I flagged an answer on this SO question as spam:


Since the answer is deleted, here's its content (with the link made inactive):

I don't have a lot of experience on printing SSRS through code, but it looks like you can try the following: http://www.buzzfeed.com/readcommentbackwards/42-clever-food-hacks-that-will-change-your-life-dmjk

I didn't use Not an Answer as I tend to think those should be used for users who interact with the question in an honest attempt to participate but just get things wrong, e.g. comment as an answer.

To me, spam means that as well as not answering the question there is some sort of irrelevant external link, i.e. the situation here.

This answer from a moderator on MSO has some relevant info:

Flagged answer as spam; it was deleted; flag was declined

I declined the spam flag because it wasn't pure spam... (snip) We want people to be careful with spam / offensive flags, because of the significant penalties they carry, so we tend to decline spam flags where there's no obvious product or service promotion (or other abuse, like dumping dozens of links to a site).

OK, fair enough, on the face of it there is probably no commercial intent here, but Not an Answer also doesn't seem quite enough here either. So maybe Other would have been appropriate?

I suppose I'm also sad to get my first declined flag, but I'm sure I can just chalk that up as part of life's rich tapestry.


I flagged an answer that seemed pretty spammy to me as such, but this was declined - would NAA have been the best option here?

The answer has no business being on Stack Overflow, so I suspect the increased visibility from this question will get it nuked in a few seconds, but I'm just trying to understand the best course of action.

Just to emphasise - the link is nothing to do with programming - it's tips about cooking, basically.


As expected the answer is now long gone, and apparently the consensus is that this was spam, judging by this comment from @H2CO3:

I have flagged it as spam and voted for deletion. (In the meantime, it has been deleted because apparently I was the 3rd one voting for deletion, and my spam flag has also been registered as "helpful".)

I assume enough people flagged it as spam that it was automatically deleted and the flags automatically approved.

I'd still love to hear from a mod to get an official opinion on this to see if this differs from community opinion, plus an idea of what (if anything) will happen to my original declined flag now since other spam flags have been accepted.

Update 2

Thanks for all the different opinions, many good points on both sides and I learnt a bit about the whole process. Upvotes for everybody!

In the meantime, I'm off to bake some eggs to go with my bacon tacos. Yum!

  • 1
    The answer is low quality indeed. I think it deserves downvoting, not more. ("This answer is not useful"). The weight of several reviewers, each using downvoting, is quite stong - reputation drops quickly.
    – d-stroyer
    Aug 22, 2013 at 8:57
  • @d-stroyer You think it should be downvoted, but allowed to remain on the site? Dare I ask why? Aug 22, 2013 at 9:01
  • @CodyGray I think the answer's owner should be disciplined enough (or fearful to lose rep), and delete the answer himself. Am I overly naive ?
    – d-stroyer
    Aug 22, 2013 at 9:02
  • That would be perfectly fine, but I don't see why we need to sit around waiting for that to eventually happen when we have a way of removing useless content from the site already. Aug 22, 2013 at 9:09
  • @IanPrestion Just to clarify: it was deleted because it has been cast 3 delete votes, and apparently not because of spam flags. (Moderators who have access to flagging history, please confirm or deny this.)
    – H2CO3
    Aug 22, 2013 at 10:25
  • @H2CO3, thanks for the clarification - I guess I'll just wait for the official word. Aug 22, 2013 at 10:28
  • 1
    It was definitely deleted because 3 20k+ users cast deletion votes. The deletion automatically validated all pending spam flags. But it was not the spam flags that did anything. We call this the Meta effect. Your spam flag was still incorrectly declined, and it would be nice to hear the responsible moderator's explanation as to why. Aug 22, 2013 at 10:59
  • Thanks, @CodyGray, that makes sense. In fairness, I'm still happy to accept the declined flag, especially bearing in mind some of the comments from Martin Smith in his answer, I think it was more the feedback (i.e. the no evidence canned response) that confused me more than anything. It may have been a bit spammy, but maybe not spammy enough, which is fine, but I think to say say there was no evidence is not strictly accurate either. Aug 22, 2013 at 11:18
  • @IanPreston: it is clearly spam despite what some folks think. You do not need motive for it to be spam.
    – user7116
    Aug 22, 2013 at 16:26

4 Answers 4


I declined the original flag as I didn't think that the link was spam. However, I see now that I should have just deleted the post which would have accepted your flag.

I will admit that I didn't read the link as carefully as I should have done as I didn't notice that it was a link to a completely irrelevant page. At the time I thought that it was just a link only answer which should be dealt with by edits, comments and/or down-votes, not flagging as spam.

One thing to bear in mind is that there has apparently been an uptick in the number of people misusing the spam and (particularly) the offensive flags to apparently flag things that should just be down-voted. Because of this I have being trying to evaluate the flags more carefully - however, this time I got it wrong.

On the more general point, I wouldn't worry about the odd flag that's declined. It's only when you have lots of declined flags that you have to consider that you are doing it wrong.

  • 3
    Very correct of you to post this answer (+1)
    – Sergio
    Aug 22, 2013 at 12:49
  • 1
    I don't spend so much time on spam flags even though I don't get nearly as many as you. “I don't know but you can try this link” and the link is totally off-topic → spam. This one looks like run-of-the-mill blog comment spam to me, even if the link is unusual. Aug 22, 2013 at 12:51
  • 4
    @Gilles - Indeed, but at work I have to be very careful over what links I click on (for obvious reasons).
    – ChrisF Mod
    Aug 22, 2013 at 12:53
  • @ChrisF, wonderful, thanks for the clarification. Aug 22, 2013 at 12:55

This answer was not ok, I agree with you. Spam flag is directed to posts with "advertisement or commercial" links or content inside the post.

This link has title of "35 Clever Food Hacks That Will Change Your Life", this is also the content of that long page. There is no content in it about the question How to convert RDL file into PDF using SSRS.

I think it should be marked as spam.


Yes, it is indeed spam. It has nothing to do with the topic of SO, let alone the question. It's just a link which serves as advertisement. I have flagged it as spam and voted for deletion. (In the meantime, it has been deleted because apparently I was the 3rd one voting for deletion, and my spam flag has also been registered as "helpful".)

  • 2
    but...but....bacon and egg cupcakes!
    – Bart
    Aug 22, 2013 at 9:10
  • @Bart I am sorry. I saw that you liked that answer and upvoted it - be my guest for a virtual coconut cocktail. (I'm a Cocoa (Touch) developer anyway.)
    – H2CO3
    Aug 22, 2013 at 9:11
  • @Bart Ah, nope, that was Cody Gray. Whatever.
    – H2CO3
    Aug 22, 2013 at 9:12

I agree with the declined flag. I don't think it should have been marked as spam.

The answer is puzzling in that the link is entirely irrelevant but I suspect that they may have simply made a mistake and pasted a different link in to the one they had intended.

In this case I would give the benefit of the doubt rather than applying the 100 rep penalty for spam content. The user has made sensible contributions before and also it seems to be stretching the definition of spam that any irrelevant link should be automatically regarded as an advertisement.

If there was any good reason for believing that the answerer was affiliated with BuzzFeed or was planting the link for personal gain then a spam flag would be justified however.

  • 2
    Yep, totally see where you're coming from, and this ties into the mod answer on the other MSO question I linked to. The last thing I'd want is for a legitimate user to get slammed with that penalty in error. I wonder if this penalty is automatically applied for the first offence? If so, a spam flag is probably too much if it could lead to a rep hit. Maybe some extra warning in the spam flag description describing the serious consequences would have been useful. Aug 22, 2013 at 10:24
  • 5
    The answer is spam. It has some generic text that basically says “I don't know the answer” (quite possibly bot-generated, it's a common introduction on blog spam), followed by a completely irrelevant link. Not all spam involves direct links to a merchant: some spam merely links to advertising material, some links to a benign-looking site that actually hosts malware, some links to a site just to drive traffic for the ads there, some promotes ideas (vote for X, hate all the Y) rather than a product, etc. Aug 22, 2013 at 12:29
  • @Gilles - That's your reading of it. Mine is different. If the link was to something relevant it would be a fairly run of the mill link only answer. Pasting the wrong link is easily done (I know I've done it before) and I don't see anything particularly unusually spammy about either the link or target website. Aug 22, 2013 at 12:34
  • 3
    @MartinSmith Yes, and if it answered the question it would be a proper answer. My point is that it's a promotion link that is irrelevant to the answer. That's spam by definition, regardless of what is being promoted. Aug 22, 2013 at 12:38
  • @Gilles - How are you distinguishing between "link" and "promotion link"? I just see a link. Aug 22, 2013 at 12:42
  • 2
    @MartinSmith I see a link that's completely irrelevant surrounded by boilerplate text that doesn't even purport to answer the question. The link may have been pasted by accident (unlikely, but possible). The boilerplate text, not. Sometimes we get spam without links or brand names (I guess either these spammers are dumb or they don't know how to use their bots). The link doesn't define the spam per se. I'm not going to investigate whether it's peddling health foods or malware ads or whatnot. Boilerplate text + irrelevant link → spam. Aug 22, 2013 at 12:48
  • Martin, while I find using word "promotional" to determine spam too slippery, I still agree with @Gilles that it's spam, on the grounds that link content is unsolicited, posted indiscriminately. There's no way that spammed question could solicit anything about clever food hacks to improve blah blah
    – gnat
    Aug 22, 2013 at 12:50
  • @Gilles - I still think cock up rather than conspiracy. That kind of "boiler plate" disclaimer is fairly typical on link only answers. I take it as a sign that they probably don't know much about the subject and just googled something. Where is the motivation? Why would the 70th most popular website in the US want to spam an obscure question on Stack Overflow? Aug 22, 2013 at 13:04
  • -1, spam does not require "motive", merely content, and this is clearly spam.
    – user7116
    Aug 22, 2013 at 15:05
  • @user7116 - Meh. I didn't find it spammy. Just irrelevant. Aug 22, 2013 at 15:07
  • @MartinSmith: if you emailed somebody that...their spam filter would most assuredly kick it out. It is patently ridiculous to consider that link in any way contextually valid. Inappropriate/bizarre links with nonsensical text are the meat and potatoes of Spam.
    – user7116
    Aug 22, 2013 at 15:09
  • @user7116 - My answer acknowledges that the link was puzzlingly inappropriate. The text isn't nonsensical. Just slightly ungrammatical. Aug 22, 2013 at 15:12
  • @MartinSmith: you must not receive spam, it would be nice to live in your world.
    – user7116
    Aug 22, 2013 at 15:13
  • @user7116 - I receive my fair share of spam and this doesn't meet my definition. In the context of the question and the surrounding text it is entirely possible they meant to post some link about using a PDF print driver to create the document and messed up. There is no evidence of previous spammy behaviour from them or any obvious payoff to make me believe the spam theory is any more credible. Aug 22, 2013 at 15:27

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