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When moderators are handling answer flags on an accepted answer, should any weight be given to the fact that the answer is accepted?

Let me narrow the question...

Obviously, for spam/offensive and other more serious/absolute flags the accepted status is irrelevant.

But consider an accepted answer flagged "not an answer" or "low quality" (or similar) and the answer does "answer the question", but just slightly under being "OK". Maybe it's almost a link only, or very brief etc.

Let's say the answer would otherwise be deleted by the moderator reviewing it, but it only just fails to meet his/her standards.

Is the accepted status enough to lift it over the bar and "protect" it from deletion? If so, is a comment asking for improvement the way to go? If so, have the mod just created more follow-up work to check that improvement has been made?

Consider also the disruptive effect of deleting an accepted answer:

  • the asker may be confused about what has happened - (s)he got an answer, it was good enough to accept, but now it's gone
  • if the question only has one answer, deleting it would change it from "answered" to "unanswered" (ie no answers)
  • the answerer may also be a little confused about what happened
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  • Personally, I know that I've let the accepted status act as a tiebreaker with marginal content (particularly link-based answers). I know Bill has stated as much before: meta.stackexchange.com/a/143648/135615 . I'm someone who generally resisted deleting many link-based answers, though, so I have a tendency not to delete things if I can avoid it. Commented May 27, 2014 at 18:42

2 Answers 2

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If you are debating a particular answer and thinking "if it wasn't marked as accepted then I would delete it", then it should be deleted. An answer being marked as accepted is no guarantee of quality or correctness.

In the absence of a site policy the acceptance state shouldn't be a factor in your decision - the answer is either bad or it isn't. But if you are still in doubt, then leave the answer alone. Either dismiss the flag or leave it for someone else to make a call on.

If the answer simply needs more effort then I would also dismiss the flag, the person flagging should be suggesting (or doing) an edit instead. You also have the post notice at your disposal, although I can't remember the last time I saw one of those used on SO.

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The accepted mark should be enough to make you think twice about whether an answer is truly of minimal quality, especially if the answer was accepted by a high-reputation user.

Beyond that, if you discover that the answer is of low quality, the accept mark shouldn't have an influence on the decision. The accepted mark is not an objective measure of whether an answer is high-quality by our standards - only an indicator of the OP's personal feelings.

How you actually handle this can be done on a case-by-case basis. If it's something you'd normally obviously delete, then delete it. If you think the answerer might come back and update their answer, consider leaving a comment, but if not, consider that it may not be worth future time or energy.

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  • Note that my question does say the answers in question are not "clearly of poor quality", but that the quality is "marginal"
    – Bohemian
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 23:51
  • @Bohemian I've edited the wording there to address that.
    – user206222
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 23:52
  • I believe an answer being accepted should not be any protection against deletion whatsoever.
    – fbueckert
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 2:29
  • @fbueckert Yes, that's what I said.
    – user206222
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 3:03
  • Your first sentence makes it sound otherwise.
    – fbueckert
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 3:14
  • @fbueck I think you may be misreading it. It says that an accepted answer should make you check your understanding twice, but have no impact on the outcome based on your understanding. Could I possibly edit this to make it clearer?
    – user206222
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 3:17
  • Hrm. The way I'm reading it, it sounds like you're arguing that an accept can possibly mean it meets a higher standard, text notwithstanding. I'd recommend trying to focus on the fact that it should have no impact first, and then add your caveat later.
    – fbueckert
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 3:27
  • "The accepted mark should be enough to make you think twice about whether an answer is truly of minimal quality, especially if the answer was accepted by a high-reputation user" — No, it isn't. In fact, the accepted mark says nothing about the correctness or validity of the answer. Anyone who has asked a question and received an answer could accept any answer they want. It is not "protection status" against anything. The answer's accepted argument shouldn't even be considered when taking action on a flag on that post, in my opinion. Commented May 26, 2014 at 10:26
  • @Amal I never said it was protection - please see the above comments. It merely means you should check whether your understanding of the answer as low quality is correct.
    – user206222
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 15:40

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