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Edits such as this have received both accept and reject votes. What's our consensus on such edits?

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    That particular example looks like somebody manually emulating the (often pointless) automatic link generation done internally by Wikipedia itself. If that is the specific type of edit you are referring to, I would definitely vote "no" - but on the other hand the intelligent use of links can be valuable. – alephzero Jul 26 at 18:23
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Yes, but only when the information is not widely known or reasonably obvious to current-day users, and the explanation is not given by a question or answer on a StackExchange site.

One heuristic is whether or not we have a tag for the thing in question. If we have a tag for it, it's probably (but not always) well known enough that a link to an explanation isn't necessary.

Another is whether someone with a broad general knowledge of the era or area in question but not knowledge of that specific thing could develop an answer given that knowledge. There are a lot of questions I see here that I (and I suspect others) have no difficulty answering with a small amount of research; the correct links make that research faster and make it more likely that I'll do it to develop an answer.

Examples:

  1. What does a Nintendo Game Boy do when turned on without a game cartridge inserted? The Game Boy is so widely known amongst consumers even today that there's no need for link that explains what it is.

  2. What happened to ZIP RAM? ZIP packaging for RAM is long obsolete and was used for only a relatively short time (late '80s and early '90s); most people who didn't use certain computers within that period would not be expected to know about it. Further, not all popular search engines give good results for "ZIP RAM"; though Google's first result is the wikipedia page, both Bing and DuckDuckGo have no relevant results on their first result page except for the question itself. This should have a link. (I'd like to see my proposed edit to add this restored, but it was rejected once so someone else who agrees with me should do that.)

  3. What was the point of Apple Pascal having its own file system?, in particular the edit suggestion linked in the OP.

    • A link should be added for "Apple's UCSD Pascal" because this particular product isn't widely known even amongst people who've heard of the computers that could run it. But it should be to the Apple Pascal Wikipedia page, since that it's a derivative of UCSD Pascal is somewhat clear from context, and very clear from the first paragraph of the page, which itself provides a further link.
    • Links for "Apple II" and "Pascal" are unnecessary; even today most people know what these are.
    • Links for "DOS 3.3" and "ProDOS" aren't necessary since all you need to know about those for the purposes of this question (that they are other Apple II DOSs) is already clear from context.
  4. In a hypothetical question that mentions the Game Boy instruction set being different from the standard 8080 or Z80 instruction set, the "different instruction set" text should be linked to Is the Game Boy Sharp LR35902 object-compatible with the 8080/Z-80?. And it's perfectly reasonable to add a new question and answer to a StackExchange so you can link to it, if that question is appropriate for the StackExchange site. This would not be the case for something like "Apple's UCSD Pascal" in the example above, because "What is Apple's UCSD Pascal" is too general a question for an SE site, as explained below.

This differs from wizzwizz4's answer below because the RetroComputing SE is not an attempt to be a comprehensive archive of all information about retrocomputing, but is merely a set of (generally) narrowly-focused questions with specific answers. According to the help center, we should have "only...practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that [we] face" that are "reasonably scoped." As it says, "If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much," which is why we should link externally to general information and large, detailed resources.

4

Yes

Links to Wikipedia help to give extra context to posts, providing information about the topics mentioned that is far in excess of what can be provided in posts. This can help the understanding of the casual reader.

  • I tend to add such links to many of my questions and answers as I write them, often (but not always) to Wikipedia. The audience on RC.SE will have varying levels of familiarity with specific topics, and the presence of a link can help add context to what is written (where needed). The answer should still be complete if the link were moved/removed, so quotations still need to be inserted into the post. There is also, of course, a certain balance to be achieved: not everything needs to be hyperlinked. – Kaz Jul 27 at 6:52
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No

We already have tag wikis for providing extra information about topics - this question was tagged with , and at the time that the edit was suggested. Relying on links to external sites for information is frowned upon because this site should aim to be self-sufficient - that's one reason why we don't have link-only answers.

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    The purpose of tag wikis is to explain how to use the tag, not necessarily to give additional information about the subject. Although additional information can be useful in explaining how to use the tag. – Chenmunka Sep 2 '17 at 15:12
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    Agreed. Gratuitous links to an external site, especially one that isn't as reliable a source of information as our own site aims to be, are at best irrelevant, at worst harmful. The occasional link to Wikipaedia for background can be helpful but we should not be editing links into posts for the sake of them. – Chenmunka Sep 2 '17 at 15:15
  • @Chenmunka I admire the sentiment, but what this site (or any other site) "aims to be" and what it actually is are often two different things. (I'm tempted to add Wikipedia links to "hubris" and "nemesis." but humour and irony are dangerous on the internet!) – alephzero Jul 26 at 18:25
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No, and when the information is not widely known or reasonably obvious to current-day users we should document that in a Q&A pair and link to that instead. (See Curt J. Sampson's answer for examples.)

Pros

  • We're keeping all the necessary information on-site, not linking elsewhere for important information.
  • It's fulfilling our mission to document and preserve information about retrocomputing for future readers.
  • The Q&A pair could form a sort of thing index or thing hub, where an overview is given and further questions are linked for details.

Cons

  • If they're not just giving a general overview, such questions could be too broad.
  • There's a temptation to produce these Q&A pairs for things that aren't on-topic, such as alternating current or semiconductors. (Or is that just me?)
  • Making and maintaining Q&A pairs feels like an awful lot of work to me, given the wide scope of RC.SE. Some of these may just duplicate information available on Wikipedia and elsewhere. – Kaz Jul 27 at 7:01
  • @Kaz Is that a problem? All information is available elsewhere. And the "making and maintaining" argument applies to every single one of our 8500 odd posts. – wizzwizz4 Jul 28 at 19:19
  • I may have misunderstood. I thought the suggestion was to have "Q&As" defining and describing everything, such as "What was the Manchester Small Scale Experimental Machine?". That feels to me like it's straying toward being a reference book or wiki rather than a question and answer model. – Kaz Jul 28 at 20:35
  • @Kaz Yeah, that is what I meant. But how many of those will there be? And "what's an NES" is more useful, since it can link to stuff about the I/O and graphics hardware… – wizzwizz4 Jul 28 at 21:27
  • Hm. I suspect it could work, and work well, though I'm having a hard time pictuing it at the moment. I guess it feels a bit removed from what (I understand) a SE site is intended to be. Maybe the proof of the pudding would be in the eating, for me at least. – Kaz Jul 28 at 22:04
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    I don't think that the on-topic thing is an issue for examples like the one you gave: the question and answer should simply go in another more appropriate StackExchange (probably Electrical Engineering, in this case) where it will be preserved just as well as if it were in this SE. – Curt J. Sampson Jul 30 at 4:07
  • However, while I agree that explanatory links should be to SE questions or answers wherever those exist, I think that there are still plenty of cases where those won't exist because the questions would just be too broad. I've updated my answer above to give an example and explain my opinion that we should often link elsewhere for important information that's not in "specific question with specific answer" format. – Curt J. Sampson Jul 30 at 4:09
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    @CurtJ.Sampson I nicked your answer, and then you nicked mine. It has come full circle. ☺ I agree with everything you've said in these two comments, and kind of want to downvote my answers now. – wizzwizz4 Jul 30 at 10:43
  • So cool to see SE working. – Curt J. Sampson Jul 30 at 11:24

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