If I find an English-language article online that directly addresses a question on Mi Yodeya, why should I bother going to all the trouble suggested in our citation guideline - citing, summarizing, etc.? Why not just put a link to the source in a comment, which will tell the question-asker and readers that it's there, and move on? After all, my summary is likely to be only a shadow of the full version in the original. What am I adding to the Internet by posting it?
Thank you for asking this important question. There are several reasons we frown on link-only answers:
Web pages change all the time. Today that link directly answers the question. Will it in six months? Sometimes links break, which is at least obvious, but sometimes content changes, and those changes may affect accuracy and/or applicability to the question.
We are trying to build a repository of knowledge about Judaism, not a repository of pointers to knowledge about Judaism. Would you be well-served if the books in your beit midrash (study hall) were replaced with the phone number of a rabbi or with the Google search page? Probably not, because even if you could get your answer (eventually), you came to this community to engage in the study.
Don't be so quick to dismiss the value of your summary. Some people who won't read a book will read an article; some who won't read an article will read a paragraph. The dedicated student will follow your link for the full text anyway, but you reach more people with a helpful answer if you also provide that summary. And if you make it enticing, then perhaps people who normally wouldn't follow the link to read the article will do so. Your summary spreads torah.
For further reading: Your answer is in another castle. Excerpt:
We could try to enumerate the commonly-observed problems with [a link-only answer]...
- Link is probably broken
- If link isn't broken, it's spam
- If link isn't spam, it's to some broadly-related resource that the answerer found by pressing "I'm feeling lucky" when googling the question's title.
...but the real issue here is that we don't know! Even if the link was originally pointing directly to the most awesomeest answer ever for exactly the question being asked, there's nothing in the answer itself to even hint at what direction we're being pointed in. Strip the markup, and this is what you're left with:
i think you should take The tutorial HERE! This will help you a lot
Is there even one tiny speck of information there? No
I would like to expand on Monica Cellio's "Don't be so quick to dismiss the value of your summary" and the points that she and Scimonster made about what summarizing in your own words adds. Here are some types of value that your summary can and should strive to add:
As both Monica and Scimonster note, a summary can be useful for people who want to learn about the topic but don't have time to read the entire original piece, or who want to decide whether to invest the time to read the entire original piece.
In particular, when the original piece covers more ground than the question at hand here, the summary here must address itself to the particular question, leaving out or noting as an aside whatever else is going on in the original piece. As a result, people who are interested in answers to the question at hand in particular, which is presumably most readers of your answer, get exactly what they are looking for without having to extract or derive it from a larger work.
As Scimonster notes, when you summarize in your own words, you'll end up using slightly different language than the original piece, which potentially expands the collection of search terms that people can use to find the original piece, so you have made it easier to find.
As Monica notes, in addition to the technical search assistance, your summary may prove compelling enough to some readers to drive them to read the entire original piece, even when they would not have already.
As a special case of "your own words," if the original piece is laden with technical or non-English jargon, and your summary follows our site policy on jargon to be as accessible as possible to everyone who might be interested, then your summary might make the ideas in the original work accessible to an audience that would otherwise have trouble understanding them.
Your summary can supplement the original piece by taking advantage of your research skills and facility with linking to provide more precise citations and/or Internet links for references cited in the original piece. For example, where the original piece cites a responsum by its relevant ruling and the name of the author only, you could provide a full citation, a link to a biography of the author, and a link to the page on Hebrewbooks with the responsum. That facilitates both additional comprehension of the topic by beginners and further research by experienced scholars.
A few things.
There's no guarantee that the other resource will stay online. There's no guarantee by us either, but SE is pretty big, and is likely to stick around.
We also hit high in search engines, letting people find the information more easily.
Not everyone has the patience to read the full article, me included. I often find that the simple summary is quite enough. If it's really interesting, that's when i'll continue reading.
Different terms might be used in the two places, increasing searchability. The website might use "benediction" while i write "bracha", for example.
And if you post it here, there are repz to be gained... ;)
My problem with this question is that it actually reflects that the hypothetical question that is being responded to is a bad question. A good question can not be answered with a link alone because...
"Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!"
If I answer with just a link, especially just a link as a comment, I might do so in conjunction with a downvote. If the answer is that readily available, then the question needs work.