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A new user performed a substantial suggested edit to another user's answer post, changing all the in-line links to numbered links with the urls themselves moved to the bottom of the post. I rejected the edit as conflicting with the author's intent and left a comment, then the author added a second comment confirming that they wanted to maintain the in-line links as their preferred method.

My comment:

@PeterMortensen along with a few small but at least not-unhelpful proposed edits, all those changes in the way linking is done clearly conflicts with the authors preference. It can be done either way. The way the author did it is also the way I do it now and I find it much easier to maintain my posts like that. I think reconfiguring other peoples post in that way is heavy-handed and not helpful.

Author's comment:

@PeterMortensen I appreciate the grammar fixes and attention to detail, thank you. But I prefer the inline link style

The same user has just made the same kind of edit to a second post, moving the in-line link to a numbered link with the actual url at the bottom of the post.

Is making an edit like this that conflicts with the author's preference considered helpful? What is the benefit to the site produced by undoing in-line links?

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  • $\begingroup$ Should this be asked here or on main meta? $\endgroup$ – Mast Aug 10 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Mast I chose to ask it here and use the specific-question tag. I've left a comment for the editor in hopes they will leave a comment or an answer as well.There is certainly room for a more general question about the tradeoffs of the techniques in main meta, but that question should be written more carefully and requires some research; there may be information already available in mm. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 11 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ It might be more helpful to link directly to the edit suggestions. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Aug 11 at 6:38
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    $\begingroup$ Linking to individual revision history entries like this is a bit inconvenient when discussing edits, since it only shows the post as it looked after the edit, but not the actual changes made by the editor. (IMO, it would be a lot more convenient if it also showed the diff. I kind of feel that whoever designed that corner of the SE UI probably didn't think it quite through.) $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Aug 11 at 8:09
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    $\begingroup$ (... I suppose one could also link to a specific section of the full post history page, although I'm not sure how stable those anchors are, and they're definitely not easily discoverable; I had to dig into the HTML source of the page to make that link.) $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Aug 11 at 8:10
  • $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen oh, I see what you mean! Okay I've edited again, please feel fee to edit further if necessary, thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 11 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ why did those posts use nonstandard markup in the first place? The markup tools in the editing window generate one link type (numbered links), you'd have to enter the other link type manually. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Aug 11 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes: IMO, it's a lot easier and quicker to type the inline link markup directly into the text box than to click the toolbar button to open the "insert link" dialog. (Using Ctrl+L to open the dialog makes it a bit quicker, but only if I can remember that keyboard shortcut. And the workflow still feels kind of awkward: you either have to insert the URL before typing in the link text, which feels backwards to me, or you have to go back and select the text you want to make into a link before opening the dialog.) $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Aug 11 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ ... Also, the inline syntax keeps the URL together with the link text and its surrounding context, so you don't have to scroll up and down or use the preview pane just to check that your links still point where they should after editing. And it works consistently everywhere, even in comments, chat and other places where the "footnote" link syntax doesn't. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Aug 11 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes I only use in-line these days, wherever possible. If I use the tool to insert an image, I then manually move the imgur link back to the image itself whenever possible. For me it just makes my workflow easier and makes reading my own posts later easier as well. This is only slightly related: Does the post editor secretly delete other links when posting an image? If so, why? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 11 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes by using almost exclusively in-line links, another side benefit is that that nasty renumbering algorithm can no longer "eat my links" before I get a chance to finish linking them, another advantage from my perspective. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 12 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen I usually type the entire sentence, then go back and select the words I want to use as a link, click Link button, ctrl-V. I prefer that over having to remember link syntax (was it square brackets first, or round brackets first?) $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Aug 12 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes: That's a perfectly valid way to work, too. That's why it's nice to have both options, so that those who prefer to use the mouse and the GUI can do that, while others can just type away at the text box. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Aug 12 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes Numbered links are much easier (in my opinion). You don't have to remember which brackets come first since they're both square. I almost never use the formatting UI (mostly for inserting images and formatting code blocks) as it's too fiddly. I almost exclusively use the keyboard, placing the cursor exactly where I want it then typing the bracket(s). Paste the URL at the bottom, which is only a few lines down if done in the order of typing, increment the number and use the same number in the link above. No scrolling required, just moving the cursor which you have to do anyway. $\endgroup$ – CJ Dennis Aug 13 at 4:06
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Changing the markup without changing what the resulting post looks like, seems pointless to me.

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    $\begingroup$ that answer was based on a misunderstanding of the issue: I assumed this was about Wikipedia-style indirect links, which we've seen in the past on a few posts. As long as I can click on the link in a post and it takes me directly to the source, I'm not that bothered by the underlying code. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Aug 11 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ okay got it, thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 11 at 14:31
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When in the edit review queue, these changes should be rejected as "no improvement whatsoever" (not "conflict with the author's intent" as the OP suggests). When the edit is already approved (or done by a higher rep user) I wouldn't waste time over it.

These kinds of personal difference can lead to edit wars. You are not going to change people's minds.

I also prefer one of the two link styles ;-) but mentioning that is not going to change other peoples behavior.

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Stack Exchange provides several ways to include links in a post. If an author chooses to use one of them, then that's the author's option, and intent.

Coming in and rewriting their post and reversing their choice for no discernible reason beyond "I would have done this differently" is heavy-handed, and the action does not benefit the site.

The editor was invited to comment here and explain how it might help the site, but no response was forthcoming.

So I have to agree with @Hobbes' answer:

Changing the markup without changing what the resulting post looks like, seems pointless to me.

but go beyond that to say that we shouldn't drop by just to enforce our own style choices on other users.

Personally, I've moved to using in-line links whenever convenient and I find this works best for me when maintaining my posts, which I do regularly.

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  • $\begingroup$ I started a list based "commons" answer to a question, using in-line links, The next editor added numbered links. That was ugly. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Aug 22 at 10:16
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Why edit other people's posts and undo their use of in-line links?

CJ Dennis points out that in extreme cases, moving the inline links to the bottom of the text does add usefully to readability.

However, in many cases the suggestion below of adding a line break without spaces after a link, usefully adds to the readability. This addresses CJ Dennis's extreme (but 'real world') example.
Inclusion of copious text within each citation adds very significantly to the unreadability in his example.

I agree that this is "not nice to read" - the writer seems to have gone out of their way to make it so :-) - but even this can be 'somewhat improved' by adding line breaks without spaces after each link.

The following two examples both produce the same output as cited by CJ Dennis.
While neither is pleasant to read, the latter is more readable. Given that this looks close to a worst case example, in most cases this sort of change would improve readability usefully.

enter image description here


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  • $\begingroup$ The example I used is taken directly from an answer linked to in the question, i.e. it is directly relevant to the question and not invented as you seem to be implying. As far as I can tell, your first two blocks of markdown are identical, but other people's posts aren't editable or this question so I could be wrong. Consider editing your answer to show the markdown in code blocks as I have done. I actually can't read the last block because it's so fragmented. $\endgroup$ – CJ Dennis Aug 18 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ I can't see how this answers my question currently. In addition to the comment above, can you address my question Why edit other people's posts and undo their use of in-line links? directly as well? Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 18 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ @CJDennis I significantly edited my answer. I've changed the two markup examples to an image. Both examples produce identical output, but the line breaks add some clarity. I agree that this is a good example of a difficult to read source document. For me the advantages make inline quotes preferable. I agree that those who wish to do otherwsie should be able to do so. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Aug 18 at 13:09
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Markdown was designed to be able to be read as text with minimal distractions.

Its key design goal is readability – that the language be readable as-is, without looking like it has been marked up with tags or formatting instructions, unlike text formatted with a markup language, such as Rich Text Format (RTF) or HTML, which have obvious tags and formatting instructions.

A link like this: [Markdown][1] is easier to read than [Markdown](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markdown).

It certainly doesn't matter to people reading but not editing a post on SE. However, when editing a post, using numbered links instead of inline links helps maintain the flow of the text for the person editing, and detect and correct grammatical errors if any exist, since only a single bracketed number needs to be skipped, instead of multiple words in a complex syntax (scheme, domain, path). The point of links is as an aside, or to provide additional information at the reader's discretion. It should be the reader's choice whether to follow up on that information or not, not the author's choice to force the reader to deal with it as they're reading.

Part of the change is from this:

[NASA is testing hydroxylammonium nitrate in space]
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Propellant_Infusion_Mission). Due to its 
[higher specific impulse and higher density]
(https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/g-
484591_gpim_factsheet.pdf) it is expected to perform 50% better than standard 
propellants. And it can be allowed to freeze, [hydrazine must be kept liquid]
(https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/32580/is-it-bad-if-hydrazine-freezes-
on-a-spacecraft-is-it-always-kept-as-liquid-or). [LMP-103S has been tested]
(https://space.stackexchange.com/a/9679/4704) gets about [30% better 
performance](http://ecaps.space/hpgp-performance.php).

to this:

[NASA is testing hydroxylammonium nitrate in space][4]. Due to its [higher 
specific impulse and higher density][5] it is expected to perform 50% better 
than standard propellants. And it is allowed to freeze whereas [hydrazine must 
be kept liquid][6]. [LMP-103S has been tested][7] and gets about [30% better 
performance][8].
  [4]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Propellant_Infusion_Mission
  [5]: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/g-484591_gpim_factsheet.pdf
  [6]: https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/32580/is-it-bad-if-hydrazine-freezes-on-a-spacecraft-is-it-always-kept-as-liquid-or
  [7]: https://space.stackexchange.com/questions/9421/is-lmp-103s-truly-a-viable-replacement-for-hydrazine/9679#9679
  [8]: http://ecaps.space/hpgp-performance.php

The former has so many embedded links it's impossible to read while maintaining a flow. It looks like code. The latter can be read very easily. It looks like English. An inexperienced editor might be put off from editing the "code" version, so their valuable input is never gained.

Changing inline links to numbered links should not be a reason for editing a post. But if you've found other issues that could be improved, I have no problem with adjusting the link style as well at the same time. Changing the link style at the same time as fixing other issues should not be a reason to reject an otherwise good edit.


[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markdown

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    $\begingroup$ I've switched to inline because I find it much easier to manage my links, and I really prefer to see them right where they are used, rather than way down at the bottom in "scrollville". So saying the opposite is easier is your own opinion. If someone started doing it to my posts I would definitely ask them to stop. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 12 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh If it's easier to write than to read, you've written it wrong. You've asked for a discussion, so every answer is going to come down to opinion and preferences. You seem to only want answers that agree with your preformed opinion. If the consensus is the opposite will you go with the majority or keep doing your own thing? $\endgroup$ – CJ Dennis Aug 12 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ The readability of the two link syntaxes is a tradeoff. If you don't care where the link points to, the footnote syntax is easier to read because it hides the URL at the bottom of the post. If you do, it forces you to scroll down and remember the link number (or use the preview pane) just to check which link goes where. Personally, I usually prefer to have the URL where I can immediately see it, although I make an exception for standard imgur image links, any URLs that I'd like to link to multiple times in the same post and really long URLs like those generated by TIO. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Aug 12 at 11:28
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    $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen I guess I'm used to books where extraneous references are always separated from the text (and the point the author is trying to make). Sometimes they're at the bottom of the page, sometimes at the end of the chapter, and sometimes in a bibliography at the end of the book. $\endgroup$ – CJ Dennis Aug 12 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ Your example is specious in that it takes a near worst case example which does not come close to the average or typical text. You are welcome to your personal preference, but, you (generic), please leave my links alone :-). If greater readability is desired in extreme cases then the use of carriage returns without following spaces at lines end will render the source but not the output in 'more chunky' [tm] format. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Aug 18 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ I went to 'edit' your post entirely only to extract your example. Having the post about editing posts non editable is 'pretty smooth:-)'. $\endgroup$ – Russell McMahon Aug 18 at 11:16

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