Today I flagged this answer of Thread exiting message in .Net MVC console as "Not An Answer."
EDIT: the answer has since been flagged again and was subsequently deleted by a moderator.

To paraphrase both the question and the answer I flagged for those who don't want to follow the links:


What is the meaning of the unexpected messages I see output by my program?


Turn them off by doing this...

I flagged it because the definition of "Not An Answer" given in the flagging interface is (emphasis mine):

This was posted as an answer, but it does not answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether

To my mind, this answer does not answer the question. It is, however, helpful information, and so shouldn't be deleted and instead should probably be a comment on the question or on another answer.

My flag was deemed invalid. Please may I at this point make it very clear that I'm not protesting the flag or asking for a right of challenge in any way, shape or form and that I'm happy to accept that this flag has been marked invalid and take the flag weight hit. That's not what I came to ask (indeed, I've asked that question before and have accepted with the resounding "No!" I got).

My question:

Regardless of the outcome of that flag, why was I wrong to flag this as not an answer? i.e. Did I get this one genuinely wrong; or was it a borderline case; or did I get it right and this was a blip of moderation?

I'm trying to understand whether I should continue to flag other "should be a comment" items in this way. I don't want to generate a swathe of invalid flags, both because (a) I'm a responsible and genuine flagger (my flag weight is a respectable 700+) who's trying to do his bit to clean up and don't want to waste moderator time, and (b) because it obviously hits my flag weight and I like badges.

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    Well, I certainly did. It's comment material. – Grant Thomas Aug 31 '11 at 18:23
  • @Mr. Disappointment - Thanks. Would be very interested to hear how you get on. – razlebe Aug 31 '11 at 18:24
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    @Raz - Robert Harvey deleted it 2 mins ago – JNK Aug 31 '11 at 18:34
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    @razlebe: Indeed, it has rightly been removed. – Grant Thomas Aug 31 '11 at 18:34
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    If you're going after the Marshall badge it might be easier to avoid the borderline cases. There's plenty of obvious stuff that needs to be flagged. Try one of these queries. or searching for is:answer body:"any help would" – Some Helpful Commenter Aug 31 '11 at 19:20

As I understand it, the "not an answer" flag is not thought for wrong answers, but for something that has been posted as answer, and it is:

  • an edit; the OP added additional information about the question, but the OP wrote it as answer, instead of editing the question
  • a comment; somebody else has the same problem reported in the question, and writes a "me too!" answer instead of commenting
  • another question; somebody read the question, and thinking of being on a forum, asks a different question, additional questions about the question being asked, or additional information about the answers being given to the question as answer
  • an answer for another question; this would be the case of a question about the meaning of a light on the car dashboard that gets "to avoid seeing it, hide it with a sticky" as answer
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    hmm I think the answer might fall in the last case. The question was "what does the thread has exited with code 0 mean" And the answerer answered "How do I ignore thread errors" – Some Helpful Commenter Sep 1 '11 at 2:55
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    That's right; the question was about the meaning of a message, and the answer is about how to avoid to see them. It is like asking about the meaning of a light you see on the dashboard of your car, and getting "to avoid seeing it, hide it with a sticky" as answer. – kiamlaluno Sep 1 '11 at 3:40

Here's my take, in case it wasn't obvious from the phrasing of my question:

I think this is an example of a great potential comment that was posted as an answer that didn't answer the question, and that I was correct to flag it.

Such answers should be flagged as "Not an Answer" because they meet the criteria according to the definition presented in the flagging GUI:

This was posted as an answer, but it does not answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

We should flag them when they don't answer the question even when they have a subject matter link to the original question, such as the answer I flagged in this example.

We should also

  • trust the mods to spot those answers which don't address the question and are comment material (and convert them to comments),
  • trust the mods to spot those that do address the question (which should be left in place for upvoting or downvoting by the community's subject matter experts on the given topic), and the flag rejected),
  • have an expectation that sometimes the mods might get it wrong, resulting in a valid flag being marked invalid, or vice-versa, and suck it up when that happens.
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It is an wrongindirect answer, but an answer nonetheless.

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    It doesn't attempt to address the question, though. A wrong answer might have been "The meaning of these messages is that your program is erroring." – razlebe Aug 31 '11 at 17:52
  • Surely instructions on how to turn them off is related info, like linking to a resource elsewhere that contains documentation. In turning them off, does the OP gain an understanding of their meaning, which is what they're asking for? – razlebe Aug 31 '11 at 17:54
  • @razlebe Well, the name of the option does tell you that it is a thread exit message. It's not a good answer, but it is technically an answer. – ughoavgfhw Aug 31 '11 at 18:00
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    It's not a "Thanks", "Me Too", or blatantly unrelated answer. It wouldn't get downvotes as a comment. But as it stands it could be salvaged if the author edited it. – user7116 Aug 31 '11 at 18:01
  • @six One of the criteria for flagging is "Should possibly be a comment - doesn't it meet those criteria? I agree, if the author edited it to make it answer the question, it would then become an answer. – razlebe Aug 31 '11 at 18:05
  • @ughoavgfhw - the OP's question already contains the words "the thread has exited with code 0 " - what does this answer add to that? – razlebe Aug 31 '11 at 18:06
  • Thanks both for your input, btw - it's much appreciated. – razlebe Aug 31 '11 at 18:06
  • Let me clarify my dilemma an alternative way: can you give me an example of what would be a good candidate for conversion to a comment? – razlebe Aug 31 '11 at 18:08
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    I agree with @raz - that was not an answer to the question. It was an answer to an unasked question of "how do I make these errors go away", not "what are they"? – JNK Aug 31 '11 at 18:09
  • @JNK: the author could salvage his answer and add the Why to it as well. It is somewhat useful to know how to disable seeing the messages as well. – user7116 Aug 31 '11 at 18:29
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    @Sixletter - he COULD do that but other folks COULD post their comments as comments instead of answers as well. As posted it is not an answer to the question. If you asked "How do I do this in MySQL" and I answered "Use SQL Server instead, you can do x,y,z" then the relevance is the same as here. – JNK Aug 31 '11 at 18:31
  • @JNK: that example is still an answer (one I'd participate in downvoting to oblivion). – user7116 Aug 31 '11 at 18:33

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