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This is related to this question from Diago last year. I have seen a lot of answers with either a link only, or a link with a short description copy/pasted from the developer's website.

Personally I think this is a bad practice, as it gives the Asker the impression that the person posting the answer has used the product and is endorsing when they likely have not actually used it and just found it via a Google search. If they had used it why would they not post their own quick writeup?

So my question is, is it OK to downvote these answers? As a followup, if it is OK, what should we do about users who repeatedly do this? I have seen a couple the past few weeks that seem to make a habit of it.

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To add to BloodPhilia's answer:

I'm of the belief that yes it is worth down voting link only (or generally very poor quality) answers (and leave a comment of the sort saying just links aren't helpful). The answers are not useful because they are dependent on an external link and add very little to the site. Adding the summary and crediting your sources however is a good way of answering.

When it comes to copying and pasting - it depends on how much and what is being said. I don't upvote answers where it's obvious it's a copy and paste job, it's like rewarding plagiarism (and there are lots of instances where copy and paste is fine; eg. instructions).

  • I am referring specifically to something like a link to a product webpage, and a copy/pasted glowing endorsement/description of the product FROM the webpage they are linking to. I.e. "<Software> is an extremely flexible, easy to use, and powerful application for the organization of widgets, cleaning of viruses, and shining of shoes! It has options to suit any user." – JNK Sep 8 '10 at 19:45
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    @JNK: Those are what I would consider poor quality answers. It's parroting and really not much more than a link. – Chealion Sep 8 '10 at 20:00
  • So if I agree as a user, I should rephrase even though I think it's the truth and I would recommend it as being such? – BloodPhilia Sep 8 '10 at 21:15
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    @BloodPhilia - I think if the user agrees they should take the effort to write a single sentence describing their endorsement of the product. It conveys to the asker that they are not just parroting marketing materials. – JNK Sep 9 '10 at 0:22
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Although I confess I do this occasionally, I do think it's bad practice to blindly copy and paste a dscription. However, I only recommend software I have actually used and if I haven't, I'll always mention this in my answer. The point is that pre-written descriptions are usually written to tell the (potentially new) user of the product much about the product's features with as little text as possible. I just see no reason why to reinvent the wheel and write yourself a similar description when you agree to what it says.

So no, I don't think this is a reason to downvote the answer. I think as more useful answers are submitted, those that aren't useful at all will submerge in upvoted answers thus solving the problem.

Of course, downvoting answers that only contain the ad quoted (statements without proper arguments like "It's the best, just because it is") would be proper. However if a quote contains proper arguments like "It's the best because independent consumer survey pointed out that 90% of the users are more than satisfied" I see no reason to downvote it.

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    I guess my issue is that these descriptions are NEVER neutral (why would they be?) They are always glowing descriptions of how the product is the best in the field, etc. etc., and implies that the answerer is endorsing the product even if they have never seen it. – JNK Sep 8 '10 at 19:27
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    @JNK Of course they aren't neutral and as I said, you should never blindly copy/paste. However if I recommend a program and write a description about it, I too would be positive about the product since I like it and I recommend others to use it as well. If I happen to come across any down sides of the product, I would post it along with the description. Furthermore, you are confusing a description with an ad. If the quote posted contains no arguments whatsoever or little to no information, of course it's proper to downvote. – BloodPhilia Sep 8 '10 at 19:30
  • +1 - Good enough. – JNK Sep 8 '10 at 19:31
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If I'm trying to answer a question and I see a 'competing' answer already linked the solution I was planning on suggesting, I edit his answer to add the info I think should be included.

Why? Because I don't want to go duplicating answers, because technically his answer might be correct. Now I understand that not everyone has the ability to edit every post, but if you can I personally recommend it. (Leave a comment as to why you did it though!)

My experience is that afterwards, the answer is better rewarded by others, so the user will hopefully notice that adding value to his answers is worth the effort!

I would only consider downvoting when the answer is wrong, not just incomplete or above answers you think are much better. But generally, I don't think your downvotes will lead to better answers, so why bother?

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    I'm not necessarily referring to a question that I would answer. I am referring to an answer that has a link, and an endorsement, and when you click on the link you see the exact text from the endorsement on the publisher's website. To me this is WORSE than uncommented links because it implies the answerer has used the software when they obviously have not. – JNK Sep 9 '10 at 12:40
  • I can't possibly take the trouble to test every bit of software I recommend on Super User. However, based on my experience with other programs, I do think I can spot a decent program from miles off. @JNK – Ivo Flipse Sep 9 '10 at 16:22
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    I agree it's not reasonable to test everything. But you need to let the asker know that you haven't tried it, or at least give a NEUTRAL description. – JNK Sep 9 '10 at 16:41

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