Sometimes I run across questions that should be closed, and these questions have link-only answers that should be flagged as not-an-answer.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. (Update: the question at the link has been closed and deleted since posting this question, so you need 10K rep to see what was there; basically, it was a request for a tutorial, and an answer with a "here's your tutorial" and a single link.)

Should I

  1. Vote to close the question?
  2. Flag the answer as not-an-answer?
  3. Do 1 and 2?
  4. Do something else?

So far I figured that (1) is my safest bet. However, it would take a while for the question to get closed, especially in less-traveled tags. What is the best course of action in situations like this?

  • the link you refer to doesn't appear to state "should be flagged as not-an-answer", could you elaborate on that? – gnat Jan 31 '13 at 18:32
  • @gnat I am talking about the second paragraph of that answer: "Consequently, the fairest way of dealing with link-only answers is to treat them all equally, which basically means deleting all of them." – dasblinkenlight Jan 31 '13 at 18:33
  • I see. How does this mean recommendation to flag as not an answer? – gnat Jan 31 '13 at 18:35
  • @gnat The answer has been given in the context of discussing validity of flagging link-only answers as not-an-answer, so my understanding is that since the only fair way to deal with such answers is deleting them, one should either vote to delete or flag these answers as not-an-answer to be deleted by moderators. – dasblinkenlight Jan 31 '13 at 18:40
  • IOW this is how you interpret it; there's no direct statement, right? By the way you seem to assume not-an-answer is the only flag to trigger answer deletion, am I reading that correctly? – gnat Jan 31 '13 at 18:47
  • @gnat Correct, this is my somewhat simplified interpretation of that answer. When there is an option to vote to delete, I vote to delete as well, to save moderators some time in cases when two other users vote to delete ahead of the moderators. – dasblinkenlight Jan 31 '13 at 18:55
  • I see. What about the assumption, did I read it right? Do you assume not-an-answer is the only flag to trigger answer deletion? – gnat Jan 31 '13 at 18:59
  • 1
    @gnat No, I know that any flag can lead to answer deletion; I use "other" when I need to leave a comment. For link-only answers, however, the "not an answer" flag seems to be the most direct, because it looks like moderators take it as self-explanatory. – dasblinkenlight Jan 31 '13 at 19:02
  • you assume "moderators take it as self-explanatory" I see. Be prepared to some surprises – gnat Jan 31 '13 at 19:03
  • 1
    @gnat, of the several hundred flags I've posted to link-only answers, I'd say one, if not none, have been declined. I wager there's a consensus, as long as it's really "only a link". – Michael Petrotta Jan 31 '13 at 19:21
  • @MichaelPetrotta Sort of consensus seems to be there, but I wouldn't call it strong; consider checking questions tagged not-an-answer and declined-flags or link-only-answers and declined-flags – gnat Jan 31 '13 at 19:27

Treat the two issues as separate; I'd vote to close the question, and flag the answer as not-an-answer.

Both the answerer and the poster are in the wrong here, and if they continue to post bad questions or bad answers, the system needs to deal with them. By closing and flagging you provide the moderators and the automated systems the necessary information to single out low-quality contributors.

  • Do you feel this applies when there are already 10 such link-only answers? Might the mod feel you're just spamming the system reporting posts for a question that should be deleted? – Servy Jan 31 '13 at 18:47
  • I've avoided doing this in the past - it's felt like a waste of moderator's attention to bother with a bad answer to a question that's going to be closed and probably deleted. Your last sentence makes a lot of sense, though, so as long as a mod doesn't come in here and yell UNCLE... – Michael Petrotta Jan 31 '13 at 18:48
  • @Servy: The mods are not notified of a vote-to-close; you still would have to bring that page to the attention of the mods by flagging something there. Use flag -> other -> explain there are loads of link-only answers and request a question nuke from orbit. – Martijn Pieters Jan 31 '13 at 18:50
  • @MartijnPieters Well, for a high rep user, they could just vote to close if open, and vote to delete if not. For a user without sufficient rep, they could flag instead of voting on both occasions. – Servy Jan 31 '13 at 18:51
  • 2
    @Servy: High-rep users can vote to delete answers too, if they have a negative score. Asking for moderator attention is going to be faster though. A page with 10 link-only answers is worth bothering a moderator for. – Martijn Pieters Jan 31 '13 at 18:55
  • There is also a double unbalance in that we have a lot more moderation flags than delete votes, and still it only takes one moderator to fix all ten problematic answers but three delete votes per post otherwise. – Bo Persson Jan 31 '13 at 21:54

Flagging answers to bad questions should be avoided when the entire question is worthy of deletion, like your example was. Flag the question and kill two birds with one stone.

If the question has a chance of being salvageable flag the answer and vote to close because answers make questions harder to save with edits.

  • 4
    Closing != deleting. A closed question will only be deleted automatically if it has low views, and a low score, for example. That bad answer will sit there all that time as an eyesore too. – Martijn Pieters Jan 31 '13 at 18:47
  • 1
    @MartijnPieters True, but a question such as what das described probably should be deleted... – Servy Jan 31 '13 at 18:48
  • 1
    @Servy: sure, but that means the answer will be auto-deleted and won't count against whomever posted it. If that answerer continues to post low-quality answers, I want the auto-answer ban to kick in sooner rather than later. :-) – Martijn Pieters Jan 31 '13 at 19:08
  • @MartijnPieters that seems like something that should be addressed by modifying the auto ban to penalize answers to deleted questions, questions that need to be killed with fire should be as easy to kill as possible, not bureaucratic nightmares. – Ryathal Jan 31 '13 at 19:35
  • @Ryathal: no, that would penalise good-faith helpful answers to bad questions too; answering a bad question with a good answer should be encouraged instead (there is even a gold badge for it). And how does flagging the answer separately create a bureaucratic nightmare or make closing the question harder exactly? – Martijn Pieters Feb 1 '13 at 0:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .