I came across this answer on Meta Super User which is a link-only answer to this question on Meta Stack Exchange. The question on MSE is asking exactly the same thing as the question on MSU, so both question need exactly the same answer.

According to the answers to this question, link-only answers are bad, so my first reaction when I saw that answer was to downvote it. But then I saw a comment saying that the answer on MSE could be changed, and in that case an advantage with having a link-only answer is that the answer on MSU wouldn't have to be changed as well. Then I looked at the editing history and I saw that the original answer contained the same thing as the MSE answer and then was edited to become a link-only answer. As I think that the explanation in the comment of why it was a link-only answer is good, I didn't downvote the answer, I even upvoted it.

But even though there was a very good reason to post this as a link-only answer, link-only answers are still against the rules. So my question is, in cases like this where a question on per-site Meta is a cross-site duplicate of a MSE question, are link-only answers acceptable although they're usually against the rules, or are link-only answers always bad?

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    Maybe it depends per meta-site but I see no reason to simply fix that answer by summarizing the MSE post in the answer on SU. – rene Feb 17 '17 at 20:27
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    Cross-site meta dupes really aren't handled very well at present; I'd have just used a comment to point people at the mother meta if there's nothing unique. – Nathan Tuggy Feb 17 '17 at 22:07

With cross-site links we have the same issue as with off-site links: they can vanish, usually they are just deleted and visible to 10K users, but still not visible to the majority of the users.

If you vote to close as duplicate, it prevents you to delete the target question, but not now, so you should always summarize the key points if you want to put in an answer.

If you don't want to go through all the hassle, simply post a 'possible duplicate' comment and direct to the question on the other site. There is no way to vote to close as cross-site duplicate unfortunately, so this is the best we can do at the moment.


The specific case of answers to per-site meta questions about network wide issues or policies linking to duplicate MSE (especially FAQ) posts are—in my opinion—a special(ish) case.

The usual problems with link-only answers are mostly negated, or at least lessened. An established FAQ post here on MSE is far more likely to outlive a per-site meta question and both posts are controlled by Stack Exchange, so we're not relying on some third party hosting and maintaining the linked content. The arguments put for a link-only answer pointing to the MSE FAQ make sense; policies and posts change over time. That SU meta question was originally asked in 2011 and there have been a lot of updates to the MSE post since then.

It isn't ideal and I'm not saying it absolutely should be done, but there are valid arguments for doing so in certain cases. And it certainly shouldn't—in my opinion—warrant a downvote (or NAA flag or whatever). A better middle ground would probably be to briefly summarise (giving some site-specific context would normally be a good idea too) the duplicate with a link, rather than either copy/pasting the whole post or simply linking to the duplicate; but that depends on the question.

...This is a very good argument for cross-site duplicates.

It's also worth noting that link-only answers aren't necessarily "against the rules". They're (generally—this being an exception) bad answers, often non-answers, but can be answers. See Your answer is in another castle: when is an answer not an answer?


Usually no. For matters of policy, the context in which its applied is essential. This is not a matter of policy. It does not affect someone's ability to post, or clarify key points of site management.

In this case though, the link makes a lot of sense. Paraphrasing the answer won't work. A paraphrased or copied answer would be out of date eventually.

The link only answer to a permanent FAQ page likely to be kept maintained is the best way to have an up to date pointer to the answer.

I'd actually consider closing as too broad were it asked today, or historical locking the question - it would plausibly happen today, along with a link to the same MSE page.

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