I flagged Runtime Error 3061 Help (ms access) as very low quality on the grounds that it was an answer consisting only of links, and was notified:

very low quality – 18 hours ago declined - a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it

However, I now see that the answer has been "deleted by Robert Harvey♦ 12 hours ago"

What did I get wrong here? I thought link-only answers were discouraged? Also, the fact that the answer was deleted, suggests that I did not get it wrong.

It is getting somewhat confusing working out what to flag and what not to flag.

  • 5
    I've had this sometimes too; perhaps the moderator changed his mind, or accidentally declined when he or she meant to accept instead. I wouldn't worry about such things; mods are human too (really!). Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 9:42
  • 14
    It was probably a different moderator that handled your flag. These things happen. Just move on, but keep flagging as long as you are getting more "helpful" flags than "declined" ones you are doing it right.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 9:44
  • 1
    I'd leave link-only answers alone if it is not to another question on SO, or if it points to specific page on external host.
    – nhahtdh
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 10:00
  • 8
    @nhahtdh I'd leave link-only answers alone if it is not to another question on SO, or if it points to specific page on external host Link-only answers that point to pages on SO are as much subject to link rot as links that point to external pages. I'd love to hear your explanation why a link-only answer that happens to link a specific external page is different than, say, a sitewide link.
    – JimmyPena
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 11:32
  • 2
    @nhahtdh You might want to see this post Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:23
  • @AndrewBarber: I have seen that post before, and I have read some of the comments there.
    – nhahtdh
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 15:51

1 Answer 1


At the risk of receiving downvotes from both flaggers and mod-supporters, I would say that both you and "declining" moderator made mistakes here.


  • Your mistake is of using wrong flag. VLQ description says "answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing" which makes it a very (very) bad fit for link-only answers.
    Thing is, as long as the link isn't broken and is relevant to answer the question, nothing could be easier than salvage the answer by just adding an abstract / summary of the content available at the link. Whenever I do that kind "salvage edits" (1, 2, 3, 4...) it works like a charm.
    In my experience, flagging as Other with an appropriate comment is safer than VLQ (and than Not An Answer for that matter) in cases like that. It just leaves less room for moderator to misunderstand your intent.

  • Mistake of the moderator is that they either
    were unable to recognize that your flag was submitted in a good faith (link-only answers are discouraged, you are right),
    or ignored the official guidance in SE Community Moderator Newsletter to dismiss flags as helpful in case of good faith submission.

  • 2
    +1 for the "salvage edits" suggestion. That's definitely preferred over flagging when the linked content does actually answer the question. Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 11:11
  • @BilltheLizard I for one don't have a definite preference here. At Programmers I prefer flagging because there, mods typically react by pinging the user asking them to improve. This has a benefit that it teaches poster the "link expansion" approach. Examples I used in my answer are either where posters ignored mod comment, or it was too tempting for me to edit: example #2 is the latter case, poster did link-only answer just a few seconds before I was going to submit my own "expanded version" from the same link so I preferred to short-circuit by skipping usual flag'n'teach cycle
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 11:17
  • 1
    So the rule is do not flag link only questions? Just leave them for someone with time to edit to extract the useful information? How about when the link is clearly to the users own site and is for the purposes of advertising even though it answers the question?
    – Remou
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 11:35
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    @BilltheLizard as for link-only answers at SO, mods there seem to have a good habit of reacting to flag by converting these to comments, which kind of clears the road and bumps the question for answerers who could submit better quality answers. Works especially good when link-only is single or accepted. Reference is still there, in comments, but it doesn't give a false impression of question being well answered anymore
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 11:40
  • @Remou your question is to Bill, not to me. When I prefer not to edit for some reason, I typically flag as Other with an appropriate comment... Only thing for sure, it's safer to avoid VLQ and Not-An-Answer kind flags for link-only answers since these carry a risk of mod misunderstanding your intent
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 11:46
  • @gnat I thought you were suggesting salvaging. I am just looking for some clear rules.
    – Remou
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 11:54
  • @Remou I referred to answer salvageability primarily to prove that VLQ flag is wrong (see my answer update where I suggest "Other" flag instead). As for whether to edit or flag, it is rather at your discretion. My comments to Bill above highlight some considerations you may take into account when choosing whether to edit or flag
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 12:00

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