I flagged this answer (> 10k only) for being a link-only answer (using the other flag option) and the flag got declined with the following motivation:

Let's give him a chance to fix it. It's been 3 hours.

While I may agree with the comment, the answer was eventually deleted by a ♦ moderator a few minutes later.

I think it would be fair to change the flag status from declined to helpful.

By the way, in my opinion, this is one of those cases in which being able to comment on a moderator decision would be helpful.

  • 10
    It's a flag. Move on. The only way to send you that message would be by declining your flag if I'm not mistaken. The message more or less indicates you were correct and helpful. No harm is done here.
    – Bart
    Aug 30, 2013 at 13:37
  • "this is one of those cases in which being able to comment on a moderator decision would be helpful" — but then what would you tell the moderator? I'm with Bart here; the flag did get the moderator attention, that's all that matters to me.
    – Arjan
    Aug 30, 2013 at 13:46
  • 4
    @Bart, I'm a grown up an I can live with that, trust me. It just looks weird that the flag was helpful to delete a poor answer and it's still marked as declined. By the way I don't know whether you downvoted this, but I think it's a legitimate question posed in a proper form. In case someone disagrees, I'd like to know the reasons. Cheers. Aug 30, 2013 at 13:47
  • Nope, not my vote @GabrielePetronella. Neither up nor down.
    – Bart
    Aug 30, 2013 at 13:52
  • 1
    I actually up-voted because I agree with you about this handling being confusing, but I suspect the person who down voted might be someone who likes link-only answers. Aug 30, 2013 at 14:19
  • 3
    @AndrewBarber Who likes link only answers?!? They should be strung up by their toes!!!
    – Taryn
    Aug 30, 2013 at 14:36
  • @bluefeet I prefer ears. Or spleen. Aug 30, 2013 at 14:36
  • Not very important, but to people marking the question as duplicate: All dupes now must point to an answered question (source) Aug 31, 2013 at 11:02

4 Answers 4


I declined the flags on that post.

Here's why:

When I received the flags on the answer, I noted the following things:

  • Three flags were Not an answer (demonstrably false -- it was an answer, just not a very good one)
  • Two flags were Link Only Answer discouraged for reasons outlined here and here.
  • The user is new at answering. They may have been a member for a year, but they just started answering questions -- it's not unexpected for them to get it wrong.

So, I declined the flags.

When I initially hit decline, I did not see the user's reply in the comments. Later when I left my comment, I saw his comment.

That's not something we see from the moderator queue window. Had I seen the user's comment, I would have marked the flags as helpful and deleted the answer myself.

I left a comment for the user, letting them know why they should improve their answer, and asking them to improve it.

The people who did the right thing and tried to engage the user didn't flag -- that's a good thing. They tried to work it out without resorting to involving moderators first. The people who flagged, didn't engage the user -- they just flagged.

Another moderator came along and subsequently deleted the post. I agree with his actions.

The problem with just marking flags as helpful is that it can encourage behavior we don't want to encourage.

I don't want to encourage users to just create an SEDE query to look at all answers that have http:// and have less than x characters. I can do that. The SE development team can do that -- we don't need users to spend their time on that.

I don't want to encourage users to just flag and flee -- because that doesn't change behavior positively, if anything, it fuels animosity towards an opaque process that from the outside world could be viewed as elitism.

I don't want to encourage you to take every single problem on the site to a moderator -- that doesn't scale. If the community can learn to police itself and to engage with other users instead of dumping that work on the moderators, you'll find that people may respond more positively, and it'll leave moderators to handle the currently 695+ 'other' flags that signify something the community itself believes it can't handle.

  • when handling the flag, have you seen answerer's reply in comments? "Hey, some help is better than no help, right?"
    – gnat
    Aug 30, 2013 at 15:02
  • @gnat When I initially hit decline, I did not see the user's reply in the comments. Later when I left my comment, I saw his comment. Aug 30, 2013 at 15:03
  • 2
    @gnat I modified my answer to take into account that very important fact. Aug 30, 2013 at 15:04
  • 1
    It totally makes sense George, I agree with the policy and I thank you for the thorough explanation. I'm even more convinced now that the flagging system has some issues, not last the lack of expressive categories that pushes users to flag as not an answer or other. I agree that moderators shouldn't be involved in such trivial cases, but the way the flagging system is designed makes it happen quite often. Aug 30, 2013 at 15:33

For the record, there were quite a few flags on it, and some of them were "Not an Answer"; I'm sure those were the flags that were intended with the decline. We can't unfortunately give individual flag dispositions.

Many of us tend to reserve "Not an Answer" just for posts that were not an attempt to answer the question. That link was an attempt, so the people who flagged that way were not flagging properly.

  • 2
    thank you for the answer. This is an aspect I wasn't aware of. It makes more sense now, thank you. Aug 30, 2013 at 13:49
  • 2
    Maybe this batched flag handling should be made clearer. What I see is that I flagged a post and a moderator declined my flag with a reason. Had I knew it was a general decline on the all the flags, I would't have been baffled as I was. Aug 30, 2013 at 13:55
  • 5
    @GabrielePetronella - I hear we should soon be able to accept / decline flags individually when there are multiple on one post. That would be a great help with stuff like this. Aug 30, 2013 at 14:02
  • 1
    Good to know. Thank you for your input Brad. Aug 30, 2013 at 14:04

With decline message "give him a chance to fix it. It's been 3 hours", moderator is likely trying to convince you that the right way to deal with issues in answers like this would be like,

  1. Downvote

  2. Add a comment explaining issues in the post, like

would you mind explaining more on what it does and why do you recommend it as answering the question asked? "Link-only answers" are not quite welcome at Stack Exchange

  1. Wait for a couple of days, get back to the post and either 3.1. undownvote if the issues are fixed or 3.2. flag for mod attention explaining the issues and what you have tried to resolve these

A variation of above, when I see that as you explained further, there are already comments from other readers about link-only answers, followed by answerer's reply like "Hey, some help is better than no help, right?", I flag immediately with the message like

This answer looks more like a comment to me because it does not offer much besides a link to external resource. As far as I can tell per discussion in comments, OP is not inclined to expand it with more explanation and context.

Of about hundred or two flags submitted that way (at Programmers), I've got one or maybe two declines (can't remember why) and maybe a handful of helpful flags without further action, the rest were resolved as helpful followed by deletion of the post or by "official" mod comment demanding it to be expanded.

Taking into account that there are about 24K posts at Stack Overflow clearly telling hundreds thousands of their readers that link-only answers are OK, I would say that approach outlined above sounds laughably ineffective but oh well.

For the sake of completeness, this approach has been proven to work more or less well to me at Programmers, but Programmers is about 100x smaller than Stack Overflow which makes it a whole different game.

  • I definitely think this is a good practice, especially with newer users who just are not aware of the differences here. I've seen it help a good number of times. Aug 30, 2013 at 13:58
  • 3
    I totally agree. I typically proceed as you suggested, but consider that the answer already had a few downvotes and 2 comments explaining that a link-only answer is discouraged. The author also replied: "Hey, some help is better than no help, right?". Let's say that adding more downvotes or comments did seem superfluous. Aug 30, 2013 at 14:01
  • 1
    @GabrielePetronella Yup. I think in that particular case you did flag correctly, especially considering the effort already made to try to get the question fixed, and the user's response in the negative. Aug 30, 2013 at 14:04
  • @AndewBarber. Thanks, my point here is not really about whether I acted correctly (glad to hear that anyway), but that the flagging "feedback" feels a little bit awkward. Your answer made realize why. Aug 30, 2013 at 14:06
  • @GabrielePetronella updated the answer to accommodate to additional details you provided. While I have your attention, did you use Not An Answer kind of flag? If yes, then I think you can find better explanation of what happened in Why are the moderators being so strict with quality related flags recently?
    – gnat
    Aug 30, 2013 at 14:19
  • 1
    @gnat I already asked that question, but deleted the comment after he edited the question - it was a custom mod flag Aug 30, 2013 at 14:47
  • @psubsee2003 understood, thank you! using custom flag makes no chance for this to be answered in "sudden strictness of moderators". But, since there were other NAA flags that mod had to decline, this makes it a dupe of the post about them not having an option to handle custom flags separately
    – gnat
    Aug 30, 2013 at 14:52

Flags are declined for a number of reasons. Even though it says "declined" and is red, it's not a bad mark on your reputation or anything. Don't worry about it - good flags are declined, but still acted on, all of the time. You are really only in danger if your flags are constantly declined - but there's a threshold (not a sliding scale, like rep).


This post contains some discussion (and links) about how declined flags affect you:
What happened to flag weight?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .