16

I have noticed the use of shortened links like bit.ly, and goo.gl have increased, for a variety of reasons it is not acceptable to use these links in Ask Ubuntu, here is the question on discussing shortened link services:

http://meta.askubuntu.com/questions/881/how-to-deal-with-masked-shortened-urls/882#882


Reasons for cleaning these links:

  • True location of links are hidden
  • Stats and location data is collected (way for spam to track users)
  • There are easy ways to "shorten" links with markdown maintaining the orginal link in mouse-over, so the primary purpose of these services is defeated.
  • Links are not picked up as "broken" when they lead first to the link shortening service.

What I'm suggesting

To help facilitate the cleanup of these links to make the site better here's what I think we should do:

  1. Find all the links
  2. Check to make sure a link is alive still (use one of the preview services for safety)
  3. Replace the link with a direct link. Not the preview link, but the original link it leads to.

  4. If the post needs other changes make those edits as well.

Previewable

Un-previewable

  • Why make them previewable instead of just nuking them (and replacing the link with the original unobfuscated version)? – Oli Mar 27 '13 at 16:11
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    you need to preview it "safely" to find the original link, then replace the link, I clarified this in the post, the point being I never click on shortened links. So -> preview -> get original link -> replace and remove shortened link. – Mateo Mar 27 '13 at 16:15
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    Just so you know, bit.ly links are now disabled in the system. You actually can't post a question with bit.ly links in them and if you edit a question with a bit.ly link it'll be rejected until you remove the link. – Marco Ceppi Mar 27 '13 at 18:39
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    how about goo.gl? are those disabled as well? – Mateo Mar 27 '13 at 19:03
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    @mateo_salta You may want to clarify that you're not advocating for editing the posts to make the links previewable, only suggesting that people view them via preview first. – Eliah Kagan Mar 28 '13 at 13:52
10

I see no reason such a clean-up effort would be bad, and several reasons it would be good. The quality of a post is considerably improved by not using obfuscated links, and we may even end up finding posts that contain malicious links that we never noticed before.

I support this.

Of course, when editing a post, one should fix as many problems in the post as is practical. While I do think it's perfectly acceptable to edit a question just to fix obfuscated links, it should be the exception rather than the rule that an edit to fix obfuscated links does not also improve something else in the post.

When people use obfuscated links in Ask Ubuntu posts, this usually means they are unfamiliar with the standards of quality, and/or unfamiliar with how markdown can be used to apply clear formatting. In my experience, posts with obfuscated links also often have large numbers of <br> tags, line breaks where an whole paragraph break should be, and lists whose items start like 1) or with a - character followed immediately (with no space) with text. These lists are not rendered in list formatting and with a very small number of exceptions should be edited so that they do.

Obfuscated links are sometimes obsolete, so it's important to actually visit the page (not necessarily as the first thing you do, but at least before submitting the edit). Remember, when you replace one link with another, you're responsible for the new link working at the time you provide it--even if it's just obtained from what someone else said.

And of course, like many posts, posts with obfuscated links may contain spelling and grammar errors, unclear sentences, code that needs proper formatting, and so forth.

So, I disagree with @MarcoCeppi. I think editing a post just to remove an obfuscated URL is fine, and not a frivolous edit at all. We almost always accept suggested edits that just fix a few spelling errors, and fixing a URL that inconveniences everyone and might even be dangerous is a bigger improvement than that!

But I agree with him in part, because edits can usually make other improvements too. Once you've found a post with one or more obfuscated links, there will usually be other appropriate changes to be made. And when there are, you should make them, too. (But please don't make pointless changes, just to say you did something besides fixing obfuscated links.)

8

Awesome work everyone!

We have successfully cleaned up the shortened links on the list that needed to be.

If you find other shortening services being used, add them to the list.

Also we can use this as an area to keep on top of the shortened links that aren't yet blocked by the system.

0

I don't think there is any need for a "clean up" effort. There are far more pressing issues of quality on the site than a shortned URL. Certainly if you see a shortened URL and you're already editing the post update it to point to the appropriate source, otherwise simply editing a post JUST to remove the shortened url will only result in unnecessary bumping of topics and frivolous edits.

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