As an example, someone mentioned a service which has not been renewed by the original owner. This is the whole answer:

I have had your problem many times. There is a good Word / Excel clean-up site at http://wordoff.org. Just paste in the junk source code and it returns everything between the body tags nicely cleaned up.

In a circumstance like this, is it appropriate to flag or downvote the answer?

  • 3
    Well, every answer on this post is effectively "This tool will do what you want" without much else. While the question isn't specifically asking for a tool, then you have a list of answers like that, it is usually the source of the problem. – psubsee2003 Oct 27 '13 at 9:04

Just because a post leads to a service or external site does not mean it is inherently bad, so you don't necessarily need to flag it. We don't like link-only answers (partially for this very reason), but they exist and don't need to be deleted on-sight all the time. Check out Shog's answer here for some discussion of how to handle link-only posts, especially some of the other posts here linked too.

But when the link breaks (as is the case here) then the post offers zero value and needs to be addressed:

  • Does the service still exist with a different URL? Then edit to remove the broken link and replace it with the new link (and perhaps expand the answer to offer some more description of the tool/service and maybe even how to use it).
  • Is the tool/service still available, but extremely outdated and only works on old version of software? This is a gray area since it might be still useful to someone. A comment on the post is probably best, maybe editing in a brief blurb about the compatibility limits if the OP doesn't respond to the comment.
  • Is the tool/service completely gone or non-functional, then the answer offers zero value and needs to be deleted. Flag away. A custom "Other" flag works best here and make sure you clearly explain what is wrong (for example, "link points to a dead site and without it the answer has no value").

I intentionally did not mention downvoting above at all, as that is a separate issue. Whether to downvote (or vote in general) or not is entirely up to you. Did you find the answer unhelpful? Then downvote. If you didn't, then don't. Personally, I don't see a link-only answer with a broken link being helpful anymore, so I'd downvote it, but that's just my opinion, you or someone else might disagree.

  • Note that this is not a link-only answer in the usual sense. Or any sense. It's a link to something that cannot be excerpted, but it does have specific information about how that works that makes it an actual answer, as opposed to "Try jQuery, it's great and does all things." – Nathan Tuggy Feb 4 '16 at 0:45
  • @NathanTuggy I'll admit that it is not a "your answer is [here]" style link only answer. But I disagree that it has specific information about how it works. All the answer says is "Just paste in the junk source code and it returns everything between the body tags nicely cleaned up." That really isn't an explanation of how it works that would be useful to anyone without the link. It is more just stating why the tool will help someone with the same problem as the OP. I don't see there being much in the answer of value to anyone without the link. – psubsee2003 Feb 4 '16 at 14:02
  • That's because it's "a link to something that cannot be excerpted". Calling all recommendations of software, web services, books, etc, etc, etc "link only" for no other reason than that they are inherently reliant on an external entity is misguided. The value in the answer itself lies in giving suitable reasons to try the tool or reject it without having to necessarily try the link first, always. In other words, it gives a searchable, quality recommendation. – Nathan Tuggy Feb 4 '16 at 15:40

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