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I am a non-20k-er on many sites. What am I supposed to do when I encounter a not-an-answer?

  • Flag it as not an answer?
  • Downvote it?
  • All of the above?

I have 20k reputation on one of the sites. What am I supposed to do when I encounter a not-an-answer there?

  • Flag it as not an answer?
  • Downvote it?
  • Vote to delete it, if it has negative score?
  • All of the above?

And if the answers to these two questions are "all of the above", why do we need to separate it into multiple actions? Why not have flagging as not-an-answer automatically issue a downvote and, if possible, a delete vote?

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Please also read Rob's answer here: meta.stackexchange.com/a/115799/419 - in short, don't flag answers you think are wrong or inaccurate, mods are not delete proxies for wrong answers. –  The Anti-Santa Dec 13 '11 at 11:35
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@TheAntiSanta I know, but that's not what I'm asking about. I'm asking what to do once I do encounter something which definitely isn't an answer (and doesn't fall into another more clear-cut category such as spam). –  Oak Dec 13 '11 at 21:57

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Flagging as "not an answer" is always appropriate, it will ensure that a moderator deals with it at some point if the community doesn't. If the community manages to delete the answer themselves, the flag is automatically dismissed as valid and no moderator called for something that is already dealt with, so there is no drawback to always flagging here.

I personally don't downvote non-answers from 1 rep users if they are just misunderstanding how the Q&A system works. I downvote for crappy content, rants or sometimes if it is from users who should really know better. You'll get the reputation back after a recalc if the post is deleted, so that is no reason to hesitate. If you want to vote to delete you might need to downvote it to get the score to -1.

One step you didn't mention is commenting, for new users I find it essential to explain what exactly they did wrong. The problem as a normal user is that they won't be notified about the comment if the answer is deleted quickly. There is an exception for moderator comments, those will always cause a notification when posted shortly before deleting.

If I had 20k I would also vote to delete. If there are enough 20k users on the site, mods don't even need to be involved for this. Though if I would vote to delete, I would likely comment to explain what the user did wrong, if he's new.

So with a few caveats I would generally say that you should do "all of the above".

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" If the community manages to delete the answer themselves, the flag is automatically dismissed [...]" -- "Dismissed" may be interpreted as causing a decrease in flag weight. IIRC, deletion of a flagged answer (even by the OP) causes the flag to be considered "helpful" (increase in flag weight). –  lockstep Dec 13 '11 at 17:43

If somebody gives the wrong answer, maybe because a misunderstanding of the question, that should not be flagged as "not an answer." Moderators are not supposed to verify the correctness of the answer; flagging a wrong answer as "not an answer" give the task to somebody else, but moderators (in that case) could just eventually down-vote the answer, which is something other users can do.

If you are a 20k user, you can vote to close an answer that has been down-voted. If enough 20k users do that, the answer is deleted without any intervention of the moderators. If the answer is not down-voted, you can down-vote it, and vote to close it; again, if enough 20k users vote to delete it, the answer will be deleted without the moderators need to do anything. If you can do something without the need of moderators, then you should do it.

For spam that is different, as spam flagged as spam from six users is automatically deleted. If the post doesn't get those six flags, moderators can delete the spam, and block the spammer. The fact the flag triggers an automatic action could be a reason to prefer it, even if 20k users could still vote to delete a spam post that got a down-vote (which could be also the automatic down-vote caused by the post being flagged as spam). The difference in this case is the consequences for the spammer: If the spam is deleted by 20k users, the spammer's account is not deleted.

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-1... the only place where you actually addressed my question is in the last sentence of the second-to-last paragraph. The rest is just telling me things I know and that I didn't ask about :) thanks anyway, though; I do appreciate the effort, and I think you make a good point in that specific sentence - anything that can help relieve actions from the busy mods is probably a good thing. –  Oak Dec 13 '11 at 21:55
    
The first part of the answer just reports to which type of answers the rest of the answer is referring; as the answers for a question should not just be helpful to who ask it, I preferred adding that part. I have never said you don't know what a "not an answer" is. –  kiamlaluno Dec 14 '11 at 3:50

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