Possible Duplicate:
How should answers that link to duplicate questions be handled?

About 10 - 20 "see this answer" answers just got flagged as not an answer in the 10k queue, and I'm not sure what I should do about them.

Examples include:

Should I flag them as not an answer as well, or are they invalid flags?

My own opinion is that they are terrible quality answers, but technically they are answers, and may be correct and relevant to answering the question.

  • 7
    Often they're a huge hint that the question is a duplicate
    – Ben Brocka
    Jul 7 '12 at 0:56
  • 6
    In my opinion they should be comments. I personally would never post "just a link" answers (I did, to some extent, when I first joined SO, before I realised that they aren't that helpful). However, I don't flag them since I find the flags often get declined. There is a whole other problem though with answers that just copy the content from an answer that they would otherwise have linked to instead of voting to close as duplicate. Jul 7 '12 at 0:57
  • If they're really old, like from 2008 or 2009, I try to edit them. I won't flag them though. If they're from 2010 or later, I'll again try to edit, but if the link leads to a lot of noise where it's hard to tell what the answerer was trying to do, I flag as not an answer. Oh, and this is only if it's linking to an external resource. If it's linking to another SO answer, it's definitely not an answer.
    – jmort253
    Jul 7 '12 at 1:44
  • I flag them. But that goes without saying, because I'm the one who flagged them :) It doesn't matter when they're from, they need to be brought up to date; which usually means closing as a duplicate. Which I have voted to do. And which, hopefully, will get noticed by those who look at /tools?tab=close from time to time.
    – Ry-
    Jul 7 '12 at 2:02
  • 1
    If the questions themselves really are duplicates, please vote to close them accordingly. Saves us the trouble. Jul 7 '12 at 2:41

Before you flag the answers, see what you can do about getting the question closed.

Those answers usually highlight the fact that the question itself is a duplicate. When you flag the answers, but you don't vote to close the question, you're creating more work for moderators.

If you want to Do The Right Thing For the Community™:

  1. Vote to close the question if it's a duplicate.
  2. If it's not a duplicate, but it's a question that no longer fits the criteria for a good question on Stack Overflow, vote to close it.
  3. If you're out of close votes, flag the question.

When you flag the answer, you cause us to have to do more work that should be crowd-sourced. Moderators do not scale well at all. That's why everyone above 3,000 reputation can vote to close questions. Use that power.

  • 1
    I'd recommend skipping step #4. Waste of flags.
    – Shog9
    Jul 7 '12 at 3:10
  • @Shog9 Music to my ears. Jul 7 '12 at 3:19
  • You linked me here but I wonder why you accepted some of my flags and some declined. Most of the flags were consistently just non answers that should be comments saying "Possible duplicate" but the acceptance of the flags was extremely inconsistent, this got accepted and deleted, even though it was apparently answering the question and even had upvotes, while this got declined but was deleted by another moderator. I am now very confused about the rules here.
    – Esailija
    Jul 16 '12 at 17:48
  • @Esailija A good number of the answers you flagged pointed to other questions that the question was a duplciate of. You have a lot of reputation (much more than is needed to vote to close duplicates), and that's what you should have done instead of flagging the answers. It was clear from the amount of flags that you used the DataExplorer (or an API call) to find answers to flag, but that just creates more work for us to close duplicates -- work that scales much better if it's crowdsourced. Jul 16 '12 at 18:06
  • @GeorgeStocker yes I understand that I should have closevoted the question but my issue is with the inconsistent accept/decline. I don't understand how the flags were invalid when the answers they concern are now deleted. The fact that I should have also close voted the question shouldn't make the flag invalid especially when the answers were deleted thanks to the flags. Btw, I am sorry for this - I didn't know about this thread when I started flagging.
    – Esailija
    Jul 16 '12 at 18:14
  • @Esailija Use your power to vote to close. If you involve Moderators in things that are better handled by the community (voting to close duplicates is one of those things), then you're going to encounter resistance. We get a lot of flags per day. If everyone was to flag everything instead of taking an action on their own, this site would go down in quality very quickly. Jul 16 '12 at 18:17

An "answer" consisting solely of a link is not an answer, it's an answer *. We only want answers. So what should we do about it?

Compare the two questions. As pointed out in the comments, if a question can be answered entirely by the answer to another question, it's probably a duplicate. If it is, vote to close it as such. The answer in that case is largely irrelevant as the whole question should be closed quickly and eventually deleted. I wouldn't bother reflagging in that case, but if you care enough about your flag weight count, a flag on it would probably be dismissed as helpful.

It is possible that the questions are sufficiently different. say two symptoms with the same cause. In this case, the answer is the problem. A proper answer referring to another question's answer should at the least

  • Explain why the other answer is relevant
  • Give enough information to answer the question without clicking through, whether explained in one's own words or quoted (use >quote blocks)
  • Cite the original answer

A link-only answer obviously does only one of the three of these. Now you have a choice: fix (edit) the answer or flag it and write up a proper answer that addresses all three criteria.

As pointed out by user12345, [this answer] presents a solution to that works for your problem. The other question's author was having trouble with his power couplings and you are asking about plasma relays, but the solution is the same because you both inverted the polarity in your flux capacitors. The way to fix it is to send a couple redshirts with it to the surface and nuke it from orbit.


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