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About two weeks ago I performed some reviews from Low Quality queue. Per my recollection, back then I commented on about 60-80 link-only answers.

Today, I checked posts I commented from review queue.

As far as I can tell almost 40 posts remained unchanged. About 7-8 answers have been improved by their authors. The rest of commented posts may have been removed, but I can't tell how much because comments made to deleted posts disappear from the list at my profile page.

That so much of my comments appear to be in vain made me wonder how this review is expected to work? Was I supposed to check it later, maybe after a month or two, or three or more?

For the reference, below is a list of link only answers that did not change (full text quotes).

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marked as duplicate by gnat, Community Sep 10 '15 at 14:07

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Going through some of those, the real problem is in the question, inviting the poor answers. Perhaps some appropriate voting on the questions themselves would be a better approach. – Bart Dec 4 '12 at 11:43
The first two are already a year+ old. Probably the users aren't that active anymore, so don't expect any change on those. – Toon Krijthe Dec 4 '12 at 11:56
@GamecatisToonKrijthe profiles of the users whose answers you mention say "Seen 12 hours ago" and "Seen Nov 29" - for first and second post, respectively – gnat Dec 4 '12 at 12:06
I am surprised to see (David Gelhar) user with 16K reps has posted one such answer.… – defau1t Dec 4 '12 at 13:43
@refhat He has 16k now, but was only a user for a couple of months at the time of that answer. The answer is from April 2010. – Bart Dec 4 '12 at 14:46
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Commenting, as you have been is good for several reasons:

  • It (sometimes) prods the author into expanding the answer
  • It leaves a clear indication for the next reviewer that someone has seen this, and nothing has changed, so they flag
  • It saves moderators servicing the flag time, as we don't have to write a comment, since your comment basically covered it.

While that doesn't exactly provide for immediate action, it gives the author plenty of time to fix their answer, and they do eventually end up in our queue for handling. So, I'd say the work flow would be:

  • No comment? Add one
  • Existing review comment and nothing changed? Flag. A moderator can look at the answer and decide what action to take. This might be:

    • Leaving a comment ourselves (as a moderator), typical if we're looking at an accepted answer
    • Editing the answer ourselves (if we're able, and the answer is valued or accepted)
    • Converting the answer to a comment if the link still works
    • Deleting the answer until it meets our quality standards

There's of course very little sense in leaving repeated comments. If a mod leaves a comment on such an answer, it's usually to inform the user what they can do to have it restored.

Still, bear in mind, there are different types of link only answers:

click [link]this link[/link] it will help you

... and:

You should use [link]frogs.throb(42)[/link], it will prevent the bullfrogs from colliding with the turtle as you try to move it.

Some are indeed more useful than others. Context is important when you decide how to deal with them. Before flagging, the answer to "Can I just edit to improve this?" should be "no" in most cases. If you can't, or just don't feel like editing, let us know it's worth keeping when you flag.

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Out of interest why flag? I thought the unofficial SE policy was that link only answers are bad answers but shouldn't (necessarily) be flagged? I'd be happy if this changes but I'm yet to see anything that has. – ben is uǝq backwards Dec 4 '12 at 12:55
would it be reasonable to expect that commented answers will be eventually dealt with (edited or removed or converted to comments)? – gnat Dec 4 '12 at 12:58
@Ben That is, as you say an unofficial policy, and you do have the option of down voting and moving on. However, after Waffles pulled out half of his hair automating the checking of existing links, and so many turned up broken, I tend to delete these if there's no sign of the answer being improved. I don't disagree with Anna, but flags on link only answers are extremely common for us to see (and service). – Tim Post Dec 4 '12 at 13:00
@gnat Yes, eventually the majority of them will. NAA on link only answers (or 'other' explaining just a link, or broken link) is one of the most common flags we receive. I do examine each one, and sometimes improve them, or leave them after leaving another comment (as a moderator), depending on the importance / acceptance of the answer. Still, link rot is a major problem for us, so the comments you leave are a beacon that the OP was prodded, but for whatever reason didn't do anything, thus making the answer a candidate for deletion. – Tim Post Dec 4 '12 at 13:02
I made some edits to my answer for clarity. – Tim Post Dec 4 '12 at 13:07
@Ben "Although link-only answers are rather heavily discouraged..., these carry a certain risk of flag decline... No matter what flag you use, there can always be a feasible explanation that it was wrong. Explanation will of course depend on the flag... With above in mind, options available for flagger are about as follows..." (flagger's guide to link only answers) – gnat Dec 5 '12 at 7:32

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