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I flagged an answer as "Not an answer" because it was nothing but a link. I downvoted it, flagged it, and left a comment. After some coaxing from another member and myself, the poster edited the answer. That’s great! The answer is much better; however, my flag was declined with the explanation:

a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it

At the time I flagged the answer, it was just a link. The answer even shows where it was edited (below the link). I know I flagged it right, but I lost 10 flag points for this. It makes me wonder if it’s worth flagging anything at all.

Do flags have timestamps that can be compared with comment and edit times, to see if the flag was valid at the time it was made?

Someone else apparently had a similar problem, so I’m wondering if the system is broke.

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Sorry, but -1. Flag weight (which is the motivating force behind almost any post on meta as to why a flag was declined) is contentious at best; trying to find out why a specific flag was declined is almost pointless when a) it's so easy to get back and b) the issue over whether or not it's actually of use hasn't been decided. –  casperOne Dec 21 '11 at 20:16
    
@Chichiray I don't think moderators can actually dispute flags (as in, dismiss them as neutral). The default judgment is supposed to be "helpful" apparently. –  lunboks Dec 21 '11 at 20:17
    
@lunboks That's correct. –  Anna Lear Dec 21 '11 at 20:20
    
@Anna: Why do I have 2 "disputed" flags for similar cases then? They did not affect my flag weight. –  BalusC Dec 21 '11 at 20:20
    
@Chichiray Same reason (someone disagreed), only it was a regular (10k+) user who reviewed the flag. –  lunboks Dec 21 '11 at 20:21
    
@lunboks: Oh? I wasn't aware of that. I now only wonder more why moderators can't do that. –  BalusC Dec 21 '11 at 20:22
    
@Chichiray That means a 10k+ user picked the "invalid flag" option when looking at the 10k flag queue. A moderator likely dismissed the flag later as well, but then it doesn't matter if it was as helpful or as declined since user-disputed flags don't affect flag weight either way. –  Anna Lear Dec 21 '11 at 20:23
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DAMN YOU FLAG WEIGHT! –  Won't Dec 21 '11 at 20:30
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I wish people wouldn't criticize people for asking questions with a concern for flag weight. SO gives users a "score" for this value just like rep, and awards badges based on it. Of course users will be a tad miffed if they lose some of it for correct actions—like flagging an answer inside the 5-minute window. –  Adam Rackis Dec 21 '11 at 20:45

6 Answers 6

up vote 10 down vote accepted

This does happen, and given the volume of flags on SO, you can't expect the moderators to look at the timestamps for every flag. It would help if the UI indicated to the mods that the post has been edited since the flag was raised, in which case, they can inspect the revisions to see if it might've been valid when it was cast.

Hey, wait a minute... where have I heard that before? Well, what do you know? There's a feature-request for exactly that – Indicate that a post has been edited since being flagged. So the right course of action here is to show your support for that proposal, so that the devs treat it with high priority.

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I took your advice and posted my position on that proposal. –  Herbert Dec 21 '11 at 22:22
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This is the only answer that addresses the real issue. People are reading my question as "why did this happen to me?", but my question was "How do we fix it?" –  Herbert Dec 21 '11 at 23:27

Your flag came about 30 seconds after the edit. I think the issue here is just timing. Without looking very closely at the timestamps (which aren't shown openly and require mousing over specific areas), your flag can look like it happened after the edit, so my money's on that although I'm not the moderator who handled your flag.

With your current flag weight you only need one flag resolved as helpful to get you back to where you were before this one. For what it's worth, your flag was correctly motivated and I hope you keep flagging in the future despite this misunderstanding.

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Thanks Anna. The answer doesn't refresh automatically so, by the time I left a comment and flagged it, it must have been edited. From the posters comment, it seemed as though he had no intention of editing it. Should I wait some amount of time to flag in order to avoid this or should I continue to flag immediately? –  Herbert Dec 21 '11 at 20:22
    
@Herbert Unfortunately the answer is "it depends". Some users will edit their answers, some will remain stubborn forever. If you don't mind coming back later to check on it, leaving a comment and waiting is likely safer for your flag weight, but if you forget to check it might leave a crappy answer on the site. Ultimately, my advise is to not worry about flag weight too much and just flag things when you see them. Timing issues like this one are pretty rare in my experience. –  Anna Lear Dec 21 '11 at 20:25
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@Herbert You should wait until 5 minutes after the answer is posted, because edits during that period aren't shown in the edit history, and the poster may accidentally have submitted his answer too soon. After that, not an answer is not an answer is flag material. –  Gilles Dec 21 '11 at 20:33
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Ninja edits strike again! –  Adam Rackis Dec 21 '11 at 20:36
    
@Gilles: "Immediately" was a bit strong. I meant "as soon as I see them", but I'll certainly pay closer attention to the time on the post from now on. –  Herbert Dec 21 '11 at 22:21

I declined your flag. And I did so taking in consideration the fact that it's been edited.

For whatever reason, when I looked at your flag, the system said it was flagged a full 5 minutes after the edit. I don't know how this happened (I'll look into it), but I reasoned that it was a real answer by the time you flagged it. I'm sorry about that.

To avoid these problems in the future, don't flag answers right after they have been posted. Also note that edits in the 5-minute edit window won't be visible to anyone, and they might make your flags look like they are invalid.

Finally, don't worry too much about it. You are under 500 flag weight, so you'll get your 10 points back with just one helpful flag.

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It was posted at 16:39:53Z and edited by the OP at 16:52:03Z, a full 13 minutes later. I left a comment at 16:50:23Z, two minutes before it was edited. I can't see flag times, but I flagged as soon as I finished commenting. It certainly didn't take 2 minutes to flag it. This was not my fault. Flag weight aside, I flagged appropriately and was penalized for it. If the flag time is 5 minutes after the edit, then something is clearly broken. –  Herbert Dec 21 '11 at 22:41
    
@Herbert It says here that the answer was edited at 16:52:03Z, and your flag came 33 seconds later, at 16:52:39Z. If I saw that when I handled your flag, I would've marked it helpful. But as I said, the tools said you flagged "13 min ago" and the answer was edited "18 min ago" at the time I dismissed the flag. Unfortunately there was a problem somewhere along the way, and we can't reverse flags. –  NullUserException อ_อ Dec 21 '11 at 23:52
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@Herbert This (the fact that it's impossible to reverse a flag decision) is just one of the many problems I see with the flag weight system: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/112138/… –  NullUserException อ_อ Dec 21 '11 at 23:54
    
I'm not looking for a reversal nor am I trying to be argumentative. I just don't understand what happened. I don't see how it took 2 and half minutes to flag it. I finished my final comment (at 16:50), hit the flag button, and chose a reason. That took no more than 30 seconds. Even so, the clocks seem to disagree, and with a difference of a mere 30 seconds, I feel justified that I made the right call. I'm more concerned with flagging appropriately than flag weight. Thanks for looking into it. –  Herbert Dec 22 '11 at 0:08
    
I agree there are problems. I enjoy watching my flag weight increase and seeing "helpful" though. It lets me know I'm doing things right. –  Herbert Dec 22 '11 at 0:11

I believe that we now automatically clear (with no disposition) certain "low intensity" flags on a post after it is edited. (Don't worry, serious/urgent flags like spam and offensive are never cleared in this way.)

This is mostly to help with flag volume, but also because we really did see a lot of the simpler, more basic flags become irrelevant after an edit -- and it's a real pain to figure that out as the flag viewer.

That's why we prefer to err on the side of clearing the flag in this case.

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You flagged an answer 13 minutes after it was posted for being just a link. Please don't do that. Moderators don't need to review every quick answer while it's still being edited.

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Actually, no, it was around 13 minutes later. –  mmyers Dec 21 '11 at 20:17
    
@GhostofChristmasPresents You're right, I misread the flag report. (I don't know why it's set up that way.) Still, this was a quick flag for a post that just needed editing. –  Bill the Lizard Dec 21 '11 at 20:21
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13 minutes is well outside the silent edit window. An answer that's just a link pollutes the answer space, no matter how young it is. –  Gilles Dec 21 '11 at 20:31
    
@Gilles 13 minutes is well inside the link rot window. You're forgetting the whole purpose behind flagging link-only answers. If there's useful information behind the link then the answer needs to be edited. There's no reason to bring a moderator into it a few minutes after it's posted. –  Bill the Lizard Dec 21 '11 at 20:36
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@Gilles If there's useful information behind the link then he is helping. The guy edited his own answer after a downvote and a comment within just a few minutes in this case. Moderators did not need to be involved. –  Bill the Lizard Dec 21 '11 at 20:42
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@BilltheLizard As long as the guy hasn't edited his answer, only he or a moderator could fix it (him by adding real content, a moderator by converting it to a comment). So yes, it was necessary to involve moderators, since ordinary members of the community could not pick up that piece of garbage. –  Gilles Dec 21 '11 at 20:46
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@Gilles Anyone can suggest an edit at any time. The piece of garbage did not need to be picked up. There was already a comment and a downvote on it. Those are the right tools for the job on such a young post (barring spam/offensive, of course). Moderators aren't here to combat the FGITW problem. –  Bill the Lizard Dec 21 '11 at 20:47
    
@Gilles Because on a post that's only a few minutes old we don't know if the OP is still editing or not. –  Bill the Lizard Dec 21 '11 at 20:50
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@BilltheLizard If the OP is still editing after he posted, he's wasting everyone's time. Do you mean we should downvote rather than flag then? But if he's not editing, the answer will stay. Ideally, it would stay downvoted, which isn't so bad, but such answers often get stray upvotes too. –  Gilles Dec 21 '11 at 20:57
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@Gilles Commenting would be better than just downvoting, but both is probably best. I really don't mind if the answers stay, as long as there's something useful behind the link. It's far better to have a complete answer here (and I actively promote that through comments), but link-only answers don't really need to be deleted until the link rots. Until then they can be edited. –  Bill the Lizard Dec 21 '11 at 21:06

"Just a link" does not make an answer unhelpful, or "not an answer" flag-worthy. True that a link combined with actual content is better, and much more worthy of upvotes and acceptance, but a specific on-topic link is still much better than nothing. And in many cases, a link to a well-written blog post helps the asker much more than a two-paragraph explanation.

Now, the link in the answer you flagged was not specific enough to be helpful. A downvote would be well deserved. But it also wasn't spam, a request for more information, or a comment on the approach. The "not an answer" flag is not appropriate in such circumstances.

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