Apparently there are a lot of old link-only answers on math.stackexchange and recently they seem to be clogging the low quality queue. I have two questions related to that.

  1. Has there been a change to the system so that these are now recognized automatically and put in queue, or is there actually someone deliberately flagging all these old answers (even going back to 2010)?

  2. What is the right course of action for these very old posts? I suppose with today's standards they should be deleted, but back then they seemed fine-ish. There is also very little hope that the authors come back to rectify their answers, so a link-only answer is still technically better than no answer at all, even if the link is obsolete one day.

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    $\begingroup$ In relation to links that become obsolete, there is Domains with dead links which in particular explains via examples how one can sometimes fix these links $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ It may be at least partially my doing? How much is "a lot?" I only get 15-ish flags (and rising) per day. They're really not hard to find. Just search "this video" url:http is:a -[reference-request] or something else that tends to give link-only answers. It mostly started as a result of me being curious about what running some SEDE queries on this site would yield. After finding an old sockpuppet account and some other stuff, I figured I'd help flag stuff here. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ @GeneralGrievance I figured something like that as they come in waves and 15 sounds about right. Thanks for outing yourself. :P $\endgroup$
    – Klaus
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ I guess not everyone feels the same way about these though. I'm getting several "Looks OK" votes on these and getting "disputed" statuses. Not especially sure why though for some of these. The OEIS one I get. I forget I'm not on StackOverflow sometimes. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ Also, reserve most actions in review queues to posts in the last five years. Changes and standards on this site have progressively become more stringent. After all, old movie classics remain classics, and are not judged by today's standards. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 16:20

1 Answer 1

  1. There has been no change to the software which would cause these answers to be automatically placed into a review queue.

  2. The problem with link-only answers is that they are vulnerable to link-rot. They were never okay, though people have often gotten away with posting such answers in the past (and they still get away with it, sometimes).

    I would also argue that link-only answer is not better than no answer at all, as link-only answers pollute search results with potentially dead links, which are going to waste someone's time when they go looking for an answer.

As such, my advice would be to recommend deleting link-only answers, whether they are to new questions or old questions. They really aren't doing anyone much good. Of course, one should also definitely apply one's own discretion: if you believe that the link does provide a useful resource on its own and is unlikely to rot (e.g. a DOI reference), perhaps no further action is needed. You are also free to edit an old answer to incorporate relevant context.

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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't this depend highly on whether or not there are (good) non-link answers on the site? I'm not much of a dupe hunter, so maybe that's true in the vast majority of cases, but isn't it with taking that into account? $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ No. If there is no other answer to the question, we need to know that, systematically, so that unanswered questions are correctly identified and categorised. If the only answer is a link, we have no idea whether it has actually been answered, what the quality of that answer is, whether that status is still valid. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 11:22
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    $\begingroup$ By DOI, you mean this, right? I've been out of academia for a while. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ Yes.${}{}{}{}{}$ $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ Makes sense, thanks for replying! $\endgroup$
    – Klaus
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ Convert into comments. That is better. $\endgroup$
    – kelalaka
    Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 21:38

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