The author of this answer mostly describes the performance of his solution, with a bit of hint about the implementation. He ends the answer with "Source codes are free upon request".

I think that this kind of answer is useless, since if the user moves on and doesn't visit SO anymore, the post becomes a sign post that points to nowhere. However, I expect the source code to be big enough that it is not fit to be included in the answer.

What can be done in this case?

(Please ignore the fact that the answer is a self-duplicated answer for a moment.)

  • 2
    Downvote and flag as Not an answer
    – Pekka
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:26
  • 2
    I'm thinking that answer might need to be deleted; The "0 down vote" suggests it was copy/pasted. Sep 5, 2013 at 18:26
  • @AndrewBarber: Yes, it is C/P, but from own answer.
    – nhahtdh
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:27
  • 2
    user seems to be pushing his link to his site/page on other answers too...
    – James
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:27
  • 1
    These answers, while possibly well intentioned, are useless and need to be edited or removed.
    – Pekka
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:29
  • 2
    @Andrew Barber: from stackoverflow.com/questions/1783652/… Sep 5, 2013 at 18:29
  • The first answer is getting downvoted to the ground ... I suspect the owner will notice that soon enough. Sep 5, 2013 at 18:42
  • 4
    I think this user has some other questionable answers this, this and this and even this. I'm sure there might be more.
    – Taryn
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:42
  • I have given substantial thought to when, if ever, such answers are appropriate. My reasoning and conclusions on the subject are free upon request.
    – apsillers
    Sep 5, 2013 at 20:07
  • @bluefeet: This one too: How to implement autocomplete on a massive dataset Sep 5, 2013 at 20:53

1 Answer 1


No user should need to follow any external links when reading an answer to have it answer the question. Any links that are there should be for additional information, or as citations for information in the answer itself. If, without the information in any external links, the answer doesn't answer the question, you can flag it as "not an answer". If it does (barely), but it's not very useful of an answer without the link, you can downvote it if you want (if you personally feel the answer isn't helpful).

You can also post a comment asking the user to include enough of the information in the external link(s) to ensure it answers the question.

  • 1
    In this case, the link is just a demo. The source code is not provided (even as a link).
    – nhahtdh
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:29
  • 2
    Something tells me if that gets flagged, it'll get handled quickly ;) Sep 5, 2013 at 18:32
  • umm.. there is no concensus whether link-only answers should be flagged. Some mods are decline-happy with these. Sep 5, 2013 at 18:38
  • @JanDvorak If you assume the link isn't there and the post still answers the question, then it's not "not an answer". That most of the good stuff an answer is in a link doesn't change that. I flag link only content all the time, and it's very rarely declined.
    – Servy
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:40
  • the flag that it can be declined indicates that perhaps you shouldn't flag for deletion right away. Instead, comment first and let it be for a while. If OP refuses to fix, then I'd flag for deletion. Sep 5, 2013 at 18:43
  • 3
    @JanDvorak I think the consensus is there is no such thing as a "Link Only Answer Flag" despite the popular myth. It should be flagged as appropriate for the problem. If the question doesn't answer the question without the link then it is "not an answer". Sep 5, 2013 at 18:44
  • @psubsee2003 or not flagged at all. Most of the time, you should comment, not flag. Sep 5, 2013 at 18:45
  • @JanDvorak If the answer doesn't answer the question you should flag it for not answering the question. If you want to comment as well you can, but are not obligated to. If the OP edited their answer and fixes it enough to be appropriate they can flag it for undeletion.
    – Servy
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:47
  • 1
    @Servy the point is, link-only answers often do answer the question albeit terribly. Sep 5, 2013 at 18:48
  • @nhahtdh - It's a poor quality answer, but it's not a link-only answer. The author says "So, any "sequence narrowing" algorithms, like trees/tries aren't work quick" and "My solution uses hash access". The advice s/he's giving is "Don't use tree/tries, use a hash." Again, poor quality answer, but there is an answer apart from the link.
    – JDB
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:54
  • @Cyborgx37: I didn't say anything about it being a link-only answer. I think the discussion here bring you a bit off track. I also wrote in my question that the answer provided hint about the implementation, just that such hint is not too useful.
    – nhahtdh
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:56
  • @JanDvorak If the post answers the question without needing to follow the link then that's fine. Even if it's a poor answer. If it's a link-only answer, rather than a link-mostly answer, then an answer with nothing but a link won't answer the question without following the link.
    – Servy
    Sep 5, 2013 at 18:57

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