In cs.stackexchange, we usually come across questions that have external links in them. For example, the question in Spanning tree display conventions points to a pdf document; without that document, the question does not make any sense.

A lot of times, these links point to documents that are uploaded outside stackexchange web site, e.g. course homepages. So, the links may change or be removed eventually. Thus, many questions would not make any sense after some time.

What should we do about this, as it might be a problem in near future. I am not sure whether we should ask that person to put enough information in the question body or we should just leave that question?


Questions are expected to be self-contained. They should contain all the information needed to understand and answer the question, in the post itself. They can certainly include external links to provide supplementary material or additional context, but those shouldn't be necessary to understand the question.

This is a standard guideline for all Stack Exchange sites. See, e.g.,

What should you do if you see a question that is not self-contained, and can't be understood from just the information provided in the post? One of three things:

  • Leave a comment for the author asking them to edit the question to make it self-contained, and explaining how this site works (we want posts to be self-contained, we're trying to build an archive of high-quality questions that might be useful to others in the future, etc.).

  • Optionally, edit the question to make it self-contained, if you feel inspired to do so.

  • Alternatively, you can vote to close as 'unclear what you're asking', if you have privilege to do that and you think that's the best way to ensure the question gets clarified.


We should ask to make the question self-contained, ask to rewrite relevant parts or if these are images ask to embed them with description what they present.
The faster the better, especially when there is no answer yet or question might be holded for clearity (while OP is interested it is more probable to get it done).

With very good mood or lack of access to OP, some kind of Edit would be beyond awesome of course ;)


Perhaps, on occasion, following these external links may provide a way for mods to express more clearly what will need to be included into the question. Holding or closing an incomprehensible question that makes use of links without looking at what these links provide seems lazy. Again, perhaps, after understanding the question themselves mods can direct in a meaningful way how to make the question not only suitable to the site and useful to others but actually help the asker with whatever difficulties they are actually having by doing so.


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