There are many Copy, Paste, Link, One Liner Answers. If this is the best answer someone can post, I would strongly recommending not providing an answer. It is not an improvement on a google search, but a step back, as the person has to navigate off the site to get all the information.

This is an example, not personal:

Should I be worried that my 11 month old Bichon Frise hasn't had her first season?

I have done this myself and bore the downvotes, accepted feedback and improved, see edits here:

Our community manager (Tim Post ♦) sums it up well here:
Why aren't people answering using their own words?
and here:
What kind of answers are we looking for?

It is preferable to leave a question unanswered than provide poor answers.

or worse, one of our most upvoted answers, is totally plagiarised
Recommendations for introducing kittens to adult cats

This meta post deals with link only answers Are answers that just contain links elsewhere really "good answers"?

  • 3
    While I agree that these answers are not necessarily good ones, since we already have a few meta posts dealing with the subject of creating good answers, I am slightly confused as to why you are creating another post to talk about them.
    – user53
    Oct 17, 2013 at 14:06
  • Flagged as dupe for closure, but not seeing a link to suggested dupe Oct 18, 2013 at 17:47

3 Answers 3


There are, on rare occasion, questions where a simple, concise answer, with a link, is entirely appropriate. However, these are rarely good questions, and just because a short answer is the appropriate one does not mean it is good content.

I absolutely agree that most copy & paste one-line answers should be downvoted.

I'm not, however, certain that I consider that Bichon Frise answer to be short enough to merit a downvote. This is just my personal preference, but I feel the answer is complete enough that I won't downvote it, yet brief enough that I won't upvote it.

Personally, I think it is sufficient to refrain from upvoting most answers that are particularly brief, but at some point there is a subjective line where these answers become poor enough to merit a downvote.

Answers that are thorough should be our goal. Answers that provide the minimum information necessary to address the question should not be encouraged.

Regardless of how you vote (or abstain from voting), it will be most helpful if you leave a comment suggesting that more details be added to expand the answer. You don't have to mention votes (and doing so may or may not be counter-productive) in the comment; just provide guidance as to what would improve the quality of the answer.

  • +1 yes well put, i am using the downvote as a an incentive. because I lose 1 rep every time I downvote, so it's not in my interest either.. just to try and jump start folk. I'm being overcritical, because we are in private beta, I don't people to think I'm just going boo hiss at everything, not at all. Does that make sense?
    – user87
    Oct 17, 2013 at 12:24
  • 2
    Absolutely. I've downvoted longer answers than the one you used as an example, because I don't believe they were sufficiently authoritative. Downvotes on answers mean "this answer is not useful". That's a pretty subjective definition, and its up to each of us to determine what that means. There is no real "wrong" reason to downvote. I happen to agree with your reason on this, but my agreement is sort of moot, anyway.
    – Beofett
    Oct 17, 2013 at 12:26
  • By having these meta questions here, we can link them to new members, so as to explain lack of upvotes and possible downvotes. I am always happy to reverse the downvote of edited (and improved) posts.
    – user87
    Oct 17, 2013 at 12:31
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    @Skippy I think comments are important to help guide users to improve these answers; I've edited my response to include this.
    – Beofett
    Oct 17, 2013 at 12:36
  • Keep in mind that, as you gain more reputation, the -1 rep penalty represents a smaller and smaller percentage of your total reputation. -1 might seem like a lot for the person with the minimum 125 rep to downvote, but as you increase, it's nominal.
    – jmort253
    Oct 21, 2013 at 23:26

I wouldn't say someone having found a nice external resource but lacking time for fleshing out an answer should not post at all - but instead of an answer, they should post the link as a comment, which other users can then use as base for a full answer or make their answer CW and thus accessible for anyone to extend (especially when beta's over).

  • 2
    There's a general tendency for people to try to use CW to solve various problems, but it really should only be reserved for very specific instances, and this is not one of them. You don't need to make an answer CW to make it accessible for improvement. Anyone can suggest edits, regardless of reputation. Making it CW only removes the checks and balances to ensure that low-rep users have their content vetted, and encourages incomplete answers under the idea that "someone else" will fill in the details later.
    – Beofett
    Oct 17, 2013 at 12:22
  • @Beofett Not exactly - the original intend of CW is indicating "this post might benefit from modifications by others", while a large suggested edit may likely end up being rejected as e.g. "too radical". Nonetheless I agree that CW shouldn't be used too often, and in this case a comment might be more adequate Oct 17, 2013 at 12:25
  • 3
    @TobiasKienzler Unfortunately, the original intent of CW turned out to be kind of a failure. The community team has been generally discouraging their use for a while now. As I understand it, the current "preferred" use of CW is for important FAQ-type repositories for canonical issues (i.e. a really important question that needs a very detailed answer that could be updated frequently as needed). Most of the existing CW's across the SE sites are historical remnants.
    – Beofett
    Oct 17, 2013 at 12:30
  • 1
    @Beofett Indeed, CW has become kind of a monkey-banana-waterhose thing. Edited my answer. Oct 17, 2013 at 12:47
  • 4
    I'm sorry Tobias, but please do not do this. Comments are NOT for answers, not even partical ones. Comments posted under the premise of "I don't have time to post a proper answer" will likely be removed; if not by a moderator, by the system (someday). Comments for answers is a big problem that we'll likely have to fix at the system level. Even partial answers posted in comments can discourage folks from posting proper answers ("the user's already been helped"), and comments have NONE of the vetting capabilities of a proper answer. Oct 17, 2013 at 14:20
  • 1
    @RobertCartaino You should tell that to the folks over at math.SE... meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/1148/163 - I see your point though Oct 17, 2013 at 14:21
  • 1
    The method I've seen at SE proper and at SQA.SE is that if something in comments is a viable answer, the commenter makes an answer of it. At SE and SQA it usually starts with a question in comments ("have you tried XXX?"), then if XXX is helpful, it becomes an answer.
    – Kate Paulk
    Oct 18, 2013 at 11:33

Down vote is a good way to get responses that are better from regular site users. Moderators also have some tools that they can use when posts are flagged to notify the author that it is insufficient. Both struggle if the user isn't a regular on the site or, worse, if they're not registered. In that event, you can vote to delete the answer or try to edit it to something useful if you think you can save it.

  • which is why I protected this Q and posted this meta.pets.stackexchange.com/questions/395/… to stop unregistered users posting answers, for the reasons you've stated above.
    – user87
    Oct 17, 2013 at 13:32
  • FYI: vote to delete doesn't show as an option for non-moderators until the answer has a negative net score.
    – Beofett
    Oct 17, 2013 at 13:42
  • 1
    @Beofett - Down vote it first. I've gotten use to the moderator tools on Photo.SE so I don't always remember the exact flow and I don't want to experiment on the innocent...
    – Joanne C
    Oct 17, 2013 at 13:47