In light of the discussion here (verdict: NAA is not to be used for "Answers a different question") and here, the NAA flag seems a bit redundant and ambiguous to me. AFAICT, the current legitimate uses are:

  1. Is a separate question
  2. Is meant to be a comment
  3. Is just random text that obviously doesn't answer the question (e.g. "Bubblegum")
  4. Is a link only answer

To me, points 1,2,3 are perfectly covered by VLQ:

This answer has severe formatting or content problems. This answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed.

All three are unsalvageable. And they have content problems.

Point 4 is better served with a custom flag (though NAA is OK too), as detailed in answers here.

With this in mind, do we really need the NAA flag? The wording "does not answer the question" is rather ambiguous (Does a link-only answer count as "answering the question"? How about "an answer to a similar, but different question?"). We have discussions on meta clarifying these, but the average flagger doesn't know about them. I myself can't think of any concise flag reason that makes this clear.

So, can anyone think of a more accurate flag description for NAA?

If not, is there anything wrong with just removing the NAA flag?

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    I'd say that "Not an answer" actually applies perfectly to those 3 cases. The problem is not that it has a very low quality, they just aren't answers to begin with. Perhaps the description of NAA merely needs changing. – Bart Jun 20 '13 at 12:25
  • I come across quite a few answers with something like "I have a similair issue, have you solved this yet?" or people asking their own question as an answer. I always flag those a NAA so I would say its a bad thing to delete it. – Daanvn Jun 20 '13 at 12:26
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    a link-only answer is still an answer right? I don't flag those as NAA. I use Other. – juergen d Jun 20 '13 at 12:39
  • @bart I don't disagree that they aren't narq. I just think that it's adequately covered by VLQ – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 13:21
  • @dan see above. Anything wrong with using VLQ? – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 13:21
  • @juergend Yes, exactly. It's better to use the other flag for link onlys. And since link-only is the only non-salvageable (i.e. non-VLQ) NAA reason, using Other for it means that NAA (to me) seems to be a subset of vlq. – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 13:23
  • @bart sorry, s/narq/NAA. And if you read my question, I first propose rewording it, and then propose removing it if a reword isn't possible. – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 13:27

Merging NAA into VLQ is a very bad idea. At least on big sites such as SO:

VLQ contains questions and answers. So anything that looks like a question can be deleted quickly in NAA but requires more time in VLQ (checking if it's an answer or a question). So merging them would reduce moderator productivity.

The better idea would be to add new flag types for "link only" and "is a comment or question". But throwing them inside a queue that also contains actual questions is a bad idea.

Whatever solution, it should make things easier and more comfortable for both users and moderators.

  • 2
    I disagree with adding a "Link only answer" flag, for reasons outlined here. If link only answers are a bad thing, then Stack Overflow can always do this programmatically -- we don't need the community to intercede here. – George Stocker Jun 20 '13 at 12:37
  • The formatting used in the mod queue accurately distinguishes Q from A, imo. (check the size of the title) – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 13:25
  • But yeah, "is a question or a comment" seems like a good replacement. Link only can be pushed into Other, or given another reason. I feel that the former is better. – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 13:26
  • @GeorgeStocker You cannot recognize link-only answers programmatically. You can recognize answers that are entierly in an <a> tag, which isn't the same thing. A “link-only answer” is one where the only information provided is the link. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jun 20 '13 at 18:00
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    @Gilles: as soon as you're making judgements like that, flagging becomes much less appropriate. We can and do recognize and block link-only answers - with the end result being folks flagging answers that simply contain links. As best I can tell, "link-only answers" are a massively overemphasized problem, even if you include blatant spam in the definition. – Shog9 Jun 20 '13 at 20:09

A really large number of flags that I cast on some sites or deal with as a moderator are users trying to comment in the answer field or asking a related question in an answer. "Not an answer" is a major flag and deletion reason and I don't see any advantage in removing it.

There are some problems at the edges and different interpretations, but the "very low quality" flag reason is much worse and far more misleading. "Not an answer" is a very accurate description of a large number of valid cases to flag, low quality is much more ambiguous and far easier to misunderstand.

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