Link-only answers are discouraged here, because answers should contain all the necessary information rather than being pointers to (possibly-volatile) information. Usually when we come across link-only answers we ask for an edit and, failing that, convert them to comments.

On this question, the accepted answer is a link-only answer. It's from somebody who doesn't participate any more, so the author is not going to expand the answer to summarize what's at the link. The link is an 80-minute video (or audio?) file, which is beyond what I'm personally willing to dig through. (Were it a text article I'd skim to see if I could improve the answer.) The person who asked the question was last here in September.

What should we do with this answer?


3 Answers 3


Wow, I've never seen an unregistered account with 18k+ rep before, a quick check shows that the owner can't recover it without our help - so that explains why they haven't been seen in quite some time.

Now, onto how to handle these, and it's never quite cut and dry. First, remember that the accepted answer is not always the best answer, it's just the one that the author of the question picked, for whatever reason. This particular question appears to have a relatively comprehensive and self-contained answer that out scored the accepted one. Therefore, if the accepted answer is deleted, then the question still has a good answer.

If the link breaks, it's got to go - or the relevant information that used to be in whatever was linked will need to move its way into the post. Otherwise, it's just a dead-end with a check mark next to it.

This brings us to a sort of flow chart:

  • Does the link still work?

    • Yes: Move on to item II
    • No: Fix or delete the answer, it's a dead end with a check mark which nobody likes
  • Do any other answers sufficiently answer the question?

    • Yes: The link-only answer can be converted to a comment or deleted, or left with a comment inviting anyone that cares to paraphrase the linked resource
    • No: The answer should be fixed, if possible, or a better answer written, then consider whether the link-only answer is worth keeping in light of new answers, if you went that route.

In cases where the link-only answer is highly up-voted, you can often find a copy of what it was linking to in the Wayback machine. Note, you need to find a snapshot of the linked page at the time the link was posted. You should also then move anything relevant into the answer itself, please don't just fix the link.

Just try your best to not leave a question completely unanswered if you can - but even if you do, the worst that happens is it ends up on the unanswered questions list again where it (should) get a better answer than the one you removed.

And remember, again, accepted does not mean best - don't give substandard quality preferential treatment because of the check mark.

  • 1
    Thanks Tim! I believe this was a 1.0 user who never converted to 2.0 (I don't know why not). Jan 6, 2014 at 14:53
  • I actually personally know the original account owner and can communicate with him in an offline manner. How can he go about getting his account back?
    – yydl
    Jan 12, 2014 at 7:07
  • @yydl Have them contact us with a link to their profile, we'll give them instructions from there.
    – Tim Post
    Jan 12, 2014 at 9:18
  • @yydl did you ever talk with him about this? We'd love to have him back if he's still interested. If there's something about the site that's keeping him away, I'd like to know that too (if he's willing to share). Jun 23, 2014 at 18:31
  • @MonicaCellio No. He simply said that he tried, but they won't work with him. I think he said he lost access to the email account as well or something like that. I still see him on a regular basis...
    – yydl
    Jun 25, 2014 at 0:32

I recommend commentifying the answer post and possibly, as a courtesy, adding a comment saying that it was the accepted answer and explaining why it was commentified and how it could be expanded into a real answer.

I think that the governing principle here is that the majority of the consumers of our content are not the question-asker, especially once he is satisfied that his question has been answered. The fact that the asker liked a particular answer post doesn't remove the fact that it's below our quality standards, which we try to impose on this entire repository of content on behalf of the Internet-reading public. If the post was only borderline-deletable, I could see giving it the benefit of the doubt because it had earned the checkmark, but not if it clearly doesn't count as a real answer post.

Making it into a comment preserves the link for the asker and anyone else who would find it useful, as well as for anyone who might be interested in expanding it into a full answer.

  • 2
    I agree with (and upvoted) this answer. I've marked Tim's as accepted because (a) as a CM he can give an authoritative answer from SE and (b) this particular case has been fixed with avi's edit (thanks for that!). Jan 6, 2014 at 22:57

If the link still works, I suggest asking the person to summarize the link. If the answer is very old, then summarize the link yourself.

If the link does not work, it should be deleted.

  • As noted in the question, the author of the post is no longer active (nor, apparently, the asker who found it helpful), and listening to an 80-minute lecture to distill the important points is beyond what I'm willing to do. Jan 6, 2014 at 13:39
  • Ok, so leave a comment for someone else to do it. If someone ever has the question again, maybe they will have the patience to listen to it and update the answer.
    – avi
    Jan 6, 2014 at 13:40
  • Even after it is converted to a comment it can be listened to by someone else and summarized into an answer...
    – Double AA Mod
    Jan 6, 2014 at 14:28
  • @DoubleAA But then it can't be marked as the accepted answer.
    – avi
    Jan 6, 2014 at 14:33
  • 1
    Just as an aside, if it was not the accepted, answer, I would not have gone through the effort to listen to the lecture. So turning it into a comment, in this case, would have made the information lost to the question for 90% of people viewing the page.
    – avi
    Jan 6, 2014 at 14:48

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