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Lately, I've found myself trawling the [story-identification] posts fairly often, and a recurring problem is users who post answers that consist of a book title, occasionally with a bare link to Wikipedia or Amazon. I've been taking those entries and editing in a brief description, sometimes just from the site that they linked. Is this useful? Is it encouraging overly brief answers in hopes of answering "first" that then have to be cleaned up by providing actual detail?

I suppose that, as much as anything, the fact that there's usually a "Can you explain your answer?" comment on these posts to the original author. If the person in that comment didn't feel it was useful to visit the linked site and post the summary, am I presuming on my side?

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Yes it is useful.

No, you're not 'presuming' at all.

The site rules explicitly encourage you to make changes that you feel will improve the original post. If others feel that they aren't improvements then they'll roll those changes back or make further edits.

At 2000+ rep points you're consisted "trusted" enough to use your own judgment on what edits to make without the approval of higher rep members.

The only caveat I'd offer would be to tread carefully where an answer is brand new. Editing something that's only a few minutes old can come across as seeming meddlesome, especially if the user is still in the process of editing their own answer.

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As @Richard explains, you are doing a helpful thing; there's a reason why short answers are flagged for review "because of their length".

The only other caveat I can add is to make sure that you don't paste in too much: Posting large swaths of Wikipedia as answers

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This is not legal in most cases, as the content you're copying is copyrighted. It's legal for WIkipedia as long as you link back to the original article as well, or otherwise acknowledge the creators of the content. It's of very dubious legality for Amazon, although you might have a "fair use" defence in some jurisdictions. The correct way to refer to copyrighted content is to link to it, not to copy it, even though this creates a risk of link-rot.

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  • Ah, that's probably true. I hadn't thought about the aspects of the Amazon material. – FuzzyBoots Oct 3 '14 at 9:52
  • @SeanDuggan The prefferable way to go about this would be to paraphrase the content from Amazon/Wikipedia. They may have a copyright on the text, but they don't have a copyright on the information contained therein. This is where a little creative re-writing comes in handy. – Zibbobz Oct 3 '14 at 19:15
  • I think Wikipedia is free game. Their license specifically allows direct copying. – FuzzyBoots Oct 3 '14 at 19:37
  • Yes, I said Wikipedia was OK in my answer. They use a CC-BY-SA licence, the same as StackExchange, so it's fine as long as you credit the creators of the content in some way (e.g. by linking to it). – Mike Scott Oct 3 '14 at 19:38

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