Previously this meta has addressed the issue of unattributed sources as answers. This answer, however, is a bit of a different issue.

What I see going on here is that the user's entire answer is a quote. Though she has given credit to the original author, she's given no summary, no explanation of how it applies to the original question, or anything. She's simply reproduced nearly the entire article.

I don't see a precedent for an issue like this before, so I wanted to get the community's input on how we ought to handle this sort of answer. Here are some options:

  • Be happy with it, and upvote if it answers the question well?
  • Suggest an improvement where the author include some of his/her own thoughts as well as the quote.
  • Suggest the author quote only small bits of the article, and instead draw from and interact with the article's arguments
  • Let it burn in the flames of our downvotes.
  • Delete the answer if it fails to shape up.

A quote only answer must overcome three hurdles:

  1. It must properly attribute the quote.

  2. It must add some sort of value over what might be discovered via a search engine.

  3. It must not rehash a previous answer.

Answers that fail one or more hurdle really should be deleted.

My reason for the first condition should be obvious. But the last two require an explanation. I find quote only answers dismissive of the question in the same way that RTFM is. If the question can be answered with a quotation that is easily discovered via Google, the question was probably not constructive in the first place. So if another answer covered the same ground without being a bare quotation, the question must have had some merit.

It doesn't take a lot to add value to a quotation. Simply putting a quote in context might be enough. Certainly typing up an off-line source or providing a translation for a non-English source would add value. Pulling a quote that is buried in an article could add value. But quoting the first section of a Wikipedia article is just not enough to meet our goal of providing expert answers.


I'd like answers to be judged on the merits of their content, regardless of source, so I'm essentially in favour of keeping and approving these answers…

but, they do make me uneasy, mostly because I can see that there might be potential for someone to complain that their work has been posted without permission. In a sense that is not our problem, it is between the poster and the author, but the question remains whether we want to encourage it or not.

I've been wondering if we can turn this to our advantage however, and I propose the following two actions:

  1. In the case where the answer is 'not very good' we comment, linking to this meta post, and delete. This is a higher standard than we would apply to other answers, and to be good enough to keep the answer should show it's work well and be useful (upvoted), anything less gets the chop!
  2. In the case where the answer is good, showing its work well and being useful, we keep it, vote for it, accept it if applicable, but we take the excuse to try and contact the original author to spread the word about this site. If they join up and would like to post the same answer under their own name then we delete the 'quote' version.

This policy would have a particular benefit: we'd only be spending the time approaching folk who we already know are capable of providing the quality answers we want here!

In addition, if the source is online, the answer must link to that source. This makes it easier for readers to learn more, and might also alert the author of the quoted material of its use by this site. (Which is a good thing, per the second point above!)

  • @Monica please go ahead and edit that in, it sounds good to me. Presumably it is ok for anyone to edit in that link if it is absent? – Jack Douglas May 12 '13 at 9:47

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