When I do reviewing Late Answers sometimes I want mark a answer as link-only-answer but there is no such option. So I use the general "moderation attention" flag with a comment. Is there a better way to do or why is there no option for link-only-answer?

Maybe there is such a discussion/request somewhere but I can't find.

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    anything that's a link-only answer I always flag using a custom flag asking to possibly convert to a comment if the link is still working. – user221081 Dec 9 '13 at 13:26

Link only answers are essentially "very low quality" - and should be flagged as such. You could, however, as a first action, ask the user to clarify the information behind the link that is relevant to the answer, explaining that link rot can lead to link only answers becoming unusual in the instance that the link expires/destination site goes offline/site gets restructured so the link no longer works.

Some users will be willing to update their answer so that it's no longer a link only answer, others will not, and then the "very low quality" flag is the right course of action.

Alternatively, you could flag for moderator attention, explaining that the post should be converted into a comment (provided the link is valid of course).

Always try to communicate why we don't like link only answers first though.

  • "post should be converted into a comment" - that good idea. I did not know this was possible ... until now. (+1 for that – Micha Dec 9 '13 at 13:36
  • I downvoted your answer because link only answers are not essentially 'VLQ'. Link Only answers are not a problem per se. – George Stocker Dec 9 '13 at 19:47
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    They're pretty low quality once the link expires, and before that they don't do anything to answer the question other than send you elsewhere. – Flyk Dec 9 '13 at 20:19

Do keep in mind there is some variance in how the community feels about these, and this variance extends to moderators and Community Managers.

We all tend to agree that link-only answers are not ideal, but opinions on what to do about them vary from "leave a comment and let it be" to "nuke on sight".

What I say here briefly, then, will be from my own point of view;

Take a moment to consider the link, and its relevance. Does the link in question truly answer the question? If so, consider leaving the poster a comment (if it's from an active member) asking them to bring in some pertinent information (without plagiarizing) and include some of their own narrative about the answer.

If you see that's already been done and the active user has not reacted, you might consider flagging. "Not an Answer" is not often appropriate here, and low-quality is a bit risky. An "Other" flag explaining might meet with more success.

On the other hand, if the link in question doesn't at all directly address the specific question, you can consider flagging right away - and perhaps leaving a friendly comment, too. An "Other" flag is also useful here; "The link in this answer does not really address the question being asked" is a good place to start.

Keep these in mind when flagging, too:

  1. "Not an Answer" is meant for posts that are not an attempt to answer the question. A good, relevant link can be considered an attempt to answer. Answers (including links) which seem to have missed the mark of the question broadly don't generally count here, unless it's horribly egregious. But even then, an "Other" flag explaining it is a better bet.
  2. "Low Quality" means, "This post is a piece of trash that cannot possibly ever be improved and must be deleted - NOW. The posts we're talking about here can generally be improved, so this sort of flag is risky here.
  • 1
    Thanks for your answer (+1). Interesting aspects. – Micha Dec 10 '13 at 10:36
  • @Micha You are very welcome! Kudos yourself for taking care about how to flag, and wanting to know more about why things are as they are! – Andrew Barber Dec 10 '13 at 14:53

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