I just ran into this in the suggested edits review:

Suggested Edit

enter image description here

Its literally a link only answer, but apparently it was helpful and was up-voted and accepted.

Now (a few years after the answer was posted) someone has edited the content from the third party site into the post.

I have a few questions here:

  • Would this qualify as a drastic edit?
  • Should this sort of editing be encouraged?
  • Does this sort of editing encourage link only answers?

Editing an answer to improve it, so that it is more suitable for the site, is always the best option.

  • It is a drastic edit, but given that the edit doesn't change the meaning of the original answer, I'd say it's OK.

  • I do this kind of editing from time to time, so I don't consider it improper at all.

  • I don't think it encourages link-only answers. If anything, it it a teaching moment; it shows what form an acceptable answer should take.

The only other option is answer deletion, or converting the answer to a comment.

Linked content should never be copied in its entirety on Stack Exchange. Always respect the original author by paraphrasing and quoting brief snippets.

  • 3
    Is there any concern with respect to copyright though? Paraphrasing or restating the content of the link should be fine, but reproducing the linked content verbatim strikes me as potentially questionable. – user155595 Jun 20 '13 at 6:04

If the linked content is copied verbatim, reject the edit as “copied content”. If you can, write up the solution in your own words as a separate answer, then flag the answer for removal (either as “not an answer” or with a custom flag saying that the link is redundant due to your answer — Stack Overflow moderators can't seem to agree on this).

If the solution comes from the linked site but the writing is original, the best thing to do in such a case is to post a new answer with these explanations. Strictly speaking, you should reject the edit and suggest that the user submit it as a separate answer. However this assumes that the user will see your reject message, which is unlikely since there is no notification of rejected suggestions and they are hard to find even if you know where to look.

If the edit is anonymous, I'd post it as a separate answer, community wiki, credited to an anonymous editor. If it's by a logged-in user, I don't like to do that, because it removes any association between the user and his content. So I would tend to accept the edit, and leave a comment to the editor under the answer (“@bob Thanks for the edit, but since this is your original writing, it would be better to submit this as a separate answer, even if you found the link through this answer.”).

  • There's no material disagreement about the Not an Answer flag, not really. Use the Not an Answer flag when it's not an answer. When in doubt, use a Custom flag, and explain in your own words why you are flagging. – user102937 Jun 20 '13 at 22:51

I always prefer not to have link only answers because you never know when the third party site hosting to solution becomes unavailable. It is always good to have a sufficient snippet of the answer rather than just a link.

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