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Feature Proposal

This feature proposal is reduce posting of "linking hit-and-runs" answers.

An answer is a "linking hit-and-run" if links occupy >= 15% of the body and the character count if lower or equal to 200.

If an answer is qualified as a "linking hit-and-run", one of the following actions could be implemented:

  • Warning Only: Warn the user that his answer is a "linking hit-and-run" and considered bad etiquette on this website to post that kind of answer and that posting such answer might incur negative reputation for that very reason.

  • Warning and CW: Warn the user that his answer is a "linking hit-and-run" and that it will be marked as community wiki unless he adds more body content. If the user decides to post the answer anyway, the answer is marked community wiki and no reputation is gained.

  • Deny: Outright deny posting the answer.

This should reduce the number of users posting small and cryptic answers linking to an other site.

I think a change is required as this has become a community problem and this trend cannot be reversed on a case-by-case down-voting of those types of answers. New users have no idea that this is frowned upon which is why this problem needs to be solved systematically.

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This is precisely what voting is for. Can you demonstrate that voting isn't working to deal with this? Are unhelpful hit-and-run answers not being downvoted? –  XMLbog Feb 2 '10 at 17:48
Problem with that is that it incurs a reputation hit on your side. The answer might still be of limited usefulness, and I rather lose reputation on an outright wrong answer. This is a community problem versus an answer by answer problem and should be solved systematically, not case-by-case. –  Andrew Moore Feb 2 '10 at 17:49
If you consider getting -1 rep for downvoting people a 'hit' and would rather see crap on the site, I suspect you are the bigger issue. –  GEOCHET Feb 2 '10 at 17:49
@Andrew Moore: Repeating what you wrote in response to someone else isn't going to answer my question. I suggest the following three-step process: 1) Read my question. 2) Understand my question. 3) Answer my question. Do you think you can do that? Can you give me an example of an unhelpful hit-and-run answer that was not downvoted appropriately? –  XMLbog Feb 2 '10 at 17:51
@Urdnot: That's not what I said... I do downvote link answers regardless of the reputation hit. What I was trying to say with my comment is that is a community issue (kind of like the 'leave a comment for downvote' message) that should be solved systematically. Which is also why I'm providing three different course of action in my proposal. A simple warning with no change, as proposed, would help greatly to reduce those types of answers with no change of behavior to the reputation system. –  Andrew Moore Feb 2 '10 at 17:52
@Andrew Moore: I think the fact that such answers get downvoted is enough of a warning to show other users not to do it. Do you have evidence that it's not working? –  XMLbog Feb 2 '10 at 17:54
@Urdnot: Check the data-dump and see the proportion of answers are of the type described above. I think that's enough data to show that it is a problem. I simply don't understand why everybody is so opposed to a simple warning. –  Andrew Moore Feb 2 '10 at 17:57
@Andrew Moore: Have you got a query for me that I can use to check? Or are you just making stuff up? –  XMLbog Feb 2 '10 at 17:59
I'm not sure about this. I sometimes post a link with a short explanation and then go back and edit the post adding a quote from the linked to page or more information. Would this might fall foul of your checks? –  ChrisF Feb 2 '10 at 17:59
@Andrew Moore: I simply don't understand why you are so opposed to providing evidence to support your claims. –  XMLbog Feb 2 '10 at 18:00
@ChrisF: If Warning Only would be implemented, that wouldn't prevent you from posting your answer, and coming back to edit. –  Andrew Moore Feb 2 '10 at 18:00
@Urdnot: I do have a C# program. I'm using proprietary code it in right now so I'm cleaning it up to use ADO.NET and will upload the source. Edit: Actually, I'll just post a version simply querying the xml version... Slower, but still works. –  Andrew Moore Feb 2 '10 at 18:01
But I'd still potentially fall foul of the "stricter" two options. –  ChrisF Feb 2 '10 at 18:31
There is no way to prevent this beyond downvoting –  staticx Feb 2 '10 at 19:00
@Urdnot: The application has been posted. –  Andrew Moore Feb 2 '10 at 19:22

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I propose simply downvoting un-useful answers. Works only client-side, but pretty effective nonetheless.

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If a link is useful then it should be upvoted, if it's not useful then it should be downvoted.

It should be decided on a case-by-case basis, since there is no way for the system to know the efficacy of the answer.

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The gist of your suggestion, from reading the comments is this:

I don't like answers meeting some criterion. While these answers are currently being downvoted, and the downvoting works to indicate that the answers are poor, I would prefer that these answers were never posted in the first place. Thus, it is important to introduce a potentially imperfect automated system to prevent these answers, because their mere existence is a community problem which requires immediate action.

From this rephrasing, I think you can clearly see that you've got two things you need to do before we can even think about specific implementation details:

  • You need to prove to the community at large that this perceived problem does indeed exist
  • If you are able to do that, you then need to demonstrate that rather than relying on the core mechanism for evaluating content on SO, which is peer moderation, an automated solution is required.

As it is, you have placed the cart before the horse by outlining an algorithm and arguing about its effectiveness before you have even demonstrated that the problem as stated exists.

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To some degree, as a question asker, I would like a very, very quick and dirty answer, whatever it may be, rather than someone who might have a link handy skipping it because of the scary dialog box. Let the community handle it, and that will usually occur in cases where others post a better answer sans link. In cases where the only answer is from someone with a link, that's fine.

So it really needs to be done on a case-by-case basis, which can only effectively be handled by the community via voting.

A link-only answer isn't ideal, but it's better than nothing, and far from "wrong" or "bad".

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I wouldn't want answers like this one banned.

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