A few hours ago, I flagged an answer as not an answer. Additionally, I left a comment, basically saying that this answer has nothing to do with the question.

My flag got declined with the following reason:

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

However, when flagging as not an answer, the following description is displayed (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.

<rant> Basically, I am a bit wary about this declined flag right now, because it matches the description on what should be flagged as an answer and with my current flag weight, this declined flag destroyed about two days worth of flagging. That just took all the fun out of it for me, especially, because I am a responsible flagger, and open the questions to really read them and the answer if I am unsure - even if the answer already has several flags. </rant>

So, what am I asking... Well:
Was it correct to decline my flag? If so, please fix the description of that flag option. If it was not correct, how can we prevent such "false flag declines" in the future? Especially in the context of high flag weights where one declined flag really hurts.


And another one!!

How to install an Android application on a real device without publishing and Eclipse? I didn't even flag as not an answer, but as "Other". My comment was: "Although this is the accepted answer it doesn't help. See comments for more info, basically: Contains not much more than a dead link."
It is common sense to flag answers that contain only links, even more so, if the link is dead. As this was an old accepted answer, downvoting didn't help, because I still couldn't delete it. And my flag didn't even ask for deletion, but for "Mod attention", whatever that might be.

You just lost an active flagger, because every dismissed flag costs the equivalent of 50 to 100 "helpful" flags at my current flag weight. All because of some arbitrary decision from some anonymous mod? That just sucks and shows how little the honest flagging effort is honored.

  • 4
    This is especially surprising given Jeff's recent comments that mods should mark any well-intentioned and vaguely-on-point flag "helpful". These fall into that category. The first is really "very low quality" not "not an answer". The second one is clearly not an answer any more. (It was probably one when the question was asked, but it's not any more with the link dead, and it apparently merged in from another question.) It's also very low quality.
    – agf
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 9:47
  • @agf: Do you have a link to that? Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 8:16
  • 1
    Especially his comments on the second answer to Proposed Flag Decline Reasons his answer to Please make the flag response UI consistent and train moderators and the second section of this month's newsletter.
    – agf
    Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 9:30
  • 4
    And now I got my first "declined" flag out of my last 550 or so. It could very well have been wrong, but only a mod could determine that -- clearly Jeff's advice to "try to err on the side of clearing as [helpful] whenever the user is trying to be genuinely helpful, even if you do not necessarily act on the flag." is not being followed by at least one SO mod.
    – agf
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 16:52

2 Answers 2


A bad or a wrong answer is still technically an answer. Moderators aren't here to judge the correctness of answers. That's what the voting system is for, so the right way to handle those is to downvote, edit, or leave a comment.

The "not an answer" flag is for posts that are either completely unrelated to the question, a "me too" kind of post, a follow-up question asked in an answer, etc.

In your specific case... hrm. I don't know if I'd remove the answer, but I'd probably dismiss the flag as "helpful". That said, moderator mistakes happen. I don't know who dismissed your flag in this case, so it's hard to say what the motivation may have been.

  • 6
    Basically, what you are saying is that the description of the "not an answer" option is wrong. Additionally, it has nothing to with being an incorrect answer. It has something to do with being an answer to a completely different question. Just like "What's the time?" - "Take the first left, then right". The answer does not answer the question. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 17:14
  • 4
    @DanielHilgarth Yeah, I just updated my answer after looking at your specific example. I'm surprised that your flag was declined.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 17:15
  • @DanielHilgarth I agree with Anna on that "moderators make mistakes". We can't always judge every question and answer pair and say "this is not an answer". What works better is when you can post a comment underneath saying "wtf mate, this doesn't have any bearing on the Q" (but with more niceness) and then flag the A as not-an-A. That way, by the time we mods have seen it, all too often you've been upvoted. Now we have community support that "this is garbage" and we're more likely to dismiss the A and not just the flag.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 17:19
  • 2
    @jcolebrand: Well, that is exactly what I did. I posted such a comment. However, it wasn't upvoted, because that actually was an old question I found using google while trying to solve one of my own problems. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 17:21
  • 3
    I want to flag Daniel's second link as very low quality but now I'm scared because my flag weight took me a long time to attain. I don't want to be punished for trying to do the right thing. Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 18:40
  • @0A0D Is it readable? If so, it's not "very low quality".
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:01
  • @AdamLear: The link is dead and without the link, the question is not salvageable. So yes, it is very low quality per the definition. Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:09
  • 1
    @0A0D I think it just makes it a poor quality answer worthy of downvotes. (And also a great argument for why "link only" answers are worthless.) If in doubt, flag it for moderator attention and explain your reasoning. A stock "very low quality" flag isn't very clear in this case.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 19:30
  • 4
    @AdamLear: Not a good idea. I flagged that answer for mod attention and explained my reasoning and not as "very low quality" and that flag got declined nevertheless. It seems to be pure luck whether a flag gets declined or not. Maybe the mod team should use common rules on what flags to decline?! Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 11:56
  • @DanielHilgarth It's always going to come down to interpretation since each answer is different.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 13:29
  • 1
    I don't care how you want us to use the flag, but please change the description. I flagged an "answer" on a question that, summarised, said "I think this isn't an easy problem to solve". There's also an accepted +4 answer that solves the very problem. The "answer" I flagged is not an answer in any way and it is completely useless. Yet my flag was declined (twice). Clearly the description is confusing, this question is currently at +26.
    – Stijn
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 16:51
  • @Stijn Ignore the first sentence on that answer. It's just side commentary. The rest of the post, while incomplete, kinda vague, and possibly deserving of a downvote, is relevant. It cites a source and offers two conditions that (probably) must be met in order to do what the asker is having trouble with. It may be incorrect, but it's clearly an attempted answer.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 16:55
  • @AdamLear what if the question is about iOS and answer is for Java which may or may not be correct for java but absolutely unusable for iOS, does it still constitute a valid answer technically?
    – NSNoob
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 11:19
  • @NSNoob I could go either way, honestly. Downvote or flag it, doesn't matter. Just be aware that the flag might get declined because the post looks like a real answer at first glance. I'd probably downvote and leave a comment because it sends a stronger message to the poster.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 19:19
  • I downvoted, left a comment and raised a flag. Flag was regarded as helpful but answer was not removed.
    – NSNoob
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 5:08

Here's the answer, for clarification (note, it's deleted, I just removed the annoying CSS attributes)

Deleted answer in question

As to OP's question...

This was posted as an answer, but it does not answer the question.

If this was where it stopped, you would be right. And I don't think StackOverflow could not possibly enforce this without paying its moderators so that there were enough technically savvy employees to judge all the different types of answers on their technical merits.

Fortunately, the close reason continues, stating that the flag should be used on answers that

...should possibly be an edit

meaning that the OP answered instead of editing their question

a comment

for one-liners, link answers, "this other StackOver question is similar" repwhoring, or was an answer posted before 2009 (most likely)

another question

which means the OP or another user tried to follow up with another question, aka "forum behavior"

or deleted altogether

Again, possibly you may have a point here as well. But we do not delete posts for technical reasons. Imagine the uprising if I were to go through the [.net] tag and start deleting answers that were not correct or flawed in some fashion. It would be slightly worse than what I normally cause through my actions as a mod. But, seriously, that would be an abuse of moderation powers to delete posts that are incorrect. It is up to the poster to respond and edit, and up to the community to downvote.

So I definitely think that it was legit to dismiss your flag as invalid. Of course, from our perspective, we have no idea about how responsibly you are when handling the individual flags in the queue. So you have to assume that the mod (not me!) was only making a judgement call about this instance, not you as a user.

Its important to read the whole thing, not just the first sentence.

  • 1
    And like you say, we're not machines, we're just human exception handlers. We get to make mistakes, as all our responses are pretty much subjectively biased.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 17:57
  • 15
    @jcolebrand I don't know why you keep posting this comment. The right thing for the user to do is to question the dismissal on meta, which is exactly what happened; saying "well sometimes mods are wrong" isn't actually doing anything to solve the problem Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 18:05
  • 2
    @Michael twice isn't "keep posting it" and I don't think that Meta needs a post for every flag that gets dismissed". In this case, it was an old answer that wasn't seen as "not-an-A" and nobody has identified who dismissed the flag, and so we can't question the exact logic of the dimissal.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 18:13
  • 2
    @Won't: Obviously, the description is not clear enough to justify your POV. Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 7:39
  • @daniel Its obvious to me. You know, it can't be a treatise, its just a summary. If you find anybody who doesn't see what it means, point them here.
    – user1228
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 16:51
  • @Won't I, too, don't interpret the description the way you seem to be. Ironically, you also seem to be answering a question other than the one that was asked. :) OP isn't asking if incorrect answers should be flagged (obviously they shouldn't be,) but rather whether an answer that doesn't address the question at all should be flagged. I thought OP made this pretty clear. There's difference between answering What is 5 +3? with 15 (which is just incorrect) vs. answering it with I think math is stupid (which doesn't attempt to answer the question.)
    – reirab
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 4:36
  • @reirab Nope, you're wrong. OP is talking about a specific q/a. I reviewed that specific q/a. The answer is incorrect. It is not "not an answer" to the question. I know this because of my technical background in the subject. I would not ask someone who was not technically versed in WPF to make that judgement. Apparently, you would, which is why you're incorrect.
    – user1228
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:07
  • @Won't "The answer is incorrect. It is not "not an answer" to the question." Fair enough, but your answer here would have been a lot more clear if it had stated that. OP's link is just to the question itself, so people reading this question now can't see exactly what he was saying "has nothing to do with the question." As this Q/A reads now, it sounds like you're answering the question "Should answers that have nothing to do with the question be flagged?" with "Incorrect answers to the question shouldn't be flagged," which makes it sound like you're not answering what was asked.
    – reirab
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:49
  • @Won't Also, I'm not sure why you think it's 'apparent' that I would ask someone not versed in WPF to judge whether an answer is correct or not, since my previous comment explicitly stated the opposite of that...
    – reirab
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 14:55
  • @reirab I based it on your backwards understanding of what was going on. Maybe we both read things wrong? Also, OP links to the answer, which I'm going to guess is now deleted. I'll snap it and add it to the answer for reference.
    – user1228
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 15:17
  • @Won't Ah, yes, you're right. The link is to a deleted answer. I didn't notice the answer number at the end of the URL (and, for me, the link just goes to the question, since I don't have rep to view deleted answers on SO.) Thanks for adding the screen cap.
    – reirab
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 15:59

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