I came across an answer from a new user to an old post. (I would have thought I got it through the review queue, but the log doesn't support that).

I flagged the answer for moderator attention, because the answer didn't add anything not already stated in at least two previously given answers. I'm generally careful when flagging answers, as I understand that ie. incorrect answers should not be flagged, but voted down.

The flag got declined with the reason that the moderator found no evidence to support the flag.

So the questions are:

  1. Should I have flagged the answer?
  2. Should I have included links to the other, previous answers in my flag?
  3. Does it make a difference that the answer was by a new user?

I think the flag was right, also based on this discussion and the fact that the answer was years after the question and accepted answer, but perhaps I should have commented first.

For reference, this is the flagged answer, this is the accepted answer and this is another technically identical answer.

EDIT: After the mods have been involved in this, two of the above links can only be seen by 10Ks (I guess).

  • 3
    There is no leniency toward new users. New users are expected to write perfect questions/answers that are supported by facts, references, or specific expertise that add something new to the community. In this case, this user should be given a year ban for wasting precious server space. Vote for me for moderator Y2k14
    – Kermit
    Jun 14 '13 at 14:05
  • 3
    When you say you flagged for moderator attention, what option did you actually select? "Not an answer" or "Other" with an explanation that it's a late post that duplicates existing answers? From the question I think it's probably the latter. Jun 14 '13 at 14:06
  • 3
    I personally would have flagged it as other and stated that it is basically an exact copy of another answer.
    – Taryn
    Jun 14 '13 at 14:07
  • @AnthonyGrist "Other: The answer doesn't add anything not already stated in at least two other answers. I'd consider locking the question as I don't think anything new can be added"
    – user213634
    Jun 14 '13 at 14:08
  • Hm, it's possible there were other invalid flags on the post; as far as I know moderators can still only accept or decline flags on a post as a whole rather than accepting or declining individually. Might need to wait and see if the moderator who actually handled the flag gives their reasoning behind it. Jun 14 '13 at 14:11
  • I would say that moderator might have missed the 3 year gap between the answer you flagged and the other (same) answers. Jun 14 '13 at 14:17
  • 2
    @AndersUP I'd consider locking the question as I don't think anything new can be added Actually someone could answer with a reference to sys.tables not that it matters this question get asked all the time Jun 14 '13 at 14:40
  • 2
    I can't speak for their decision here (went ahead and deleted the answer, because it was a late duplicate), but maybe they responded to the "I'd consider locking the question as I don't think anything new can be added." wording. We only lock questions in rare cases, and you never know if someone will come along with an even better explanation or solution to an old problem. Jun 14 '13 at 14:48
  • 5
    No mercy. When they're new is when they're formative. Don't let them learn bad habits. (Real answer: crush them.) Jun 14 '13 at 15:39
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter Good point. As the two answers also states, I was a bit too aggressive there.
    – user213634
    Jun 14 '13 at 18:14

I declined your flag. Here's why:

This is the flag I responded to in the moderator queue (which, as I've talked about before, shows no context):

The answer doesn't add anything not already stated in at least two other answers. I'd consider locking the question as I don't think anything new can be added.

To which I'd answer: So? We have thousands upon thousands of instances where users provide the same information in different answers. It's one of the things that makes Stack Overflow great.

As far as locking the question, that's a really bad idea, for multiple reasons.

In this case, this was seen in the moderator queue -- and it wasn't a "This user copied answer (link to answer)", it was just, "This has already been said."

As moderators, we are not judges of which two answers that say something similar (or even the same) get to stay. What if all three had been upvoted? Why is it our job to say, "I'm sorry, your answer doesn't belong just because you got to the party late?"

We are, however, the judge of plagiarized content. That's a magical phrase. If you can show that a post was copied word for word from another post, then your flag will be marked helpful every time.

In your case, there are other things you can do instead of flagging:

  1. Do nothing.
  2. Leave a comment.
  3. Vote the duplicate answer down - difficult as technically it is useful (assuming that the answer is correct).

In this particular case, any of those three would have been ok. Flagging for moderator attention with a flag reason of other is a bat signal that says, "This needs to bypass normal channels and get dropped into the moderator queue." Remember, that queue (at any given time) has hundreds of flags in it -- most of which went through the normal channels.

When you're flagging with a flag reason of 'other', it helps us out the most if you're sure that this is something that should be taken up by a moderator, and not by the community -- and that this is important enough to bypass normal channels.

In the case of a guy that got to the party late? That doesn't really fit.

Someone flagged the answer a second time, and the follow up flag was much more helpful in explaining the situation:

an answer with the same code and with a better explanation has been posted about 3 years ago.

In the case of the the above flag, I may have deleted the post, but I definitely would have marked the flag as helpful.

  • 1
    So my flag was essentially valid, but the reason stated was too ambiguous. Actually, I added the possible close remark since I do know that the "Moderator attention" flag is bypassing all the other queues and figured that this might be considered for locking since a mod was going to take a look anyway. I've come across many of those recently and thought it might be relevant. I guess not. ;-) I do try to use the different flags conscientiously and I hope my flagging history reflects that. Thanks for the answer.
    – user213634
    Jun 14 '13 at 18:12
  • However, looking at the "really bad idea" link you provide in the answer, I'd say that Anna actually sums up my exact reason for suggesting the lock: "Occasionally we also protect an old question that gets new answers from new users trying to get some rep that duplicate existing answers."
    – user213634
    Jun 14 '13 at 18:40
  • 2
    @AndersUP She suggests a "protect", not a lock. Jun 14 '13 at 18:40
  • 1
    And the penny drops: My real mistake was not knowing the difference between lock and protect. I've seen lots of protected questions recently, probably no locked ones, so I didn't think of making the distinction and didn't realise until now that my suggestion was different from my intention.
    – user213634
    Jun 14 '13 at 19:04
  • 2
    @AndersUP Don't feel bad. We're programmers, pedantry is our watchword. Jun 14 '13 at 19:05

I would have declined the flag. Answers that don't add anything new should be downvoted, and locking is only done in very unusual circumstances which don't apply here. Answers that are exact duplicates of other answers are different; say that. If the duplicate answer comes in several minutes after the others, I will generally delete it.

New users are treated the same way as everyone else, except that new answers on an old post are considered a potential red flag. People who post answers months or years after a question has been asked often have other motivations besides answering the question (i.e. promoting a product or website).

  • 1
    This. I added my own answer (Since I handled the flag), but this is beautifully put. Jun 14 '13 at 17:33

You must log in to answer this question.