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I regularly review on StackOverflow, but am not actively engaged on ServerFault. Over the weekend, out of habit, I flagged two link-only answers, which wouldn’t be permitted on most Stack Exchange sites:

Both of these flags were declined with the stock message:

declined - flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer

Obviously, I didn’t flag these answers because I thought they were inaccurate or wrong, but because they didn’t include information beyond the link.

Are link-only answers acceptable around these parts? Are there any cases where link-only answers should be flagged?

I did read a few meta posts before asking this question, and one carves out some exceptions (such as old posts with upvotes, or posts asking for resources). None of the exceptions seem relevant here, though.

I’m assuming this is my mistake since I’m new around here. I want to make sure I’m updating my heuristic before submitting any more unhelpful flags. What should I learn from this?

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Link-only answers are answers:

Your answer is in another castle: when is an answer not an answer?

Overall, the guidance on NAA flags is confusing and is not readily accessible to users or to moderators and here on SF, there have been contentious discussions about it in the past. I suspect different moderators will respond to NAA flags on link-only answers differently, so the main thing you should keep in mind is that it's not a big deal to get some declined flags. Based on what ultimately happened to these particular answers, a custom flag pointing out that you're flagging because of the link-only answer might work better.

Obviously, I didn’t flag these answers because I thought they were inaccurate or wrong, but because they didn’t include information beyond the link.

Keep in mind that's a canned response, one of just a few that are available to moderators when responding to a flag.

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My approach to link-only answers depends somewhat on what it's linking to (rando blog posts are not cool; vendor docs more so), as well as whether the linked-to resource directly answers the question, or just gives info which, with sufficient other context, could be assembled into a useful answer. I'll usually convert-to-comment on the question rather than straight-up deletion, though -- it's sorta useful information, even if (IMO) it's not an answer.

As Ward said, though, the reaction will vary somewhat between mods, which, I acknowledge, makes it a bit harder to determine "the standard".

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I think the best solution is to edit the answer with the relevant portions of the linked page that answer the question and include the link as source. If you're a karma whore, you could just post your own answer using the information in the article posted by the lazier user (I'd upvote your answer).

This is also beneficial for future users who have the same problem and the link is dead when they find the question.

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