For a few months now, link-only answers have been subject to a new policy where they are given notice to improve, then converted to Community Wiki. This has the result of reducing the threshold to edit to just 100 rep, and also stops any further reputation changes for the author (they will neither gain nor lose any more rep after conversion).

From the linked post:

Rather than swooping in right away and deleting the post, this offers a positive means of informing people about our standards and giving them an opportunity to correct the problem themselves. If not, hopefully we as a community can do it.

I thought this was an interesting idea, so I set up a Data Explorer query to see if this was working as intended.

  • 77 answers were converted to Community Wiki by a moderator

Out of these 77 answers:

  • 13 answers (17%) were edited after conversion to Community Wiki (by either the OP or a member of the community)

    • 7 answers (9%) were later edited by their owner after CW conversion

    • 5 answers (6%) were converted to CW, then edited by a moderator.

    • 1 answer (1%) was later edited by another user (this answer).

Only one post was actually edited by another user.

That's a little disappointing. Given the fact that administrating this is a lot more difficult than just outright deleting these posts, it might be time to consider whether this policy is working well, or how the community can help.

  • Here are the 62 answers that were never edited after CW conversion. It might be worth organising interested users to try and clean these up and improve them, or get rid of them altogether if they're unsalvageable.

  • Another thing to discuss: are the link-only answers worth keeping in their current state, or would it be easier to just delete link-only answers upon flagging? The obvious disadvantage of this is that you lose the information that the link does contain, which might have actually been a solution. Equally, there's the argument that bad answers act as broken windows.

I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts on whether this policy is useful and how we can improve the situation as a community (that's if the situation needs improving—one option could be that this is fine as it is!).

  • 3
    Just a bystander here. I found the policy of converting link-only answers to CW surprising (though I have no voice on this policy) because there's a Very Low-Quality Review Queue with a canned comment to handle this exact kind of answer.
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 19:11
  • 4
    Thanks for bringing this up. After working with this policy for a few months now I think it is worthwhile to consider whether it helps the site and is worth the effort. There is a minor point to add - but likely not to figure out using a data explorer query - there are actually a few posts that have been edited by the OP to prevent conversion to community wiki. (That would be about 20 posts in the whole time). Maybe that actually is the success of the whole deal.
    – Ghanima Mod
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 19:16
  • @Ghanima Indeed. This query catches 3 posts that were commented upon, then improved, although it won't catch cases where the comment was later deleted.
    – Aurora0001
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 19:31
  • There definitely were a handful of those (edited before conversion), and I would have deleted the comment. Note that the mod only chat room ("Link-only holding pen") would have a record of that since we generally indicated what the fate of the question was after three days.
    – goldilocks Mod
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 12:27
  • As I've added to my answer, this whole process is designed to fix a problem that does not really exist. The standard process already gives the person who posted feedback and an opportunity to correct. What's been implemented is a method for the moderators to by-pass the community and do something different. Unless there's some underlying issue that makes this site different in how it functions, I don't understand why this ever came about.
    – Brick
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 0:42
  • Following-up on the comment by @AndrewT., if you fail to vote to delete a question in VLQ that is link-only, the system will block your account for a while after one of those "STOP LOOK AND LISTEN" warnings. At least that's how it is on other SE sites.
    – Brick
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 0:47

2 Answers 2


I'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts on whether this policy is useful

I had thought we'd given up on this a number of months ago; I've just returned from a six week hiatus, and the chat rooms used to handle this have disappeared.1

I haven't looked back through the mod chat logs but my recollection is that Ghanima, Jacob, and I discussed this briefly and decided it was not worth the bother. The post you link in your first sentence ("...link-only answers have been subject to a new policy...") contains a note added by me:

[As of June/17 our policy includes converting these to comments.]

I think I chose "includes" here to indicate it was an option we were using, and that's what I've been doing since then (excluding old answers with upvotes, since that seems unfair). This is more in keeping with an orthodox "not an answer" interpretation.

Only one post was actually edited by another user.

Thanks for the stats! A 1 in 6 success rate is actually not as bad as I would have guessed, and almost justifies the strategy...

Almost. I'm fine with the much easier convert-to-comment. My biggest problem with link-only answers is serial offenders, and that deals with such effectively.

1. Or more accurately shown as frozen/deleted -- however the last post appears to be "4 days ago" O_o? ...Looking back through the posts for whatever reason I only see times and not dates, as if they were all from today. In any case, the public one ("Link Only Community Holding Pen") is not visible to normal users.

  • Looks like I presented the data a little confusingly, sorry. Only 17% were edited at all (the categories after that add up to make 17%—or at least should, if I didn't round them off). Regardless, it sounds like the policy is being retired a little now, which I suppose saves a lot of effort for a relatively low percentage being fixed.
    – Aurora0001
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 15:31
  • 1
    @Aurora0001 Confusing to my cursory reading style ;) Anyway I've corrected that bit -- still worked better than I thought it was. That half the edits were by the OP after conversion might imply this would work better if integrated into the system more (because they took note of the conversion but not the initial comment), or that we should have provided a longer window.
    – goldilocks Mod
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 20:16
  • re 1.: I kept adding to both the holding pen and the other room whenever neccessary no matter if those rooms appear to be frozen.
    – Ghanima Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 14:18

I'm relatively new here, but, for what it's worth, I think this was a bad policy in general made worse by the non-conformance with the rest of the SE universe. There's nothing apparently special about this instantiation of SE that makes the issues raised in the question different than any other instantiation of SE. In all of them, for example, if you delete you lose the information that's at the link. The underlying reason for this policy is that the links typically go dead over time anyway, so there is no archival value and the Q&A gets mucked up with non-response answers over time. Going back to clear those out later - even as "Community Wiki" - is just kicking the can down the road. It's probably kicking it so far down the road that it never gets cleaned up.

I suggest that these should be handled as on other SE sites - Flagged and then deleted. It allows someone else who thinks there's some merit to the information at the link to post a "high quality" answer that includes the link. Editing very low-quality posts should also be discouraged so as not to reward people making such posts.


In light of the comments, I'm adding a screen capture of what you get in the very low quality review queue for those following along who may not have seen a VLQ instance in the process of getting deleted. Note the comment on this one that has one vote to be deleted. The message was populated when the first person chose a reason for deleting and is visible to the person who posted. That comment will get up-votes as additional people vote to delete it. Just to point out that the normal review process already has feedback built-in.

There's also nothing to stop someone from responding to that feedback and improving the answer before or after it is deleted. Even on SO where these sometimes get reviewed quickly, I sometimes get a response from the author on these through the comments, so it's definitely possible. Even more so on a small site like this where it will take a while for enough people to review to cause the deletion.

Finally, there's nothing to stop you from adding an additional comment at the time with a more custom suggestion. Again, as part of the normal review process.

While I totally see that the idea discussed on this question is well-intentioned, I think it's a bad idea to try to make this one site work differently than the rest, especially since the underlying problem - in this case and in my opinion - does not exist in the first place.

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  • There are, however, at least two points to consider. Some of those posting link only answers follow the advice given via a comment and edit their answer (as I was commenting to Aurora's question, that have been at least 20 posts that have been salvaged over the last months since starting this method). That is a small but real benefit. Second, I disagree that editing VLQ posts should be discouraged since it actually does not reward the OP of the post (if it is community wiki nobody gets any reputation). ...
    – Ghanima Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 22:02
  • 1
    ... OTOH it also does not really encourage editing by third parties either (which is probably why the numbers turn out the way Aurora presented them). So to get the best from it, I think it is worthwhile to reconsider the system and switch from "Link only answer" -> flag -> comment -> CW (if not edited) to flag -> comment -> delete (if not edited). This way we keep the benefit of encouraging the OP to edit and improve the answer.
    – Ghanima Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 22:06
  • Giving people a nudge to improve their answer is fine. The non-standard policy of community wiki is an issue. You really want something different than SE. The SE concept is to have answers with archival value, not just immediate value to those answering. I stand by the point that there's nothing unique about this SE instance with respect to the issues raised. Why not take this to the global meta for change across the SE universe if you think it makes sense?
    – Brick
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 22:17
  • My internet dropped during storm while finishing previous comment... @Ghanima If I understand your last comment, that's the usual SE process, right? If so, then I agree with that and I think it matches my answer. The site is going to become irrelevant if the answers aren't generally good for long periods of time. When I have a programming question, I scan the top Google hits for SE first. Am I going to do that for Raspberry Pi? Depends on whether I consistently get high quality answers. In this regard, it's better for questions to have no answer than low quality answers.
    – Brick
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 11:39
  • I am not sure whether the standard SE workflow includes a mandatory comment and a grace period before deletion... but that might actually be the point worth considering here. It however only slightly simplifies the whole process as we still need to track the posts that are tagged and re-visit them after the grace period. Need to look into some helpful userscripts then, @Aurora0001.
    – Ghanima Mod
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:10
  • I've been working the VLQ queue on stackoverflow recently. The menus give several canned reasons for recommending to delete, which generate an automated comment when selected. It's not mandatory in the sense that one option is "No comment needed" - although when hitting that one, it's usually bad, bad, bad. The person answering should get those comments and have a chance to reply. Even if deleted, they can revise and / or post a new answer learning from their mistake. @Ghanima
    – Brick
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:17
  • It seems like the admins on this site keep trying to re-invent SE rather than embracing it. Why make your life harder (and ours too)? I've seen several "initiatives" here that seem genuinely well-intentioned but ultimately by-pass the peer review process in favor some a new hack invented by the admins. I see no reason that you should try to defeat the standard work flow / review process on this. @Ghanima
    – Brick
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:19
  • 1
    Sorry, but this is not about re-inventing SE... but this is a small community and not SO. It is thus more important to embrace new members and guide them lightly to understand our rules. Not deleting posts on the first flag but instead offering a comment and a grace period to improve it is one way to do this. I really think that giving some more leeway here compared to the high volume sites like SO is acceptable. Granted, the community wikification of the posts might not have been the best approach on top of that but that is exactly why it is discussed here.
    – Ghanima Mod
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:37
  • @Ghanima OTOH the small size of the community makes it more important to conform to the workflows of the larger communities, not less important. Expecting qualified users experienced on other sites to learn a different workflow here doesn't make sense and will ultimately discourage them from participating. As noted on another question, there's a lot of overlap here with other sites. Having users from those sites also contributing here is essential. New users on other sites make it - No reason they can't here too. The system DOES provide comments - They are not left without feedback.
    – Brick
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:47

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