16

This is not a new issue, but was inspired by a recent question. There are a lot of questions here that can be answered (and indeed, are answered) with a direct link to the identical topic in the UK TeX FAQ. I was particularly impressed with the article linked by kahen in their comment to the above question, which was detailed and up-to-date (it even mentioned LaTeX3). In short, it was much better than any answer likely to be produced on-the-spot on this site (except by a few of the more prolix top users).

In principle I think it's unpleasant when a Q&A site like this makes frequent recourse to a standard external reference in its answers. It gives an appearance of exclusivity and puts a polish of elitism on the face of the elite users. It's really endearing when you can expect to see a personalized answer instead of boilerplate, and that's not just because of sentiment but also because as long as that is the expectation, it combats the development of a dismissive attitude towards ignorant outsiders and actually improves the tone of the site.

That said, the UK TeX FAQ is really good: it contains carefully composed and researched answers in the style of our best users on lots of common topics. I think there should be a standard process for using its articles (when relevant) as answers to those questions that, when asked here, are once again frequently so. This should be more than just a convention that we cite the FAQ and close the question; I think a quite decent style is to quote, inline, a good excerpt in the answer, together with a link to the full article.

Of course, some people do this already. The point is that I am suggesting that any question that is a FAQ question get a FAQ answer, for uniformity. Even with the vigilance of our eidetically-minded users digging up duplicates, there are a lot of very similar questions asked by new users who get answers of rather variable detail and quality just by chance of who happens to read them.

This proposal is, in principle, not much different from asking people to look for duplicates. In practice, though, it is easy to find an article in the UK TeX FAQ on a subject because it's organized topically without duplication, and so its opinion on the subject is an authoritative reference. I don't think we yet have any process on this site for signifying that a particular instance of a duplicated question is the authoritative source for it, so if the UK TeX FAQ has an article on something, well, that's an opportunity to bring this kind of order to that one.

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    Yes, I agree, I think it's composed by UK-TUG community advt. Have a look at click-statistics for tex uk faq. It is available in pdf in texlive distro by typing texdoc newfaq on commandline/terminal. it is updated 25 feb 2013. – texenthusiast Apr 29 '13 at 2:36
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    the cited faq really began with the uk tex group (and continues through the dedication of robin fairbairns), not the "main" tug. (in fact, no "tug" is actively involved at this point.) please give credit where credit is due. – barbara beeton Apr 30 '13 at 13:29
  • @barbarabeeton Thank you. No slight was intended to the UK group. – Ryan Reich Apr 30 '13 at 20:22
9

I agree with most of what you say, but I'm not quite sure what concrete policy you propose we follow here.

I propose that:

When we have questions that are fully answered by the UK TeX FAQ, that someone provides a community wiki answer which consists of liberal quotation, in blockquotes, from the relevant FAQ answer, together with a proper citation and perhaps a contextual note.

An advantage of this is that we have the content from the FAQ here, properly credited, but allow additional content to be provided in other answers, if it turns out the FAQ answer wasn't quite as complete as we had thought.

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    if it turns out that the faq answer isn't quite as complete as was thought, it would also be a friendly gesture to point that out to the "keeper" of the faq, who is quite diligent in updating when new material surfaces. – barbara beeton Apr 30 '13 at 13:27
  • @barbarabeeton Quite so. – Charles Stewart Apr 30 '13 at 13:55
  • That's what I had in mind. It was hidden at the end of my third paragraph :) – Ryan Reich Apr 30 '13 at 14:29
  • @RyanReich: Yes, I see it now - sorry for being slow. I guess my proposed policy at least adds something about blockquoting. – Charles Stewart Apr 30 '13 at 15:33
  • Not a criticism. – Ryan Reich Apr 30 '13 at 15:52
  • +1 for making it community wiki. – Matthew Leingang May 1 '13 at 21:12
  • Are there any licence issues? Questions and answers on stackexchange are automatically under some version of the Creative Commons, would it then be okay to take the material from the UK TeX FAQ? – Christoph B. May 2 '13 at 8:55

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