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On the Image Uploader:

It's common knowledge that we have an image uploader (see the original request, the community FAQ, and the blog post). When someone uploads an image to another location and links to it, it's often edited to use the image uploader, and when an externally hosted image goes down, we parrot something like the following excerpt from that FAQ entry:

Whenever possible, use the Stack Exchange provided hosting as described below. This uses an imgur.com Pro account, which ensures images are never lost. Images on free Imgur accounts, and on many other free image hosters, will expire if not requested every now and then! Your post is useful for future visitors too, right?

There was initial resistance, but the utility for sites like ui.stackexchange.com and photography.stackexchange.com is undeniable. The image uploader caught on and now no one protests.

The Discussion:

Electronics.stackexchange.com has few links to external images anymore, but we have a huge number of links to PDFs. Datasheets, appnotes, and whitepapers are crucial to many answers. Currently, we link to the manufacturer's page, to compilation sites like datasheetcatalog.com, and sometimes to PDFs hosted on distributor websites.

Where should we keep these PDFs? Options include:

  1. It's fine the way it is; just link to the original location. The links don't rot fast enough for this to be a problem.
  2. All PDF links should point to the original publisher's source. No datasheetcatalog.com, digikey.com, sparkfun.com, etc. etc. etc. links.
  3. All PDF links should point to (pick one):

    • alldatasheet.com
    • datasheetcatalog.com
    • datasheetarchive.com
    • datasheetlocator.com
    • datasheet4u.net
    • scribd
    • (Insert your favorite document host here)

    because they have:

    • Unchanging URLs and a policy to not delete documents,
    • All the links we'll need and/or or a way to generate new ones,
    • A decent interface,
    • An API (optional, but preferred so we can have scripted/integrated uploading)
  4. Stack Exchange (or a service they could subscribe to) should host the PDFs. Storage is cheap, and they stand to loose a lot of value when these links start to rot.

  5. Something I didn't suggest here, or a combination of the above in some fashion. For instance, one idea to reduce bandwidth costs associated with hosting these is that the original link could be used until the link became rotten, and only then the backup could be used and a suggested edit added to the queue to have someone try to find a new link.
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    \$\begingroup\$ have you seen significant link rot on linked datasheets? Is this a current problem or is it a problem that could exist? \$\endgroup\$ – W5VO Aug 11 '11 at 3:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @W5VO - At this point, it's a problem that could exist. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Aug 11 '11 at 12:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that datasheets aren't the only PDF documents someone might reference. There could be app notes, white papers, etc. The data sheet sites might not want to host the other stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Aug 11 '11 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Any link to an external resource should be cached, and then only served from the internal cache if the original goes down? Then when the resource is updated, you are still linking to the latest version. \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Aug 11 '11 at 16:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Endolith - That was the thought in my example for option 5. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Aug 11 '11 at 17:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd be more open to this if, like the image upload support, it benefited more than one site in the network.. to take on a big feature like that we need many sites to benefit. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Atwood Aug 12 '11 at 3:15
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I prefer 2: the original publisher. They're inherently the most up-to-date, and component manufacturers have more reasons not to let their links rot than some uninvolved third party like http://www.alldatasheet.com.
If I notice one I change a link to a copy on a personal page to the manufacturer's.

I don't agree that manufacturers change their website structure often. It's not my experience anyway, and it would be bad PR-wise: customers want consistency from their suppliers. And if the original link isn't valid anymore you're often automagically redirected to the new page.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why does the manufacturer have more reason to not let their links rot than a datasheet hosting service? Sites like alldatasheet.com stakes their business on hosting datasheets, while the manufacturer probably expects you to navigate their website to get the datasheet you need. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Aug 11 '11 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kevin - Because the datasheets are the basic information about their products they want to sell. alldatasheets and the like don't get their income from these parts, but from advertising. They don't care that the datasheet isn't up-to-date, as long as you visit. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Aug 11 '11 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't believe my answer is getting downvoted. Are there really people who think alldatasheet.com is a more reliable source for Fairchild datasheets than Fairchild itself. They get the datasheets from Fairchild. Fairchild creates those! \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Aug 11 '11 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the record, I didn't cast the downvote (and it was there before my comment), but I don't think you addressed or understood my concern. Alldatasheets and the like make money from the datasheets. Fairchild and others make money from the sale of parts. The former has incentive to make sure their links work, the latter just needs to have them available in some form somewhere, preferably linked from places that people come from to buy the parts (a few distributors and their own website). \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Aug 11 '11 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ For Fairchild the component is the product, and they can't sell it if they don't inform the customer (that's us) about it properly. For sites which make their money from advertising the advertiser is the customer, and the site's visitor (that's us) is the product being sold. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Aug 11 '11 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fairchild can still sell the component if their old links don't work. Sites that make their money from advertising loose visitors/product if their links fail. In the end, no one wants links to rot, so it's a difficult comparison. Not sure if it's worth changing lots of links to manufacturer websites either way. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Aug 11 '11 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ The issue is not who has the better datasheet but rather who is more likely to keep the address to the datasheet the same. I would bet manufactures would have a better chance of keeping the address the same because many distributors link to the datasheet on the manufactures website. The manufactures very much want people to get to their datasheets easily when they are looking at buying the part. I would bet 3rd parties don't expect people to be linking to them directly and are more likely to dump a datasheet or restructure their URLs. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Aug 12 '11 at 16:11

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