I recently flagged this answer as "not an answer", which was declined with the argument " flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer".

While it is indeed the case that the "answer" is incorrect, that is not the reason that I flagged it. I flagged it because it doesn't address the actual question, and serves only to question one of the other answers. As such, it should be a comment to that question, not an answer. Basically, I'm 99% sure that the mod was incorrect in declining the flag.

This leaves me with a problem. My only recourse is to re-flag the answer, which is unlikely to help if the same mod handles the new flag. The ability to add a comment to any flag type (not just "moderator attention - other" flags) would help in this regard - I'd at least be able to explain to that mod why I flagged the answer.

However, I'd like to suggest that a better alternative might to to allow declined flags to be re-opened, with an optional comment attached explaining why I disagree with the mod. This means that the current close dialog can stay as-is (I'd agree that a "not an answer" flag shouldn't need a comment), but there is the ability to add comment to a flag if necessary.

To prevent mods being swamped by flags that keep getting reopened and just won't go away, the reopen feature might be limited to a small number of uses (just 1?) per flag, could only be available to users over a certain rep threshold, or could be limited to a single use per flag per day.

  • You can flag it again with the "Other" option and explain your reasoning. – ale Aug 24 '12 at 2:14
  • @ValetTree: I actually did do precisely that. Still, for the sake of continuity I think it's better to be able to add a comment to an existing flag, rather than creating yet another flag. Besides, "not an answer" summarises my intent much better than "other" does. – Mac Aug 24 '12 at 2:18
  • The problem with flagging as "Other" is that I hear it makes it harder for the moderator to handle the answer and also mark your flag as helpful. If the post is not an answer, flag it as such. Good luck! – jmort253 Aug 24 '12 at 2:20

Flags are designed to be used to escalate an exceptional situation to the moderators so that someone with the necessary tools can handle the situation.

At Stack Exchange, the community is charged with handling a majority of the moderation tasks. As an almost 5000 rep user on Stack Overflow, there is a lot that you can do that would either negate the need to flag, or help the moderator more clearly see what follow-up action to take.

I agree 100% that this is not an answer, but is there something you could have done in an edit to make it an answer? You have full editing permissions, after all. ;) If not, then the next course of action is to leave a helpful, constructive comment asking the answerer to update his or her answer by addressing the question.

However, in this case, we haven't seen this particular user since April 2010, so he's not likely to return to update his answer. But the comments you leave are still helpful! A comment does three things:

  • First, it gives the poster an opportunity to fix the problem.

  • It serves as a signpost to the community, instructing users on the proper behaviors on the site. As a 5000 rep user, you have a lot of experience to share with newcomers in this manner.

  • Lastly, when you do flag the answer, when the moderator looks at the answer and the comments, the comment may help him or her make a better, more educated decision as to what to do with the post.

The last point is one that I use successfully with very good results. Whenever I flag something as not an answer, I leave a comment to the poster with the details of what I think is wrong with the answer. This not only helps the poster and other users, but it helps the very busy moderators who handle 600 flags per day quickly come up to speed with the situation.

In summary, we don't need decline follow-ups, we just need to make sure we're using the tools at our disposal before or in addition to flagging. My suggestion for you is to leave a comment and then flag the answer again as not an answer. Hope this helps!

  • Fair enough - maybe a flag by itself wasn't the right tool in this case. However, my example was only intended to create some context. My core point is when a flag is declined, I should be able to follow it up with the mod that handled it, if I think their decision was incorrect. I'll certainly remember your advice for the future though - it makes sense. – Mac Aug 24 '12 at 2:26
  • Sorry if I confused you. I do think a flag was the right call, but leaving a comment is helpful as well. Remember, 10k users will see these flags too and will either escalate them or dispute them, so your comment will help them make the right calls as well ;) As far as disputing a decline, keep in mind moderators on SO deal with 600 flags per day. If you really really want to make a case for the decline, bring the issue here to meta, like you did in this case ;) – jmort253 Aug 24 '12 at 2:29
  • Not at all :). I realise the mods have their work cut out, so I'm all about ways to make the job easier for them, hence my motivation to post this question in the first place. You've certainly given me good options for helping the mods deal with flags when they first arise, but what I'm trying to get at is a way to help out the mods when that fails (which will inevitably happen occasionally, no matter what we do). – Mac Aug 24 '12 at 2:35
  • The way to help is to post on meta. Mods can join the conversation at their leisure, without us disrupting their primary duties of working through the flag queue and getting that number down into the double-digits. In many cases when a user brings a question to meta, a moderator will weigh in and will sometimes even reverse a decision. In summary, I don't think we need a dispute feature for declines, that's what meta is for. ;) The main advantage of meta is that, by the time the mod joins the conversation, there will be plenty of info and community discussion to help him/her make a call. – jmort253 Aug 24 '12 at 2:40

What proposed would not be different from flagging a post with a custom reason: In both the cases, moderators should review what a user is saying. The difference would eventually be in which page the follow-up appears, but the follow-up would still be directed to the moderators who would need to check two different pages. If the page where the follow-ups go is the same where the flags are listed, then the adding follow-ups would not be different from flagging the same post again, whatever you flag it using the same reason you used before, or using a custom reason.

Bear in mind that, when you flag a post, moderators see your flag, and any previous flag on the same post. If they see two flags of yours, they will understand there is something to investigate upon, which doesn't mean the flag will cause any action to be taken, or it will not be declined too.

About the flag you are referring to, you need to consider that:

  • Moderators should not be required to consider the correctness of an answer.
  • Moderators on Stack Overflow don't have much time to investigate on the reason why a post has been flagged. If the moderators need to read another answer, or the question itself to decide about the flagged answer, then it is better to use a custom reason. This is true in your case too, as you said that the answer was also incorrect; without explaining why you flagged the answer, a moderator could think you flagged it because it was a wrong answer, not because it was a comment for another answer.

If you are proposing a follow-up that is read from the moderator who declined your flag, I think it is desirable. As the moderators are at least 3, there isn't any reason the same moderator should handle the follow-up too, or that moderator should be the only one who can handle it.

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