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13 days ago I flagged this answer for the "not an answer" reason. This got disputed.
I asked in the chat about it and I was told by a moderator (I can't recall who it was exactly) that it probably got disputed because after all it did attempt to answer the question.
He advised me to flag it as "Very Low Quality" instead. Since it already had upvotes at that point, I had to make do with a custom flag message:

It's just links to the docs. Can't flag for 'Very Low Quality' because of an instant upvote.

Today it got reviewed and it got declined for the following reason:

Seems like it works as a standalone answer.

I can't really tell what this is supposed to mean. I see two links to the docs, no excerpt or small example as to how it should be used, it holds a question asking for clarification and there are several better answers instead (disclaimer: one of them is mine).

A quick google only pointed to cases that reinforce my opinion it should have been converted to a comment:

There's this answer by Animuson:

The problem is, there are accepted answers which are low-quality and deserve to be deleted.

and this one by Oded:

I went ahead and converted that answer to a comment, as we would do today if flagged. In particular since there is another, much more detailed and also highly voted answer.

Another post referred to me by hichris123:

In my experience, flagging as Other with an appropriate comment is safer than VLQ (and than Not An Answer for that matter) in cases like that. It just leaves less room for moderator to misunderstand your intent.

So my question: why did this flag get rejected? Is there something about the answer that makes it acceptable after all?

  • It's not a link-only answer, or "just links to the docs". A link-only answer would be "see Class.getMethod and Method.invoke" or, worse, bare URLs. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Dec 14 '13 at 2:43
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    How exactly do you define that difference? What is so substantially different between your example and his answer? – Jeroen Vannevel Dec 14 '13 at 2:45
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    There is some semblance of an answer in "You can do it with reflection using..." and "Creating an Animal class is really the cleanest way". It still doesn't give anyone much to go on (it's worth a downvote), but it's better than nothing (it's not worth being moderated against the asker's acceptance). VLQ is for gibberish, and "link-only answer" is when links constitute the only or predominant content in an answer. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Dec 14 '13 at 2:48
  • I see what both of you are saying, but I don't think it is that much more than a link-only. It basically says, you can use this, see these methods. Oh, and you could also do this. However, it doesn't explain the second idea, or the first (other than the docs). – hichris123 Dec 14 '13 at 2:49
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    If you would remove the links from the answer would it still be a good answer? I cannot imagine it is, ergo: the links are the predominant content. Whether you phrase it as "use <technology>" or "see <link>", it still doesn't give any more information. There are 3 answers that have a lot more content to go on for future browsers, it's not like it's the only answer either. – Jeroen Vannevel Dec 14 '13 at 2:51
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    Take out the links and you still have the names of methods to use. It's a weak answer, but not a non-answer – random Dec 14 '13 at 2:55
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    How is this not in direct contrast with the help center: Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are barely more than a link to an external site? – Jeroen Vannevel Dec 14 '13 at 3:02
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    I understand what you're saying with the additional information from the link being formatted as two relevant methods, but is a method name really an acceptable answer? – Jeroen Vannevel Dec 14 '13 at 3:11
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    The user who asked the question seems to think method names alone are an acceptable answer – random Dec 14 '13 at 3:49
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    But both Animuson and Oded (see quoted answers) have indicated that it is not enough for the asker to determine if an answer is good. So what is it we're looking at to conclude if it should be flagged: "Is the answer accepted?", "Is the answer a link-only answer?" or "Is the answer a method name?"? Right now it feels like it swings between those two, and none of them are conclusive with precidents, nor do they make a good answer by themselves. – Jeroen Vannevel Dec 14 '13 at 3:57
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    There are no "better" answers against the one you're talking about here about the method names. All others are without votes. The answer still does answer the question. – random Dec 14 '13 at 4:04
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That's clearly not a link-only answer. I'm going to quote the full text here to make it easy to refer to:

You can do it with reflection using Class.getMethod and Method.invoke.

Creating an Animal class is really the cleanest way, though. What stops you from doing that?

There are a few things you should be able to easily observe about this answer:

  • It isn't entirely a link.

  • It isn't barely more than a link.

  • It does attempt to answer the question.

  • It does provide key guidance (the names of the relevant API functions) in a format that is accessible even without the links.

  • It does provide additional guidance beyond what is contained in the linked articles.

  • It is clearly written and easy to understand.

I see no reason why such an answer requires deletion. If you find it unhelpful, you're free to down-vote it - but I would be interested to hear why you think it is unhelpful even then.

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    Alright, thanks for putting it all together. I guess it does meet the requirements for an answer. As for my reasoning: it's just my opinion that it's a low quality one. I believe the answer is unhelpful because all it really is is a lookup of two methods in the docs. Getting a method (getMethod) and invoking this method (invoke) are two methods that explain themselves so anyone should be easily able to look them up (thus: little additional value). What I want to see in answers are an example of usage and some explanation surrounding it. – Jeroen Vannevel Dec 14 '13 at 21:21
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    I'm reminded of the old story about the guy who gets called in to fix some complicated bit of machinery, which he does after a minute by tapping one key piece with a hammer. The punchline involves him itemizing the lion's share of his fee as "knowing where to hit it". Sometimes, just knowing where to look is enough. – Shog9 Dec 14 '13 at 21:31
  • @Shog9 doesn't Atwood have a post about that on his blag? – Cole Johnson Dec 15 '13 at 7:18

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