I have recently had a Not an Answer flag on this response declined on the grounds of "flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer".

The answer is a solution to a different problem altogether from the one the OP posted.

This varies from "an altogether wrong answer" because the response is a valid piece of code, but is useless in its context because it helps neither the OP nor anyone searching for a solution to a similar problem.

Please clarify again the use of Not an Answer.

  • 1
    Look at all these related questions Dec 8, 2013 at 0:17
  • @JoshC: I have looked, and found nothing comparable. Did you?
    – Borodin
    Dec 8, 2013 at 0:22
  • @Borodin - Check the first answer here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/118582/…. There's a table that acts as a guide as to when to flag as NAA. With that said, I don't see anything there for when it appears someone might not have read the question correctly, but I assume downvotes would probably be best in those cases. Hope this helps! :)
    – jmort253
    Dec 8, 2013 at 0:31
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    A non-sequiter answer is still an answer. just a very poor one. Dec 8, 2013 at 1:42
  • @ValekHalfHeart: So I should be allowed to write about oranges and orang-utans without fear of deletion? And sequitur.
    – Borodin
    Dec 8, 2013 at 2:22
  • @Borodin Depends, is it phrased such that it seems like you're trying to answer the question? Either way, it would probably be deleted for being very low quality. Dec 8, 2013 at 2:29

2 Answers 2


Moderators have lots of flags to handle and not so much time on their hands. Keep in mind that all the ordinary moderators (not SE team) are contributing their own free time,

So we should help them moderate the site... "Not and Answer" should be used only for post that is 100%, beyond any doubt, trivially not an answer that should be deleted or converted to comment.

If post contains correct contents or try to answer the question then it's a possible answer in the least so if something is wrong those are proper actions: (one or more)

  1. Downvote
  2. Leave comment explaining what's wrong with the answer
  3. Flag as Other and explain to the moderator why it's not a proper answer.

Do #3 only if the answer should be deleted (if it answers a different question it's a valid case), otherwise just downvote to mark it as wrong or unhelpful.

  • Flagging as "Other" is not the best option for if something is not an answer. That's why there's a "not an answer" flag option. Using "other" takes the flag out of the 10k/20k queue where regular users could otherwise delete the post before it ever even hits a moderator. If it's not clear why it's being flagged, moderators will look at the comments for context, so if you've left a comment, that should provide plenty of explanation to anyone viewing the NAA flag queue. Using "other" to bypass the NAA flags just creates more of the noise you describe. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    Dec 8, 2013 at 1:06
  • @jmort253: I'm guessing he's assuming the OP will use custom flags correctly. It's true that using a custom flag solely to bypass the NAA option is inappropriate, but only when you're not using a custom flag to say something that isn't already covered in the canned option. It's perfectly acceptable to use custom flags to explain what's happening - not every one of us is diligent enough to look into the comments for context (and what if there are none?). Dec 8, 2013 at 4:43
  • @BoltClock'saUnicorn, my thought was that I, as the flagger, would leave comments if there are none. In general, unless I think someone is going to blow up at me and harass me, I'll leave a comment explaining what they can do to fix the post. This has resulted in posts being deleted by the owner, marking the flag as helpful, or what I assume has been helpful to mods who now don't have to leave a comment of their own. Hope this helps clarify.
    – jmort253
    Dec 8, 2013 at 4:45
  • But yeh, if there's a sketchy circumstance, there's nothing wrong with "other". It's just important that folks understand the difference and impact of only using other...
    – jmort253
    Dec 8, 2013 at 4:46
  • @jmort253: That would be ideal, but in the current state of affairs Stack Overflow is far from ideal. (Then again, in an ideal world everybody would understand what it means to answer a question anyway...) Dec 8, 2013 at 4:47
  • @BoltClock'saUnicorn - Yes, a lot of this depends on people ideally using all of the privileges afforded to them.
    – jmort253
    Dec 8, 2013 at 4:51

When you look at the flag dialog, we see the following:

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.

  • Bold/italic emphasis is mine

Everything in ShaWizDowArd's answer is 100% solid advice, except for #3. Don't use the "other" option for this. If the answer should be deleted, that's precisely what the not an answer flag reason is for. If an answer isn't an answer, use the not an answer flag.

As for the reasoning behind this, keep in mind that only moderators can see "other" flags, whereas not an answer flags (and very low quality flags for questions) are visible to 10k and 20k+ users. What's more, 20k users can cast delete votes on these answers if they agree with the flag and the answer is negatively scored. This helps take the work off of the moderators, who at this point in time on Stack Overflow have at least 173 flags in the queue that are also visible to 10k users like me. There are likely many more "other" flags where the issue was so complex as to require a private message, and these are flags the community can't help with.

Use comments to kill 2 birds with one stone

As for moderators not understanding why you've flagged as not an answer, the solution is to leave a comment. As a community moderated site, we should get the ball rolling by letting users know what's wrong with their post and then explain what they need to do to fix that problem. Not only will this be seen by the user so he/she can fix the problem, but a moderator can also gain context from the comments, and that's only if three 20k users don't get there first.

Moreover, these comments educate the community. Users who are currently lurkers will see the comments and downvotes and hopefully avoid making the same mistakes themselves.

Lastly, consider that the problem you encountered is you flagged an answer that arguably didn't meet the criteria for a NAA flag as listed in the "What is an acceptable answer" table here. Thus, if you used "other", your flag may still be declined. Perhaps the table should be edited to account for cases where an answer is posted that doesn't fundamentally answer the question. Does that count as a wrong answer that should be downvoted but not flagged? Or is that simply considered an answer that doesn't answer the question which should be flagged? The answer of course in this case is to not flag it at all, since it attempts to answer the question and is a full, standalone answer, but I can see how this isn't clear to flaggers.

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