Yesterday I stumbled upon this answer due to the question being bumped.

It is, by the official definition, considered not an answer: If you strip the markup (link), you are left with NO useful content:

I believe you'll find your answer here

I flagged this post using the standard not an answer flag and was greeted with this response:

declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention

Ahem, what? This obvious not-answer does not require mod intervention? What else am I supposed to do? I used THE standard flag for this type of answer.

So I clarified that it can't be deleted by community due to being upvoted/accepted and used a custom flag:

This is by the official definition NOT AN ANSWER. Previous flag was declined, therefore using custom mod flag. Cannot be solved via community review due to being upvoted and accepted. Only counter argument against this flag is it’s age. But I don’t think this is valid. Otherwise please explain or delete the post. Thank you.

This flag was also rejected:

declined - Question is already closed as dupe. No real benefit in deletion. Feel free to edit in the essential details

Editing the answer would be a bad choice because:

  • the question is closed as a duplicate and therefore adding the same information available in the origin post would defeat the goals of the duplicate closure
  • such edit would derive from the original posters intent and therefore rejected.

Also this answer should never have been posted as an answer but as a comment or duplicate closure or mod flag (migrate plz) in the first case.

Now I am wondering, whether old (before the new definition) link-only answers are exempted from the rules and whether my flags were truly invalid?


3 Answers 3


The age of an answer is irrelevant.

The way that I (as a moderator of two sites) would process a Not An Answer flag on many link-only answers is to add a Post Notice of:

insufficient explanation

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

I think this automatically marks the flag as Helpful but, if not, then I would do that manually.

In this particular case, the link was to an answer on another question at the same SE site, and the questions have been marked as duplicates, so I would delete it.

This would automatically mark the flag as Helpful.


Full disclosure: I was the one who told you to reflag the answer after your first flag was declined. A link-only is never an acceptable answer, and should be flagged as Not An Answer regardless of age.

Because the answer was accepted, another option would have been to pull information from the link into the answer to make it a good, non-link-only answer.

I still believe the flag should have been marked as helpful, whether or not action was taken, because it was a link-only answer, and neither the age nor the fact that it was accepted change that.


Well, this is a bit of a unique situation with a few elements.

Firstly it was a duplicate post so the value it would have as a pointer to another post.

However as a accepted answer - the flagged link only answer - pointing at the duplicate target might be useful to a user.

By editing in the information from the other post, we're adding to the discoverablility of the solution to the problem. We're also respecting the intent of the original poster. The princess is in the castle.

By deleting it, from a question that we've closed anyway, we don't really add anything. I'd add the answer was flagged twice to boot.

In general fixing stuff is always better than deleting if it's on topic imo, especially if it feels like something important. Curation is a lot more than garbage collection.

  • Thanks for your answer. Do you mean with flagged twice flagged twice by me (as I stated in the question) or by two different users?
    – MEE
    Feb 14, 2019 at 14:36
  • Oh in this case you. Reflagging a post for vaguely the same reason is a minor peeve personally
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Feb 14, 2019 at 14:37
  • 2
    I asked in chat about this and they told me to reflag. I thought it may have been not clear and therefore it would be helpful to include more information. It was certainly not done to annoy the mods. :)
    – MEE
    Feb 14, 2019 at 14:38
  • 7
    Why did you decline the flags and not dispute them (or mark them as helpful, even though you didn't act on them)? Feb 14, 2019 at 15:56
  • 8
    The whole point of closing things as duplicate is to avoid people who are looking for an answer having to read multiple places to make sure they're not missing important information. Deliberately copying some of the information from the original doesn't help, it makes it harder to be sure that you've read everything. Information should be moved to the master copy, not intentionally smeared out. If we're going to curate something, it should be the answers on the source question. E.g., moving the information about the MD5 hash of the email into the accepted answer.
    – jscs
    Feb 14, 2019 at 18:05
  • 2
    It's also important to note that users who aren't logged in don't even see the closed question and its answers. I doubt there are very many anonymous MSE users, but for non-Meta sites that do get substantial search traffic, improving answers on closed questions is not a great use of time, because their visibility is limited by the system.
    – jscs
    Feb 14, 2019 at 18:10
  • @JoshCaswell the whole FAQ post would need to be cleaned up. Maybe I have some free time on the weekend and do so...
    – MEE
    Feb 14, 2019 at 21:14
  • 4
    @JoshCaswell anonymous users are only redirected to the canonical when there are no answers on the duplicate, sadly.
    – Servy
    Feb 14, 2019 at 22:45
  • 2
    Hmm, that seems like a good reason for deleting this answer, then @Servy, on which I was ambivalent before.
    – jscs
    Feb 15, 2019 at 16:46

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