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In the most upvoted question of Stack Overflow, three of the answers are basically of the form

Here's a copy friendly version for [insert language here] developers.

Should those answers be considered non-answers? I was a little unsure about flagging them because one of them has many upvotes, and the question is exceptionally popular.

Specifically, the answers are: this, this and this.

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Yep they are not answers to the question IMO. Just accruing votes because of that question's popularity. @Servy I presume one, two, three – Martin Smith Nov 14 '12 at 21:06
And not sure about this one either. – Martin Smith Nov 14 '12 at 21:23
Is it really the most upvoted? – RichardTheKiwi Nov 15 '12 at 3:39
The question has a lot of upvotes because #1 it is interesting and #2 it was linked from other sites such as Hacker News. – Mark Ransom Nov 15 '12 at 5:36
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I actually think there's some value to be had in being able to play with stuff like this in your language of choice. It's certainly not unheard of for questions on topics that apply to multiple languages to collect answers demonstrating more or less the same thing on various platforms.

But there's little doubt that a couple of those answers did a pretty poor job of this, lacking all context and explanation - they've now been removed.

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Maybe there is some value to be had but I disagree that they are answers to that question. This information could be provided by self answered questions for example rather than filling up that one with tangential forum like contributions. – Martin Smith Nov 14 '12 at 21:59
@MartinSmith Do we really want dozens of questions that go like "Why is processing a sorted array faster than an unsorted array in [insert language here]"? – NullUserException อ_อ Nov 14 '12 at 22:55
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ - Not if they don't bring anything of value no. Questions like What methods can I use to analyse branch prediction issues would work standalone though. If translating to C# is deemed to be useful then yes I think that should that be a separate question to keep the SNR good on the flagship questions. – Martin Smith Nov 14 '12 at 23:22
@Martin: apart from the self-answered bit, that's pretty much a straight-up "convert my code to X" question, which are occasionally asked but aren't particularly well-regarded. You could, of course, ask a question of the form, "Why is processing a sorted array faster than an unsorted array... In X?" - but that would be silly. The answer to the question is fairly language-agnostic - the only reason for the code is to demonstrate both the problem and the solution, which can be done in many languages. – Shog9 Nov 15 '12 at 0:10

Here's my take on it:

Are those answers non-answers? Yes, they are indeed non-answers. In fact, if we strictly follow the current definition of "not-an-answer", then only the top 3 answers actually work as self-contained stand-alone answers.

But of course that's not what we are debating. The question is whether to keep the "non-answers".

  • Delete them because they are non-answers.
  • Keep them because they are potentially useful.

Before I continue, first we need to consider what we are actually dealing with here.

As this is currently the highest voted question on Stackoverflow, not only is it a "flagship" question (as Martin Smith describes), it is also - to some extent - the "face" of Stackoverflow.

Because of this status, it gets a lot of views - many of which are from new or prospective new users.

[copy friendly version] answers:

Currently there are 4 of them. (2 deleted) As Shog9 mentions, the 4 copy-friendly answers are potentially useful to readers who are interested to see the results in their preferred language. Furthermore, having these answers reaffirms the fact that the problem in the question is indeed language-agnostic.

However, these answers tend to encourage more of them. The one with 70+ votes came first. And from that I assume the rest are copy-cats.

So there's a bit of a bike-shed problem here. As they are technically non-answers, it could send the wrong signal to new users that such answers are appropriate in other contexts. Furthermore, too many of them will reduce the SNR as Martin Smith mentions.

caf's answer:

caf's answer is IMO a major contribution to the question. It shows how to detect the problem - something that nobody else had even bothered to mention. Had that answer been posted on the first day, it would likely rank above even WiSaGaN's answer.

But as mentioned by Martin Smith, it would work very well as a separate question with a self-answer.

Personally, I would keep caf's answer. But I'm torn on whether to keep the copy-friendly answers.

If I had to make a decision, I'd stick to the current state. (Keep the good ones, but delete the bad ones.) But if they continue to attract more of these copy-friendly answers, then perhaps we should revisit the issue.

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Looks like CasperOne eventually removed the other "copy friendly" ones... – Martin Smith May 30 '14 at 11:33

Those answers don't answer the question, but rewrite the C++ code given in other answers in a different programming language, when the question is tagged . To me, it sounds like showing the code that should be used in WordPress as answer for a question that is tagged , .
Those answers can have useful information, but to me they seem posted in the wrong place.

Generally speaking, you should not look at the score of a post, when flagging it. If you think an answer is not an answer, flag it, even if its score is 1000. The score of a post sometimes is just a measure of its popularity, not of its correctness.

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