I just got my custom flag on this answer declined for the well known reason

"flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer"

My custom message was

It does not answer the question (at the most it should be a comment to the related answer) but even then it does not change any functionality whatsoever.

I don't see why this should be declined, certainly with an explanation.

  1. The code he suggests alteration to is part of another answer
  2. The change he suggests is literally swapping a synonym

I provided the second reason to make it clear that no value would be lost by simply deleting instead of converting it to a comment (otherwise everyone might just as well quote MSDN for reasons unrelated to answering the question since that is what he basically does).

Regardless of this second reason, the first one is a direct comment to another answer and has no value by itself.

Take for example this post:

A wrong answer is a technical inaccuracy.

The technical correctness of an answer is judged through votes. Moderators (and therefore flagging for moderator attention) are for problems with an answer other than its technical accuracy, such as whether it is offensive, not even an attempt to answer the question, etc.

I believe from this reason I can deduce that this was not even an attempt to answer the question. Just because it is put in the answer section, doesn't make it an answer.

Why was the flag declined, considering all this?

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    It looks like an answer to me. It might be painfully wrong, but it looks like an answer – Richard Tingle Apr 3 '14 at 15:20
  • But that's the thing: it's not wrong because it doesn't address the problem. It's simply not an answer to the question, it's a comment to another existing answer. – Jeroen Vannevel Apr 3 '14 at 15:21
  • To this answer if so I see what you mean. However; it looks like its suggesting the question OP does it. I might have linked to the specific answer that was being commented on – Richard Tingle Apr 3 '14 at 15:23
  • Perhaps I should have done that, but just because I didn't explicitly link to it (no other answer has this and there are only 2 answers with code in the first place) shouldn't have played a role into declining it. However I expect moderators to look at the context of the question when I flag it with a custom message, this should have been caught immediately. – Jeroen Vannevel Apr 3 '14 at 15:25
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    You have to appreciate (a) the number of flags moderators recieve and (b) the number of people who incorrectly flag answers just because they are wrong. The huge numbers sadly mean that mods can't spend long on each flag so the flags need to be super clear – Richard Tingle Apr 3 '14 at 15:27
  • Yeah I think with a custom flag it would have been accepted. If I come across something that is NAA but looks like an answer, I'll use a custom flag to be safe and they've never been declined (though I haven't actually checked if the answer was deleted). -Oh I see you did use a custom flag, so I guess it comes down to clarity. – OGHaza Apr 3 '14 at 15:28
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    @JeroenVannevel when using "Other" you need to be a briefly specific as possible. Provide as much detail and instruction as you can in a concise manner. In this case, a much better flag comment would have been. "This answer appears to be a response to <link answer here> and is not an attempt to answer the question. This should be deleted." – psubsee2003 Apr 3 '14 at 15:31

While you used a custom "Other" flag that said:

It does not answer the question (at the most it should be a comment to the related answer) but even then it does not change any functionality whatsoever.

How are we supposed to know what the related answer is? You didn't provide any other details to us.

I declined the flag because it does appear to be an answer. Please give as many details as possible when flagging items as "Other" for us, including a link to the post you think it is a comment on. These things are incredibly helpful when processing the flags.

If your flag said:

It does not answer the question (at the most it should be a comment to this answer insert link here)

Then I would have been much more inclined to mark it as helpful. The more details the better.

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  • Fair enough, I should've thought about adding a link to the actual question. But looking at the question for 10 seconds would immediately show what answer it is related to. I don't think it's fair to put the entire burden on the flagger when I have already taken the time to write a custom message. I'll keep in mind to explicitly link to it, but I didn't expect that a flag would get declined just because there is no explicit link available. – Jeroen Vannevel Apr 3 '14 at 15:31
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    @JeroenVannevel The question had 5 answers (not deleted) at the time - how are we supposed to know which one the comment belongs to. While I don't place the entire burden on the flagger - mods don't know everything and everything and we need help to especially when we are processing tons of flags. – Taryn Apr 3 '14 at 15:34
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    @JeroenVannevel Remember you're much closer to the situation. I looked at it and also thought it was an answer. What takes you 10 seconds to add may take a mod a minute to get up to speed on because you've already read the whole Q&A and know the language – Richard Tingle Apr 3 '14 at 15:34
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    Point taken, it might indeed not be too obvious at first glance. I'll make sure to include a link to the exact answer next time. – Jeroen Vannevel Apr 3 '14 at 15:37

That post has been flagged as "not an answer" many times over the past year, and each time the flag has been either declined or disputed. This might have influenced the moderator's decision when your flag was processed.

The problem with flagging this post as "not an answer" is that in isolation, it looks like an answer, so a moderator is probably just going to decline the flag and move on to the next one.

You were right, of course. That "answer" was not a reply to the question (it points out a change to code that appears in another answer, not the question), so you were right to flag it with a custom flag explaining the problem. As already pointed out, it would have been even more helpful to use the "Other" text box to tell moderators which answer the flagged post was a reply to. That makes it easier for us to process the flag quickly and accurately.

Since the corrective action suggested by this post was already taken in the other answer, I went ahead and deleted the flagged post.

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  • Thanks for taking the time to elaborate on the flag history, that does put things into context. As a sidenote though: I did use the "Other" reason, my reason wasn't informative enough though. At least that post won't bring up any more discussions in the future! – Jeroen Vannevel Apr 3 '14 at 15:37
  • @JeroenVannevel Thanks for persisting. It only took a year, but we finally got it right. ;) – Bill the Lizard Apr 3 '14 at 15:39

Why did it get declined?

Because by looking at the "answer" it does look like an answer. As the post you linked to says

The technical correctness of an answer is judged through votes.

You can find many posts about how it is not the job of mods to deduce if an answer is correct, awful, etc... They have many other things to do.

Now, since it does take part of another answer (given long before this one) and adds nothing to it, you may have gotten away with a custom flag that said something like, "This answer copies part of another answer directly and does not add anything original to it".

Again, mods do not and should not look for technical correctness in these situations. You should downvote if you wish and possibly flag as a sad duplicate of the other answer. But, according to SO guidelines it is an answer even if it is a poor or completely wrong answer that may not address the question. So, downvote and allow the system to work as intended.

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    Looking closely at this Jeroen Vannevel is right. It wasn't an attempt at an answer, it was saying to annother answer "don't worry about using the # symbol, you can just use sharp instead. They weren't even trying to answer the question; the question contained neither C# or CSharp – Richard Tingle Apr 3 '14 at 15:30
  • @RichardTingle I don't know anything about C# but that was kind of my point. Just looking at it the way a mod would, it does appear to be an answer. I do see what you are saying after looking at it more but my reasoning for why it was declined seems correct. But as the other answers have now pointed out, if there was a link to which answer it was a comment on then it would have been more helpful. – codeMagic Apr 3 '14 at 15:41
  • O yes, I completely agree, it looks like an answer but Jeroen Vannevel is right that it isn't. The problem here was that the flag didn't explain why/how it wasn't an answer – Richard Tingle Apr 3 '14 at 15:42
  • @RichardTingle thanks for the explanation. I see what you are saying. – codeMagic Apr 3 '14 at 15:43

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