In low quality answer review on SO I'm finding endless answers that follow the exact form:

Try [this](http://some-link)

and the equivalent

Try [this][1]
[1]: http://bah

They're inevitably flagged by the low quality detector and inevitably then get a comment auto-added by someone to say

While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes.

Just like this randomly selected example answer.

This is unnecessary noise and a waste of question review time. They should't generally be deleted as they're often useful, so I follow the link and edit the link target to reflect the link content. Over, and over, and over again.

Is there something that can be done to reduce the rate at which these answers are created in the first place?

The system already reviews posts and rejects them or offers advice based on a variety of automatically detected defects. I'd like to see matching of these answers added to that automatic pre-post review.

Maybe automatic advice on submit along the lines of:

Please change the link text to something meaningful, like the title of the article you are linking to or a description of the link target. Doing so will help readers know what you are suggesting without following the link. Also, link-only answers can become invalid if the link changes, and good link text will help the reader to find the information elsewhere if the link goes away.

I'd want to match:

  • Try [this](...)
  • [try this](...)
  • Try [this link](...)
  • See [this link](...)
  • Check [this link](...)

... and it's probably trivial to fish other variants out with a bit of pattern matching on the reject history.

Thoughts? Opinions?

Should the SE engine fetch the URL and offer to substitute the link text for a <title/> element? Or is that likely to be wrong more often than right?

  • 2
    While I see your point, I'm not a huge fan of these automatic filters. It's more than likely to cause nasty corner-cases and an influx of upset users here on Meta. I actually think the community is doing a fine job nipping this stuff in the butt. Perhaps even more so with these new review tools.
    – Bart
    Aug 24, 2012 at 14:35
  • 10
    I think a simple solution to this would be to exclude the url when checking whether the answer is less than 30 characters...
    – yannis
    Aug 24, 2012 at 14:36
  • I would like to link to a recent(?) discussion of this that suggested rejecting answers that are composed primarily of a link or links. Something along the lines of "if 80% of the answer content is a link, reject". However, I can't seem to find it...
    – yoozer8
    Aug 24, 2012 at 14:37
  • 1
    @YannisRizos You should really try this excellent link ;)
    – Bart
    Aug 24, 2012 at 14:38
  • @Bart I don't love the auto-rejects either, but I think they're a very positive force. They're one of the reasons I use and like SE after years of being unable to stand any kind of web forum. The system helps educate new users in the very basics so the particpants don't get worn out explaining the same thing over and over. The occasional false-positive that requires a workaround by the poster is, IMO, worth it 100x over. Aug 24, 2012 at 14:43
  • The problem I have with them though is that rather than address the issue, users seem to work around them. As I tried to indicate in my comment to Yannis as well. Can't say "problem" in a title? Ah well, "prolbem" will do just fine. I won't fight an implementation of what you propose, but such things are difficult to get right. (p.s. my original comment should of course read bud rather than butt...what can I say)
    – Bart
    Aug 24, 2012 at 14:45
  • @Jim Not convinced by the 80% part. I don't think encouraging people to pad answers with probably-useless filler will help. Sometimes it really is short and sweet (though I personally always want to add a par of explanation). Just a meaningful link text would go a long way. Aug 24, 2012 at 14:46
  • @Bart Yep, then they've crossed the line from "ignorant or unthinking" into "willfully doing the wrong thing". At least it's informative. As for the moderator tools doing the job, well, they are but at the cost of time and attention not spent on more useful review/editing. Also, the more repetitive the task gets, the more people tune out and make bad decisions. Aug 24, 2012 at 14:48
  • there are other common variations starting with This: "This should work", "This will do (job/trick/it)"
    – ajax333221
    Aug 24, 2012 at 21:31


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