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After some time it is physiological that answers may contain outdated links.
And it is a pity.

I see a couple of identification strategies:

  1. A script that actively runs across the entire database to detect inactive links (and after n failed attempts at different times of the day and on different days of the week) signals them.
  2. A passive snippet that in case someone clicks on an expired link reports it to a server.

I also see a couple of solutions to this problem:

  1. A script that replaces the expired link with that of the last snapshot (e.g. from web.archive.org) prior to the answer (or before the introduction of the link in the answer).
  2. A dedicated review queue.

Is something already done/planned or can this be used as a suggestion, maybe to do a dedicated review queue?

Related

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  • 4
    I think someone has a script that replaces broken links - but... fundamentally, that's why we don't have answers that rely purely on links
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Oct 20 at 11:00
  • 1
    That would be Glorfindel. I've pinged him to see if he wants to answer.
    – DavidPostill Mod
    Oct 20 at 20:15
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    What do you mean by "physiological" in your first line? Also, are you dealing with a particular set of broken links (e.g. a bunch of questions/answers linking to the same domain, which has moved or no longer exists), or just addressing a potential general issue?
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Oct 20 at 20:57
  • @JourneymanGeek Yes I know, but links are an integral part of many answers> They lead back to the source where much more information can be found. Often you look for an answer to your problem that is only similar to the one requested by the op. The answer is limited to what is requested. The source may be the answer to another user's problem. I recently edited one of my old answers where there was a link to (almost) all of the motherboard beep sequences. You can't put them all in one answer. BTW in general it is a pity that the answer that makes sense with the links breaks after some time.
    – Hastur
    Oct 21 at 0:28
  • @V2Blast After so many years here and more on the Internet, I have seen even the links considered eternal become obsolete, even just for a change in the page name ... more often the domains expire and the sites die. Some Q&A are bound to become obsolete, others are not. I believe these sites may have a longer life than the average link life (as staff you should agree :-)). It is not like you can expect from whoever posted a response to keep the links in order after years. It should be a duty of the site managers. It could become a script-assisted queue review.
    – Hastur
    Oct 21 at 0:40
  • (By "these sites" I meant "these StackExchange sites"... )
    – Hastur
    Oct 21 at 10:21
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There are several solutions to this, depending on the exact nature of the problem.

If there are many broken links which can be solved in a straightforward manner, by substituting part of the original link, staff has a tool for this. You might have seen it in action when many http:// links to other Stack Exchange internal resources were replaced with https://; another recent example is Links to HTML versions of RFC's need to move from "tools" to "datatracker". The advantage of this is that the edits are fully automated and do not bump posts; we don't want hundreds of old questions ending up on the front page at once, reducing the visibility of new, more relevant questions.

If that is not feasible, and we need Wayback Machine copies of resources that are no longer available, I have written a script that originally fixed broken images but has been successful for other mass-link-repair-operations across the network. You can see some of the results on Super User by visiting my edit history. The script throttles the number of edits to avoid flooding the front page too much (even more when it relies on other users approving my suggested edits).

The script does require some sort of selection; just checking all posts would take too long and bump too many posts. I usually run it only when I know some kind of links are often used (e.g. Homebrew and ImageMagick). I spotted those after reviewing suggested edits fixing one instance of those links (sorry, I don't remember who found them); feel free to reply here if you know of other candidate links. And those instances could have been solved by staff without the bump, but I did not know of that tool back then.

Anyway, it's a good reminder that answers should never rely completely on external links.

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  • First of all, thanks for taking the time to answer. The question/problem is precisely this: the nature of the links is not attributable to a single matrix. The proposal to create an active function in the stackexchange pages by signaling (and therefore counting) that a clicked link is not followable, would also allow to create a ranking (perhaps 1 weekly and 1 absolute) to be followed by automatically when correcting the links or filling a queue dedicated. Without clogging the main page. This can also be done via a script: no ranking of usefulness, but you can use the number of page hits.
    – Hastur
    Oct 24 at 11:35
  • I agree that it is not a good idea to rely completely on external links, but it is also not possible to transfer all the internet knowledge to our site or put it in the answers. Each question is required to be as specific as possible so that the answer can be conclusive. But a purpose --that is not secondary to me-- is to make sure that the reader may learn to solve the problems. The tools to do this reside in the links. Furthermore, the specific problem requested by the OP can be very similar to that of a new user and the solution of the new one can be contained in previously linked site.
    – Hastur
    Oct 24 at 11:45

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