I don't get this. The question asked for a reference to something explaining the point to the Hilbert transform. I provided a link to an excellent article explaining the point to the Hilbert transform. Got deleted. The only explanation was a comment saying that it would be better to provide the essential points in case the link becomes invalid.

What does reference-request mean, if not a request for a reference? The link was to Wikipedia.

Is it better for that question to have no answers, as now, or a somewhat lame answer? (Yes, the answer was a lame anyone-could-find-that-on-google sort of thing. But that applies to the question. When the question is a "can you spell google?" sort of question why is an answer like the one I gave wrong?)

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    $\begingroup$ If the question was actually as bad as you said, it should have been downvoted, closed and deleted. And the solution would have been to not post an answer. A link in the comments would've been fine, but really, a link to Wikipedia has no place as an answer. $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Oct 11, 2015 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't say the question was bad, I said that an answer was readily available through google. Was surprised an OP with 200K rep asked before putting in even a tiny effort.. But what I don't get is this: Given that the question was a request for a reference, why is a link to Wikipedia not an acceptable answer? $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2015 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ It would be clearer to link to the version that was originally deleted not a later version. I will fix this. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Oct 11, 2015 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I didn't link to any version, that was someone else. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2015 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ You are welcome. The problem is that you did not link to any particular version; so it shows the current version which is misleading as it was not the one that got deleted. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Oct 11, 2015 at 18:25

2 Answers 2


Such an answer should at least say something like:

The Wikipedia article on {subject} is a good reference, see {link}.

If this is the intended meaning, since it is not clear if it is meant that the linked to Wikipedia page is the reference or rather if that page provides the reference(s) via its references section. This should be spelled out.

Another point that is to be considered is that with a pure link it can be very hard to reconstruct what was linked to if the link "rots." (Granted, this is rather a non-issue in this case.)

In addition, the implicit idea "a lame questions gets a lame answer" is not considered as acceptable on this site, and thus community moderation took care of the answer.

A good answer would explain in which specific way the reference is suitable for the asker's purpose (and maybe how it compares to others); this is especially the case for relatively general requests, and a kind-off obvious answer like a link to the Wikipedia-page on the subject.

Now, in some sense no information might be worse than this link, but part of the idea is that based on the community feed-back given the answer can be improved and restored. If I recall correctly you could edit it and then just undelete it.

(Added: Indeed, having checked now, you in fact did this in some way. As explained, the point is in this case not just the broken link. Also note that the comment is auto-generate and thus not fully applicable to the specific situation.)

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    $\begingroup$ Glad you agree that the link rot is unlikely to be a factor. The explanation of in what sense it was suitable is that it gave an excellent answer to his question! Really - he asks for a reference explaining the point to the Hilbert transform - an "explannation" that this article explans the point to the Hilbert transform is really needed? Really adds something? Can't compare to other answers since there were none. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2015 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ Edit and undelete - interesting theory. I edited adding the suggested "the wikipedia article is great". Can't undelete, since it was deleted by a moderator. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2015 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidC.Ullrich yes this is needed, because as I told you it was not clear if you mean "read that article, it is good" or rather "see that page for there are references there." This was the specific reason why I recommended deletion. I did not mean you should compare it to other answers but to other references. Something like: "Ref A is quite complete and a good starting point, the discussion of aspect S is not as detailed as in Ref B though, so if you care about that you might look there, too. An explanation at a higher level is given in Ref C." $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Oct 11, 2015 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ Oh - that makes more sense, fine. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2015 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ Your answer begins "Such an answer should begin something like ...". Can you point me at the guidelines for answering questions on MSE that explain this to me? $\endgroup$
    – Rob Arthan
    Oct 13, 2015 at 23:13

There are several reasons why link-only answers are discouraged. Most do not apply to your particular situation (e.g. when there is undisclosed affiliation).

The most important reason, however, is that a link-only answer is always in suboptimal form.

Ideally, enough information should be available for people to make a good decision on whether a click-through is useful to them.

In your case, recommending the entire article as a good read is already a nice improvement.

But really, what the tag can really achieve is a good list of resources where one additionally has listed the (relative) merits of such resources. To say something is "great" is useless in deciding whether or not it is a useful read for any future visitor. On the other hand, something like:

This article does a wonderful job at explaining the intuition behind A. Moreover it has a good list of examples. If you are however looking for a formal analysis of the properties of A, you might have to look further.

Ideally supplementing this with other resources that together with the mentioned resource constitute a good overview of the subjects that can aspire to be more than the sum of its constituents.

This, to me, is the ultimate goal of asking questions on Maths.SE. I hope that the merits over a filtered list of useful Google results are clear. Let me stress that providing links in the comments is fine, but for them to qualify as a bona fide answer more is required.

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    $\begingroup$ I strongly disagree: if I can't find a reference, my overriding goal is to have the reference. If I've been dumb and could have found it with google, then so be it. There should be no obligation on someone who is kind enough to provide a pointer to a reference to provide a comprehensive literature survey. What are you trying to turn MSE into? $\endgroup$
    – Rob Arthan
    Oct 13, 2015 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ I am not always sure that "reference request" questions have much value at all, but I think the main way they can be of value is for the answers to provide a sort of literature survey. Just a list of links, or a list of names of books, without additional information, is of much less value IMO. $\endgroup$ Oct 17, 2015 at 15:22

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