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When one tries to flag a link-only answer, one's flag will [usually] get rejected with the following message:

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

The subject of link-only answers is widely discussed in these threads:

What bothers me is that when answer is flagged as very low quality, and one is reviewing it, there is an option to vote for deleting answers for being link-only. Here is how it looks:

This is a link-only answer (and not spam)

“While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes.”

This means that answer can theoretically be flagged as very low quality and deleted for being link-only. Yet, one is not allowed to flag that type of answers... Am I the only one who spots the inconsistency here?

here is a good example in picures:

1:

enter image description here

2:

enter image description here

3:

enter image description here

  • 3
    To be frank, I can't consistently handle these flags either. Ideally there should be an effort from the flagger to fix the post, or if that's not doable within a reasonable amount of time, then just a "not an answer" flag. I don't like the label VLQ being applied to link-only posts, because they are salvageable in many cases. But that's just me. Clearly there is no guidance for moderators either. – slhck Jul 8 '14 at 14:50
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    Hmm, the example is a good case of something that can be very easily improved. I know that's irrelevant to the premise of your question, but I thought I should note it. I'm just not sure what the overall solution is. Actually I'd like to see the VLQ flag option removed. – slhck Jul 8 '14 at 15:46
  • Sometimes I type "link-only answer" into the custom flag box. This is the only case in which I don't type a full sentence into that box. And most of the time, my flags get dismissed as helpful and the post is deleted. – gparyani Jul 8 '14 at 15:57
  • I provided the example to show the actual SuperUser interface that is ambiguous. I do agree that this particular question could have easily been edited. – Art Gertner Jul 8 '14 at 15:57
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    I believe that in the review mode, when selecting "recommend deletion" and prompted for the reason, the option "This is a link-only answer (not spam)" should be removed. The fact that this option is there, justifies and encourages flagging link-only answers. – Art Gertner Jul 8 '14 at 15:59
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    @shub For me the most important part is that posts flagged as VLQ should be unsalvageable (mostly because they're pure gibberish). Link-only posts are still helpful, and can often be improved. I am generally very concerned about users flagging too many things as VLQ though. – slhck Jul 9 '14 at 13:22
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    Highly relevant meta.stackexchange.com/q/225370/213575 – Braiam Jul 12 '14 at 1:33
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Let's explore how a link-only answer can fall into the flagging spectra:

Let's say I ask a question about, of all things, potatoes. And User X posts a link-only answer (just the link and something in the likes of "your answer is here" or "this page has all the spuds"). Assuming it isn't spam or offensive, there are 3 possible ways to flag.

  • Not an Answer
  • Very Low Quality
  • Other (needs ♦ moderator attention)

Let's start with the Other flag, because it's the easiest to explain and discourage usage. Whenever flagging an answer for Other, we're badgering a diamond-level moderator to come check the answer. Now, moderators are few and busy persons and in no way could they handle every link-only answer that happens to appear on the site. Moderators are there to solve really tricky problems the other flags don't solve (for instance, relevant migration issues).

Now, let's say that the answer actually is a link to a cabbage patch (as such, in no way related to potatoes). I flag it as Not an Answer because, well, it isn't.

Let's say that the answer is a link to a host of resources about potatoes, but it needs work: sufficient expanding and a good explanation. I then flag it as Low Quality, because of the aforementioned faults.

Let's say that the link is to a video that clearly explains the process that would solve my problem, and the amount of work needed to pass over that knowledge to here is minimal. In this case, suggest an edit and add a comment saying how the site should work, if the user is new.


Now, I don't see any inconsistence in the flags, if used as above suggested. Maybe the text in the Very Low Quality flag could be reworded, but consider the following: a link-only answer has a content problem - the link.

Links don't make good answers. Period. Flagging them (either way) does give them a chance to be salvaged, because at least 5 more people will read the answer. If the answer has some sort of merit, one of those 5 people will come and make the appropriate edits. If it has no apparent merit, whenever recommending deletion, there are small comments in place to help the user make a better answer.


tl.dr

  • If it doesn't answer the question, flag it as Not an Answer and then delete it (with the optional comment that it is more of a comment than an answer)
  • If if does answer the question, but it isn't more than a link with little remarkable content, flag it as Very Low Quality and then educate the user to post a good answer.
5

Well, few members left their opinions in comments, but no one actually bothered to answer the question. I found an answer for myself. The screenshot below beautifully illustrates it: enter image description here

An audit is failed for not flagging link-only answer. From now on will be flagging all of 'em with VLQ and ignoring moderators messages like:

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

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    How is this VLQ? The VLQ flag says This answer has severe formatting or content problems. This answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed. Well, all this answer needs, is more detail, so it is salvageable through editing. I see no 'gibberish' here, so why does the STOP! Look and Listen message say flag as VLQ? It makes no sense to me, could someone please clarify? – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jul 10 '14 at 10:08
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    @shub, this is exactly why I have written the original post and asked the question. And the keyword is inconsistency between what system advises and what moderators say. According to the system link-only answers are VLQ and thus I will keep marking them as such. – Art Gertner Jul 10 '14 at 10:49
  • OK, then I agree with slhck in the comments on your question, saying that we should remove the VLQ flag option or very greatly change the description of it. What do you think? I think there are many more answers that are link-only than gibberish. So if anything, the VLQ tag should only be seen in review queues and the link only tag should be able to be used by everybody (ie. switch them around, if you get what I mean...) – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jul 10 '14 at 10:50
  • You may also want to add in your question that only people in the review queue can use the link-only flag option. If you come across a post that is link-only from outside the review queue, then you have to use the 'other' option, as VLQ will get rejected. – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jul 15 '14 at 11:12
  • @ṧнʊß, nop, this is incorrect. from my experience, moderators will most likely reject 'other' whilst VLQ will very often work. And don't get me wrong, with this comment, I am not debating 'how it should be' - I am just stating how it usually happens – Art Gertner Jul 15 '14 at 11:15
  • Really?? When I flag a link-only answer as VLQ, it is rejected. When I flag a link-only answer as 'Other' and say 'link-only answer', it is 'helpful'. Some more inconsistency here... (this time between mods!) – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jul 15 '14 at 11:16
  • When I flag a link-only answer as VLQ, it is rejected (sometimes - not always). When I flag a link-only answer as 'Other' and say 'link-only answer', it is 'helpful' (very unlikely - rejected in most cases) – Art Gertner Jul 15 '14 at 11:18
  • As I said, more inconsistency... – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jul 15 '14 at 11:19
  • Here's an example. i.imgur.com/qWvtb59.png – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Jul 15 '14 at 11:20

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