I recently downvoted and flagged an answer as "Very Low Quality". The answer was to a two year old question that already had three correct answers (including one accepted), and the existing answers thoroughly explained the subject at hand. The bad answer provides the wrong conclusion and justifies it with an explanation that would apply to a different though similar question. This answer was also the first answer that the user (who had 6 rep) has provided on SO.

The "Very Low Quality" flag was rejected with the note that "flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer". I try not to flag answers simply for being wrong; this answer seemed to me to go above and beyond merely being dead wrong, but didn't stray in to the territory of incomprehensibility that would qualify it for a "Not an answer" flag, nor was it completely off-topic, nor did I see a way to improve it without changing the essential meaning of the answer (which seems inappropriate, and would pretty much make it a duplicate answer). It seemed to me that the answer satisfied Jeff's test of "Not just bad but embarrassingly bad."

So, if I was overreacting and that answer wasn't actually bad enough to justify the flag, then what would be bad enough while still not qualifying for the "Not an answer" flag? From the discussion on I've seen here about the VLQ flag, it seems that many are opposed to its existence, but that its applicability to questions has been defended. I haven't seen much discussion specific to flagging answers. Can anyone provide specific guidelines for what makes an answer eligible for the VLQ flag, or should I just avoid it altogether?

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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

If it would take a Herculean editing effort to bring a post (question or answer) up to our minimum quality standards, or if the post just can't possibly be salvaged, it's a great candidate for very low quality.

If an answer is wrong, but the author seems to have read and understood the question, use your down vote. Moderators judge the quality of posts, not the accuracy. Well, we do judge accuracy when we're knowledgeable, but we do that with our votes.

If the answer in no way answers the question with content that stands on its own (e.g. "me too", "thanks", "try this link"), it's not an answer and should be removed. The same goes for answers where it's blatantly obvious that the author did not read the question.

Stuff like "Buy nike shoes" is obviously SPAM.

If a moderator investigates a very low quality flag and sees an answer that is readable and seemingly relevant to the question, well .. there's not much evidence of a quality issue. If we can see why someone might think the post was problematic, we generally mark the flag as helpful (after editing or removing the post).

The post that you linked is not very low quality. The first sentence could use a little bit of editing. I can't vouch for it's accuracy, but (again) as a moderator, that's not what I'm supposed to be looking for.

Would that little bit of information and citation be helpful to someone else? I don't know. But it is related to the question, and it can be understood without a lot of effort. The votes it receives should be an indicator of its accuracy and usefulness.

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Read the descriptions of each flag. I think the difference is perfectly clear.

not an answer
This was posted as an answer, but it does not answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

very low quality
This answer has severe formatting or content problems. This answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed.

Moderators don't want to see flags just because you found an incorrect answer. Downvote it and move on.

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I understand that being wrong is not sufficient reason for flagging. What is sufficient for applying the flag to an answer? What kind of content problem is severe enough? –  user134391 Nov 5 '11 at 4:32
    
@user134391 I've wondered that myself. I assume if something seems like an attempt to answer the question, but is completely indecipherable, it is an answer and it's more than just wrong so it might qualify for a "very low quality" flag. I'd love some do / don't flag examples though. –  agf Nov 5 '11 at 4:42
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@agf It's a matter of interpretation. We may not think the post fits the VLQ criteria, but if we see how someone else might interpret it that way, we (generally) mark the flag as helpful. If there's just no evidence of a quality issue, or the issues are extremely minor, we need to invalidate those flags (so that more accurate flags naturally rise to the top). –  Tim Post Nov 5 '11 at 6:10
    
@TimPost Thanks, I understand that. But If completely wrong isn't "very low quality", which sounds like a "severe content problem" to me, what is? Posts that are just links seem to get flagged as "not an answer" because they "should be ... a comment". What is any example of what "very low quality" means? I just don't get it. –  agf Nov 5 '11 at 11:44
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@agf A completely wrong answer should just be down voted. A wall of code with no context, which nobody could possibly make enough sense out of would be VLQ. I'm almost convinced that I should request removing that particular flag for answers completely, it's just too meta and ambiguous. On questions it makes more sense "I can't tell what the heck this person is getting at, and there's no possible way this could be edited to make sense" .. but it's just too problematic on answers. I did my best to explain it, and even as a moderator, I had a difficult time objectively articulating its purpose. –  Tim Post Nov 5 '11 at 12:49
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