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When should the “Not an Answer” flag be used?

I have flagged an answer to my question as "not an answer" (which it absolutely isn't) and got it declined with this reason:

"flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer"

I'm intentionally not giving links because I think it's irrelevant whether my flag was correct or not. There is a flag "Not an answer", which says in the description: "This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether." I assume that since there is such a flag I obviously can use it to "indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer". Am I wrong? If not, is there anything I can do (the easiest would be to flag it again but that's currently impossible)?

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marked as duplicate by Shog9 Jan 2 '13 at 19:56

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

@DanielFischer, thanks for reminding me of that possibility. – Lance Roberts Jan 2 '13 at 19:59
That's not a "silly message," it's one of the built-in reasons for declining not-an-answer flags. The SO developers wrote that. – NullUserException อ_อ Jan 2 '13 at 20:10
@VioletGiraffe The flag you're talking about was to perfectly valid answer. You even upvoted it, so why did you flag it as not an answer? – NullUserException อ_อ Jan 2 '13 at 20:14
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ: because it wasn't an answer to my question. However, I've just realized that I've also misused the flag then, in light of the clarification provided in this discussion. – Violet Giraffe Jan 2 '13 at 20:21
up vote 13 down vote accepted

The crux is this:

it does not attempt to answer the question

If it is an honest attempt at answering the question, however inaccurate or bad an answer it is, you should not flag it as "not an answer".

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I see now, thank you. Funny, I've issued over 10 such flags before and they were all accepted so I never realized I'm misusing it. – Violet Giraffe Jan 2 '13 at 19:56
@VioletGiraffe There is a significant overlap between poor quality answers and non answers, but they are not identical. – Asad Saeeduddin Jan 2 '13 at 19:57
@Violet: Moderators are trying to be a bit more strict when handling flags, since a lot of folks never realized what they were supposed to be used for - so consider this a learning opportunity. – Shog9 Jan 2 '13 at 19:58
@VioletGiraffe - Yes, people accepting flags they shouldn't be is another big problem we are having. – Oded Jan 2 '13 at 19:58
Off-topic question, but since we're on it... What am I supposed to do when no real answer was proposed by others / found by me, but there is an inappropriate answer posted? I don't want to accept a low quality answer, but otherwise my accept rate takes a hit. – Violet Giraffe Jan 2 '13 at 20:06
@VioletGiraffe Stop worrying about your accept rate, it's a worthless metric. Do not accept unsatisfactory answers for whatever reason, only accept an answer when you're 100% satisfied that it solved your problem. – Yannis Jan 2 '13 at 20:07
@Yannis: whether worthless in your opinion or not, accept rate is pressing people to accept low quality answers in situations like I've described. If it's a worthless metrics - remove it. – Violet Giraffe Jan 2 '13 at 20:10
@VioletGiraffe - Removal of accept rates has been discussed here already. There is no consensus. – Oded Jan 2 '13 at 20:11
@VioletGiraffe Check the link in my comment, it's not just my opinion. Also: Let's stop displaying a user's accept rate – Yannis Jan 2 '13 at 20:13

Am I wrong?


The flag is intended for answers that... Well, aren't answers. Not for wrong answers, or even for misleading answers, but for things posted as answers that make no attempt to answer the question at all. Folks accustomed to traditional forums often post answers that are simply replies to other answers, or entirely new questions (on, perhaps, related topics) - these need to be deleted, since for most readers they're just noise.

There's a down-vote button for the ordinary "proposes solution that does not work" variety.

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