# Why were these “Very low quality” flags declined?

I flagged both this and that answers for "very low quality". The former because it's just a link without even a minimal summary, and the second because it isn't comprehensible whatsoever. Both were declined with "flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer". I haven't even flagged them for that reason, especially since I thought it's encouraged to flag link-only answers as VLQ. And the latter answer is definitely not "salvageable through editing".

So why were these declined? I have flagged a lot answers of both types as VLQ, that were usually accepted quickly.

• Eurgh. I agree with you. I've just gone ahead and deleted them. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 18 '13 at 15:12
• Error by a mod? They are humans just like the rest of us. – asheeshr Jul 18 '13 at 15:13
• @BoltClock'saUnicorn look at the second spam flag on my SO account, it was declined.. and the reason why and this one on Meta meta.stackexchange.com/questions/186662/im-not-a-spammy-user – user310756 Jul 18 '13 at 15:13
• @Yve: I see it. To be honest I don't know what definition of "spam" is being followed here, but I can see why you flagged that post as spam, even if it was declined (wasn't me who did). – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 18 '13 at 15:15
• flagging link-only answers is playing russian roulette: Can we get some consensus on what flag to use for link only answers? – gnat Jul 18 '13 at 15:15
• @AsheeshR No, they are magical unicorn-riding demigods. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 18 '13 at 15:15
• @Ernest Friedman-Hill: And I am a unicorn. Because it wasn't obvious enough from my display name already. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 18 '13 at 15:16
• @BoltClock'saUnicorn thank you, I just shook my head.. It just wrecks flagging stats, as does failing review audits, not that it matters too mush, only when we get into arguments on Meta and people go digging through my stats :p hahahaha – user310756 Jul 18 '13 at 15:19
• For what it's worth, I strongly agree with these flags. And the deletion of the answers. – Cody Gray Jul 18 '13 at 15:37
• Flagging rule of thumb: If it's not crystal clear what your intention is when you use a "standard" flag, use a custom one instead. In the flag custom description, explain what is wrong with the post, and what you want the moderator to do about it. – user102937 Jul 18 '13 at 16:08
• @RobertHarvey yes, but, as in Is it forbidden to use “Other” flag for link-only answers? - your lovely custom messages still have a chance to be met with Please use the "NOT AN ANSWER" flag type for these "answers"! – gnat Jul 18 '13 at 17:22
• @gnat: No, I would never say that. If you feel more comfortable using custom flags and explaining yourself directly, please do so. I would only decline such flags if your reasoning for casting the flag is wrong. I'm more interested in good moderation than I am flag mechanics, and the best way that users can help mods do their job better is to explain why they're flagging. – user102937 Jul 18 '13 at 17:24

I declined both those flags, because they were very low quality flags against posts that were not Very low quality by our definition.

Very low quality has a very specific meaning (and it's used for the review queue, so it needs to be handled strictly). When you're flagging a post as Very Low Quality, it's as if you're saying the following:

This content should not exist. Delete it. Now. It is not salvageable through editing.

Put another way, if I'm not comfortable outright deleting a post, I'm going to decline the VLQ flag.

The two posts you listed were bad, but for different reasons, 1 was a link only answer, and the other was just a short answer with bad punctuation.

Both were salvageable through editing.

If you had flagged this post as "User asked to expand on link; did not. Flagging for deletion." I would have accepted it (it shows effort to engage, which is really important in building and maintaining a community).

If you're flagging something as Very Low Quality, so long as you follow the above criteria, you'll be ok.

The Very Low Quality flag reason is not and cannot be a proxy for removing a question or answer that should be removed or closed a question for other reasons. It's a shortcut to the Moderator team, so we have to make sure it's not being abused or used as a proxy to get around community moderation.

• I probably would've deleted the second answer since... Yuck. But this is the proper way to interpret VLQ flags - if you can't in good conscience delete, decline. – Shog9 Jul 18 '13 at 16:03
• @Shog9 The reason I didn't is because it's a fresh answer and I like to give people a chance to improve a post before it's deleted. If it were older than a month, I would have felt comfortable deleting it outright. – George Stocker Jul 18 '13 at 16:05
• @George Stocker: I wouldn't consider an answer that's been around for a month "fresh". Especially considering that the author hasn't been around for about three weeks now. Not saying you're wrong to have declined taking action, however - I'm just saying that I see things differently (and that's why I went ahead and deleted the answers). – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 18 '13 at 16:07
• @BoltClock'saUnicorn As an aside, Something that bothers me is that a user actually edited the answer, only to take out the code -- not to fix the spelling or the punctuation or anything else. – George Stocker Jul 18 '13 at 16:11
• @George Stocker: Yeah. There are, unfortunately, two ways to interpret that - either the user was lazy to do so, or the user couldn't figure out exactly how it should have been fixed besides taking out the code formatting. (For me, it was both. I couldn't stand spending more than 3 minutes agonizing over trying to fix that... I don't even know, before deciding to hell with it.) – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 18 '13 at 16:14
• If the link-only answer was flagged as "not an answer", would you have deleted it? I'm asking because all my NAA flags on similar answers were deemed helpful. – bfavaretto Jul 18 '13 at 16:43
• @bfavaretto Yes, but I may not have marked your flag helpful. There's a lot of inertia that we're trying to improve on. For years, moderators have just accepted almost any flag reason as justifiable, even if deep down the flag reason was wrong. Part of the issues we're seeing now is that the flag reasons weren't always used appropriately, but the moderators excused it. The reason we're clamping down is that now it's untenable to ask 12 people to work through thousands of flags the thousands of community members should work through first. – George Stocker Jul 18 '13 at 17:16
• @GeorgeStocker: Sounds like the 10K community is leaving the hard or ambiguous flags for us to deal with, which is what should happen. – user102937 Jul 18 '13 at 17:23
• @RobertHarvey It's starting to happen, definitely, and it's helped with removing 'flag to close' from our queue. The new problem is people using 'other' as a proxy for 'flag to close'. With Link Only Answers and "NAA" flag, there's still room for improvement: Essentially what Shog9 spells out in his post. – George Stocker Jul 18 '13 at 17:26

I often see link-only answers being flagged as VLQ in the flag review tool, but unlike a mod I don't act on them nor dispute those flags. Instead, my personal approach is to downvote those answers and leave a comment for low-rep users; I feel that's a more appropriate action. In fact, I hardly ever use that flag for anything.

This same action could also be applied to the other answer you've flagged; I would prefer to use a downvote and/or comment, especially for low-reps. I just realized the poster actually wrote another 13 answers, all without any upvotes. Perhaps he would benefit from a little hand holding ;-)

Lastly, to be fair, the link-only answer you flagged is about as bad as the question itself, so I would have flagged and/or downvoted the question as well. In fact, I have realized over time that many bad answers are the direct result of a bad question.

• That last line alone was very nice to read. Was just talking with Anna a bit ago about how we need to work on a flag UI that helps in identifying these cases; same thing applies to late answers / low-quality. – Shog9 Jul 18 '13 at 20:14