This data.stackexchange query uncovers 1,500 questions that have

  • ~85% chance of having one or more link-only answers
  • 50% chance of needing to be closed by rule

Link-only answers usually suggest

  • The answer is lazy and is subject to removal
  • and/or the question is asking for links and is off-topic and subject to closure and maybe removal

Examples of questions asking for links

  • Is there an [piece of software] that does ______?
  • What is [your favorite], [the best], [a good]...
    • language
    • framework
    • api
    • technique
    • tutorial

Details about the Query

  • Filters for questions with 1 or more highly-probable link-only answers. The filter that achieves this is answers 40-80 chars in length containing http://
  • Excludes closed and locked questions
  • Excludes questions with more than 25 upvotes, as a larger percentage of those are special cases and don't need to be closed (although, by rule, some still do). I included this filter to get rid of noise.

These questions account for

  • 5160 up votes (not counting answers)

So What?

Rules and rule enforcement. Personally, I don't agree with the definition of what is on topic for Stack Overflow. However, I also don't like rules existing for many months and have so many posts escape the guidelines. I think a big part of this is due to lack of visibility of offending material.

So, there's a list. Obviously the filters can be adjusted to expose more questions, but I believe this query attacks the densest subset of questions subject to closure/removal.

  • You may or may not be aware that there are already some queries out there which look for likely NAA/Spam posts on similar grounds, too. There are also some 10k mod tools that help with those. That said, we can never have enough good such queries! – Andrew Barber Feb 22 '13 at 4:25
  • I'm not sure this query is so effective. I've looked for a dozen of the found questions. I voted to close two of them as not constructive (and mostly out of date) and still I wouldn't like to see them deleted. – Denys Séguret Feb 22 '13 at 7:56
  • Has something changed in the 4 hours since this question was asked? I just opened ten of the hits and none of them were link-only answers; they were valid answers that happened to contain a link, mostly in code blocks, like this one: stackoverflow.com/a/10701117/187606 – Pëkka Feb 22 '13 at 8:42
  • If you select Posts.Id as [Post Link] you don't have to build links by hand through string concatenation. You also get question titles for free. See here – badp Feb 22 '13 at 12:42
  • @Pekka, this query grabs questions that contain at least one or more likely link-only answer. I wonder if you're looking at the accepted answer only? For example, open up the questions with a score of 15, there's about 10 of them. Most of them are off topic, but a few aren't -- although those that aren't have at least one answer that can probably be removed. – Brian Webster Feb 22 '13 at 13:20

Some points to keep in mind if you choose to work through these:

  • Some of those link only answers are highly up voted, or even accepted. If you have domain knowledge that is sufficient to expand the answer, please consider doing so prior to flagging. If you can't, please leave a friendly comment to the author asking them to expand an answer as you flag. I've found that focusing on our link rot problem alone in the comment is generally successful:

    While your answer is great, it depends solely on a link that could break in the future. Stack Overflow has a problem with link rot, answers that consist of only or little more than a link lose all value if the link breaks. Please consider expanding your answer to include the relevant parts of the linked resource so your contribution remains valuable.

    But, of course, use your own discretion. Just favor an attempt to keep a valuable, yet problematic answer whenever possible.

  • You can use other review style comments where appropriate, but please avoid debating the merits of a post with its author in comments. Leave a comment if you feel the post could be improved to meet today's criteria, otherwise just use your flags and votes.

  • Terse answers are sometimes very good answers, please consider more than just the length of an answer prior to flagging. Some questions are very well answered with one sentence and a link. It's not quite common, but it does happen:

    You need to use foothrob() for this, e.g foothrob(b,c) and then check c, it will have the value.

There's definitely some gold in these hills, so we do appreciate whatever time you can spend going through them.


I improved your query to just include stuff in 2012 and 2013 , since most of the posts in your query are older than that. I can't remember exactly when the rule against poll questions came into play, but the stuff before that is "grandfathered" in, and deserves a historical lock. (though you can close them as well). The more recent questions like these are the ones we must worry about.

I also have this query, to catch recent link-only answers/recommendation questions.

  • 5
    Ehhh.. not everything is 'grandfathered in', the age of a post is considered but that's not the only criteria. – Tim Post Feb 22 '13 at 7:48
  • @TimPost: True (that's why I put the "though you can close them as well" bit), but it's much more worth it to review the new posts than to go back and clean up the old ones. – Manishearth Feb 22 '13 at 7:50

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