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Answer-link comments

When a question has already been answered, we post a comment to that effect. It may be automatically generated via a duplicate question flag or vote, or it may just be a suggestion in a comment. The comment will read, "Possible duplicate of [link]", or something like, "This may already be answered here [link]", or "See if this answers your question [link]".

We don't want duplication within SU, so there is a specific objective for doing this. However, the result is that we use a comment to provide a link and say, "look over there for your answer."

Link-only Answers

If the answer already exists outside of SU, there is not the issue of duplication. However, exactly the same information is conveyed in a link-only answer. Almost everyone agrees that link-only answers are not desirable, but we're doing some complicated debating over whether they are acceptable, at least in some cases.

In another question (Move link-only answer to a comment?), there was a lot of qualifying in the answers.

  • Link-only answers are low quality answers (not comments).
  • If it's accepted and upvoted it's considered helpful.
  • Moving these to a comment is one possible solution, at least in specific circumstances.

However, the "default" categorization of link-only answers is that they are answers. They can be moved to a comment, at least in some circumstances. However, having been posted as an answer instead of a comment, the objective is heroic measures to improve it rather than simply re-categorizing it.

Differential handling

So "Look over there for your answer [link]" is a comment if the link is within SU and an answer if the link is external. Other than the link's location, there is no substantive difference in the post.

If a link-only answer can be an answer, why can't a duplicate question notice be an answer?

  • Is it only because of where the link points?
  • Is there some question vs. answer distinction? The duplicate question notice refers to another question, but it is valid only if the answer is there. If the question isn't flagged, the link often points directly to the relevant answer.
  • Is the basis because the author chose to post it as an answer instead of a comment?

I'm not suggesting that they should be answers. I'm trying to understand why they are treated so differently when the content of the post is the same.

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    Hmm. The idea of the "duplicate question" comments is that they'll eventually end up as official links to a duplicate question, embedded within the post, or are self-deleted by the author (or flagged as obsolete) if the OP can show that the question in fact is not a duplicate. – slhck Apr 7 '15 at 11:17
  • And if it is not a duplicate, then the questioner had better say something before it gets marked that way. Once fully marked as a dupe, people are not likely to add content to that, instead they would add thier content to the linked original, rendering the duplicate question EOL. – Psycogeek Apr 7 '15 at 11:37
  • I tended to do this when it seems similar enough, but I'm not entirely sure if its a dupe. OP would then have the option of editing his question to differenciate it or the question could be closed. – Journeyman Geek Apr 7 '15 at 23:39
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Link-only answers to external resources are not answers.

They are useless, because the external content is not under the control of Stack Exchange, it might die at any point in time and the link loses all value.

Just like the duplication notification comments, they are comments and should be posted as such.

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I agree with Oliver in that link only answers are not answers, but I think that rather than moving them to comments, they should be improved by copying the relevant section of the linked resource (or summarizing it/making it concise if the entire resource is relevant) directly into an edit of the answer as well as including the link.

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