I issued that comment.
We seem to be getting a number of people flagging incorrectly. I love that people flag, but it's important to flag correctly so that if these flags are ever used as heuristics, the heuristics are accurate.
In your particular case, there were three separate types of flags on the same answer (it was a link only answer that addressed the question asked):
You were the only one that 'did the right thing' there, and while I didn't want to punish you, I also didn't think it was appropriate to give a free pass to so many incorrect flags.
Keep doing what you're doing.
For link-only answers, a custom flag is the way to go. Extra points if you leave a comment for the OP and let them know that they should include more information in their answer than just a link.
I think we've become too reliant on moderators to handle this workload of 'link only' answers.
If an answer is a link only answer, it could still be a good answer, it just needs to be edited into shape. If more people took the time to edit an answer into shape instead of summarily dismissing it (or flagging for it to be deleted), we'd be better off.
When an answer is flagged as link only, here are our options:
- Leave a comment for the OP asking them to include more information
- Edit that information into the answer from the link
- Delete the answer.
Anyone in the community (within reason) can do #1 and #2! There are many more people who can do that than there are moderators to do it (by sheer numbers, if the community does it it scales better). Moderators and trusted users can do #3, but then information that helps the question asker is gone, and that's not necessarily fair to them.
As the comments with @Gilles have borne out, we're getting into deeper terroritory of what you should do with Link-Only answers. From a moderator's perspective (and from the Question Asker's perspective), this is what I believe to be the best approach is:
Comment on the post. Let the OP know they've posted a link only answer, and they should expand it (Gilles has an excellent template text in his (now revised) answer.
If you see that the post has been commented on, and the OP hasn't fixed the answer to include more than just a link, then flag the answer for deletion with the reason: "Link only answer".
If you're feeling especially generous, you can always edit the answer to include information from the link that answers the question directly. This is a good thing because it ensures the information lives on, even if that link dies. It helps the community keep from losing valuable information. It helps the OP solve their problem, and it makes our content better.
As a moderator, I will usually only delete a link-only answer if the following criteria are met:
- Answers exist that answer the question with content this answer has through its link.
- The link only answer is older than a few weeks.
- A comment has already been left in the past for a user to address it and they haven't.
There are reasons for this. First and foremost, we want high quality content. If we just delete answers that are links without letting the OP know why, we're not giving them a chance to improve, and we come across as harsh. Since we have a system built around editing, why not edit? It scales well when you have hundreds or thousands of users making posts better, instead of 10 users (moderators) unilaterally deleting content. Second, if the link addresses the question (and it should, otherwise it should be flagged as "Not an answer"), then there's value in that for the OP and for visitors. It's not the value we want long term, but it shouldn't be subject to immediate deletion before we give the user a chance to fix it (see the three criteria above).
We can stick to dogmatic "DELETE ALL THE THINGS" approach for answers that are mostly just links, but that could just be an algorithm. Before you flag to delete, think about how you can improve the site and its community. Is it by deleting? Or is it by editing the content into the answer? How about by letting the OP know what they did wrong, so they can change their behavior?
I vote for the latter. It's friendlier, it's better for the community, and it puts the work in the hands of people who can do something about it, instead of passing everything to moderators to handle.