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I'm flagging non-answers still (for those who said knowing flag weight would lead to people stopping flagging, I am at 750.0000 and still use all my flags every day.) Lately I have come across a number of answers that start "this should really be a comment but I can't format a block of code in a comment" or "can't include a picture" or "can't fit all the text". I myself did exactly this (without the disclaimer) wnen I added an answer to a meta question that was only a repro of the problem, because I wanted to include a screenshot.

I haven't flagged these answers. I guess I feel the people have a valid point. And with the disclaimer, ideally they wouldn't serve as a bad example. Those "Hi [OP] I am working on the same thing can you send me your code at blahblah@gmail.com Thanks!" answers tend to run in packs - on the same question, in the same tags - so I think they are influencing readers. But I don't think the "this proof won't fit in the margin" comments have the same effect.

Examples:

Well? Should I flag all non-answers, or continue to skip over the guilty-with-an-explanation ones?

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It doesn't seem there's a good reason for the original poster to do this (as in your first example), considering that they can just edit their question to include additional information, instead. –  Cody Gray Apr 2 '11 at 14:47
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Meta is entirely different. Be very careful not to use common behavior on Meta as justification for that behavior on other sites. Also, Waffles. –  Shog9 Apr 2 '11 at 15:57
    
Is flag weight calculated to the 1/10000ths place? –  Nick T Apr 2 '11 at 16:11
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@Nick: When you pass 500, yes. –  John Apr 2 '11 at 19:26
    
I'm only curious, how many days did it take from when the limit was lifted from 500 to 750? –  RichardTheKiwi Apr 2 '11 at 21:48
    
@Richard I got Deputy on March 17th. My flag weight hit 750 a little earlier than I expected, on March 30th. –  Kate Gregory Apr 2 '11 at 22:03
    
~ 2 full weeks of what I guess must be very solid flagging (max flags per day, rarely invalid). Near the asymptote, a single invalid flag will cost 2 days work I think. Well done! A badge is in order - "Sheriff"? –  RichardTheKiwi Apr 2 '11 at 22:07

6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You should flag them.

I typically do not short circuit site restrictions unless there is a compelling reason for me to do so. Otherwise, why even have restrictions if it is known that a moderator will eventually convert your post into the form that was desired?

I have mixed feelings about the current comment restrictions, but I work under the rules that we have.

Still, we need to see them. If a post:

  • Is short enough and suitable to be converted to a comment (with minimal editing)
  • Could substantially improve the context of another post (perhaps even by shedding more light on the edit history)
  • Possibly HAS to be converted or the coherency of the total page breaks

I'd probably convert it. Otherwise, they really do need to be removed. On questions from several months to several years ago, there's a good chance that the intended recipient saw the 'reply' and took some action based on it anyway, so leaving it around unnecessarily (at the least) really isn't doing any good in most cases.

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Do you have any other examples of such answers?

In general, I don't think any of those is a good excuse. An image can be pasted in as a link, comments can be split over multiple comments if the length hits the single comment limit, and large blocks of code generally don't belong in a comment. Backticks can be used to format short snippets.

If someone is tempted to post a lot of code in a comment, perhaps as a correction of the answerer's (or asker's) code, I would wonder why they don't post the correct code as their own answer or edit the post, whichever makes more sense.

I'd leave a comment on the non-answer and flag it.

Edit: I should add that I think Meta is a slightly different animal. I think adding answers with additional information on a bug report is at least common, if not allowed.

Edit #2: In your examples, the first one should've been an edit on the question itself. And I think the second one should've been its own question (with a link to the original for context, perhaps).

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Am I the only one to disagree with those flags?

I have been flagging both non-answers and off-topic/bad questions the last few weeks (I have a flag weight of 260 if that matters) but I really try to flag only those posts that only add noise to the site. I don't really mind reading something posted as an answer if includes enough information to make it relevant, whether that is a real answer, relevant pictures or a very long (interesting) comment. It may not strictly fit SO regulations, but it may still be interesting enough and worth reading it.

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I put these two examples firmly in the non-answer category. They're follow-up questions, so they should be posted as such. (Unless they're minor enough to be comment material, which is clearly not the case here.)

If I see new follow-up questions being posted as answers, I leave a comment explaining that this is not an answer and should be posted as a separate question, then flag for non-answer. If the answerer has low rep, I put a link to /about.

But if the question has been idle for months, I don't see much value in doing anything. Chances are that the follow-upper has lost interest or asked elsewhere anyway. Especially if the follow-up has useful information (e.g. because someone has answered in a comment), I'd just let things rest.

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I flag really old non-answers even though the 1-rep poster has doubtless wandered away, because they make the site less useful for others and could encourage similar behaviour from those who see them. –  Kate Gregory Apr 2 '11 at 14:22
    
@Kate: Maybe my behavior is too geared towards SE2.0, where old non-answers haven't had time to accumulate. If they're common enough that they would set a bad example, then I do agree with flagging. –  Gilles Apr 2 '11 at 14:31

Both of the examples provided should have resulted in new questions. Good posters would provide links in both the old question and new question so that people can follow the "conversation".

Almost anything can be turned into a question or an answer.

A long comment suggesting an improvement to an answer can be made into a new answer by prepending, "Building on Rebecca's answer, I believe the following might be useful:"

A long comment requesting clarification on an answer can be made into a new question, "I read Rebecca's answer (summary and link) to the question (summary and link) and am confused by (issue)."

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We should have some flexibility for the limits of our technology on our ability to communicate information. Every post like that should be examined on their own, and if it was appropriate to be a comment, but the formatting/posting restrictions wouldn't allow it, then maybe it needs to be an answer.

In this case if they are follow-up questions, then they should be posted as a new question, maybe referring to the old one if needed.

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