When I look at the flagging queue I see almost one flag reason only: Not an answer. (At this very moment 440 out of 470 flags!)

I have the feeling it is used wrongly most of the time. Many seem to flag wrong answers as NAA. How can we make this wrong flags disappear?

We could introduce an new flag reason: Wrong answer (deactivated for choosing).

With an explaining text underneath - something like this

Wrong answers should be downvoted and not flagged. You can also leave a comment and ask the OP to clarify or improve the answer.

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    This will surely persuade users to only use the flag for those circumstances where a posted answer is not even an answer. It will also encourage users to come forward and spend their reputation on downvoting answers. I've seen others flag wrong answers merely because they do not want to lose a reputation point each time, or because they don't have enough reputation to downvote (125 vs. 15 for flagging). – user215114 Oct 20 '13 at 19:53
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    I like this idea! (Concept Art) Hopefully this could be removed for users with a good NAA flagging history? That would reduce the clutter for experienced flaggers. – Dave Chen Oct 20 '13 at 20:27
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    @DaveChen, your concept art is still selectable – Mike Pennington Oct 20 '13 at 20:29
  • @MikePennington I believe an effort should better indicate that it is indeed not select-able, as in the picture, the option box is grayed out. – Dave Chen Oct 20 '13 at 20:31
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    I like this; what if we go just a bit further and make the Wrong answer item selectable, but make it downvote the post if selected? – GSerg Oct 20 '13 at 20:31
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    @GSerg, UI elements should not attempt to deceive users. Just change the UI to indicate that it's unacceptable to flag NAA for a "wrong answer"; this isn't a hard problem to solve. – Mike Pennington Oct 20 '13 at 20:33
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    @GSerg I imagine there would a lot of posts on meta of people who thought they flagged a post, but then lost reputation (down-voting an answer) complaining. I'd really prefer just altering the existing reason to explicitly state that NAA do not apply for wrong answers. Exactly how Mike puts it. – Dave Chen Oct 20 '13 at 20:36
  • @MikePennington The explanation why flagging is inappropriate in this case must be kept. If the user reads description and proceeds with flagging anyway, they sort of had it coming? "Your flag will be converted to a downvote if you proceed" shall be added for clarity; my concern here though is that people will read it and pick the Other flagging option anyway just to save the rep. – GSerg Oct 20 '13 at 20:37
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    @gserg, the user only has it coming if you tell them that selecting the wrong answer flag results in a downvote credited against the user's account. However, that wasn't mentioned as part of your comment – Mike Pennington Oct 20 '13 at 20:39
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    @GSerg I believe this falls under consistency with the rest of the UI. If none of the other options do anything but flag, why should one specific option do that? Also, flagging is a +15 privilege while down-voting +125, I think that'd be hard to build into the current flagging system without some major changes. – Dave Chen Oct 20 '13 at 20:42
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    @Mike Pennington: Well, if you have the privilege to vote to close questions, attempting to flag a question for closure will silently turn the flag into a regular close vote. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 21 '13 at 2:54
  • @BoltClock'saUnicorn, that's not as bad because a flag implies a close vote. I'm responding to the idea that we silently convert a flag into a downvote. – Mike Pennington Oct 21 '13 at 3:09

I think Mike's answer misses the mark because people don't read instructions. The issue with adding a little phrase to the end of the existing text is that the people doing this regularly already have this behavior ingrained, and probably won't re-read the instructions. This means it will prevent the growth of these flags, but not solve the existing issue.

Adding another menu item will be a visual clue that something has changed:

Updated Flag Menu

(It could be moved above the 'it is not an answer' option to make it even more obvious to people currently doing this that something has changed)

If the people doing this notice that it is inappropriate, it will fix the existing behavior as well as preventing the problem from occurring in the future. Once the problem is fixed, then we can switch to something similar to Mike's (with the 'do not flag wrong answers' bit at the beginning, rather than the end of the sentence).

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    "Mike's answer misses the mark because people don't read instructions"... so your answer is to... add more instructions?? – Mike Pennington Oct 21 '13 at 2:53
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    I don't like the idea of it being disabled. I think that would just cause more confusion for users. If a fake option were added, I'd rather it be enabled and upon submission take them to another page or popup some information which explains what should be flagged and why they're seeing this message; kind of like a review audit. – animuson Oct 21 '13 at 2:53
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    I was considering that too @animuson, but the issue with that would be if a new user flagged spam, for instance, and saw an option to flag for a wrong answer it would give the impression that flagging for a wrong answer was appropriate until they actually clicked through. The other thought I'd had was to have the 'NAA' option go to a menu with multiple options (this should be a comment, this should be an edit, this does not attempt to answer the question, this is wrong), but that would make flagging more tedious for those doing it properly. – jmac Oct 21 '13 at 3:58
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    @Mike, people don't read instructions, but they would read the heading saying 'this answer is wrong' and wonder why they couldn't click it. That would cause them to read the instructions. Tacking on additional text would not solve the issue as people who read just the headings would continue the undesired behavior. – jmac Oct 21 '13 at 3:59
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    I like it being disabled. It conveys the point perfectly and much more clearly than a sentence saying "do not choose this..." somewhere in the text where people will overlook it – Pekka Oct 21 '13 at 4:38
  • @perhapsPekka, that is one outcome of a disabled option; other outcomes are questions on Meta about why they can't select that disabled option, or completely ignoring your disabled option in favor of NAA – Mike Pennington Oct 21 '13 at 4:48
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    @mike then have the text say "this option is disabled because incorrect answer should not be flagged." It doesn't get any clearer that this really and you'll always have some people doing it wrong no matter what you do – Pekka Oct 21 '13 at 4:50
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    @AndersUP, I definitely meant 'cue' not 'queue', though 'clue' works too. Thanks for the edit. – jmac Oct 22 '13 at 1:35
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    @jmac: Looks good. But I would put "this answer is wrong" above the "it is not an answer" option to make it read first by flaggers. – juergen d Oct 26 '13 at 7:42

To reduce "wrong answer" NAA flags, it is more effective append a warning to the existing NAA field that says "Do not flag the answer merely because it is wrong".


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    I disagree. If I saw a description of "wrong answer" in the flag dialog, clearly stating that wrong answers should be downvoted instead, I would not try and flag it. That would make no sense. – user206222 Oct 20 '13 at 20:06
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    @Emrakul, it's possible that some people would read the new flag option; however, it's more effective to modify the description on the existing NAA flag text. – Mike Pennington Oct 20 '13 at 20:23
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    I don't see any reason not to have both (presuming the feature request in the question is accepted). People who are used to flagging wrong answers as NAA might not notice the new "grayed out" option. Adding this text to the NAA flag description as well would help avoid that. – WendiKidd Oct 20 '13 at 21:39
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    People who are used to flagging wrong answers as NAA will not read the description of NAA since they are used to it, and won't notice the change if it is just tacked on to the end. A second option is a necessity to create a significant visual queue something has changed. – jmac Oct 21 '13 at 2:41
  • @jmac, your assumption that people will not read is flawed. Assuming they aren't reading, all it takes is some denied flags; they will start reading – Mike Pennington Oct 21 '13 at 3:04
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    @Mike, if denied flags work to solve the problem, then there isn't an issue in the first place, and it is a solution begging for a problem, no? Either the current system works, and no solution is needed, or the current system doesn't work, and something in addition to denied flags is needed. – jmac Oct 21 '13 at 4:00

This is a very good point. I've been tempted to flag eye-popping wrong answers as NAA's quite a few times. And the -1 reputation gives the impression of doing something bad, rather than spending points doing useful moderation.

I also like the ideas of the other answers, but the comments indicate a few problems. So, I suggest the following solution, that will both force new users to make sure that what they are doing is right and force old users to re-consider mis-use.

In the existing "Flag" Dialog, when you click other (needs moderator attention), you are required to write a small description or the submit button won't allow you to submit, which obviously stops people from massively using it.

In a similar way of thinking, I believe that requiring the click of a simple confirmation checkbox could put flaggers into a second thought.

enter image description here

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    This penalizes users who use the dialog appropriately, adding an extra step to people who don't need it. While we want to prevent people from doing the wrong thing, hindering people from doing the right thing with an extra step is also less than ideal. This is the same concept behind splitting duplicates out from close reasons in the flagging dialog. – jmac Oct 21 '13 at 8:05
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    I agree with you, and of course I hate extra steps, but it could be hidden after a certain reputation and/or moderator badges. – mavrosxristoforos Oct 21 '13 at 8:08
  • I think that's a semi-solution (which could work, mind), but less than ideal since there will be gated users who don't merit it, and ungated users who should be reminded. Is there possibly a better way to do this that doesn't have those drawbacks? – jmac Oct 21 '13 at 9:09
  • What if the checkbox is checked by default? That will not penalize users that use it appropriately, but will cause a second thought on those that don't. So, the functionality will practically remain the same as it is now, but it will just scare off the mis-users. – mavrosxristoforos Oct 21 '13 at 9:12
  • I think that people won't read instructions, and as long as they click the radio button it goes through, it won't stop the most egregious offenders. – jmac Oct 21 '13 at 9:18
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    @jmac In one of your answer's comments you said that That would cause them to read the instructions, explaining that the strange functionality of a disabled radio would actually draw attention. In a similar way, my attention is usually drawn when I am forced to agree things on a website. – mavrosxristoforos Oct 21 '13 at 9:48
  • -1 rep makes this idea really horrible ... I think we need to encourage flagging . – NullPoiиteя Oct 21 '13 at 14:50
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    @mavros, if the box is unchecked, people will read it. However, good flaggers who do not need the message get subjected to it. If the box is checked, the previous behavior goes unchanged (nobody will read the instructions at all). If there is a heading saying this answer is wrong when people scan to find 'not an answer' they will see this as the proper choice, and will not understand why they cannot select it. Reading the instructions will be the next logical course of action (quicker than making a meta post), resulting in the proper behavior. – jmac Oct 21 '13 at 14:50
  • @jmac I understand your points. I just think it is by all means wrong (wrong in logic and rather unusual in programs) to add a fake option just to mislead people into reading instructions. – mavrosxristoforos Oct 21 '13 at 16:56
  • @Mavros, it's okay to think it's wrong. If this is a problem, then the goal should be to find a solution that doesn't burden the innocent (which mine wouldn't), and yet still provide a change in behavior by those causing the problem. If the design accomplishes that, I don't think it matters how 'unusual' it is. – jmac Oct 25 '13 at 4:11
  • @jmac You are right. I don't want to hurt innocent reviewers. But is there a way to know which users may have used the NAA flag incorrectly for quite a few times? If we have that kind of knowledge, penalizing them until they get off that behavior would be better than just giving them another option. – mavrosxristoforos Oct 26 '13 at 6:36
  • @NullPoiиteя What do you mean? – mavrosxristoforos Oct 26 '13 at 10:15

A deactivated "wrong answer" flag option will bring more trouble than joy, because people will not read the text below. From a user's perspective, fainter text under the wrong answer option will look like an explanation of what a wrong answer is. Surely most people know what a wrong answer is, so they will likely skip the text. Additionally, the presence of such option clearly suggests that wrong answers are ought to be flagged.

I'd expect two major reactions on this option:

  • Bug reports on Meta saying that the "wrong answer" option was disabled on an answer which is clearly wrong.

  • People getting their flags declined (and being vocal about it) because they couldn't pick the "wrong answer" option, so they picked a different reason at random.

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