giving pointers about where to learn more. (I’d be worried about creating a “citation needed!” culture, but it still seems a fairly positive thing to encourage?)

But what if you’re the author of the Stack Overflow answer (or other source)? I’ve answered several thousand questions over there, and I’m sure similar questions will show up here. My natural inclination is to still link the original posting, but copy it over with only light editing since it’s my own work. Stack Overflow policies seem to explicitly allow this (and I do this on my blog all the time), so I think it’s only a question of what is considered good form here.



I think it’s good practice to cite your sources regardless of anything else and we should definitely encourage it.

I can also foresee times when you know there is a link to something relevant that you don’t understand or don’t have time to write more about. I wouldn’t want to disallow link-only answers, but I think they should be used sparingly.