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Links alone do not provide a good answer to a question. At the very least, the author should answer the question with a summary of what is behind that link and how it pertains to the question.

Are answers that just contain links elsewhere really “good answers”?

Does it make sense to increase the minimum word count when someone includes a link in their answer (perhaps considerably)?

The idea is to make it clear in the error guidance that, if you are including a link, you are expected to describe the content as well.

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My only concern would be that people would simply copy text wholesale from the other end of the link, which also isn't good. It also kind of irks me that people can post bare external links too, but I suppose that's a separate issue. – Tim Stone May 1 '12 at 14:26
@Dennis What? This isn't designed to be some uncrackable protection to keep out the hoards of linkbaiters. Its just another learning mechanism to teach users what makes a good contribution to SE. Just-in-time learning. – Robert Cartaino May 1 '12 at 16:41
@RobertCartaino: OK, I slightly misread your post. +1 for teaching. – Dennis May 1 '12 at 16:47
Yes! Because there are just so many link-only answers that I don't bother flagging them anymore; they drain my flags too quickly... – animuson May 1 '12 at 17:07
Good idea, gets my backing. – Kev May 2 '12 at 0:28
At least encouraging a description of the link is a worthy goal – Ben Brocka May 4 '12 at 1:39
I've seen quite a few med-reps (>3k) on SO posting link-only answers. I sort of assumed it was allowed there, so kept my mouth shut. Good to know that it isn't allowed. I back this! – Manishearth May 9 '12 at 3:41
What happens when people just cut and paste the URL and don't link it to get around it? – UNECS May 9 '12 at 5:16

If Robert Cartaino thinks it's a good idea, so do I.

I would simply exclude the text that is part of links from the word count, and keep the threshold where it is now. This insures that the minimum word count is only counting text that the poster is actually typing.

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Hopefully it won't increase the number of single word links. – user7116 May 1 '12 at 18:07
This should also apply to embedded videos. SE is hesitant to allow video embedding on beta sites because of concerns about content quality; this would help alleviate that problem. (Edit: RC already thought of this. Might have known.) – mmyers May 7 '12 at 16:39
up vote 12 down vote

My trivial thought here would be to strip tags and white-spaces prior to measuring post length.

For example, if somebody posts:

<a href="">see this</a>
<!-- typing a very very very stupid comment to get around the length check --> 

We could count the actual length as being 7 as we strip the white-space and would only count the length as being seethis.

As with all systems, people will find a way to work around this, my bigger question is. Is there any proof there is an actual problem we should be solving? Is there any data to back that up?

EDIT well there is some data to back up there is an issue, so we went ahead and do an html -> text conversion prior to measuring the length of a post. The vast majority of tricks people have been using will not work any more.

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As for the issue of "people finding workarounds", the primary purpose isn't to be some uncrackable way to prevent this, but an opportunity for us (the software) to teach a user they are posting a sub-par answer. Just-in-time learning. As for demonstrating the problem... without running a database query, only years of observation and long-running anecdotal comments like this:… – Robert Cartaino May 4 '12 at 1:10
Oh, and implementing this video link solution:… – Robert Cartaino May 4 '12 at 1:10
Should probably exclude the case where the text inside the link is the same as the URL, then. That said, if we're only trying to get rid of answers with links that point elsewhere without actually saying anything (i.e. "see [this forum post][1]"), I doubt there's enough to support that. If we're concerned about "Use [x][1]" type answers as well, the low quality review page has (in passing) made me feel like there's probably enough to classify this as a problem...would need to load the SO data dump to run some queries to be sure, though. – Tim Stone May 4 '12 at 1:13
First bug in feature:… – Manishearth May 16 '12 at 12:57
look ma, I did it – a cat May 16 '12 at 13:35
@lunboks: I beat you to that long ago . The comments were here (I think), but they got deleted – Manishearth May 16 '12 at 13:59

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