This was actually prompted while I was editing an answer that was link only, but there have been times that I myself have found a useful site with detailed instructions. Most times, when I'm referencing another site, I summarize or copy the details (when they're small) and fully credit the site.

The reasoning behind this is to prevent any link rot that may appear. However, there are time that the linked sites answer is quite long, and would be difficult to summarize. Is there a limit on how much to copy, or are these ok to keep as links only?


Here is an answer that is valid if it wasn't link only. However, the answer is VERY long:

I highly recommend this tutorial:



2 Answers 2


Its not very hard to paraphrase an answer, and if you actually read and understood the source, to actually add something to it.

I think the academic way of quoting (well sans citations) is a pretty good way to go about it.

Firstly - essential information needs to be in the answer, and where necessary, explained for the target audience - in this case, while essentially, the answer is adapted from lifehacker, I've explained the switches they have used (which they hadn't).

If you're copy/pasting large chunks of something where there's more than one way to do it, something is off, especially if spelling errors carry over. My way is to quite literally write everything in my own words. I've got a lot of practice from doing that in school :).

At the end, an answer has to be reasonably original, self contained and link back to sources if users need to look up additional information. It shouldn't rely on a link as an essential part of the answer.

In the example given in Kronos' question I couldn't actually tell where the answer could be, and I felt it missed the crux of the question - the user seemed to want to do a scriptable use of the mail command as part of a shell script, as opposed to use it manually - the section that was relevant eventually needed the use of the control-d key combination to send the mail, which wouldn't have used.

I think understanding the question you're answering is key in this case. Then you'll end up writing a naturally good answer. Unfortunately this is pretty difficult to do, without seriously extensive edits for link only answers.


If it is only a link, it should be a comment.

The linked content may be a valid answer, but that doesn't prevent link rot. If the information is valid and helpful, it must be replicated. The information to solve the problem has to exist on Super User.

Disclaimer: Always cite your sources!

If the amount of work that would be required to summarize the content seems simply unreasonable, then, please, flag the the answer as not an answer.

Personally, I feel like there is always a way to resolve these answers. To the very least, one can give an introduction of what to expect from clicking that link.

A sentence or two can go a long way sometimes. I strongly believe that there is always a way to make a link only answer into a valid answer (but I won't claim that I'm always the best person to accomplish that).

  • 1
    I understand and agree with this, but my question here is whether or not there is a limit to how much we can copy over from another site. Jul 27, 2012 at 21:31
  • @KronoS: The answer should be self-contained. Links should only provide further information. If that can't be achieved, for whatever reason, explain what to expect from following the link. Jul 27, 2012 at 21:37

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