There's a tl:dr waaay down at the bottom, though the juicy bits are the most important tbh.
I didn't understand the approach to using "not an answer" flag. I do now from a discussion with Robert Harvey (here) which made it clear.
But discussions in Meta should not be needed, and currently it's not clear what Stack wants with the "not an answer" flag from the current name and description of said flag.
I can possibly see why seasoned users/mods/staff could disagree, but perhaps this is the old familiarity chestnut. Whereby because you know something so clearly and have been familiar with it for so long, you cannot see why someone else wouldn’t know what you do.
Wouldn't it be beneficial for the flag to be clear to people without the need of an explanation from a hard knock stackie?
When you try to process an OPERATOR you look forward 1 element in your token vector. What happens if the OPERATOR you are processing is the last element in your token vector?
While the first sentence is a statement, it "does not attempt to answer the question" (the first sentence of the description in the "not an answer" flag).
As the second sentence starts with "What happens if", and ends with a question mark, that is a question, rhetorical or otherwise, it too is "not the answer to the question".
As such I felt this answer as a whole was "not an answer".
And there is a flag named "it is not an answer" and even the description fits using it for this question "it does not attempt to answer the question".
Please tell me why I would not choose this flag? - Without the foresight of what Stack actually wants from this flag. From the name and description you provide, and in scenarios such as this question where it perfectly fits the flag's name and description, people will choose what has been provided.
I understand what a Rhetorical question is, and in other places this is fine. But Stack promotes a strict Q&A style, including being strict as to what are not answers.
Surely a rhetorical question must be defined as a non-answer?
A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question that is asked in order to make a point. The question, a rhetorical device, is posed not to elicit a specific answer, but rather to encourage the listener to consider a message or viewpoint
Not only is this by definition "not an answer", it is a question that doesn't even warrant an answer. How can this be passed as an answer on a strict Q&A site?
This is precisely why I, and I'm sure many others, chose "not an answer" flag as it "does not attempt to answer the question"!
The other options to flag this are:
- it is spam
- it is offensive, abusive, or hate speech
- it is not an answer
- it is very low quality
- other (needs ♦ moderator attention)
It was not spam and was not offensive or abusive. It was very low quality, but the description under "low quality" flag option clearly indicates this is not the flag for this scenario (perfect description and this logic should be applied to all other flags).
So we have "not an answer" and "Other" remaining.
Robert Harvey♦ stated (as have various others):
With answers like the one being discussed here, it is better to flag with a custom explanation, and explain why you feel the answer is actively harmful and merits removal
Why would I waste mine and moderator time writing out an explanation to explain in greater detail what would only be summarised as "not an answer", when there is already a flag for this?
Now I of course know that we don't even use flags for this particular scenario, we use downvotes.
This is only due to it not fitting in with Stacks required use of any of the flags.
But surely you can see by my explanation above why I was led to use the "not an answer" flag?
It would be interesting to know how many "not an answer" flags are declined each week. The total figure wouldn't confirm the reason for the total, so perhaps a rewording of the flag description would be good and then see if that average weekly total went down.
The flag option "not an answer" is a pretty simple meaning, and it's also quite generic. In fact, it could define most of the other flags as well!
Robert Harvey♦ stated:
Reserve your "Not an Answer" flags for things like "I have the same problem, has anyone found a solution," "I have a new question, how do you..." and "+1, would read again." For everything else that you still think should be removed, cast a custom moderator flag, and explain why
This is fine, and now it's explained if that's what Stack wants I can act as such, but no-one can know this from the current flag description which is nothing like what Robert explained.
So if the flag "not an answer" is not to explicitly be used for answers which are not answers by any old definition, and only the definition that Stack doesn't tell the users about, and as this does leave it open to personal interpretation, what Robert described most certainly should be implemented into the flag description, if not the name somehow too.
The "not an answer" flag name and description:
it is not an answer
This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.
Breaking that down to how users would interpret it who are not familiar with how Stack want it to be used:
- it is not an answer - is very generic and could even define some of the other flags;
- This was posted as an answer - yes it was it's in the "answers" area;
- it does not attempt to answer the question - again so very generic and also this could define some the other flags;
- It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether. - This is just a list of potential resulting actions from the previous sentence. As the previous sentence and name are generic and not clear cut, and the resulting actions are generic, this does not clearly define how the flag should be used either.
If it's for things like "I have the same problem, has anyone found a solution," "I have a new question, how do you..." and "+1, would read again.", why not state that in with the flag description?
This confusion is only worsened by frustration that from my trying to help out with the poorly worded tools provided, I receive "flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention".
This is why I'm provide with the flag buttons, and was provided with a "not an answer" flag to mark this question which was clearly "not an a answer".
Even if this response is based on a choice from only a few mods have, it shouldn't have been declined with the way the current flag is worded.
Even if I'd used the "other" flag, clearly in this case it would have returned the same declined message, as would any other flag. As Stack's way is, any answer which is not spam, offensive or "poor quality" (based on "poor quality" flag's well worded description) shouldn't be flagged and should just be downvoted.
This is fine, I actually agree completely it is the best method as downvotes just push it down and hopefully get it improved... but you gotta explain more clearly how you want them to be used.
The wiki for this flag is well worded and explains it much better. Alas "viewed 40 times".
tl;dr from here
The "not an answer" flag name and description is far too generic for people to know how to use it properly. There are many things that are "not an answer" including some of the other flags!
To the point
My feature-request is a change to the "not an answer" flag description and/or name, to more closely resemble what Stack requires it to be used for.
it is not an answer
for answers such as "I have the same problem..", "I have a new question, how do you..." and "+1 this is great". For "bad" answers just downvote.
And at the top of the pop-up flag list:
If the answer you're flagging is just a "bad" answer, or does not match any of the below descriptions, or you feel flagging a moderator using "other" is not justified, simply downvote it