Edwin - 1:35 am on Jun 3, 2010 (gmt 0)
There is also a well known online tool that security oriented folks like me use - to display the content of any web page in plain text. It also gives the IP of that site and helps reveal if a 302 redirect has been employed on a compromised website.
Now that's a perfect example of why the link policy needs to be loosened. Sounded like an interesting and potentially useful tool, but because I'm not "already in the know" and the no-links policy I can't find out where to find it!
WW does a lot of things very well, but it's important to face up to the fact that out there amongst the billions and billions of pages, there are going to be millions of incredibly useful pages/sites that answer a question or offer a solution to a problem as a "perfect fit".
So to force somebody to regurgitate the information or to paraphrase it when it's already out there is A) redundant and B) short-sighted.
Taking a non-webmaster analogy, if I was looking for a recipe for lasagna that uses cottage cheese and can be cooked in an hour or less, I would value a link to a site that has a step by step recipe, list of ingredients, calorie count and portion calculator, plus photos, far far more than I would value somebody coming on here and paraphrasing the recipe (because to cut and paste it would be stealing copyrighted content) and without all the other useful contextual tools and information that came with the original.
Now map the above scenario to webmaster questions ("How do I", "Where can I", "What would you") and the problem becomes very clear.
A simple test should be "Does the link satisfice?" In other words, does it provide a solid, valid, better-than-adequate response to the question/issue/problem at hand. In which case, the link should stay - it doesn't matter if it's on the poster's site, the respondent's site, a competing forum or whatever. The location of the information has no connection to its value, and it's the latter that should be the yard-stick, not the former.
Let's face it, a lot of folks here run their own webmaster/web developer related blogs, sites and forums - and many will have put many long and diligent hours into assembling the most comprehensive, clear and understandable info on thousands of topics. So why handcuff them by saying "Yes, we know you're one of the world's pre-eminent authorities on webmaster niche subject X, but you're not allowed to reference your own site even though people interested in niche subject X visit it every day as the de-facto reference on the subject"
The same applies to products, tools and services. If a company is so good/popular that it has thousands or millions of SATISFIED users, then surely pointing people who haven't heard of it in the right direction is the best way to answer their question? Rather than play a lengthy game of verbal charades "Two words. First word is a kind of natural building material. Second word is made up of two parts. First is what is taken with a camera, second is where you buy things. Together, these make up the name of an excellent image/photo editing tool used by millions around the world"
Obviously I'm exaggerating for effect, but I hope you get my point!