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Recently a user posted about meta that his answer was converted to a comment.

The answer was in this form

Foo is thing, so it already frobs the widget so there's no need to specialfrob it.

Check this documentation for details link

The accepted answer was that according to stackoverflow.com/faq#deletion answers that are barely more than a link to an external site may be removed.

The OP was told they needed to update the post to add more content and flag for un-deletion, and that worked.

But it seems to me that the answer without the link to the documentation was enough to make it an acceptable answer at least according to the What is an acceptable answer.

Was it the link that caught the ire of the flagger and moderator? Was it the brevity of the answer? Should I start downvoting/commenting on/flagging answers of this form?

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The OP was told they needed to update the post to add more content and flag for un-deletion, and that worked. Well, it worked, and the answer is now a lot better. Everybody wins. –  Yannis May 22 '12 at 18:36
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@YannisRizos in the orginal case yes. But its not clear to me if I should flag this or not. And if not then why? –  Some Helpful Commenter May 22 '12 at 18:40
    
@SomeHelpfulCommenter well...does the answer help if you take the link out? I'm not encouraging you to remove links in answers, just consider if the post stands on its own –  Ben Brocka May 22 '12 at 18:41
    
@Some Actually in that case I think you should vote to close the question, typical bikeshed crap. –  Yannis May 22 '12 at 18:42
    
I think one aspect that made this answer appear to be "barely more thana link to an external site" was that the text of the link was a significant portion of the answer, so looking at the answer, it appeared to be "barely more" than the link, despite the short description being a succint, accurate answer, and the link being an additional reference. –  Jim May 22 '12 at 18:47
    
@jim It was borderline NAN, I personally wouldn't have flagged it. But I certainly can understand why it was flagged (and deleted). –  Yannis May 22 '12 at 18:52
    
@YannisRizos I think it was definitely NAN, but certainly an answer –  Jim May 22 '12 at 19:31
    
My main problem with this situation is that every answer on that question has about the same amount of substance. This deleted answer was borderline and should have been expanded upon, sure, but if it deserved deletion, then so did all but maybe one of the other answers. –  Josh Caswell May 22 '12 at 22:23

2 Answers 2

You wrote:

But it seems to me that the answer without the link to the documentation was enough to make it an acceptable answer at least according to the What is an acceptable answer.

The answer was:

buttonWithType is Class method, so it already creates an autoreleased instance, no need to release it

This is not an acceptable answer, I'm not sure why you think it is. Perhaps the table you linked to is confusing you? The "answers" in that table are 20-character, 4-line examples of the various subjects and formats of possible answers, and it mainly highlights the various types of bad answers and focuses on the proper response to these non-answers.

For more information, consult the how-to-answer page, especially:

Answer the question

Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative. The answer can be “don’t do that”, but it should also include “try this instead”. Any answer that gets the asker going in the right direction is helpful, but do try to mention any limitations, assumptions or simplifications in your answer. Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better.

There's also Jon Skeet's Answering technical questions helpfully. This post isn't even close to hitting the suggestions posted there.

Essentially, you're setting the bar far too low if this post meets your minimum quality standards. It was an attempt to solve the problem, so it was converted to a comment instead of being outright deleted. The link added to its credibility; without the link it would probably have been deleted outright.

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The how to answer page is .. a few tips on how to make your answer great: not what is required to not have it deleted. I don't know why you linked to the JS article. Are you saying if we don't have Skeet like quality answers they'll be deleted? –  Some Helpful Commenter May 22 '12 at 18:56
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...also what do you think about this answer would you think it fair if it was flagged/mod deleted? –  Some Helpful Commenter May 22 '12 at 19:02
    
@SomeHelpfulCommenter - It wasn't deleted, it was turned into a comment. This is not even approaching Skeet-like quality. Why should't we delete it? –  Kevin Vermeer May 22 '12 at 20:32
    
WRT my answer, no, I wouldn't care if that answer was flagged/mod deleted, as the link has now been added to the later accepted/top-voted/bountied answer so no information is lost. That said, it's the only answer that references the canonical library of OOP libraries, so it seems useful to have. –  Kevin Vermeer May 22 '12 at 20:35
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Ok so then delete it and convert it to a comment if you believe your own answer. While you're at it if you think that buttonWithType is Class method, so it already creates an autoreleased instance, no need to release it is not an answer then you you might a well flag stackoverflow.com/a/10446855 and stackoverflow.com/a/8727539 and stackoverflow.com/a/9921758 –  Some Helpful Commenter May 22 '12 at 21:38
    
@SomeHelpfulCommenter - Done, done, not done (only concrete answer), and done. –  Kevin Vermeer May 23 '12 at 14:27
    
Wow. While its clear I disagree, I do respect your intellectual honesty. –  Some Helpful Commenter May 23 '12 at 14:30

The problem isn't the fact that it was a link, but that it was (largely) a link only answer. Basically if your answer doesn't have enough info to solve the problem itself (e.g. if the info is behind a link/video) it's (arguably) Not an Answer but rather a helpful comment.

Just having links in your answer isn't a bad thing; consider instead what that answer would have been without the link. If your answer is useless sans-link, it's mostly link, very little answer. Links are * supplements and references*, not the body of an answer.

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I thought downvotes and comments were supposed to be used if your answer doesn't have enough info to solve the problem itself, not flags and mod deletes –  Some Helpful Commenter May 22 '12 at 18:37
    
@some Downvotes are supposed to be used if the answer doesn't solve the problem. If the answer is lacking info, flags and mod deletes are appropriate. –  Yannis May 22 '12 at 18:39
    
Personally I would first leave a comment asking for at least some sort of an answer to go with the link. If that hasn't happened on a revisit, I might flag it. –  Bart May 22 '12 at 18:40
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@YannisRizos so should I flag this, because its missing info? When is there enough info. All the info? –  Some Helpful Commenter May 22 '12 at 18:42
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@SomeHelpfulCommenter Sure, why not. –  Yannis May 22 '12 at 18:44
    
@Bart perfectly acceptable, I've seen many people do that and done it myself; but many people are too busy to check back and might just flag. It can be flagged to be undeleted once it's been edited (you can edit deleted answers) –  Ben Brocka May 22 '12 at 19:02
    
@BenBrocka I just like a good reason to procrastinate later on. ;) –  Bart May 22 '12 at 19:03
    
@SomeHelpfulCommenter, personally, Yannis' answer you linked is a perfect example of an answer - it answers the question, and has the link for further reading - I don't see your point. –  RivieraKid May 22 '12 at 19:04
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@RivieraKid That was the point. Yannis' answer to me looks no different than one that needed to be edited and flagged for undeletion. Right now I can't tell the difference between an answer that needs to be flagged/mod deleted vs. one that doesn't. That disturbs me. –  Some Helpful Commenter May 22 '12 at 19:12

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