As a community we can decide how we should handle link-only or link-mostly answers, possibly in a different way than SO does (and that is a constantly / moving / target / anyway). I'm not even clear what to do on SO right now regarding this type of answer, and while I have no control there, I'd like to have some consensus and consistency here.
I often find that link-only answers are useful to both the OP and future readers, but I don't think they should stand as answers on their own (and that includes answers that have empty context like "this link should help you"). On some of the meta threads you'll see people hammer link-only answers, stating that they should be deleted, presuming that most are answers that would have been comments if the author had enough rep to comment. I've observed that that is actually a very narrow and uncommon use case.
As for examples: Here is one. Now, the SQLCat team is not going to dismantle their blog tomorrow, but MSDN does have a nasty habit of periodically adjusting their site and screwing up many types of links in the process. A year ago nobody could have predicted that Dell would buy Quest and that shortly thereafter they would revamp their site and butcher all their links (a price several sites on the network are currently paying). Sometime down the road we may be editing this answer in the same way, turning a link that became defunct outside the control of this site back into something useful.
So is this the kind of thing that should be converted to a comment? Should we push for more context from the author such that deleting the link (effectively the same as destroying the destination) will leave a salvageable answer? Should we be discouraging links as much as possible to limit our exposure to link-rot?
The thing I don't like about converting to a comment is that it will make things like this SQLServerPedia thing harder to find, since comments aren't searchable. But at the same time I realize that it's not always going to be possible to incite an answerer to enhance their answer to include meaningful context, and I also don't suspect it will be a common scenario for other users to do it for them. And I really don't know that we should be discouraging links in general as opposed to link-only answers - there are great resources out there that we shouldn't be ignoring, we just have to have some faith that they will remain active (or be prepared to deal with them manually if they move, or simply deleting answers if the remote content is completely lost).
So what say ye, dba.SE'ers? How would you like to handle link-only / link-mostly answers? Our options are:
- leave them be
- leave a comment asking the author to enhance them with context
- enhance them with context ourselves
- flag them with a custom flag ("please convert this to a comment")
- flag them as not an answer, for the purpose of deleting
- any others I'm not thinking about?