Recently (last month or so), many of my flags on answers are getting declined. I did reach 750 flag weight and I do know what to flag and what not to flag, but I am just giving up on flagging content now.

See this answer for example: https://stackoverflow.com/a/8481195/526535

I would argue that it should have been a comment. But it was declined. More and more of these are being declined. I am sure a similar one would have been approved a few months back.

What am I missing?

  • 9
    Well, it is kind of an answer. I can see how a mod would decline this flag. – Pëkka Dec 12 '11 at 23:00
  • @TheP.G.RepMiningCo. In my opinion, saying it never worked for the answerer and asking to use something completely different is not an answer. Said thing can be solved and is solved by many. – manojlds Dec 12 '11 at 23:06
  • I personally would dismiss such a flag as helpful. But there is no firm consesus among the moderators on whether or not such flags should be declined. Note that declining a flag is the only way to provide anonymous feedback on a flag. Also note that losing flag weight is roughly analogous to burning monopoly dollars in the fireplace; it's not that big of a deal. – Robert Harvey Dec 12 '11 at 23:07
  • How recent is recent? Did it happen to be after the Stack Overflow moderator election? – Chris Frederick Dec 12 '11 at 23:07
  • @Chris - I did mention would have been approved a few months back – manojlds Dec 12 '11 at 23:08
  • See my comment, and the replies to it, under this question. – Pops Dec 12 '11 at 23:09
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    @Grinch 's comment is well taken, but as others have noted, the penalty for a declined flag is huge once you get as high as OP is -- I believe it's been mentioned that you need 92 helpful flags to compensate for one declined flag. – Adam Rackis Dec 12 '11 at 23:12
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    I wouldn't have expected that flag to be result in the answer being removed, because it does contain something resembling an answer. – Andrew Barber Dec 12 '11 at 23:13
  • @Grinch - It is not a big deal at all, losing the points. It wasn't even when I didn't get the gold badge. just that I like cleaning up the answers to a question in the tags I follow and I am not able to do that. – manojlds Dec 12 '11 at 23:14
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    Losing a little flag weight does not prevent you from flagging. And this particular example was an edge case. – Robert Harvey Dec 12 '11 at 23:15
  • @Grinch - Of course not, but my real question is that I have about 11 declined in flagging history and 6 or so came in the last month. – manojlds Dec 12 '11 at 23:17

OK, I think I can help.

Don't use "Not an Answer" to flag answers that are genuinely trying to answer the question, no matter how misguided the attempt is.


Which you flagged as "Not an Answer."

Use "Not an Answer" for things like "I have the same problem, any update?", "Thanks", and "I Like Turtles." You can also use this flag for any answer that should really be a comment.

Also, moderators do not evaluate the technical veracity of any post. Flags that say "This answer is wrong," or "This answer doesn't address the OP's question" should be dealt with by downvoting, not moderator flags.

If you still think the answer is inappropriate, flag it using the custom option, and explain why you think the answer should be removed.

  • Thanks, appreciated. But even the one that you link, the answer doesn't give an answer at all. It is almost like a documentation of the involved commands without giving any explanation. I am not saying I don't make mistakes, of course :) Just trying to see what has changed or what I have started doing wrong. – manojlds Dec 12 '11 at 23:29
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    It's still an answer, albeit one that you consider bad. – Robert Harvey Dec 12 '11 at 23:30
  • Where does "technical veracity" stop and "noise" begin? Is it okay to flag an answer that correctly explains how to write "Hello, World!" in C# if the question asks "Is everything in Haskell stored in thunks, even simple values?" – Pops Dec 12 '11 at 23:30
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    @PopularDemand: In general, moderators should not be required to have deep knowledge of the subject matter to evaluate a post. The answer linked here appears to explain... something. But without deep knowledge of the subject matter, it is impossible to determine if the answer is really addressing the question. Contrast that with "I have the same problem, does anyone have the solution?" which is clearly and unambiguously Not an Answer, regardless of the subject matter. – Robert Harvey Dec 12 '11 at 23:33
  • Robert, wouldn't you agree that OP's original example should have been a comment? – Adam Rackis Dec 12 '11 at 23:34
  • @PopularDemand I see your example as just a bad answer ... so it is an answer, at least in my eyes. I would downvote. – Marcelo Dec 12 '11 at 23:34
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    @Adam: The OP's original example starts off looking like "Not an Answer," but then gives some potentially useful information ("I worked around the problem this way.") As a mod, I probably would have converted it to a comment, so that no potentially helpful information was lost. But it's an edge case. – Robert Harvey Dec 12 '11 at 23:38
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    @Robert - fair enough. I've always been of the opinion that mods should be very liberal and give every possible benefit of the doubt, so I guess the above example is a good thing. I just wish OP's flag weight didn't get nuked. – Adam Rackis Dec 12 '11 at 23:42

It could be a coincidence, but with four new moderators on Stack Overflow I imagine that some changes to flag responses are to be expected. The decision to accept or decline a flag is often a subjective one and is likely to vary a bit after every election.

  • 1
    I can neither confirm nor deny that assertion; flags (and moderator responses) are private. It is a good assertion, however. – Robert Harvey Dec 12 '11 at 23:14
  • I forgot about the election. Changing times maybe :) – manojlds Dec 12 '11 at 23:18

I am the one who declined your last two flags. I think Robert Harvey explained it pretty well, but it's not really the moderators' job to determine the correctness of an answer or its relevancy to the question at hand. That's what downvotes are for.

How each moderator handles these flags is different. I consider the following to be non-answers:

  • "Answers" that should have been new questions, comments or edits to the original question.
  • Blatant spam or gibberish content.

If the answer seems to address the question somewhat I will decline the flag unless there's something else wrong with the answer (eg: it's only a link to another post) or the question that actually requires our attention.

It is my opinion that the correct way for you as a user to handle these answers it to downvote them and if you wish, to tell the OP what's wrong with their answer. Some other mods think flags to these posts should be deemed helpful, some don't.

With that being said, I dislike many aspects of the current flagging system, the disproportionate "punishment" when you get higher flag weight being one of them, and the lack of a neutral resolution (eg: one that doesn't impact flag weight) another.

  • Hey, I did vote for you :) – manojlds Dec 13 '11 at 0:15
  • @manojlds I feel bad declining flags, but unfortunately some of this is a result of flaws with the flagging system (IMHO). Just try not to give it too much importance, your flag weight shouldn't have any impact on your day-to-day SO usage ;) – NullUserException อ_อ Dec 13 '11 at 0:20
  • No, I do not care about the flag weight at all, like I said in the comments in the question. Especially after getting the gold badge :) Just that I felt I am somehow not able to clean up the answers like I used to. – manojlds Dec 13 '11 at 0:24

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