Does flagging posts as "not answer" with negative score, which are obviously not answers, help at all?

It can help keeping SO nice and clean. But it floods the moderators' queues. The community might not gain that much by deleting theses posts, as they are already downvoted to a negative score. So most readers will not spent much time by reading these posts.

It's obviously a trade-off. What's the community's opinion on that?

  • Can you show some examples? NAA is often incorrectly used for bad answers.
    – Stijn
    Feb 25 '14 at 13:05
  • I mean posts stating a question, "me too" posts. Stuff like that. here is an example
    – flx
    Feb 25 '14 at 13:08

If it is an answer, or an attempt to answer, even if it is wildly incorrect, you should not be using the "Not an Answer" flag.

Not an Answer is for "answers" that don't attempt to answer the question. To wit:

  • Thanks! That worked for me!
  • I'm having the same problem. Has anybody found a solution?
  • I have a related question. My question is...
  • goobledy boobedy
  • What a stupid question.
  • Don't Hassel the Hoff!
  • How do you like living in Austin?

If it's just a bad/incorrect/incomprehensible answer, downvote and move on. Heavily downvoted answers fall in the default "by votes" sort and start to fade away to indicate what the community thinks of them. (Hopefully, the authors will realize that they've given a poor answer and are prompted to remove it themselves. High reputation users can also vote to delete such poor answers. But there's no need to get a Moderator involved.)

However, if you do see an "answer" like the non-answer examples above, flag, flag, flag. We want that crap gone.

  • 2
    You just beat me. I was about to post almost the same answer. Feb 25 '14 at 13:10
  • 1
    I personally feel perfectly reasonable flagging answers as not-an-answer that are technically answers to some question, but clearly entirely unrelated to the actual question being asked. Like, the question "how do you do [x] in javascript?", and the answer "here's how to do [something only tangentially similar to x] in c++!" Am I incorrect in thinking that that is a reasonable thing to do? (Obviously if they did attempt to answer the question, and were just wrong, then that is still an answer.)
    – neminem
    Feb 25 '14 at 16:43
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    @neminem: You shouldn't do that. Largely because when someone is reviewing "Not an answer" flags, they're doing it without context. All they can see is the contents of the post. It takes more work to see the question and even more to see the other answers. If the answer looks like an answer, your flag will be declined. You would probably be better off using the "Other" option and explaining "this is not an answer to this question but to a completely different question". NAA should be reserved for obvious non-answers. "Thanks! This helped!" isn't an answer to any question.
    – ale
    Feb 25 '14 at 16:46

If you're positive that the flag is used correctly, flag away! You don't need to care about flooding the queues, if they are too long it means more moderators are needed.


If it's "obviously not an answer", then, yes, flagging as "not an answer" is appropriate.

That said, if the post is clearly unsalvageable (i.e. it wouldn't be useful even as a comment), it may be better to flag it as "very low quality" instead. This has a couple of advantages compared to "not an answer":

  • It adds the answer to the Low Quality review queue, where it can be deleted by reviewers without ever getting to the mods.

  • Also, something that you might consider an advantage is that, if the answer is edited (presumably) to improve it, the VLQ flag is automatically removed without requiring moderator attention.

The major limitation of VLQ flags is that you can't flag an answer as very low quality if it has a positive score. (Of course, if it only has one upvote, you can just downvote it first and then flag it.) This is generally a good thing: if several users found the answer useful enough to upvote it, it's probably not completely worthless.

Ps. Even "not an answer" flags don't always have to involve the mods — users with 20k+ rep can vote to delete flagged answers (with a negative score) straight from the flag review page, and if three of them do so, the answer will get deleted before the mods even see it. Still, if you think an answer should be deleted (as opposed to being converted to a comment) and it hasn't been upvoted, VLQ is generally a better flag choice than NAA.

  • Does flagging as "very low quality" still get a downvote from community? I don't remember seeing it get another downvote. (goes and tries it on a dodgy post) Feb 25 '14 at 14:23
  • @Qantas94Heavy: I'm honestly not sure, but if it doesn't, we should fix the post by Jeff that I linked to (since it's actually linked from the privileges page as the "Usage guide for very low quality"). Feb 25 '14 at 14:26
  • If the post is meant to get a downvote as soon as I flag the post, then no, that doesn't happen (yes, I refreshed the page). Feb 25 '14 at 14:27
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    @Qantas94Heavy: Mmm... according to Shog9 the downvote is only applied when the flag is marked as helpful. Which is kind of pointless, if it's marked as helpful because the post was deleted. But apparently Jeff's explanation may not be wrong, just kind of misleading... :-/ Feb 25 '14 at 14:30

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