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I once flagged two link-only answers, but since we're not StackOverflow, in terms of size/#users, I think we should rather strive to comment/edit the posts, so as to make them not link-only answers. This may seem odd, since there are questions in which people actually want a reference on a specific subject, like in these questions:

But I guess whenever the request is not for dataset/API/tool sources, and actually for explanations/examples on some topic, as these posts:

the answers should praise this rule of thumb discussed on meta.stackexchange. So, the idea is simply to either comment link-only answers, in order to ask the OP to improve their question, or simply suggest an edit.

Now, to leave a question here: what should actually be done for link-only answers? Are these suggestions enough/reasonable, or should we flag them anyway? Any further suggestions are surely much welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ "in other to ask the , or simply suggest an edit" - looks like a thought didn't make it all the way onto the page $\endgroup$ – Air Jun 18 '14 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ @AirThomas Hahah! Thanks for pointing it out. I've now finished my thought! :D $\endgroup$ – Rubens Jun 18 '14 at 15:17
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I think we should rather strive to comment/edit the posts, so as to make them not link-only answers.

It's every user's prerogative to decide which of the following tools to use, when they find an answer (or question) that they think is in some way deficient:

  • Downvoting
  • Flagging
  • Editing
  • Commenting

However, if the answer is truly link-only, then it has no original content for you to edit, and I would strongly discourage editing over the other three options. Edits should not be used to change the meaning of someone else's answer, according to the guidelines provided in the help center.

Sometimes the linked content contains a brief excerpt that you can copy into the answer, which changes it from a bare link (bad) to a direct quote with a reference link (not as bad). In that case, an edit might be worthwhile and appropriate, provided you don't copy and paste the whole of the linked content.

However, if you're producing original content where there is none, you should do so in a separate answer.


If you don't feel a separate answer is justified, or you're for some reason unwilling/unable to write one, your alternatives are to comment, downvote, or flag. In my opinion, commenting is the worst of these options when dealing with link-only answers, for the following reasons:

  1. Lazy users tend to respond poorly (if at all) to criticism.
  2. Comments about post quality clutter up the page for those users who are only there to discuss or read about the question and its answer(s).
  3. When your comment doesn't lead to an improvement, it can end up drawing attention to a low-quality answer.

There are advantages and disadvantages to downvoting over commenting - it's still negative reinforcement, but at least you're not inviting debate or increasing the visibility of the answer. That being said, the absolute best option is to flag the link-only answer. This is the general policy for the entire StackExchange network (not just StackOverflow):

So let me be clear: this sort of response is not an answer. If you see this, flag it. Moderators, if you see it flagged, delete it.

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  • $\begingroup$ We are in accord! :D $\endgroup$ – Rubens Jun 17 '14 at 22:17

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