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A related question was asked quite a long time back on StackOverflow. While no answer was provided on how to detect and migrate to newer (and possibly accurate) links, there is a bigger problem with respect to answers that contain nothing but the links.

In this case (of Sun forums being migrated to Oracle forums), answers that posted the contents of the former are in a reasonably better shape, than one-liners that merely linked to some forum thread. Should all one-liner answers containing dead links be flagged in case no alternatives are found?

Examples that I found:

  1. How to drag-and-drop on custom Swing components
  2. java.lang.out of memory error

There are possibly many more going by the Google search results, but not all of them will be the dreaded one-liners.

I attempted to find answers in the following posts on Meta, but only ended up getting confused.

  1. Should answers which contain only dead links be removed?
  2. Should we be using archive.org links to replace dead ones?
  3. Does an (old) answer that contains only a dead link deserve a downvote?

The (only) answer in the first question does not apply to the current situation. The second does not apply, for archive.org does not appear to have cached the contents. And the third will make me a much hated individual.

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1  
Being hated isn't as bad as it sounds. Embrace the hate. –  Rick Sladkey Jun 20 '11 at 21:02

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Removal sounds like the way to go. Ideally, the hypothetical dead link would be removed and then immediately replaced by a new link that points to the updated location of the forum thread/blog post/documentation page, along with a useful snippet.

Even if no updated link is available, though, keeping a dead link around doesn't make the Internet a better place. In fact, it's exactly the type of non-content that Stack Overflow was designed to combat. A question with zero answers is much better than an unhelpful "answered" question!

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+1, delete the "answer is only a link". I've got Google for that! –  user7116 Jun 20 '11 at 21:22
    
@six, to be fair, this answer doesn't necessarily apply to non-broken one-liner link answers. I'm on the fence about those. On the one hand, they could be edited to include relevant snippets. On the other hand, questions that can be suitably answered by standalone links are frequently low-quality, and may not belong on the site in the first place. –  Pops Jun 20 '11 at 21:34
    
I had originally intended to refer only to the broken one-liners. But on a second read of your answer, I'll amend with a "downvote and call for edit" on a non-broken one-liner. –  user7116 Jun 20 '11 at 21:39
    
The disappointing thing is, that something that might have been a great community answer has been lost to the ether - and may then have to be asked again. –  Ian Apr 17 '13 at 11:57

I agree with "Popular Demand". Downvoting doesn't seem right, because

  1. I don't want to spend reputation for doing cleaning work. I should get reputation instead.
  2. The answer containing the dead link might have been a good one when the link was not dead yet. Getting downvoted two years later feels like a workaround.

So removal is the way to go, if the answer doesn't contain much else other than the link. Maybe, the "flag" popup should have an additional option to indicate this fact to the moderators?

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Another option is for Stack Overflow to cache a text-only version of the linked page, and once a link goes dead, someone flags the link a "dead" and the link is auto-magically changed to the text-only version of the page from SO's cache.

Very similar to how Google Cache works, except Google Cache isn't 100% reliable either (like archive.org)

I personally wish that this wasn't an issue though (and my proposed solution sucks so hard on so many levels), so when I see answers like that and the links are not dead, I usually copy/paste and quoteblock the relevant part of the text from the linked page (and earn the person who posted the shitty link a bunch of upvotes, but meh).

That way when the link goes dead, big deal.

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That's really not feasible easily, technically... Removing/Correcting the answers should be easier –  Lukas Eder Jul 8 '11 at 6:27

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