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I've noticed a lot of questions where an individual has linked to external content to answer a question without bringing in the actual information. Some of these questions, the links are dead (even links to the official ubuntu wiki, for example). Is there a plan or policy for dealing with these types of "redirection" answers?

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There is a policy, stated in the how to answer page which is linked from the FAQ:

Provide context for links

A link to a potential solution is always welcome, but please add context around the link so your fellow users will have some idea what it is and why it’s there . Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the target site is unreachable or goes permanently offline.

If you see an answer which is little more than a link, the acid test is: if the link is not accessible, is the answer still useful?

If the answer is still useful (for example, the question was how to do X, and the answer is a link to a package page on http://packages.ubuntu.com for a program that does X), then it's a valid answer. It's usually not a very good answer — an explanation of why the linked resource applies would be nice — but it is an answer.

If you need to visit the link to get any use from the answer, then it is in fact not an answer and should be removed. Use your best judgement as to what to do with it:

  • If the link is to another Ask Ubuntu question:

    • leave a comment telling the answerer to vote or flag to close the question as a duplicate in such circumstances.
    • flag the answer as “not an answer” (or delete it if you're a moderator).
    • vote or flag to close the question as a duplicate if you agree.
  • If the answer is recent, and you think the linked resource is worthwhile, leave a comment citing the answer policy and suggesting that the answerer add some real content and that the answer might be deleted otherwise. I recommend also downvoting the (non-)answer, as this tends to motivate posters to improve their answers; be sure to come back later to check, and transform your downvote into an upvote if the answer has been updated.
  • If you think the linked resource is worthwhile, and you have the time and knowledge, edit the answer, summarizing the information found behind the link.
  • If the link is already given by other answers, or the material behind the link is similar to material given in other answers, the link-only answer should be deleted outright. Vote to delete if you can, otherwise flag to delete (use either the generic “not an answer” flag or a custom flag citing the answer that already has the material).
  • If none of the above applies, flag the answer, either as “not an answer” or with a custom flag suggesting that the answer be transformed into a comment. A link to a place where an answer can be found is best posted as a comment to the question: it provides useful information, but it is does not in itself answer the question (so having it in the answer section is bad, because it gives the false impression that the question is answered).

Note that it's ok to flag a link-only post as not an answer even if you posted a “competing” answer. A moderator will review the flag, so don't worry about a possible conflict of interest. If you're a moderator, you might want to let one of your colleagues handle this — or not, there is no conflict of interest in blatant cases.

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I find that most answers with just links are pretty much the terms the person asked in the question put into google and then the link is regurgitated as an answer, which is usually incorrect and/or out of date in a place that we can't fix it.

This is the sort of junk this site set out to fix so I usually downvote this kind of stuff. If it's a link to official documentation or something then usually it's not a problem just fixing the link.

  • I wonder if there could be a popup, or something that notifies the user that linking content as a reference is for that purpose only and that the answer should be entirely enclosed in their answer. – Brandon Bertelsen Jul 21 '12 at 21:03
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    That's just a technical solution to a social problem, over time the voting on the answers sorts this out anyway. – Jorge Castro Jul 21 '12 at 21:31
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I am not a moderator and so I have no idea about any contingency plans regarding these "dead" links issue. Although I don't think that there is an existing policy, otherwise they would have dealt with it already.

I personally believe that only AU links (questions with useful answers) should be linked on answers or comments especially on possible duplicate or related questions.

As with external links, there is no stopping someone from embedding links to external (alive or dead) sites on their comments and answers.

Best way to deal with these is to leave a comment requesting for the OP to revise the comment or answer to remove dead links and provide new (working) ones.

OR

We could just edit the questions or answers ourselves.

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