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Today I woke up to find an obviously spam meaningless answer that had acccumulated 12 flags. Here's an excerpt:

I like pie. what's your favourite color? mines red. who are you? hi?

This got:

  • 5 not an answer flags
  • 2 spam flags
  • 1 moderator attention flag about quality
  • 1 community flag ("low answer quality score")
  • 1 very low quality flag

This felt weird, because the obvious thing to do, for me, was to use the spam flag reason on such an obviously worthless spam post!

enter link description here What went in my mind when I saw this post.

With half as many flags of the right kind, this post would've been dealt with by using the SE patented great Power Flags To The People™ technology! I thought it was time to whip educate my users again on the spam/offensive flags.

Yet, multiple people pointed out that the spam description does not, after all, match this post:

This answer is effectively an advertisement with no disclosure. It is not useful or relevant, but promotional.

Well, this answer was not useful or relevant, but it wasn't promotional either. It was just pure garbage. The "but promotional" part held many users off this reason and prompted them to use the "not an answer"/"very low quality" flags.

Is the spam flag description misleading, or am I mislead on when this flag type should be used?

share|improve this question
6  
+1 for purty picture... Ooh, colors... –  Awesome Poodles Jun 24 '11 at 11:00
7  
I think we need a "This answer is nonsense/jibberish" flag. –  Kev Jun 24 '11 at 11:00
3  
Not enough arrows - what am I supposed to be looking at? –  Barry Jun 24 '11 at 11:16
1  
Did that post have a link somewhere? If it didsn't then I definitely wouldn't consider it spam - it isn't promoting anything, it is really pure garbage, so "not an answer". –  Wladimir Palant Jun 24 '11 at 11:34
    
@Wladimir Since when does spam have to sell you something? –  badp Jun 24 '11 at 11:38
    
@badp's sockpuppet: I cannot pinpoint the exact location in time but in the contemporary usage the word "spam" tends to imply obvious or hidden advertising. It can be that the word had a different meaning originally but that changed. See also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forum_spam. What you quote here looks more like a test post. –  Wladimir Palant Jun 24 '11 at 11:44
3  
@Wladimir So if I went through your answer commenting each of them "asidaeuiorhwe3w4yudfhjd7ghfa8024jh129873y1783sadaipomjcsahcdfmpoiuarhweriajmier‌​werhj8934q23984u9fdsopinhsufjiojraeur8qa39u432'4juifjepoifajfiuohweriuhewiourhwe9‌​rjhewr98ewfsdfhjiuhf" you'd consider that "testing"? If I did that even once you wouldn't flag it? –  badp Jun 24 '11 at 11:46
1  
@badp's sockpuppet: Of course I would flag them - just not as spam. "Not an answer" for answers, "Not constructive" for comments (for lack of a better reason). Note that you typically see a spam message only once these days - simply because other copies of that message got posted to other websites that you don't know about. Which is probably the most important reason why spam is often considered to be "unsolicited advertisement" these days rather than "bulk messages" (it is hard to recognize the latter but not the former). –  Wladimir Palant Jun 24 '11 at 11:52
    
Stack Overflow: Where we hate pie. –  Justin Morgan Jun 24 '11 at 12:58
2  
@Kev: Half of all Android answers could be flagged as such. –  Won't Jun 24 '11 at 13:27
    
@won't - so true, so scary. –  Kev Jun 24 '11 at 14:56
    
ᴨᴨᴨᴨᴨᴨᴨᴨᴨᴨΠΠΠΠΠΠΠΠΠΠΠΠππππππππππππππππππππππππππππππ. That should do it. –  Rosinante Jun 24 '11 at 17:34
2  
"acccumulated (sic) 12 flags" I may be bad at math(s), but 5 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 1 only equals "12" in Octal (Or in Congressional "math"). ;) –  Awesome Poodles Jun 25 '11 at 3:32

4 Answers 4

In my opinion "not an answer" matches this answer perfectly. After all it's ... well, it's not an answer.

Spam has (at least) two (non-food related) meanings:

  • any kind of useless content ("he spammed the forum with useless jabbering")
  • unsolicited commercial communication

Both are somewhat widely used, but the description of the flag clearly indicates that the second one is more appropriate here.

share|improve this answer
3  
+1, and I think the How does the Spam Flag work? FAQ agrees in it's "When should the Spam flag be used?" section. –  DMA57361 Jun 24 '11 at 11:08
    
@DMA The FAQ does not substantiate the claim: the Source article has Jeff asking people to only flag as spam answers that are actually "spam" as strictly defined: «use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.» Nowhere is "promotional intent" required. –  badp Jun 24 '11 at 11:45
    
Also, typically, the expected action for "not an answer" is convert to comment. Is that what the flaggers really wanted? –  badp Jun 24 '11 at 11:47
3  
@badp - really? I've submitted almost two thousand flags, well over half of them "not an answer", and by and large I see "post deleted" etc in my flag review. Don't think I've ever seen one converted to a comment. –  Kate Gregory Jun 24 '11 at 11:55
    
@badp's sockpuppet: If that's the expected action then the flag description doesn't really make it clear. It also lists "separate question" or "delete" as possible options. –  Wladimir Palant Jun 24 '11 at 11:58
    
@badp I'm not so sure about that - "not an answer" leads to deletion almost all the time I run into it. It means "This is not an answer", which means sometimes it's a salvageable comment, but it's also sometimes a question (no conversion) and sometimes just nothing at all. –  Grace Note Jun 24 '11 at 12:01
1  
@Kate - converting to comment results in the post being deleted. –  badp Jun 24 '11 at 13:26
    
@badp, and if I go to the question I don't see any new comments on it or any answers. I haven't done it for every flag, but I have done it for a few and I've never seen a comment. –  Kate Gregory Jun 24 '11 at 13:36
2  
@badp the vast majority of not-an-answer flags on SU that I deal with end up straight-up deleted (most should have been another question). Covert-to-comment is rare, and only used if the post contains really useful info. On Gaming I can see new users chipping in with useful info more often, but that doesn't mean deletion isn't a valid option for a not-an-answer answer. Also, the definition of the word spam isn't that relevant, just the definition of the flag - if the ambiguous name "spam" doesn't match peoples interpretation of the flag then the name is the problem. –  DMA57361 Jun 24 '11 at 14:04

If I say that I like pies, I am not promoting a product, or a service. It would be advertisement if I report which brand I prefer.

In the case the answer you reported is written as answer for a question about C++, for example, then it's not an answer.
The description for that flag reports:

It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

In the first case, the OP, instead of updating his question, wrote an answer; in the second case, the answer should really be a comment to the question or an answer, if it is asking more information about the question itself or for an answer being asked; in the third case, who wrote the answer is really asking another question, for example:

I have a similar problem, but it happens to me in different cases. What should I do?

In the last case, the answer should be deleted because it's not a comment for the question or for an answer, and it's not even a different question. In this case, there is no need to flag the answer: Once the answer has a negative score, every 20k user can immediately vote to delete the answer; when three users vote to delete it, it will be deleted.

share|improve this answer

I am confused. The link to the FAQ draws a distinction between undiscriminated bulk messaging, answers that contain no useful information (eg. "I don't care about your problem") and garbage (eg. "sdfhuiosf").

However, the "source" link goes to a answer by Jeff saying "Please do not cast spam votes against posts unless you honestly believe them to be spam or offensive... And by "spam" I mean it in the strict traditional internet definition [link to wikipedia] not as shorthand for "I don't like this post."" That was in the context of people spam-tagging questions which ruptured SO rules in some way, but were clearly not bulk.

However, to me, garbage "roll the hands on the keyboard or spout nouns at random" posts have much more in common with unsolocited bulk mailings than they do with actual but woefully inadequeate answers. The point being, there's no point educating or disciplining the poster, they're almost certainly posted without any awareness of the community whatsoever, and the only thing to do is delete them.

And even if it only comes up rarely, it would seem sensible for the instructions on the "spam" tag to say "bulk mailing" if that's what it means, and to include, or exclude, garbage to prevent misunderstandings.

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Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam - as invented by the famous Mounty Pythons, is a repeated ad.

Well, most ads are repeated, and therefore, a million repeats without selling something can be called a spam, too.

But a single-nonsense is nonsense, not spam, imho.

Commercial link => Spam
Repeated Garbage => Spam
Garbage => Garbage

And, last but not least: Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam.

share|improve this answer
    
No... this is just wrong. It's a hymn at most, but certainly not an ad. youtube.com/watch?v=anwy2MPT5RE –  badp Jun 24 '11 at 15:46
    
And what is a hymn? An ad! But you're right, I jumped over the connection of email-spam: Ads <- Email-spam <- Monty Python <- canned meat. –  user unknown Jun 24 '11 at 16:04

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