6

Usually link-only answers are considered low quality and their author is encouraged to edit them to include the relevant part of the linked page in the answer itself and if they don't do so, their answer can get deleted.

But some link-only answers answer the question, but link to something that can't be copied. For example, this question asks for how to translate localized error messages from Microsoft into English, and the accepted answer is a link-only answer, but the link points to a search service from Microsoft to search for the translation:

Microsoft provides the Terminology Search in his Language Portal, it can be found here: https://www.microsoft.com/Language/en-US/Search.aspx

If the link would have been to something that could be copied, I would have flagged this and posted a comment from here to ask the user to include the information in their answer. But this answer links to search page, so the information can't be copied to the answer (on Stack Overflow you could use a snippet to copy the code from the search page, but that wouldn't be much different from just linking to the search page, and besides Super User doesn't even have snippets). So the answer is useful, answers the question, and I don't really see how it could be improved.

I see two ways to deal with it: Either treat it as a normal link-only answer, but then valuable information would be lost, or leave it alone, but according to the FAQ link-only answers are considered low quality and should be flagged.

This isn't the only such link-only answer that I've seen, I've also seen a few link-only answers with links to download pages, and the installation programs can of course not be copied to an answer.

So are link-only answers of that kind acceptable? What should I do next time I see an answer like that in a review queue?

  • I see no problem with an answer that suggests using a free service. The problem of CPU that service could be discontinued in the future. If a service answers a question that isn't asking for a recommendation then that question is on topic and thus its appropriate to suggest said service – Ramhound Sep 10 '17 at 11:52
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Some link only answers can be okay if they are specifically telling us what exactly is at the link and showing why it cannot be copied. While we prefer a step by step solution here there isn't really a problem if there is a real reason the answer is a link.

For this reason I would apply the same reasoning and quality requirements we have as I would an answer that is recommending software:

Follow this general outline:

BOLD items are required.

  1. Title of the product with a link to the download/main page.
  2. Quote the site's product summary.
  3. Add any pictures that are relevant to the question.
  4. If it's not installed using a normal installation file, or package manager, then give instructions on how to install.
  5. Give a brief overview of HOW to use the product OR in cases where it's too long, link to the product's manual pages.
  6. Give any personalized information to the OP regarding how the recommendation solves his/her question.
  7. Specify any system requirements, e.g. Only works on Windows, Linux, OSX, or bootable media.

Things NOT to DO:

  • Post only a link to the site.
  • Recommend software that you haven't used personally (there MAY be rare occasions where this is valid, BUT you must let the OP know this).
  • Answer questions that are simply asking "What's the best XX software" or "I need something that does XX."

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