What is the "not an answer" flag and what is its purpose?
The "not an answer" flag is a moderator flag that users can raise to notify moderators and privileged users1 that a posted answer does not make an attempt to answer the question, and should be deleted.
When should I use this flag?
Use this flag when an answer is:
- Asking a new question
- Clarifying the existing question
- Communicating with another user
- Saying "thanks" or confirming that another posted answer worked for them
- "Bumping" the question, as in "I have the same problem, have you found a solution?"
- Not attempting to address the question asked in any way
When should I not use this flag?
Do not use this flag when:
- The user posts a partial answer to the issues presented in the question
- The answer makes an attempt to answer the question, even if it is wrong or inaccurate or you disagree with it
- The problem with the answer is subtle and would benefit from additional explanation (see below)
But I'm still not sure if I'm using the flag correctly...
If it seems blatantly obvious to you that what you're looking at isn't an answer, you're probably using the flag correctly.
If the problem is subtle and may not be obvious to whoever reviews your flag, then raise the "in need of moderator intervention" flag instead, and explain in detail why you think the answer violates the site rules and should thus be removed.
An answer is "Not an Answer", but the flag was declined or disputed!
First, verify that the problem wasn't corrected after you raised the flag. If the author or someone else was able to edit the answer and fix the problem, then you did nothing wrong; the problem was simply not visible anymore at the time the flag was handled.
If the problem is still visible, then consider that perhaps it isn't as obvious as you thought it was. When reviewing "not an answer" flags, moderators aren't shown the question or comments in context without clicking further, which they probably won't do unless there's an obvious reason to look for additional context. The same applies to flags handled in the review queues for privileged users1, which requires reviewers to scroll or click through to view the question or other answers.
As suggested above, subtle problems can be more effectively handled by raising an "in need of moderator intervention" flag, which allows you to explain the problem in detail. If a "not an answer" flag is declined or disputed and a serious problem is still evident, then escalate the issue to the moderator team with a detailed description.
The flag was marked helpful, but the answer wasn't deleted!
There are four possible cases:
- A moderator found your flag borderline and decided not to delete the answer, but didn't want to penalize you by declining your flag.
- Your flag sent the answer to community review (see below), and:
- One of the reviewers opted to edit the answer. This dismissed the review task and marked your flag "helpful". Or:
- The reviewers agreed with you and voted to delete the answer (marking your flag helpful), but:
- The author later undeleted it, or:
- The answer had a positive score. Answers with positive scores can't be deleted by community members, so an outcome in favor of deletion will instead forward the answer to moderators for further review.
In the first and last cases above, a moderator will have already seen or will see the situation and has already or will soon handle it. In other cases, if the problem wasn't fixed, flag the answer using the "in need of moderator intervention" option and clearly explain the issue.
You can see which situation of the above happened by clicking through to the post's timeline, which will link to the community reviews (if any) the answer went through, as well as show its deletion history. If there's no entry for a community review, the flag was processed manually by a moderator.
1 The "not an answer" flag will trigger the answer to be reviewed by members of the site with editing privileges via the Low quality posts review queue (Low quality answers on Stack Overflow) if the answer has never been to that queue before. If the answer ends up in this queue, the flag will still be able to be processed by moderators after a delay that varies per site (15 minutes on most main Q&A sites, 60 minutes on some large sites including Stack Overflow, and no delay on meta sites). If the answer has already been reviewed in that queue before, this flag can only be handled by moderators.