When we link to content that is not included in the main body of the question or answer, what specific practices make a better experience for the reader?

Please state the advantages or disadvantages of the practice being discussed when making your answer.


These are my guidelines for making a question and answer more readable.

Make the link labels transparent

Instead of saying "You can find it here" give the name of the resource being linked to. This allows the reader to see at a glance if the page being referenced is something they've seen already, or not.

Link to shareable objects

We can't all maintain a continuous worldwide subscription to websites like Ancestry (dot wherever). If you need to link to content behind the paywall, include the shareable link that will allow non-subscribers to look at the image, or what Ancestry calls the "citation media". It is frustrating to click on a link to see something and be sent to the page where Ancestry nags you to join. Complete transparency may require linking to FamilySearch for the record page / abstract / transcription and to Ancestry's shareable image. This is annoying for the writer of the question or answer, but much friendlier to the reader.

Replace links to vanished content with Wayback Machine snapshots if possible

I am probably the worst offender here because my answers have lots of links to both Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained website (currently being redesigned) and the website of The Board for Certification of Genealogists. I need to review all my Q/As and clean up the busted links (as discussed elsewhere on Meta).

The answer should stand on its own without the links

My personal goal when writing answers is to include enough content in the answer that the reader doesn't need to visit the linked site, unless they want to learn more.

Speaking as a reader of a question or answer, when others cite WikiTree or other websites whose content is volatile, I want to know what content on the page they are citing at the time they wrote the question or answer. Someone could come along at any time and edit the content on WikiTree to say something else entirely, thus making the original question incomprehensible unless the content is included in our question.

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