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Does an (old) answer that contains only a dead link deserve a downvote?

I see that it is already debatable if a bare link is a good answer or not, but would a bare link that is (presumably) recently broken warrant a down-vote years after the answer was written?


If the answer contained so little information without the link, it wasn't a good answer to begin with and probably deserved a downvote at the time. Now, since the link is broken (unless you can fix it, in which case please do!) it should be downvoted as it's now even more useless.

The downvote tooltip says "this answer is not useful". It doesn't say "this answer was not a fair attempt at an answer". Vote for what the post is, not what it was trying to be.

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  • Though I'm not the author or the voter, I did fix it using the wayback machine...which is probably a good meta discussion in itself. – Tim Lehner Jun 11 '12 at 18:10
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    @TimLehner I've done that as well. We are so doomed if the Wayback Machine ever goes down. Hopefully Peabody has a backup – Ben Brocka Jun 11 '12 at 18:13
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    @TimLehner In this case the content was copied verbatim from MSDN anyway, so I just updated the links to point there instead. – Tim Stone Jun 11 '12 at 18:14
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    It should be downvoted because it is a link-only answer, not because the link is now broken. – JimmyPena Jun 11 '12 at 18:15
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    If the wayback machine ever goes down we can always use the wayback machine to see what it used to be like ... oh wait a sec... – JK. Jun 12 '12 at 0:34

My typical thought process is:

  • If the answer provides some context, but not much, and most of it is in a relatively obscure link: leave a comment about the broken link, possibly downvote depending on if the answer is otherwise well-formatted/good/etc.
  • If the answer contains a link that is easily findable (or known to have moved due to version updates): edit the link to point to a valid place if I have time. Otherwise I comment and possibly downvote (typically just a comment, though).
  • If the answer contains no context and only a link which cannot be updated reasonably, I flag as "Not an Answer". Even before the 404 it is arguably not an answer; after the link breaks it most certainly is not an answer, to me.
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  • to flag as "Not an Answer" is a risky advice: moderator dealing with your flag may not recognize that the link is broken. I once had 6 (s-i-x) flags in the row declined that way. Much safer option is to use "Other" flag with the explanation suggesting to delete an answer since link is broken: it sends the same message but leaves less room for moderator to misinterpret your intent – gnat Aug 19 '12 at 6:48
  • @gnat: I've never had an NAA flag declined on a link only answer, and certainly never one that was a broken link only answer *shrug* – eldarerathis Aug 20 '12 at 17:01

I wouldn't bother downvoting it. There are two better options:

  1. Try to find if there is an alternate link that contains the content that used to be there (if you know what content used to be there).

  2. If you can't find anything, flag it so a moderator can either complete step 1 or delete the answer.

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    Moderators are supposed to find alternate links for answers that have link rot? – JimmyPena Jun 11 '12 at 18:13
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    @JP: No, most would probably just delete it. I'm sure there are a few who would give it a quick try though. – animuson Jun 11 '12 at 18:14
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    Don't flag it for a moderator to edit it. Flag it for deletion, sure. – jcolebrand Jun 11 '12 at 20:04

I would downvote it as it is no longer useful to users to who find it later.

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