In this question a relatively new user has posted a question - then subsequently commented with a link to another forum where the answer was solved.

Should we be 'copying' the correct answer into SO (obviously citing the source)? Or is this not recommended?

  • 3
    You should have made the answer community wiki. You don't deserve reputation for simply copy-pasting stuff from a link someone else provided.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jun 17, 2012 at 22:27
  • Surely I deserve the reputation for preserving that answer (in case the link rots)? I'm clearly not presenting it as my own. Jun 17, 2012 at 22:29
  • No, not really. I'm voting to close the question as not a real question anyways, as it's a simple "give me teh codez" question that doesn't provide an attempt at doing it himself.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jun 17, 2012 at 22:30
  • @animuson, surely community wiki isn't about whether or not you "deserve the reputation", is it? Jun 17, 2012 at 22:30
  • @AlexLockwood: No, it's about contributing the content to the community. By making it a community wiki, the community owns the answer, not him, because it's not his answer to begin with.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jun 17, 2012 at 22:31
  • As I pointed out in my answer, this seems a little too opportunistic for me. I didn't get to 10k by just copying information out of links based on what other people provided on SO. I'm not sure if it's wrong, but I would think SO would benefit more by having 9k rep users teach 56 rep users how to better use SO. The op, in good faith, came back to post a link. He didn't have to do that. He could have just moved on. I think the least we could have done is said "Hey man! Thanks for coming back with that link, now why don't you post an answer and get some credit for it." SO is awesome!
    – jmort253
    Jun 17, 2012 at 22:36
  • @jmort253, yes well the guy did answer the question, albeit lazily, but I don't think there is anything wrong with that. The problem, in my opnion, is that the OP asked a stupid question that he could have easily googled and found an answer to himself. The person who answered the question shouldn't have to re-word his answer just because he is afraid people will tell him "he doesn't deserve the reputation". Jun 17, 2012 at 22:37
  • @AlexLockwood - I don't think m.edmondson has to reword anything. In fact, I don't think he should delete the answer either. I do think that maybe we should think about the people who helped us when we were new and maybe try to give back a little by not being so opportunistic. You're welcome to disagree with me, and as far as I know there is no policy preventing someone from doing what m.edmondson did, I just wonder if there isn't a better way to handle these situations where we can turn 56 rep users into really great contributors by setting an example ourselves ;)
    – jmort253
    Jun 17, 2012 at 22:42
  • @jmort253 - I do agree with both of you, that's why (my possibly guilty conscience?) I decided to ask on here for clarification. I'd be more than happy to somehow donate my gained rep for this question to the OP but I'm unaware of any ways I could do that. They may possibly learn good behaviour from the comment on the question. Jun 17, 2012 at 22:45
  • 1
    @m.edmondson - Sorry man, I wasn't trying to single you out ;) I hope you don't take my response the wrong way. IMHO this is just what I would do. In fact, to play devils advocate, the comment you left for the op, along with your answer as an example, can help show the op how to answer, since he probably would have just posted a link anyway ;) Come to think of it, I've edited answers before from op's who answered their own question but didn't post enough detail. I felt a little robbed of the rep, but I also felt less guilty ;)
    – jmort253
    Jun 17, 2012 at 22:48
  • 1
    Just to remind everyone that CW is not there to rep-deny users: blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/the-future-of-community-wiki I don't think there's anything hellishly wrong with what the OP did and he's saved us a trip to those bloody awful MS forums. The main thing is that he's correctly attributed the answer with a link to the source. Not only that he/she spent the time to do this on what was a pretty crappy question.
    – Kev
    Jun 18, 2012 at 3:23
  • @Kev - Thanks for the follow up. If we take rep out of the equation, what m.edmondson did was great. Again, I retract my original statement. I was wrong. I let worries about others' hogging rep warp my perspective about someone who made a positive contribution. :(
    – jmort253
    Jun 19, 2012 at 1:23

2 Answers 2


You may not have the right to copy much from the answer source, but having just a link here on SO constitutes a bad answer.

You should copy a relevant excerpt from the target answer, taking care not to step on toes by copying too much. And then leave a comment for the OP informing them of what constitutes a good answer and encouraging them to update the SO version of their answer.

What you have done with the example is good - answers should not be just a comment, let alone a link in the question comments.


A question was asked in good faith, and an answer was found on the Internet. Many questions are resolved in precisely that manner. In general, we hope that questions that are asked here aren't so trivial that a quick Google search will find the answer, but since one is found, and since the question is constructive and on topic, it would be acceptable, and encouraged, to include the answer as an actual answer.

It's also correct to bring in the most important ideas from that link and include them in the body of the answer. If the link ever breaks, or "rots" so to speak, the answer will still have value, since it's documented.

With that said, check for any copyright notices in the forum that attempt to restrict the use of the content. Since it's user-generated content, there may be limitations on exactly what can and can't be restricted.

The only area where I might be concerned is specifically how you handled posting the answer. This seems a little too opportunistic for my tastes. If it were me, I would have left a comment for the op saying the following:

It's great that you found an answer. On SO, it's okay to answer your own question. Consider posting your answer as an actual answer to the question, which will help other users who have this same question for years to come.

I personally feel that since he did the legwork and actually found the answer, he should get first dibs at getting the reputation credit. Besides he did make the effort to come back and post the link, which in my mind deserves the opportunity to take it a step further, but as a 56 rep user, he probably doesn't know he could post it as an answer himself. It's up to those of us with more SO experience to guide users who don't, and it's up to us to reinforce and reward good behaviors.

With that said, I don't know if it's exactly wrong to take the op's link and convert it to an answer, but I'm just saying that it's probably not something I would have done without giving the op time to respond.


To look at this from another perspective, you did leave a comment explaining that it's okay to answer your own question, and you basically showed the op how to answer the question by providing more than just the link.

It really depends on the person, some op's get it and will post a really good answer while others would just post a link, leaving you in the position of then having to improve it for no reputation whatsoever.

I think what you did still has a lot of value to SO and also shows the user how SO works, just make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. :)

I guess we're damned if we do (people criticize us for hogging rep) and damned if we don't (we spend more time hand-holding new users and less time answering more questions).

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