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New users posting thanks, comments or new questions as answers on existing questions is very common. It is also something that should be easily handled by the community itself, without requiring diamond moderators to intervene.

The action that need to be taken in such a case are:

  • commenting on the post to explain that answers shouldn't be used in this way
  • deleting the post
  • in rare cases where the post contains valuable information, but isn't an answer, it can be converted to a comment

Problems with the current tools

Commenting can be done by the community, though the behaviour of notifications on deleted posts needs to be changed like I requested in my previous feature request to enable the community to effectively handle this.

In theory, the community can delete such posts. The post needs to be downvoted and three 20k+ users need to vote to delete it. There are several problems with that, making community deletion rather rare.

The other problem with community deletion is that the bar is very high, there just aren't that many 20k+ users on most site. And reputation alone isn't a very good way to determine who should have access to that kind of moderator tool.

Conversion to comment is a mod-only feature, and probably should stay that way. The temptation to do the nicer thing and just convert to a comment when the post should probably be deleted is pretty high.

My possible solution

There are a lot of users that know the SE system well and can reliably identify non-answers, but don't have the 20k reputation necessary to fully act on them. It shouldn't be too hard to identify these user based on their flagging volume and success. I think that a criterium like "flagged x posts as not an answer with at least y% declared valid" would be a far better way to identify trustworthy users than the current 20k+ reputation requirement.

For those users that are determined to be trustworthy, either the "not an answer" flags should automatically delete the post when enough of them are cast by trusted users and if at least one of them has commented on the post. This would enable those users to deal with "not an answer" flags without requiring a moderator to step in.

As a way to safeguard these expanded privileges against abuse or mistakes I'd suggest that even a single "disputed" flag would disable the automatic mechanisms and force the flag to be handled by a diamond moderator.

A different possibility would be to just give those users a delete link on "not an answer"-flagged posts.

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Fwiw I've been quite surprised by the success of non mod naa handling recently. –  Flexo May 27 '12 at 9:13
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Meh. Answers that are not an answer should be downvoted. –  Cody Gray May 27 '12 at 9:16
    
@TheEstablishment I've removed that part as it actually is not all that important in this context. –  Mad Scientist May 27 '12 at 10:05
    
@awoodland On the entire SE network? I'm pretty sure you could count the instances of community answer deletion with your hands on most non-trilogy sites. –  lunboks May 27 '12 at 10:14
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@lunboks the other morning on SO I voted to delete 15 NAA flagged answers - 14 of them were handled without mod activity in the end which was far far higher than I expected to see. I think the problem is that people perceive it as impossible and hold off doing it because of that. –  Flexo May 27 '12 at 10:15
    
@awoodland: Hence meta.stackexchange.com/questions/132840/… –  BoltClock's a Unicorn May 27 '12 at 10:18
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@awoodland The other day I voted to delete 0 answers because I can't. IMO it's more a capacity problem outside the trilogy. On Gaming, there's a handful of 20ks of which I think one or two vote to delete occasionally (of course, unless it's question it never happens without mod intervention). Cooking has zero. –  lunboks May 27 '12 at 10:26
    
@lunboks isn't the point of "(some) users can do most moderation tasks" that moderation of larger sites can scale up. For reference gaming has 429 pages of users, SO has 24979 - it seems to me that when gaming has that many users it's likely to have enough 20k users also. –  Flexo May 27 '12 at 15:38

1 Answer 1

I'm against this, at least for Stack Overflow. I've seen too many answers that were wrong, missed the question entirely or simply fell out of date heavily flagged as 'not an answer' erroneously. A heavily down voted wrong answer can be just as useful as a heavily up voted answer. Some of those wrong answers actually taught me that the way I was going about something was completely wrong and possibly dangerous.

The NAA flag tends to attract a lot of subsequent pile on flags. It doesn't as much as it used to when flag weight was still visible, but it does happen. As much as I would love to reduce the workload in the moderator queue, I'm worried that 'wrong' or perhaps 'not well written, but salvageable' posts will be incorrectly deleted. Down voting needs to happen so the author of the answer gets signal to help them improve just as much as it's needed to help the best information float to the top.

Of all the flags that we deal with, NAA is the easiest one. A seasoned moderator can handle hundreds of those in less than an hour with an extremely low or zero error rate. It's the duplicate, very low quality and 'other' categories that consume most of our effort. If anything, I wish there were a way to get more close vote or counter flag momentum behind those than anything else. Of course, those are my thoughts only as far as Stack Overflow is concerned.

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My experience has been similar on other sites. –  Anna Lear May 28 '12 at 16:30
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I'm with @AnnaLear on this one too. I see NAA flags on answers that are just plain wrong, but still an answer. –  ChrisF May 28 '12 at 16:33
    
That is why I included the veto, so that a single dispute would mean a mod would be required. And if the success rate for previous "not an answer" flags is taken into account, that might be enough to prevent abuse of the feature. –  Mad Scientist May 28 '12 at 17:01
    
interesting. The way you describe, NAA feels difficult for flaggers but easy for moderators. Flaggers miss it a lot aren't they: I've seen too many answers... heavily flagged as 'not an answer' erroneously. Mods on the other hand, seem to be perfectly happy: seasoned moderator can handle hundreds of those in less than an hour with an extremely low or zero error rate. How would "seasoned moderator" handle "erroneous NAAs" - decline them? –  gnat May 28 '12 at 17:05
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@gnat Like any other flag, I usually mark them valid if I can see why people might have found reason to use the flag. If it's a case of an obviously wrong answer, I decline it as "Flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer" It's not difficult for those that follow meta and the discussions we've had regarding what is and is not an answer, but that is a minority in the scope of people that take the time to flag. –  Tim Post May 28 '12 at 17:19
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@MadScientist A lot of NAA flags that I decline (or mark helpful after editing the answer a bit) have no counter flags. The veto is a good idea, provided that counter flags were something we could rely on. When it comes to SO, that's .. not usually the case. –  Tim Post May 28 '12 at 17:22

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