7

There are quite a few questions one could ask about vim that can be legitimately answered with "yes, here's a link to a plugin that does exactly that."

For example:

How should we evaluate answers that just link a plugin that solves the problem? Should that be considered acceptable, or is it the equivalent of a link-only answer? Or does it depend (and if so, on what)?

10

Offering plugins is fine, but don't just link to the plugin or script..

Provide a brief description on what the plugin/script does and how to use the plugin in a way that matches the asked question (this is the important bit most often missing). For bonus points you could also describe some common option/caveats or expand on how the plugin does it's thing.

For example, this answer is currently a good one; it links to the plugin, briefly describes what it does, and shows an example usage. The original answer wasn't very good as it wasn't clear what it exactly the linked plugin does, or how to use it.

  • I'd even want to see more depth than is currently in the example answer; how does it rename the buffers, for example? – Josh Feb 4 '15 at 23:58
  • @JoshPetrie Yeah, it could be better. But I do think it's good now. – Martin Tournoij Feb 5 '15 at 0:00
  • Yea. (I just left the comment to hopefully reduce instances where that example is interpreted as sufficient for all cases, as here.) :D – Josh Feb 5 '15 at 0:04
  • @JoshPetrie Actually, that answer is missing usage info; which the example question has (just one simple line, but usage info nonetheless)... I've clarified my answer – Martin Tournoij Feb 5 '15 at 0:13
7

My feeling is that answers that are just plugin links aren't particularly useful, and don't do much to set this site apart from any other vim resource that already exists (including other SE sites). As such they should be discouraged.

A good answer referring to a plugin would also explain at least some of the fundamental concepts behind however that plugin is accomplishing the task, thus adding value and expert knowledge that is otherwise not present in a simple link, and also hopefully educating the original poster on some aspect of vim they may not have realized existed, or was possible.

In some cases this is probably unreasonable, though; for example, the question asking about getting completion for C++; the major "fundamental concept" behind such plugins usually "parsing C++" which is not really a topic that can be scoped to a single answer and isn't within the purview of this site anyway.

0

There is a big difference between a "link-only" answer, and a "here's a plugin" answer.

As I understand it, the main problem with "link-only" answers is link rot: if the page that is linked to goes away, then the answer becomes completely useless.

But because Vim has a centralised location for plugins, the likelihood of a plugin disappearing off the face of the earth is much lower than the chances of some page on some random website disappearing.

Furthermore, once you're armed with the name of one plugin that solves the problem, then even if that specific plugin does vanish in a puff of smoke, there's a pretty good chance that when you go looking for it, you'll stumble across other plugins purporting to solve the same problem. For example, if you google for Command-T, it doesn't take long for you to learn of the existence "CtrlP".

(Obviously I agree with the existing answers that state that good plugin answers would include a description of the plugin and how it solves the problem.)

  • 1
    A crappy link-only answer is arguably worse than no answer at all: it discourages others from answering the question properly. – 200_success Feb 6 '15 at 21:22
  • @200_success I'm not sure whether your comment is intended to disagree with me, or just elaborate further on what's bad about link-only answers. For the record I am against crappy plugin answers just as much as I'm against crappy link-only answers. – Rich Feb 9 '15 at 10:53
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    I disagree that the only significant concern is link rot. Answer quality matters too. "A Google search indicates that here's a plugin that might help" ranks poorly on effort, insight, and detail. Worse, the existence of a half-assed plugin recommendation answer discourages others from answering properly. – 200_success Feb 9 '15 at 11:02
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    @200_success But if the link goes to a page (that still exists) that completely answers the question, I don't really understand the objection. Again, I am not in favour of answers like "A Google search indicates that here's a plugin that might help", but actually telling the user about a plugin that does definitely solve the problem isn't the same thing. – Rich Feb 9 '15 at 11:06
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    I suppose the disagreement is whether such answers should be deleted, downvoted, or tolerated, assuming that the answerer doesn't respond to comments calling for more detail. I favor a harder line to ensure that this is a place for quality answers, not just a message board where "I haven't actually used this plugin, but a Google search says…" kinds of posts prevail. Clear that low-effort junk so that a user who answers properly will earn the rep. – 200_success Feb 9 '15 at 11:18
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    @200_success That's a totally reasonable position to take. I think I'd be in favour of downvoting low-effort junk but definitely against deletion of anything that does actually solve the problem. – Rich Feb 9 '15 at 11:22
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    "the main problem with "link-only" answers is link rot" -> No, not necessarily. It's not always obvious how to use a plugin, for example. At least a basic description of this can be very useful. A good example this answer, which is much more useful since it explains what the plugin does, and the basics of how to use it (this was not really obvious from the original version or the 'official docs'). – Martin Tournoij Feb 19 '15 at 10:12
  • @Carpetsmoker That's actually a good argument why plugin-only answers are worse than link-only answers. – Rich Feb 19 '15 at 10:14
  • I'm not quite sure I follow that comment? ... In any case, almost all answers that just link to a plugin can usually be salvaged without too much effort by editing it (I did so for several answers, including the one I linked above). – Martin Tournoij Feb 19 '15 at 10:18
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    @Carpetsmoker A link-only answer on SO that links to some code that solves your problem solves your problem. A plugin-only answer on vi.SE that links to a plugin you can't figure out how to use doesn't solve your problem. – Rich Feb 19 '15 at 10:21

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