I am evaluating the usefulness of the "very low quality" post flag.

from here I am assuming that

  • It's not a flag to use to indicate the technical correctness of the answer.

  • It's not a flag to use when an answer is not a real answer.

  • It's not a flag to use when it's a link-only answer.

  • It's not a flag to use when it's a spam.

  • It confuses lots of new users who use it to indicate the correctness of the answer - which gives our busy moderators more work ( as those flags are rejected ).

It seems like the only reasons to use VLQ flag is when

  • the answer is not understandable at all ( may be in a different language, or very very poor English )

  • it's impossible to improve it through editing ( ie. answer makes no sense at all and guessing what the author meant to say would possibly introduce a radical change )

  • as Jeff explains

Now, have I missed any important reason for having the VLQ flag on answers?

In my opinion, this reason for flagging is redundant because most of the time we can use either spam, not an answer, or custom flag.

I am not proposing a removal of it but rather like to hear your justification.

In case we decide the VLQ is redundant we can post a feature request asking to remove/replace it with another type of flag.

Please do not tag status-by-design as I am aware of that. My only intentions are to discuss this matter.

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    OFten VLQ can be used to indicate that a post needs work - since a VLQ flag will appear in the mod tools for higher reputation users to see it can often bring visibility to a low quality post so that action can be taken against it (whether that be a high quality edit, or a comment asking for further detail, or deletion) – Flyk Dec 11 '13 at 8:45
  • Ok, I agree. But I think flagging with a custom reason would speed up the identification of what's wrong with an answer - at least for the moderator. I'd rather see a comment from the user who flagged for attention with some explanation what is wrong instead of having to spend extra X amount of time to see what's actually wrong. – user221081 Dec 11 '13 at 8:53
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    Flagging with a custom reason will only go to the moderators, there are more users on a Stack Exchange site than just the moderators, and most of the high reputation users are probably better suited to making such edits (due to them generally having more time from not having to action mod flags, etc) – Flyk Dec 11 '13 at 8:55
  • I usually flag as VLQ trash-like answers (like this one). It's not spam or even offensive, but it it indeed worse than a NAA answer. Not sure if that's what VLQ is for, anyway. – Xavi López Dec 11 '13 at 12:18
  • @XaviLópez while it's NAA it's also a VLQ, the point here is you would still be able to flag it even if the VLQ did not exist. You would have probably even been less confused about which flag to choose. – user221081 Dec 11 '13 at 12:33
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    It is now, @Xavi - since that's what folks were using it for. – Shog9 Dec 11 '13 at 15:21
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    In addition to your 5th bullet, at least in the current workflow, this can often cause other, valid flags on the same post to be rejected as invalid. Search here and you will see that this upsets a fair number of people. Rumor has it though that moderators are going to get better tools allowing them to treat multiple flags on the same item independently instead of all-or-nothing. – Aaron Bertrand Dec 11 '13 at 15:36

One of the reasons we're so strict about VLQ is that it's being used for Audits.

It's still useful to keep around for answers, but it has a very high threshold (as you point out) it has to meet to being marked 'helpful' by a moderator.

Should it be this way? Yes and no. We need a way to alert moderators to things that should just be deleted because they are unsalvagable. However, saying "Very Low Quality" seems to elicit confusion.

Perhaps changing "Very Low Quality" to:


This answer has severe formatting or content issues that can't be fixed by editing. It should be deleted.

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    +1 I like the new Unsalvageable name which scares me off right away - ie. I ain't touching this flag unless something really doesnt make sense -> now, wait? maybe NAA instead... it's vicious circle, aint it? – user221081 Dec 11 '13 at 15:34

I have a love-hate relationship with that flag, mostly hate. I rejoiced when Waffles got rid of it, and cried a bit inside when Jeff returned from vacation just to put it back. It is the single most ambiguous, broadly misused and pejoratively applied to indicate I don't like this because Tuesday flag that we have.

On the other hand, it does unearth some very smelly stuff that wasn't caught by any other flag, sometimes escaping down votes entirely. On answers, it's often used to point out things that should probably be marked as not an answer instead, but also:





The answer to this is pretty easy you jus


u do dis easy bro. u opnz de file menu, den prpties den dere.

There's also the occasional dump of unformatted code without explanation, rant that tangentially addresses the question (or, at least mentions it) and other things.

I'm not opposed to renaming it, if someone can think of a better, less ambiguous and broad name to call it. We don't necessarily need very low quality for answers, but we need something like it, perhaps more reasonably scoped by definition.

When we say use it to indicate that you found toxic waste, we need to be able to better define toxic waste in the context of written language. That's .. always been a subjective call. What I can say is, the flag wasn't properly used unless the moderator that serviced it either removed the post on sight, or made a Herculean edit to salvage it.

Then I think of changing it to "Should be deleted, unsalvageable" because that's essentially what it means, but I cringe at the ramifications of doing that. Would be an interesting test to change it to that for half the people flagging, just to see what happens.

  • For the first two examples you give, people seem more likely to use the spam flags, and I don't mind those for content like that. Frankly, I've never liked the flag on answers, because it's misapplied more often than used properly, in my experience. – Brad Larson Dec 11 '13 at 17:55
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    It is only ambiguous if you have a Mother Theresa complex and believe every post, no matter how awful, can somehow be saved through the application of infinite contributed editor time, which invariably comes from other people. I think "unsalvageable, should be deleted" is a fine and correct interpretation. – Jeff Atwood Dec 14 '13 at 8:02
  • Well, I think it's more "Father Flaggigan" than Mother Theresa (there's no such thing as a bad post) - but I'm going to see how the rest of the team feels about naming it after the intended effect it should have. – Tim Post Dec 15 '13 at 6:18

For me, as mod on some smaller sites, it helps raise visibility of some posts which need work. These may not be handled otherwise, so it gives me a heads up.

Often they are from new users, so I can also give them a welcome and explain the ground rules (as none of then read the FAQ before posting)


I think the biggest general-use case is for certain link-only answers that answer the question (as such are not "Not An Answer"), but aren't spam.

If VLQ didn't exist, you would have to use a custom mod flag, which would increase the workload for already overloaded mods.

Your assumption that it's not a flag to use when it's a link-only answer is incorrect. In fact, Shog suggested using it in the past for link-only answers.

  • this may be to part I am not understanding properly but why would it increase the workload for mods? It's mods who deal with VLQ flags anyway so whats the difference between dealing with a VLQ and a custom flag? Is it clearly just visibility? – user221081 Dec 11 '13 at 9:54
  • If I'm not mistaken, VLQ got to 10K tools, not the mod queue, which is the difference – psubsee2003 Dec 11 '13 at 9:56
  • You're correct. I am not sure Shog's suggestion should be taken as a guide in how to flag but recently when we discussed link-only answers I thought we do a custom flag asking to convert the link to a comment if its still valid. – user221081 Dec 11 '13 at 10:00
  • @mehow the whole point to the link-only discussion (the entire question & answers where that comment is) is there is should be no specific flag for link only answers, you have to evaluate it on a case-by-case basis – psubsee2003 Dec 11 '13 at 10:02
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    VLQ description says "answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing" which makes it a very (very) bad fit for link-only answers... (discussed in more details here) – gnat Dec 11 '13 at 10:30
  • @gnat Maybe the description needs fixed then. I've seen it on other posts on link-only answers that it would be suitable. – psubsee2003 Dec 11 '13 at 11:02
  • maybe, I have no strong opinion on that. With current description, I use this flag against link-only garbage only when I am certain that I can safely exploit a known bug – gnat Dec 11 '13 at 11:25
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    The problem, @gnat, is that some folks really want a flag that equates to, "someone whose time is worth less than mine should edit this". Which, for hopefully obvious reasons, doesn't exist. – Shog9 Dec 11 '13 at 15:04
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    @Shog9 if you mean a feature request to Add a “link-only answer” flag reason, my reading of it is that someone per this flag equates to answerer (asuming, as we once discussed in Tavern, mod handling flag as deletion if post transforms to NAA when link content is ignored). And, well, this way I find it fair to pass that "duty" to answerer - if they want undeletion and upvotes, they better edit their garbage (worth adding that my experience per removal of link-only answers at Programmers rather supports this attitude). – gnat Dec 11 '13 at 15:32
  • Eh... While I'm sure this subtlety is lost a good part of the time, if I know an answer answers the question and is useful to others I'm not going to delete it just to send a message to the author, @gnat. VLQ == "I have no way of knowing". If you're flagging to send a message, this is beyond a "very bad fit" - it's bad faith on your part. But in many, many cases, this isn't even an issue. – Shog9 Dec 11 '13 at 15:56
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    @Shog9 Well, the VLQ review queue (to which these flags are sent) has a specific option for link only answers. It does delete them, with sufficient votes, although it does provide a comment to the author so that they know what the problem is and how to fix it. The last time I remember discussing link only answers you seemed to like the workflow of flagging as VLQ, having users use that reason, and then having the author fix up the answer on their own. – Servy Dec 11 '13 at 16:00
  • I still like that workflow, @Servy - as long as the answers are very low quality. As ambiguous as that description can be, I've sadly found it less often misinterpreted than "link-only answer". But yeah, something like this? Yell ha, that's low-quality. – Shog9 Dec 11 '13 at 16:02
  • @Shog9 whatever, dedicated flag is not the only option to make it manageable - but I believe any progress would require massive deletions. Desire to keep it only fosters proliferation of this kind answers at SO. I am just happy that we managed to get rid of this garbage at Programmers – gnat Dec 11 '13 at 16:10
  • Did I ever give you this query, @gnat? Don't know if it'll run on SO, but... probably still useful elsewhere if you're measuring this stuff. – Shog9 Dec 11 '13 at 16:16
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    Both queries tend toward identifying short answers, @gnat - which is a reasonable heuristic, and hence is a major part of the automatic quality-flagging system as well. Could probably improve the effectiveness of that on sites like Programmers and TWP by cranking up the minimum length. – Shog9 Dec 14 '13 at 22:34

I had an example just the other day of a user who posted all of their code in the question and answer as an image because they said they were having issues with the code formatting. For the question, I was able to clearly see the code and retype it but the answer was long enough that the image became squished making it unreadable.

In this case, the user did answer his own question (so not NAA) and it wasn't spam or needed specific mod attention so VLQ made the most sense. So even though a mod was the one to respond to the user it at least gave someone other than a mod a chance to address the answer instead of leaving it only mods.

Having said all of this, this might have been my first time every using this flag. But based on the description it probably shouldn't be used frequently anyway because we are usually able to edit answers into a better shape. So just because it doesn't get used all that often doesn't mean it doesn't have its use.

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