I personally don't like them (at all): the URL shorteners. These websites allow to summerize long URL's in short and tiny ones ...

... and on the fly will track users on Internet and hide the actual URL where you will be redirected to. I consider them a risk for privacy and potentially your computer's well being and eventually your bank account (when things turn out really bad).

When I notice a question or answer using a shortened URL, should I (we) edit it or shouldn't I worry so much? Is there a SE policy on this?

I'd even vote for SE blocking shortened URL's or automatically replacing them with the initial link address.

Wikipedia has a nice article on URL shortening.

These are the 'analytics' of the link I removed shortly before writing this post. (Just adding a + at the end of the URL does that).

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4 Answers

If you see a post with URL shorteners, then edit the post to remove them (and replace it with the real link). There's several posts on Meta.SO about them such as this one. For questions and answers, the character limit is HUGE, so there is no limitation where using them makes sense.

They are not automatically banned because it is not a practical thing to do, but they should be removed. This helps prevent link rot (and the same goes for pictures not hosted by imgur). Editing a post to remove a URL shortener is not a trivial edit as long as you get them all.

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The whole idea that a shortened URL is rude is ludicrous. Technically, the URL shorteners will probably be around longer than the links they're redirecting to. Do you think Bit.ly is going anywhere anytime soon? They'll be around as long as imgur, if not longer. These are websites that have a huge base of vested users.

Can we leave it at "please use a full URL so users know where they're going to be browsing to" instead of this made-up idea that it's rude or due to link rot? Sometimes, the level of formality here is a bit much even for me, and I'm way more familiar with the rules than a new user will be. I'd take a community with less experts if it meant less passive-aggressive comments for people just trying to ask a simple question and get a simple answer.

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Expecting us to follow links that we can't tell where they go is certainly not "nice". –  Olin Lathrop Nov 11 '12 at 23:03
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Not everyone understands the dangers of following a random link. Explain that to them... they'll get it. You don't need to attribute it as being rude... attribute it to not being cognizant of what a blind URL could lead to, but don't attribute it to being rude. –  Toby Lawrence Nov 12 '12 at 1:45
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That's nonsense. This is a very well known issue, and even if not is just common sense. If they don't know, they certainly should, but most like they just don't give a crap. That's rude. We don't want this site noised up with hand holding people thru well known basic internet etiquette. Do you want to change their diapers and burp them too? –  Olin Lathrop Nov 12 '12 at 13:38
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You're being irrational. Your idea is that people are purposefully coming here and asking questions whilst diverging slightly from our policy (like posting a shortened URL instead of the true URL) to be rude to us, or maybe in your mind, to be rude to you in particular. According to you, these people should totally expect to be ripped apart by some random guy on the internet because they posted a shortened URL. We've skipped from keeping things professional to appearing like we're all grouchy old men. Great way to build the community. –  Toby Lawrence Nov 12 '12 at 14:30
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I love how Olin, of all people is lecturing people on how not to be rude. –  Rocketmagnet Nov 12 '12 at 14:40
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Interestingly, the link that was "improved" appears to be one of mine. I consider it rude in the extreme [tm] :-) etc for people to mess with things that I have put together in whatever manner. However, I'm also aware that opinions vary widely so it doesn't bother me much when other people are wrong. OK - that should garner some down votes :-)
More seriously, the dangers in URL shortners are well known to those who care and easily circumvented. Those who do not know or care are just as likely or more likely to fall prey to the many scams and malicious sites which present in oter ways, without use of url shortners.

I tend to use them in this context to gauge the amount of interest in a subject so that I can see if it is worth putting more effort into this question or others similar. Goo.gl provides only general analytics except in a very special special case involving Apple Macintoshes and links which only one user has accessed. Even then you cannot learn the user's ID - just their country, O/S and browser.

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I see it a little differently than W5VO. These shortened URLs are well know to have the problems you mention. There is really no excuse for someone to post one here, especially considering the number of characters is not limited and the ease with which a long URL can be hidden as the target of a small clickable word in the text.

Therefore, imposing shortened URLs on us is basically rude. I'd downvote the post and leave a message to that effect. If the offender removes the URL and notifies you or you notice, you can remove the downvote. If you feel so inclined and have the extra time, edit the post, but I see no obligation for us to do that. Proper etiquette, which is this part of, is the responsibility of the author, not us. Fix it if you want, but people that do this should be prepared for downvotes and nasty comments.

I have a limited amount of time to spend here, and I'd rather spend it answering questions for those that weren't rude. Sometimes I might be in the mood to fix a post, especially if the author shows other evidence of having tried to write a good post, but don't count on it.

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Please get off the pedestal already. Everyone here has limited amount of time to spend, and is volunteering that time. If you don't feel like fixing a post or answering badly-formatted posts, then don't. Don't try and act like you're doing us all a favor by being here... there's more than a few EE professionals that are willing to answer questions without bashing people for not running through your personal 47-point checklist on how to properly ask a question. –  Toby Lawrence Nov 11 '12 at 15:45
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"and I'd rather spend it answering questions" So do that. No one's forcing (or even obligating) you to do anything you don't want to do. –  endolith Nov 11 '12 at 20:16
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@Toby: Simply ignoring the rudeness doesn't teach the right lessons. It is important that people doing that are actively discouraged. Quitely ignoring them doesn't work since they won't know that happened. –  Olin Lathrop Nov 11 '12 at 23:02
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The point is that it's not rude. People use URL shorteners allll the time. If they are providing a data sheet link, they're not being rude... they're just providing a link. If you don't like the links being shortened, because of a legitimate reason like link rot, not being able to see the target, etc etc... then just say that. It's not rudeness, period. –  Toby Lawrence Nov 12 '12 at 1:44
    
People using shorteners are not rude. They are just victims of "social engineering", unwittingly helping to perpetrate click-stealing spam/malware, lured by the idea of saving a few characters. –  Kaz Nov 23 '12 at 22:30
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