Doing some flagging, editing and general cleaning up on SO being one of my hobbies, normally when I encountered answers that are generally nothing but a link to a duplicate question or one of the answers to the duplicate question I simply flagged them and moderators removed them (wow what a long sentence). I also voted to close the question as a duplicate.

So I encountered this one: https://stackoverflow.com/a/6222295/468793

It met all my criteria for an answer linking to a duplicate question, so I flagged as not an answer and voted to close the question as a duplicate. The flag was rejected with:

declined - a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it

I have no problem with that, and don't really care about rep and flag weight and whatever, but if I do cleanup, I want to do it right. Maybe I'm missing something or some change was introduced, but I'd like to know:

  1. What is the right decision in this specific case? What did I miss?
  2. What should I do in the future when meeting a case like this?

2 Answers 2


It is a very short answer, but it answers what asked. If I replied to that question, I would show the code I suggest the OP to use, even if it would be to show how to cast a value to an integer.

The difference between that answer, and other link-only answers I saw is the answer would still be an answer when you take off the link.

Basically, you need to cast the limit value to int using intval() when binding.

What I would not find acceptable is an answer like the following.

You should read [link to another question]. It will help you with your problem.

Rather than answering the question with such answer, I would have voted to close the question as duplicate. Probably the author of the answer was not sure if the question should be closed, or preferred not to flag the question as duplicate. (The author of that answer is not a 3K user.)

What should I do in the future when meeting a case like this?

If you think the answer is one of those link-to-another-question answers, flag it as not an answer. I would first voting to close the question as duplicate, and if the question doesn't get closed, flag the answer as not an answer.

Bear in mind that, because the high number of flags received from the moderators, they are sometimes required to take quick decisions. It can happen a flag is not handled as it would be.

  • 1
    The author of the answer is not a 3K user (2,059 now, and probably a lot less back in Jun '11 when the answer was posted). For all we know he might have flagged the question as a duplicate.
    – yannis
    Oct 29, 2012 at 22:44
  • 2
    I meant he is not a 3K user. As usual, I leave out some not's, here and there. :)
    – apaderno
    Oct 29, 2012 at 22:46

Moderators say they aren't supposed to judge the technical accuracy of an answer, but this is clearly just linking to another answer. Had the answerer expanded on it a little, it would be acceptable.

However, it could be edited to incorporate the content from the other answer, and cite it. I'd suggest treating it like any other answer with a link and a poor explanation.

I wouldn't downvote it though, but I wouldn't upvote it either. I'd either edit it, or remove it, and it's clear that the mod who declined your flag isn't going to remove it. So it sounds like editing is in order. ;)

In cases where something can be improved, it shouldn't be flagged, which I suspect is why the flag was declined. As a regular user, you have the power to fix this. Thus, it's not that you're wrong that there's no problem, it's just a problem that you can help fix. The heavy artillery, the diamond mods, are only needed in truly exceptional circumstances. ;) Hope this helps!

  • Well, maybe mods can make mistakes. Rarely, of course :). I'm most curious because in these situations they simply delete the linking answer. The question is also an obvious duplicate and afaik answers should not be duplicated (that is why I don't edit these). Thanks for your answer, I hope a mod will clarify this and I will act accordingly in the future.
    – kapa
    Oct 29, 2012 at 22:27
  • Yeh, version 1 of my answer was going to say that I disagreed with the decline, but then after thinking about it, diamond mods on SO deal with hundreds of flags per day. They don't need to be brought in for things you and I can deal with with our close votes and edits.
    – jmort253
    Oct 29, 2012 at 22:29
  • Yeah I see, but is editing any good if we are simply creating duplicate content? Should not duplicates be closed as, well, duplicates? :)
    – kapa
    Oct 29, 2012 at 22:32
  • Hm, the single sentence in the answer, "Basically, you need to cast the limit value to int using intval() when binding." is answering the question (yeap, the question is that trivial).
    – yannis
    Oct 29, 2012 at 22:41
  • @YannisRizos So, in other words, I can go and search for duplicate questions, link to the best answer, summarize it in a sentence, and collect rep with it? To me, it smells.
    – kapa
    Oct 29, 2012 at 22:45
  • @bazmegakapa It might smell, but if moderators deleted rep whoring posts just for being rep whoring, half of Stack Overflow would disappear overnight. The main problem here is that the question is a duplicate, the answer, albeit being a poor one, attempts to answer the question (thus not "not an answer").
    – yannis
    Oct 29, 2012 at 22:48
  • Trust me, basmegakapa, I despise this just as much as you do, and I personally refuse to post content such as that. Someone will downvote that user if he/she keeps it up, and that's how he/she will learn... as for the policy, technically @Yannis is right, it is an actual answer. It's not a good one, but it's an answer nonetheless. This really points to a problem with the question though. It's a duplicate, and should be closed as such. Anyway, I hope you have more respect for yourself than to start doing that just because others get away with it. Keep your head up! ;)
    – jmort253
    Oct 29, 2012 at 23:22
  • Also, I think the thing to do is not to let stains like that reside on our site. Edit it and make it better. Not only will it look better to new users who drop by, but you'll be making the post more helpful to people who will benefit from it, as well as showing the author of that answer how he/she can improve, leading by example, and without being mean about it. ;)
    – jmort253
    Oct 29, 2012 at 23:26

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