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I've run into this situation a couple of times, where people give an "answer" that basically repeats the problem in the original question. (Not going to give examples here obviously, but it's happened.) So a hypothetical example might be a question like:

I've noticed that addition overflows just get wrapped around in x86. Why?

and a hypothetical non-answer might be something like:

x86 naturally wraps around addition overflows in numbers, just like MIPS and other architectures. You need to be careful when performing arithmetic; check the carry/overflow flags to see if something overflowed.

On the one hand, this doesn't answer the question. But on the other hand, it's well-written (no specific quality issues), and it seems to answer the question.

Should an answer like this be flagged? (Sometimes commenting doesn't help, since there's just no response.)

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marked as duplicate by gnat, random Dec 14 '13 at 21:39

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.

related (not a duplicate): Can we get some consensus on what flag to use for link only answers? –  gnat Jul 17 '13 at 13:08
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3 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

The "not an answer" flag is for the following situations:

  • The OP...
    • needed to update the question with new information, but posted the new information as an answer.
    • wanted to reply to an existing comment or answer, but posted the reply as an answer.
    • posted a "resolution answer" saying something along the lines of "Joe's answer worked for me"
  • A user...
    • wants to reply to the OP, an answerer or a commenter, but doesn't have enough rep, and instead of thinking "maybe there's a reason I'm not allowed to post comments," ignores the help text about what an answer is.
    • posts to say "I'm having this problem too, does anyone have a solution yet?"
    • has a related issue and isn't aware of the "Ask Question" button.

These are common situations for new SO users who may be confused by the reputation, editing and/or commenting systems. They may be used to forums where it's normal to add a new post underneath the existing posts, and blindly click the "Post Your Answer" button assuming that it says "New Reply" or something.

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+1 Oh... that makes sense. :) Thanks for clarifying that! –  Mehrdad Mar 2 '11 at 17:56
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I'd say no. Moderators can't be expected to judge the technical merit of an answer like that.

Just downvote and leave a comment if you feel like it.

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Okay, but then what is the Not an answer flag for? –  Mehrdad Mar 2 '11 at 17:27
@Mehrdad as far as I understand the blog post and the comments there, that is rather for clear no-answers like comments posted as an answer, follow-up questions by people who can't comment yet and the like. –  Pëkka Mar 2 '11 at 17:31
Ah, all right, that makes sense. :) +1 –  Mehrdad Mar 2 '11 at 17:58
This is what I've been reduced to doing - downvote & comment. Invariably every non-answer I flag as not an answer gets disputed and the moderators are hesitant to actually remove the post. –  Yuck Aug 31 '11 at 18:31
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Your hypothetical example is an actual answer. It might not be a good answer, but it is still an answer.

Examples of answers that are not answers (and can be flagged as such):

I have the same problem. Anyone find a solution?

Thanks but that didn't really help. (should be a comment)

I have a different problem, what if.. (should be asked as a new question)

I have some new information (should be edited into the question)

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Hm... the question asks "why", though, and there's nothing in the answer that says "because X". It just restates the question in a different form, doesn't it? –  Mehrdad Mar 2 '11 at 17:54
@Mehrdad: We don't moderate for technical accuracy or answer quality. That's what voting is for. The "Not an answer" flag is there to catch those specific cases I outlined. –  Robert Harvey Mar 2 '11 at 18:06
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