Inspired by this question, which is only the most recent incarnation of the template.

Periodically we get a question that is basically, "It seems like there are a lot of X. Can anyone give me a link to a list of X?" This seems to me to be a terrible sort of question. And yet they never seem to get closed. "Oh, it's not a list question, it's asking for a resource!"

Asking for a List = BAD
Link-Only Answer = BAD
Asking for Link to a List = OK???

Jackie Chan: WTF?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The end half of this made me laugh; thank you. I'm interested to see how this will go. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 3:21

2 Answers 2


List-type questions can be okay. You said in your answer:

We don't allow list questions because the list has to be maintained in order to be correct.

This isn't the problem with them, though; many good answers are susceptible to needing maintenance. The problem is that if we had a question asking what kinds of weapons exist (so that someone can put them in their middle-aged combat game), answers would go on forever listing various combinations, people going "hey wait you forgot about this culture's inventions," or "that answer which brought up that culture was not arbitrarily comprehensive enough and missed these ones."

All the answers would be equally valid; none necessarily more correct or incorrect than any other. There basically becomes no point to voting or the accepted answer mechanism; people just pick the answers they like, or which are well written, etc.

The work we do with game-rec questions is to get them into a state where we can actually objectively rate answers, for example.

This problem is not suffered by someone requesting a resource. Whether the resource being requested happens to be a list is also neither here nor there, as long as the question itself is not going to spawn an endless series of equally valid answers.

Answers that exist to link to something else can be okay, as long as they're not literally "link-only" answers. The actual context is answers that are:

barely more than a link to an external site

This captures answers to a question that just say:

That does sound tricky. You can read about how to do this in my blog here.

No thanks! Provide the answer here.

But we have lots of questions that request resources that need linking to. That's most of our tool recommendations, for instance, but they are not just link-only. In my recommendation of Chaotic Shiny's generator on that question, I describe how to use it, what it does that the asker wants out of it, and so on. If I'd just said "hey use this" I'd be rightly downvoted into the dirt. But I can't exactly provide the generator in my answer: I don't have it.

Sometimes questions come up and request something that must be resolved with a link. But that's ok. That isn't the link-only answer case, which describes someone putting zero effort into their answer and sharing nothing with us.

If the link dies on a link-only answer, there's no point to its existence: the answer was contained elsewhere, and its only point was to forward people there.

If a link dies on an answer to a question like this, though, that is unfortunate. Happened with a lot of our WotC links when the site layout changed. Hopefully people can do research and see what happened to Chaotic Shiny, if it ever disappears - maybe the source code can be shared.

That means it comes down to this:

  • List questions: bad. Need work.
  • Questions asking for a link to a resource: fine, we have loads, so long as the question has the requirements defined enough to not be a list question.
  • Questions asking for a link to a resource which is a list: changes nothing.
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think link-only can reasonably include anything that could, in principle, be put into an SE post that is instead left on another site. Images and text, specifically. A link to a video might be rather annoying, but if that's all there is, that's all there is. But a link to a plain-text list of possibilities... that allows link rot and everything else in all the usual ways, and for no good reason. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE We're not talking specifically about "plain-text list/s of possibilities" though, is there a particular reason you're isolating that? We'd usually be linking to very different kinds of lists which have functional purposes. There's also actually ways to permanently upload a text file, such as via Pastebin or Gist, so they're not necessarily uniquely susceptible to link rot anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 29, 2016 at 1:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the answer, then, you might want to clarify the distinction between a list that's actively maintained by some other organization, and a list that just sits there. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 1:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think I need to, since they don't matter either way. Neither one of those things is necessarily more of a problem than the other. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 29, 2016 at 2:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Then... you don't see a distinction between the good lists, and the kinds of resources that are elsewhere condemned as link-only? \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 2:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've already distinguished between link-only answers and good answers that contain links. I also recognise there's good lists to link to and bad lists, and lists we can link to that are more or less susceptible to link rot, but "plain text list of ideas" doesn't necessarily correlate to either of those. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 29, 2016 at 3:06

Asking for a list is not OK.
Link-only answers are not OK.
Asking for a link to a list should be doubly triply not OK.

We don't allow list questions because the list has to be maintained in order to be correct. We don't allow link-only answers because the link can rot. A link to a list that may or may not be maintained adequately is the least reliable answer that can possibly exist (except perhaps a list of links to lists, but that's getting a tad meta). Six months down the road, who knows if the link in an accepted answer will still direct visitors to a list that is correct? Not even the Shadow...

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    \$\begingroup\$ We do allow list questions! They just have to follow all the other guidelines every question should be following, which it's often difficult for list questions to do. So we're suspicious of list questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 3:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I dunno, rpg.stackexchange.com/a/48022/2570 seems to be pretty rot-proof, short of WotC just ruining their site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 3:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexP They already broke all their links at least once, no-one's gonna be surprised if it happens again. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 4:31

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