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A relevant share of the answers which appear in the flag queue are flagged because they contain little more than the link.

Then the usual suspects jump in and add the comments like:

While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes.

Is there a concensus whether such answers shall be deleted? One might argue that telling the user and leaving the answer is better.

A related question: I wanted to ask whether there is a list of these standard comments. I assumed there may be a community question with a respective collection. Or the users have their own text file with a copy of them... But just now someone told me that this text was inserted automatically by him flagging the answer as low quality and selecting "link-only" as the reason.

But when I flag (no matter whether from the flag queue or directly) I do not get such a selection.

  • 1
    Totally relevant but to make it fast: if you remove the link and still doesn't have useful information, it's not an answer. – Braiam Apr 6 '14 at 13:54
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Those comments come from reviewing:

This is a link-only answer (and not spam)

Flagging them is fine. I generally add a post notice:

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answrs that don't include explanations may be removed.

And give the author (or somebody) a few days to fix it. If it stays unedited I delete it.

  • How does an answer get into the reviewing queue, if I flag it? I must admit that I care less about the reviewing queues since I see the flags queue (I guess that's more or less intended). Why is this selection available in the review queue but not when flagging? – Hauke Laging Apr 4 '14 at 2:40
  • @HaukeLaging It's automated, based on the queue. Flagging won't put it in a queue or generate a comment, but it'll let mods see it, which is probably better since link-only answers rarely get fixed. – Michael Mrozek Apr 4 '14 at 4:27
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As the comment explains, these A's can become useless if the link becomes broken so they should be flagged for deletion, or at the very least, a comment should be left to the user letting them know that they should put the relevant info into their A.

So I typically flag these as such and leave this comment.

As to your Q about the comments, most of us use a browser plugin called AutoReviewComments - Pro-forma comments for SE which augments the SE pages and adds a "auto" link when you click the "add comment" link under a Q or A.

This plugin is indispensable in making the reviewing a lot smoother and more consistent. You can edit the comments to suite your own needs and there is a feed from a github repo where you can source the comments as well, getting what the community feels is the most optimally phrased comments.

  ss of dialog

  • What is the plan how new users shall know about this plugin...? – Hauke Laging Apr 4 '14 at 2:43
  • @HaukeLaging - the same way I found out about it. I looked through stackapps.com for it I guess, and we talked about it multiple times in the chat room. – slm Apr 4 '14 at 2:46
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If an answer contains no information whatsoever and only says “you can find an answer at <link>”, then it should be deleted. As Shog9 puts it:

Apples and answers

If the link looks useful, it may be worth preserving as a comment on the question. In this case, use a custom flag and explain the situation. If the linked page doesn't seem to contain an answer to the question, or if the link is one that you'd find in a Google search for obvious keywords, or if the link is mentioned in another answer, the post can be deleted outright; in this case you can flag as “very low quality” or “not an answer”.

If the answer is recent, leave a comment to educate the answerer; you can refer to the official answer quality guidelines and Shog9's post. If the answer is old and abandoned, I generally don't bother.

Note that an answer can sometimes consist of just a link, syntactically speaking. This is generally a poor answer, but if the answer is semantically not link-only, then it is an answer and should not be deleted. For example, if the question is “how do I delete a file on the command line”, then an answer consisting solely of “http://linux.die.net/man/1/rm” is a poorly-written but valid answer — it says (albeit unclearly) to use the rm command. An answer consisting solely of “http://www.cyberciti.biz/faq/howto-linux-unix-delete-remove-file/”, on the other hand, should be deleted.

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Maybe it's wrong of me, but when I come across such link-only answers, I tend to go read the linked content, quote the relevant part(s) and change the link to [source](//link-here). If there's nothing relevant, then I'll flag the answer appropriately.

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