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In the question Would anyone please tell me what the attached file say?, there's a link to an externally-hosted file:

I heard a google message when I used google voice, but I could not get the keyword. Would anyone please help me? Download the voice file from tempsend.com

This file was apparently a voice recording, but I'm wondering how, as a community, we should respond to these, because by the time I got around to this question, the link had expired - it no longer provides the recording.

Apart the dubiousness of downloading an unknown file (yes, we should all have our wits about us and make sure we sterilise, scan and secure our computers), this question would be of limited value to future visitors, as is, since they wouldn't have access to the recording.

So then, this question essentially becomes a request for transcription, since the asker doesn't seem able to do so.

  1. How do we handle these? And once the links expire, do we ask the OP to upload it so that we can transcribe the content? If so, the question then becomes:

    I heard a google message when I used google voice, but I could not get the keyword. Would anyone please help me?

    [transcript]

    Which seems like a non-sequitur at the very least, since by transcribing it we will answer the question.

  2. If we permit this type of question, should it be required/recommended that the audio files have a reasonable expectation of permanency? One of the issues is that, unless there's more than just an audio file, it'll be of limited use to future visitors, because audio links don't get followed and indexed by search engines as texts do.

And I suppose, was this question on-topic? I'm having trouble finding similar questions because, well, the question isn't really a question.

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The question is off topic, most likely under the general proofreading reason. It's, essentially, "I can't understand the spoken English in this recording. Please transcribe and explain it." It doesn't matter if the asker can't understand the English because they don't know the language well enough (they need to identify a specific concern in the body of the language) or because the audio is of poor quality (audio quality issues are off topic).

I'd venture to say that having an external audio file critical to the post makes this a question version of a link only answer, which we generally delete as very low quality. If the link dies, the post is useless. Even if "reliable, permanent" hosting can be found (and I'd only consider first party - i.e. via SE - solutions as so qualifying) for such files, I think allowing these kind of questions opens too much of a can of worms and will lower the overall quality of the site. They require access to third party content and are typically highly localized, making them unlikely to be useful to future visitors.

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  • All good points - a link-only question is probably unlikely to be useful to future visitors, as you say. This doesn't seem to come up too often, though. – jimsug Jun 1 '14 at 3:26
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    It's not really "proofreading", but that's okay—we have custom close reasons now, so you can type up something appropriate on the spot :-) – snailplane Jun 2 '14 at 4:22

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