The attitude on StackOverflow seems to be that URL shorteners shouldn’t be used. We’ve never discussed this for the Mathematica site specifically, but halirutan’s shortening of an admittedly egregiously long URL in a recent question of mine got me thinking maybe we should confirm our position.

Please upvote this question if you think URL shorteners are ok and should not be edited to restore the original full URL.

  • @Everyone: Please vote up/down on the answer if you agree/disagree. Downvoting this meta question buries it and it will disappear from the front page if it hits -8.
    – rm -rf Mod
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 21:07
  • 5
    Since I think I'm the source of confusion let me explain this: It took me about 5-10 min before I could use the link you provided in the browser because copy/pasting it copies the linebreaks too. Try yourself to copy/paste your original URL in a browser and try to delete the linebreaks which are displayed as /.
    – halirutan Mod
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 15:06

2 Answers 2


Upvote this answer if you think that we should follow the StackOverflow practice of not using URL shorteners, so that shortened URLs should be edited to restore the original URL.

This policy stems partly from a desire to avoid people sneaking affiliate links and various other naughtiness into links in a way that people can’t see until they have clicked on the link. Also, not all URL shortener services have endured, and it creates yet another class of possible future 404 Not Found errors that make answers no longer useful to future visitors.

  • I dislike URL shorteners. In this particular case, I don't really see the need for a long URL or a shortened URL... why not simply upload the image to the SE imgur account?
    – rm -rf Mod
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 6:57
  • In the particular case of my mildew question, I want people to know where to download these things in case they want to try other cases, and also, the original files are huge and you really need to work with the originals to get good results. The result files I posted at 600 px width don't give a full viewpoint.
    – Verbeia
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 7:44
  • 5
    one can always use a markup hyperlink anyway if the URL is too long...
    – Yves Klett
    Commented Jan 5, 2013 at 12:07
  • 2
    KILL 'EM ALL Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 4:39
  • 1
    @YvesKlett - the one in question was in code, so markup wouldn't have worked.
    – Verbeia
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 6:47
  • @Verbeia thanks for the clarification! I did not follow the link - mea culpa.
    – Yves Klett
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 9:15
  • @Verbeia Everyone would know the original source of your image because the moment you use the link in a browser, it is transformed into the original URL. If people (like me) who try other programs like gimp like to download the file, they know therefore instantly where the file is hosted.
    – halirutan Mod
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 15:08

This is too long for a comment and I wanted to clear my point. First, because I was the one who introduced the short URL's and second, because I think had good reasons.

When you try to copy and paste Verbeia's original URL into a browser, I see on Mac and Linux this

enter image description here

Here, due to the long and cryptic URL it's impossible to see the positions of the newlines which are displayed as /. Only if you compare this to the URL posted in the code-block made it possible to obtain the correct source of the image.

Verbeia argumented that users who want to try other programs might want to know the source of the image, but this is absolutely no problem. The moment you use the short URL in a browser or even with wget, the link is expanded into the original long URL. I see this in another light: Users (like me) who wanted to try different programs are forced to fiddle around with the long URL and not with the shortened.

I didn't use some no-name URL shortener. I used the one connected with my google-account where I can set-up the short URL to stay forever and furthermore, I always have a list of all my shortened URLs from the past. That of course doesn't help anyone else, but at least I'm very confident, that the short URL will not vanish in the near future.

The last point is, I personally think it's more beautiful if a one line Mathematica code is not expanded into 3 lines of cryptic URL.

  • +1 For the last point, though I agree with the rest as well. Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 15:38
  • I didn't have a problem with your edit which is why I didn't roll it back, for just this reason, but it got me thinking about the StackExchange policy and how tightly we adhere to it. We can have a distinction between shortening in code and in links generally.
    – Verbeia
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 20:22
  • @halirutan When you say " where I can set-up the short URL to stay forever and..." Does that mean that you can also take it down at will? If that is the case, I would say it's problematic.
    – jVincent
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 12:56
  • @jVincent You mean as problematic as when I take down the repos on my GitHub account and invalidate my answers? To answer your question: No, I cannot delete the short URLs in my Google account.
    – halirutan Mod
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 13:02
  • @halirutan If you answer a question using only a link to an external resource, I would expect it to be down-voted heavily. Though it's nice to know that the short-links is not only constant at the posters whim, which was my concern. If someone was proposing edits of questions to use links he personally could shut down I do believe that to be problematic, if you don't, then I really don't care to argue with you on that point.
    – jVincent
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 13:31

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