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I came across

c#.net convert date yyyyMMdd to system.datetime format.?

while performing a Google search on a related topic. The question was closed as a duplicate two years ago. Still, it is relevant both because it is a fairly high Google search result for related terms, and because it contains a good answer.

The other answer, though, is barely more than a link to MSDN. I flagged it as such, but the flag was

declined - The question was closed nearly 2 years ago. There's really no reason to flag this now

Is that reasoning correct? The age of the question does not seem important, but only its relevance. Additionally, should it matter whether or not the question was closed? The question is not deleted (because it has value still), and the answer in question does not meet our community criteria for a good answer.

I'm far away from any new badge related to flagging, and that is not my interest. I just want to understand why it is desirable to leave this answer up.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Generally, moderators are discouraged to decline flags without a strong reason.

  • Clarifications given in September 2011 Newsletter of SE Community Moderator Blog look pretty straightforward:

    Flags Too Often Marked [declined]

     
    Marking a flag [declined] was designed to deter serial abusers of the flagging system, but we find that this “slap on the wrist” is being used more often than is beneficial.
     
    Flags should be closed as [helpful] under most circumstances. If you feel strongly that a question was flagged in bad faith, it is okay to mark it [declined]. But try to err on the side of clearing as [helpful] whenever the user is trying to be genuinely helpful, even if you do not necessarily act on the flag...

Given that moderation is human activity involving judgement call, deviations from above guidelines are inevitable.


As for the answers like one you flagged - ones that are barely more than a link to external resource (), these blatantly violate guidance given in How to Answer instructions:

Provide context for links

A link to a potential solution is always welcome, but please add context around the link so your fellow users will have some idea what it is and why it’s there. Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the target site is unreachable or goes permanently offline.

By doing so, link-only answers set a bad example for Stack Exchange users, similar to how it happens with broken-windows questions: "why can't I answer link-to-X when link-to-Y answer exists".

Community benefits of removing (more precisely, converting to comments) link-only answers are eloquently presented here:

If a link-only answer is accepted, it is especially important to delete it (converting to a comment if the link isn't broken yet)... When a question has an accepted answer, it looks like it has a definitive answer, and there is not much point in looking for a better one. People who are looking to improve the site by providing better answers tend to consider questions with accepted answers as very low-priority. If a question has an accepted answer which consists solely of a link, this sends the wrong message, especially after the link breaks. Sure, the accepted answer might have helped the asker, but it's not going to help future visitors, and the community should not be penalized for that answerer or asker's failing.

Given above, it is not surprising that official FAQ -> Why are some questions or answers removed? specifically targets link-only answers:

Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are … barely more than a link to an external site.

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There are certainly cases where the age of the question is relevant to flagging (e.g., migration), but this doesn't appear to be one of them. A bad answer is a bad answer regardless of question age, and especially as the question's got a lot of Google-juice, we should keep it tidy.

That said, I'm not convinced that answer is as bad as you're making it out to be. The question is essentially, "How do I do this?" and the answer's "Use method Foo()". While the top answer on that question has a code example, the second has both a link to the docs and some minimal explanation of what the methods do. The question isn't great for not demonstrating much research effort, but both answers are okay (not great) given the bad question.

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We get some users who make it their mission to flag old questions, perhaps as some sort of cleanup idea.

While laudable (well...), it takes focus and attention away from newer questions that are relevant, new, and still have some life left in them.

As moderators, if we see a lot of old questions get flagged when new ones are ignored, we tend to decline every once in a while, just to reiterate where the focus should be.

In this case, I agree with the moderator who declined your flag, and would have done the same. It may be a link only answer, but it's on a two year old closed post. What would you expect to happen from this flag? Delete the answer? Ask the User to post more than just a link? It's two years old; there's an older post that goes into more detail, and the question isn't hurting for answers.

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3  
Declining a flag seems harsh to me in this case even if you choose to take no action. Just because something is closed doesn't mean it can't be cleaned up or that it should remain in a poor state. Poor flags are always poor flags regardless of what they're on, but in principle flagging old questions or answers is certainly not a terrible thing. –  Anna Lear Oct 12 '12 at 2:15
    
Old questions and new questions are both equally valid in my opinion, as long as they are still relevant. If the answer does not meet our community guidelines (and I understand that's a matter of debate, but my question is about the explanation not the outcome), I don't see any logical reason for keeping it around. –  Eric J. Oct 12 '12 at 4:45

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