I posted an answer to a question that links to another detailed answer. I've seen that such answers usually get up-voted. However a moderator has deleted my answer and locked the post stating that "Answers that point to just links are not good answers".

I am a new user so I cannot comment on other members' posts. What should I do in such a situation? Should I just wait to get the needed reputation to add the link to an existing answer as a comment? Or just copy the in-my-opinion-better answer that was posted somewhere else and add it? Or is there something else I should know about, like flag or merge request?

I've read several faqs and posts also on the meta about the subject, and couldn't get a definitive answer.

The post in question is here: https://stackoverflow.com/q/8251246/719656

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    Just to point out, the FAQ does specifically state this: "Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are... commentary on the question or other answers, barely more than a link to an external site" – user149432 Nov 24 '11 at 3:04
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    @MarkTrapp To be fair, this time it was a link to another SO post, not an external site. It by itself didn't add much to the existing answer, though, and probably would've worked better as a comment. – Adam Lear Nov 24 '11 at 3:07

Being the moderator in question, it's apt that I chime in.

First, sorry if it seemed harsh, it was nothing personal, just an enforcement of general policy.

As per the link in the comment, answers that are just links are not considered answers on StackOverflow.

That said, there is not a bias towards high-rep users when it comes to their answers; if they post just links those answers should be flagged as "not an answer" for the moderators to take a look at.

Note, links are not discouraged in answers, however, they should serve to support the answer in itself, not be the answer itself.

In this instance, I'd recommend posting a fleshed-out answer, using the link as a reference (but not plagiarizing the work) if it supports your answer.

  • I didn't know this. So all those answers I've passed in the review panel where it's just a link and that's it, I probably should have flagged those? – animuson Nov 24 '11 at 3:04
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    @animuson: If you want to contribute to the health of the StackOverflow ecosystem, then yes, flag them. It's because of actions (flagging, voting, etc) of all users that StackOverflow is as reputable as it is. I would just encourage you to not do it out of spite or because you feel that you are singled out. StackOverflow receives a tremendous amount of content every day, and the community and moderators are doing their best to make sure it's the best content for everyone. – casperOne Nov 24 '11 at 3:10
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    @casperOne no need to apologize, I know being a moderator is not an easy task. No offense taken. I just wanted to familiarize myself with the rules and guidelines to be more constructive in the future. – iska Nov 24 '11 at 3:39
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    Generally, when someone is posting a link to another question or to an answer for another question, it indicates that the question is a duplicate of the other. In cases like this, I typically flag the answer to be converted to a comment, say that this is indicating a duplicate, and vote to close based on that duplicate. Rather than straight-up deleting the answer, I've often seen Bill or others convert these to comments. It helps to indicate why someone should look at the other similar question. This is different from someone just linking to an external site in their answer. – Brad Larson Nov 24 '11 at 3:44
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    Also, I'd argue that the Meta question Should we flag answers that only contain a link to another SO answer? and Anna's answer there are closer to the situation we're discussing than the one you link to in your answer. I treat links to other SO questions or answers a lot more kindly than links to external sites. – Brad Larson Nov 24 '11 at 3:55
  • Thanks for all the replies, the picture is much clearer now. – iska Nov 24 '11 at 4:06
  • @iska: Thank you for understanding, and if there's anything else that I can do to help, ask on meta (which you did already, which really is a great thing) or ping me through comments. – casperOne Nov 24 '11 at 4:08
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    those answers should be flagged as "not an answer" well per my past experience, not-an-answer flag in such case can be slippery. For those willing to avoid playing russian roulette with their flag weight I'd rather recommend flagging as "other" with explanation that answer is link-only. Guy who advised that to me got 50 rep bounty and as time passes I feel more and more that I underpaid him :) – gnat Dec 10 '11 at 15:43

Back in the bad old days, before the comment system people did use answers to provide simple pointer like that. They usually got a few votes for it, but let's be frank: such answer don't add anything.

These days you'd be expected to identify the duplicate question and/or the related answer in the comments.

Of course, so far you can't comment on arbitrary posts so you're kinda stuck.


AFAIK before asking questions on Stack Overflow we need to follow some of the rules like:

  1. We must try something to achieve what we are asking for? Because if we are not putting effort and just asking questions on SO is not a proper way.
  2. Try to write the issues that we are facing and paste the appropriate code snippet.So that some one can know where we are doing wrong.
  3. Don't use the signature.Because that details will be display below (default).
  4. If you are satisfied with the answer you can accept and encourage the people in SO.

For answering the questions:

  1. We need read the problem or issues that the user is facing and check whether you can help or not.
  2. If we know the answer then help them with sample code snippet or live example that helps them to solve the issues in better way.
  3. Same as above don't use signature.

I think we need follow these rules to use SO in better way :-)

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