Just came across this answer, should this one be considered as link-only? and if it is should I flag it (very old)?

PS: I've read through the QA section of the 2014 SO Moderator Election and seems all candidates won't allow link-only answers and will seek improvement at least (kill with fire, in most cases :)). Just want to know is there an exception and what is the current situation.

  • 1
    I wouldn't necessarily take the age into much account, in general. If it's flag-worthy, it just is. That being said, I wouldn't flag that one. I typically only flag link-only if it really is the very bare minimum, like "look at [this link], it helped me!". It's borderline, but I'd err on the side of preserving content.
    – Geobits
    Feb 18, 2014 at 17:23
  • i think you can ... but in case of old answer i would rather first like to leave a comment and let the user know about new policies regarding answer and give that user time to update .... and in case if nothing happen after some(may be a week ) time ... flag(if rep>20k than delete vote) would be way to go Feb 18, 2014 at 17:25
  • 3
    With 30 votes and an accept, there's no way I'm touching that one.
    – user102937
    Feb 18, 2014 at 17:25
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    These are the steps I would take since it is upvoted and accepted 1) check if the user who posted is still active, 2) if so, comment asking them to expand on the links 3) if they are not active or they don't try to improve the answer, then try to expand the content yourself.
    – Taryn
    Feb 18, 2014 at 17:36
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    It demonstrates the issue with link-only answers very well though: the last link is down. Feb 18, 2014 at 18:17
  • @Jeroen I don't think link rot is the only issue. The information is outdated as well. For example. Nehe's OpenGL tutorials are certainly a great asset, but they're very, very outdated, and definitely not good for anyone wanting to write modern games. The author couldn't really do much to make the answer any better.
    – user231078
    Feb 18, 2014 at 18:25
  • @remyabel: that wouldn't have been any different from when he'd have included the information in the post itself though. Nothing is ever 100% outdated in computerland, there's always someone working on a legacy system. Although I'll agree that he might want to add a disclaimer (which he might very well do, now that he's being notified about it). Feb 18, 2014 at 18:27

3 Answers 3


In my opinion, the answer attempts to answer the question, but needs some improvement. It was obviously answered before there were stricter standards on answering.

Before flagging it, I would first try to ask the user to improve their answer by adding the relevant excerpts from the links as they may go stale. If you're familiar with the subject, you should attempt to improve the answer yourself. Lastly, flag as low-quality.


The main reason why link-only answers are bad is because the external resource might go away, rendering the answer useless. Deleting link-only answers by itself removes just as much value and thus is harmful.

A self sufficient answer is better than a link only answer which is still better than no answer at all.

Discouraging new link-only answers is good, since it encourages posters to write self sufficient answers instead. For old answers like this one, there is no such encouragement effect, so deleting it is harmful.

Since the user who wrote this answer is still active, you should add comment encouraging him to make the answer self sufficient, instead of simply deleting it.

  • This tends to be my line of reasoning, as well. If the link directly answers the question asked, and others found value in it, I don't see the need for immediate removal. If we could improve it into a standalone answer, great, and we should nudge people to do this. However, it seems like we're causing the thing we're afraid of by deleting answers prone to link rot. Feb 18, 2014 at 18:29

It really doesn't matter how old a question or answer is. If it deserves to be flagged then flag it. People are always looking at old questions and answers and it would look very bad if we do not flag posts that deserve to be flagged. You should also leave a comment if the user is active.

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