Ban lmgtfy (le me google that for you) links

Based on the Why is linking bad? question as well as Are answers that contain only links really good answers? question, is it acceptable behavior to downvote these questions with a comment requesting the OP to provide more information rather then just a link?

Link only answers is becoming almost acceptable practice on SU at the moment and I would like some input on ways to stop this practice from becoming a norm?

This question along with this would be examples of where I have done this. I am willing to reverse this if it is not acceptable.

  • Gosh if I would get notified a post needed editing to make it "better" I wouldn't mind doing it – Ivo Flipse Aug 20 '09 at 8:29
  • Funny that the guy answering the laptop-tv-remote question provided two such links: one as an answer and one as a comment. Weird. – innaM Aug 20 '09 at 16:05

I downvote link only answers when its a shameless plug. Or even non-link shameless plugs.

You know how to lessen those answers? Provide better ones so the link-only answers go at the bottom of the list.

  • 2
    I agree with providing better one's. However I don't always know the better answer, and I actually do view every single question posted since a lot of times Duplicates are not flagged but commented. – Diago Aug 20 '09 at 8:45
  • 1
    Diago: Are you saying that you'd like us to flag (if we cannot vote) those dupes? – innaM Aug 20 '09 at 9:53
  • 1
    @Manni - Yes. It makes them way easier to find. – Diago Aug 20 '09 at 10:03
  • OK, thanks. I'll do that in the future. – innaM Aug 20 '09 at 10:24
  • 3
    I think in the spirit of "It's okay to consolidate bad answers into a better answer", you could read the answer at the link, summarize it, and then post that summary as a new answer. – ベレアー アダム Aug 20 '09 at 12:01
  • .. and people would start downvoting you for stealing answers. – innaM Aug 20 '09 at 16:03
  • @Manni: I doubt it, since a) most people would not bother with the link-only answer to realize yours is a summary, and b) others will be annoyed enough with the link-only answer to vote you up out of spite. Not many will read the link, read your answer, decide that the link is the better answer, and downvote you for stealing. – ベレアー アダム Aug 20 '09 at 18:48
  • Makes sense, Adam. I guess I'll try this when I find the next link-only answer to an interesting question. – innaM Aug 20 '09 at 19:46

It was asked today "Does LinkedIn have an API?" to which I replied with a link to their API. I think that's acceptable.

  • 2
    If you answered with, "Here's the LinkedIn API:" and the URL, that would be fine with me. – John Saunders Aug 20 '09 at 19:19

To me, this depends on the link target. The default answer to your question would be: yes, they should be downvoted. They should be downvoted even more when the link points to some obscure forum where the actual answer is hard to find.

On the other hand, I think that a question like "What is X" can be answered by simply providing a link to the relevant wikipedia article. But it should be answered with that link and a short summary.


I think you should downvote link-only answers, unless the link answers the question perfectly. Then, downvote the question.


Generally if I was trying to answer the question and find out that the link was the "best" or correct answer, I sometimes take the liberty to quote the text from the link in their answer making it more complete myself.

I would hope that this has a lead by example effect, such that they will try to do the same next time.

I see no point in posting my own answer with a better format, since I would be taking credit for their answer. Downvoting only demotivates someone, while his answer was correct it was merely incomplete, for me that ain't worth a downvote really.

So either leave a comment asking them to elaborate on their answer/link or edit it (if you can)

  • Disagree on the blockquote. In the camp of wanting to see originally written over copy-pasted, if both versions included a link back to source. – random Aug 20 '09 at 8:33
  • Well often it's a step by step tutorial with pictures integrated, I could adjust all the sentences such that they are original, but who am I fooling then? – Ivo Flipse Aug 20 '09 at 11:19
  • You'd be fooling Google's content duplication bot. Perhaps. – random Aug 20 '09 at 12:46

So many questions have answers just a quick google away and I'm torn between doing just that and chiding the asker for not having done a quick search prior to asking the question. There are people who have legitimate questions, and these can sometimes be answered by a link. And there are people who refuse to help themselves, for which a link will only solidify their lack of self-help.

  • Makes sense to me, seems like downvoting link-only answers should be done on a case by case basis, since there's a difference between showing no effort and only showing as much as the person who asked a lazy question. – Stephanie Jul 17 '11 at 3:16

I sometimes leave a comment asking the poster for a little more, like at least summarizing what the linked-to site has to offer in respect to the specific question. Often, the link alone is posted just to be the FGITW, but later added to anyway.

If not, a comment sometimes convinces the poster to add a little bit. If there's still nothing after a while, I downvote.


If you down vote, which would be a reasonable action, they'll just whine all the way in their wah-wah-wah-bulance about how the link has the information or that it's a valid solution. Even if this is flying in the face of the link rot problem. More so if it's a quarter-arsed attempt at helping make SOFU the information repository.

And then some fool will upvote them out of sympathy which doesn't teach them anything and only reinforces the bad practice.


The creators of the site have taken precautions to limit the "fastest gun in the west". I would think some type of statement indicating why the link provides a good answer should be included.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .