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Why does flag marking as helpful/declined not always correlate with moderator action?

An answer I flagged today as being of a "very low quality" was deemed to be "helpful":

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yet it was not removed. Note that I don't mind it still being there (the question is closed, so it might even get deleted with the question in due time), but I thought that "helpful" flags always caused the answer to be deleted. Am I wrong, or did something go wrong in this case?

I scrolled through ~10 of my "very low quality" flags that were "helpful", and all of them were removed by a mod.

  • I'll remember you, and will mark your flags declined rather than helpful when I don't act. Cheers!
    – user1228
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 14:12
  • @Won't, "I'll remember you"? Did I do something wrong? If so, please enlighten me.
    – Bart Kiers
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 16:25

3 Answers 3


"Helpful" just means that a moderator thought your flag had merit and was useful.

Now, VLQ flags are supposed to indicate problems with the post that cannot be fixed by an edit. The answer you flagged is a link-only answer, which isn't great, but it's not really a "very low quality" answer either. It's the kind of answer we'd normally leave a comment on or convert to a comment.

It looks like your flag resulted in the closure of the question as duplicate, so it still had a net positive effect on the site and that's likely the reason why it was dismissed as helpful.

  • I see my opinion of "very low quality" differs from yours (and probably other mods). I wouldn't have flagged it if the link pointed to the UML feature of IntelliJ, but right now, the answer just links to the homepage of said IDE. IMO, it's like posting a link to the Java API when someone asks a (basic) Java question: in both cases, I would have flagged it as "very low quality". But fair enough, I won't in future cases. Thanks for the explanation Anna, and congrats on your blue diamond! :)
    – Bart Kiers
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 22:35
  • @BartKiers Thanks. :) And you're welcome. I think "not an answer" would've been a closer flag to what you were trying to get across, but in general if you notice any problems that might not be obvious just by looking at the answer, you can also use the "other" flag and leave us a note.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 22:37
  • @Bart personally, I would feel that the best course of action would be to edit it to link to the UML feature. It wouldn't substantially change the intention of the post, but it would add value - I see that as being win-win in terms of editing.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 22:42

From the September Moderator Newsletter:

Marking a flag [declined] is designed to deter serial abusers of the flagging system, but we found that this “slap on the wrist” was being used more often than is beneficial.

Flags should be closed as [helpful] under most circumstances. If you feel strongly that a question was flagged in bad faith, it is okay to mark it [declined]. But 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.

Users are asked to flag posts to help keep the city street clean. Even if you feel the flag was not technically correct, you don’t want to continually send the message that their help is no longer wanted. That is not what the feature is about.

Worth noting: The vast majority of flags are helpful in some way. Only a small percentage of flags are cast improperly, mostly of the "Please delete this post, the system won't let me" or "This answer is wrong" variety.


The helpful on that flag most probably came due to the question being closed and not due to any moderator input.

  • The question was closed by a moderator, so technically there was still moderator input.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 22:30
  • @AnnaLear I meant on the flag.
    – Naftali
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 22:30

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