# What constitutes a trivial answer?

I was startled just now to find what I considered a non-trivial (albeit very short) answer summarily (and almost before I posted it!) turned into a comment on the grounds that it was trivial. In fact it was a pointer to an answer to another question, directing the OP’s attention both to the answer itself and to the discussion in the ensuing comments; between them they largely answered her question. I could have copied the information into a new answer, and presumably that would have stood as a substantive answer. So I’m curious: why is it ‘trivial’ when it’s at the other end of a link that is accompanied by an indication of what to look for? Does that hold equally for an answer that contains little more than link to a proof available elsewhere on-line?

In retrospect I should probably simply have voted to close the question as a duplicate, as I’ve now done, but I’m still curious about the question in the title.

(Feel free to re-tag this; I’m still learning my way around the meta tags.)

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An answer consisting only of the word "Trivial." is a trivial answer. :-) –  Asaf Karagila Nov 4 '12 at 20:49
@Asaf: I don’t know: getting the system to accept an $8$-character answer is a non-trivial task! –  Brian M. Scott Nov 4 '12 at 20:51
${}{}{}{}{}{}$ :-) –  Asaf Karagila Nov 4 '12 at 20:53
@Brian Could you please give a link to the example you mention. –  Bill Dubuque Nov 4 '12 at 20:56
@Bill: It’s this question; I deleted the comment into which my answer was transmuted when I voted to close; it pointed to this answer and the ensuing discussion. (I left this information out of the question here because I really am more interested in the general question, now that it’s been brought to my attention.) –  Brian M. Scott Nov 4 '12 at 21:14
@Brian Ah, so your answer was converted to a comment automatically by heuristics in the SE software (vs. by a moderator)? If so, then it would help to emphasize that. The heuristics often make questionable decisions. Usually there is a way to workaround them. For example, providing good literature references often requires much expertise, and we shouldn't discourage such by automatically demoting them to comments. –  Bill Dubuque Nov 4 '12 at 21:23
@Bill: Never having seen that particular feature of the software in action, I didn’t realize that that’s what had happened; if you’ll post that explanation as an answer, I’ll accept it. (At least now I understand how it was able to be accomplished so quickly!) –  Brian M. Scott Nov 4 '12 at 21:24
@Brian I recall the first time it happened to me. It looked like my answer simply vanished when I posted it, since there was no message that it converted it to a comment (and the comments to the question were offscreen in my browser window, so I didn't see it get moved there). So I posted the answer again, and again, till I finally realized something was amiss. Not the best UI design here. Someone will probably give a link to an MSO thread on this "feature". –  Bill Dubuque Nov 4 '12 at 21:31
@Brian: That is the first time I see a deleted answer was honestly deleted, and there is no trace of it left... –  Asaf Karagila Nov 4 '12 at 21:43
@Asaf I suspect that's because the SE software never actually posts an answer if it deems it trivial. Rather, it transforms it to a comment during the posting process. –  Bill Dubuque Nov 5 '12 at 1:43
I removed the moderation tag, since it is done by some algorithm and without human intervention. –  Willie Wong Nov 5 '12 at 9:30
–  Phira Nov 6 '12 at 0:37
Cool, it worked. –  Phira Nov 6 '12 at 0:38

In short: we can't tell you, as it was automatically done by the software.

Slightly longer reason: there is some heuristics built-in to the software that automatically converts some short answers into comments. The exact criterion is not publicised (so people don't just go a work around it). But the general philosophy that SE is advocating is that answers should be elaborated and as self-contained as reasonably possible. An answer that is simply an internet hyperlink is discouraged. If you have the patience you can wade through the questions on Meta.SO to see why this particular feature was implemented (I don't have a link handy at the moment).

To work around: just add some more elaborating text around your link to make it more substantial. Or, as you remarked, if the answer from another question completely and exactly answers the question asked, then one can probably vote to close it as exact or abstract duplicate.

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The main reason is link rot. –  Noah Snyder Nov 5 '12 at 9:54
The automatic conversion triggers on very short posts containing an SE-internal link (meta.stackexchange.com/a/98955/151385). If you trigger this feature, it is very likely that the post is just a duplicate. –  Mad Scientist Nov 5 '12 at 12:23
Thanks, Willie. –  Brian M. Scott Nov 5 '12 at 16:31