I personally think putting an answer directly in a posting answering a question is better than posting a link to somewhere and saying "go here for the answer". I have had frustrating experiences searching the web for answers to problems where such a posted link was to a page no longer active - waste of time and effort!!! If the answer is with the original post it can be accessed with the original posting.
I am not against posting links for further information, just against saying "go here" with no other information to a link that may not exist in the future.
I have mixed feelings regarding the blog postings. If an answer is really given to a posted problems, great. But I am 100% certain that some posters will (have already!) used such as an opportunity to promote themselves in circumstances that may/may not address the original problem. To use OTN terms the possibilities to "open the floodgates to spam" are immense.
Interesting posting. I'll be interested in seeing other opinions.
You make an excellent point that many "go here for the answer" links eventually fall off the internet and end up useless for people who come across them later. If I do choose to post such a link (after following the discussion here for a while to see if there's a consensus), I will absolutely include enough information in the post that someone finding it later on should be able to step through what they need to do, and just throw a "and I've written even more about this at [link]" at the end. Thank you for pointing that out.
I hope you don't mind if I join this discussion, because I was wondering too. The forum upgrade and the destruction of many code posts has taught me a lesson and I am actually considering and evaluating some options to provide any documents or guides by external links in the future, rather than posting the content here.
From what I have seen so far, links that are not related to a question being asked are considered SPAM. This could be a general URL added to your signature, which obviously promotes some site, or real SPAM and advertising as such. I do not know who determines such issues, but perhaps the forum moderators do. Of course links with content that do not meet the forum etiquette are not tolerated too.
I think referring to a blog post can be questionable if a link is provided to encourage people to continue a discussion outside OTN, which rather advertises a personal blog than providing a solution, e.g. a review. I wonder how forum moderators react on it.
Well, I don't think that all answers can be given without a link to some document (blog or pdf) which provides a better presentation of a solution. The forum hasn't been and still is not capable of a decent presentations containing images or bigger chunks of code. At the moment you can't even post code without a hassle.
I frequently post solutions directly in the forum, but get feedback that the op does not understand it from the description. This is because we have to describe dialogs (or complicated property settings) we get from the tools in use. Making a screen shot and post it in the thread would do a better job.
I do understand the Oracle has a problem with that (security and other legal stuff) so the solution is to use e.g. a blog. In the end the help is for free. I can't spend all day describing a solution fool proof in the forum. In such cases I compile a small sample and write the solution, including images and the code in my blog and post a link to it.
When I started working with Oracle tools blogs where the main source of information as the documentation wasn't present or did not cover the aspect I was looking for.
I'll provide my personal moderator's point of view.
If the blog post is directly related to the question, and there is more than just a link, I'm fine to keep the answer. That is, if one single blog post answering the question is linked, not the blog address itself.
Links to blogs in signatures will be removed, including the account, if repeated.
External links are often posted and tolerated. I often post links to smartquestions, SSCCE etc.So, Dude, feel free to set up your tutorials and link them where appropriate.
Again, this is my moderating style, other mods might send such posts to the tar pits.
What PhHein says, but I'd like to expand a little. In my opinion posting to an external blog (including your own) is fine, as long as the answer to the question would require you to copy/paste most of the blog content itself.
But if the answer is short and simple and can be found "somewhere inside the blog" you link to then that would be crossing the line in my opinion, you might as well just give the answer directly in the post and not make people go to an external site and hunt for the answer themselves. What I find passable myself is to give the link and actually quote the relevant part of it, should you feel that the OP might benefit from the remaining information in the blog post even when it is not related to the question directly.
Thanks all for your thoughts. I'll keep reading to see what others add. I went ahead and posted a response (it's in the EM forum, PhHein, if you'd like to yank it ) including a link to one of my posts. Someone else had responded and the OP didn't find that answer sufficient, so I went for it.
I think gimbal2 nailed what I was most trying to get at with "the answer to the question would require you to copy/paste most of the blog content itself". I typed up a couple fresh paragraphs trying to get a direct answer to the question, then included the link to my more detailed write up with a note to the mods to feel free to yank it but please leave the rest of the post intact.
What do the other community members think? Is it appropriate to link to one's blog post to answer a direct question that one has covered in detail on their blog? Assume the question is one where a complete answer would call for a long write up.
I haven't done so yet, though I see a question I can answer with one of my previous blog posts. I've always been willing to answer questions with links to someone else's blog page, but hesitated at replying with a link to mine to avoid spammy behavior.
Disclaimer: I'm probably one of the biggest "offenders", if there is an offense here.
I started a blog mostly as an extension and refinement of a lot boilerplate text I kept in a simple text document that I used to answer the same question on a near daily basis. Many times I respond to a question with little to nothing more than a simple "read this: <link to specific blog post>" What I hope and trust are keeping me on the right side of the somewhat fuzzy line is
1 - I only link to a specific post that addresses a specific question, never to the blog 'home page'.
2 - I only link if the specific post either answers the question or provides the OP with the necessary background information to more fully understand an answer he's already been given in short form.
3 - I've not gone commercial, though the temptation is growing as the daily hit count continues to climb. I have noticed that the host has started inserting a single ad, but I'm not getting anything off of it. I have the option of buying my way out of that ad. It's the price of having a free hosting service.
A year or so ago I noticed what I thought was an odd traffic pattern and posted here asking if anyone had any ideas to explain it. I was quickly slammed as trying to drive people to my blog, and had to point out that in posting the question I had deliberately not linked to the blog itself, specifically to avoid that perception, and that the question was really one of interpreting human behavior.
And I have deliberately not made a direct reference to it in this post.
At the other extreme, we've definitely seen people come (and go) who are obviously spamming, responding to many unrelated questions with the same link to their site.
So in the end, I guess my own behavior reveals where I stand, but I'm certainly aware that honorable people with honorable intentions can disagree on the details.
Doug Engelbart 1968 Demo showed hyperlinks have been around a long time. The World Wide Web url concept was invented to hyperlink. That is the purpose of the web. (I do not understand why I get flamed for pointing out the obvious, at least it seems obvious to me.)
Unfortunately, as many pointed out, links decrement. So for this kind of forum, you can't ever assume anything will be there. More generally, too, whether it's Oracle licensing or your own blog. That's why students these days are taught to say when content was retrieved as well as from where, and the same in wikipedia citations.
As a forum, we want technical information to be accurate. It is easy to link to inaccuracy. Some people have even linked to their own sites to make it seem they are better than they are.
This is an online forum, so we aren't really expected to post to the accuracy of a technical publication, or even wikipedia, such as it is. Small, relatively rapid posts are the mode. It's nice when people do make long, magazine article-like answers, but not required. We want short, accurate answers to short, specific questions. Sometimes a thread will become long and involved in technical trivia, and that is a good thing too. The medium allows it. At it's best, it is to the accuracy of a technical publication. The medium doesn't encourage that, though perhaps it should.
So I think we should both encourage and allow links to blogs along with a summary of what the specific answer is, when possible. People should recognize the ephemeral nature of the web, and take the responsibility on themselves if they wish to depend on it and look foolish later. I do it all the time. I can tell some people don't even look at the links. We all have seen complaints about people not reading the docs.
At the same time, we have to recognize that long cut-and-paste from docs or other sites isn't always a good answer either. There really is no balance achievable here, people will always have different ideas about what is appropriate, and what is appropriate varies.
So heterogeneity is good - in the same thread, some people might like my answer of a relevant link, others might like a detailed explanation from an Oracle instructor, some people may even appreciate a "that question indicates you don't get it." No matter how many FAQs we write, we'll still get FAQs.
There's nothing stopping us from calling out inappropriate blog linkage, aside from a general desire to keep things professional and flame-free. If we can come up with some general guidelines, fine, but this calls for not being too procedure oriented. If in doubt, let it ride.
Giving this some more thought, I wonder. SPAM posts have a known pattern. They are new posts or posts attached to discussions that have a flooding characteristic. The forum moderators are obviously dealing with such issues and do a very good job to keep the forum SPAM free.
Besides content that undoubtedly qualifies as SPAM, can anyone tell whether a given URL relates to a discussion or instead provides unsolicited information? I think no, and therefore there can be no other rule other than to prohibit links, or have a forum moderator deal with it on a case by case evaluation.
But why should anyone actually have to worry beside anything that is not obvious SPAM? What is the real problem in case some link turns out to emphasize advertising, or may not necessarily relate to a discussion? What is the real issue if someone uses a signature that contains a link? I think the web is full of advertising and people are used to deal with it. There is no need to patronize people in terms of what information is legitimate.
My suggestion is to ease and clear the matter by allowing any URL as part of a response or signature as long as the content does not meet obvious criteria of SPAM with flooding aspects. Any link or information that is not according to the forum etiquette can be addressed on an individual basis by the forum members and moderators.
I tend to agree on the signature, except to note that perhaps if that is confined to the biography page, people would be less inclined to make useless posts just to get the sig out there.
The problem with advertising/unrelated links is the vast number of people who decide it's a good idea to copy others doing the same thing. The decision is made based on unverified perception rather than any feedback or analysis (or now sometimes based on social media blog suggestions). Many of us from the usenet days saw that happen repeatedly, that's why some are so religiously against anything remotely resembling spam.
Watching the evolution of advertising on the web, it appears those selling the advertising are making a concerted effort to get around the "people are used to it" issue. Floating ads are especially annoying, I can't imagine getting used to them, even as I habitually look for the X.
I can't speak for others, but I do think the forum would lose some of its usability if it devolved into dozens of people posting useless responses that seem to exist mostly in order to display their signature with a link to their consulting company or blog page. With that said, though, this is a group of professionals that can do a plenty good job of self-policing through community pressure (e.g. flaming the daylights out of someone posting like that) and sending a heads up to the mods for particularly blatant examples.
If every newbie's first question is answered with a pile of "go search my blog" links, I imagine more than a few wouldn't come back and the forum would be worse off from the loss of their participation.
At the moment I favor the status quo, with mods reviewing things on a case by case basis when brought to their attention and forum posters as a group exercising restraint in promoting their personal brands. Knowing that links can be ephemeral it seems like good etiquette to include enough useful information directly in the body of a reply to get the OP on the right track, supplementing that with a link where the author has previously written something on point.
The risk people could swamp the forum with posts simply to bring on their links and blogs sounds reasonable. It is similar to the idea that the forum reward system has decreased the quality of forum posts because many users may only be interested in gambling and gathering some points. I can understand the concerns, but nevertheless it is all speculation.
I think the idea or recipe to generally suppress mechanisms that may attract people to promote themselves in order not to decrease the quality of the forum is wrong. It only limits what people can do and perhaps is even a form of social engineering by some forum members who may think they own the forum and want to protect their status quo. There is no free lunch. If anyone provides valuable information, I see nothing wrong in getting something in return, be it points, promoting a site, or becoming ACE.
Nothing really prevents people from adding links to their blogs now. The difference between officially tolerated might change how obvious this is done. Even if adding links was generally tolerated, it does not abandon the option to mark a contribution as abusive in case it seems to compromise forum interests or the content is obviously only promoting a link. It's a question using the right definition. Perhaps the forum could even block certain sites, similar to blocking certain expressions.