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This is the same request as Add optional box for spam flags letting you say why you think it's spam, but for Not An Answer flags, and for much the same reasons. It may well be that it would be best to do this for all flags, but this is specifically a request for NAAs.

The idea is that you'd be able to optionally say why it's NAA, and that would be shown to any mod/reviewer reviewing the flag. I don't like to burden our over-burdened mods where we can avoid it, so I'd rather be able to give a few words of explanation on an NAA and have it go to the review queue where 10k+ users can review it than flag as "Other" and require a mod to look at it.

Why this came up for me recently, just as background:

Recently, a user posted an answer to a question on Stack Overflow which said just:

You can use [name of thing], I've used it a lot with [name of technology related to the question]

I got curious about the link based on a comment (I used example.com above, but his was a real link), and it turns out to have nothing whatsoever to do with the question — the user was making a joke by linking to something completely unrelated to programming, to the question, to anything, really. (Not spam, I don't think, just a joke. Not a funny one, but then, humor is subjective.)

So I went to flag it as NAA, but of course, link-only answers aren't necessarily NAAs (though they're low-quality), and reviewers/mods may well not follow the link to find out that it's a complete non-answer.

One can leave a comment on the answer, but having a box where we can provide additional information for the NAA is useful because:

  1. People sometimes leave unhelpful comments on NAAs spam questions, and we don't want reviewers/mods to have to take the time to read through them hoping for something useful

  2. It allows the user flagging the NAA to do so and say why without calling attention to themselves publicly

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    Meh, I just use Other for that. It's not as if such flags are to be handled urgently, like spam. – Martijn Pieters Mar 20 '15 at 15:11
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    NAA flags go to the review queue, do you want this "note" displayed somewhere? – Taryn Mar 20 '15 at 15:14
  • @bluefeet: That would be the idea, yeah – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 15:15
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    @MartijnPieters: But Other flags only go to mods, right? Don't NAA flags go to the 10k+ review tools, rather than just mods? (My knowledge on NAA flags is really very limited indeed.) – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 15:15
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    @T.J.Crowder: exactly; for the at-face-value-an-answer-NAA flags I rather go for a custom flag that goes to people that know what deception looks like, rather that the queue. – Martijn Pieters Mar 20 '15 at 15:17
  • @MartijnPieters: Okay. Mods are overloaded, I'd rather have it go to the review queue giving the reviewers a pointer to the not-quite-obvious aspect. – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 15:18
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There are significant differences in the way that spam and "not an answer" flags are handled. Spam flags are only presented to moderators, and are done so in a special queue. "Not an answer" flags now feed into the Low Quality Posts review queue, where they are reviewed by the community in addition to being acted on by moderators.

Additional context with spam flags would show up to moderators in the queue we have for this. Additional context with "not an answer" flags would be unavailable to reviewers, who aren't even made aware that a post had received a flag on it. They just see another item in review for them to judge.

You'd have to have a mechanism to present this to reviewers as well, which would require changing the review interface. People also disclose information in custom flags that they might not want to have non-moderators see, and you'd have to inform flaggers that people outside of moderators would be seeing what they wrote.

Finally, we're a lot more conservative with how we handle spam flags than "not an answer" because of the severe penalties that come along with them. Our default is to decline those if we cannot see obvious spam, but we're not as primed to do that with "not an answer" flags.

Generally, it's not a pressing matter to delete a non-answer that someone has identified, it's fine if a custom flag on that takes a little longer to handle. We do want to move on spam very quickly, though, so custom spam flags taking longer in the custom flag queue can be a problem.

That's why I like the idea of being able to provide more context to spam flags, but I'm not excited about doing the same for "not an answer" flags. I think normal custom flags can handle those cases just fine.

  • "Additional context with "not an answer" flags would be unavailable to reviewers...You'd have to have a mechanism to present this to reviewers as well" Right, I flagged that in the request. – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 17:15
  • "People also disclose information in custom flags that they might not want to have non-moderators see" That's a very good point. The UI would have to be very clear about it, and even if it were, the fact that People Don't Read means it's a strong counter-argument to having the field. – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 17:16
  • So would it be fair to say your suggestion is: A) Don't add an explanation box, and B) If an NAA needs explanation, do what Martijn does and flag it as "other" and wait for a mod to handle it. ? – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 17:17
  • @T.J.Crowder - Yeah, I think for the non-obvious cases a custom flag is still the best way to approach this. With spam, my concern is that we won't get to it within minutes like we do spam/offensive flags, but that's not as much of a problem with non-answers. Many of the non-answer posts have lived on the site for months or years already, so a few more days won't make that much of a difference. – Brad Larson Mar 20 '15 at 17:19
  • Thanks. I can't think of any other flag with a comment box that's displayed to non-mods. I think your point about content in that box is a very, very solid point indeed. If we threw it open for all flags, that would be different, but if it's just "other", "spam", and "NAA", that's asking for trouble where people misunderstand. – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 17:22
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This mechanism exists; it's called commenting. I will leave comments like this:

  • this should be a comment on the question
  • this should be a comment on the answer by [display name]

If it's a link only answer, I'll leave something longer urging them to include some of the material at the other end of the link so that people don't have to follow the link to get some benefit.

If it's clarification from the OP, I'll edit the material into the question, then add a comment explaining how things work around here.

Then after leaving the right kind of comment I flag. The author gets more specific feedback than they would if the answer just disappeared, other readers don't get bad examples sitting around unchallenged that they might follow, and the moderator gets a clue as well. I've been told in the past that this is a helpful thing to do, so I keep doing it.

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Yes, I understand why sometimes you really need to provide a reason of something being spam - it is not always obvious that some post is / contains spam, because some can hide it professionally.

But this is not the case with "Not an answer" flag. A post couldn't be a hidden "not an answer" - it would be clear that if, for example, it asks for clarification or entirely different question, it is not an answer. If it was intended to to be a reply to someone (in comments) and doesn't attempt to answer a question, it is not an answer. As the description of this flag says:

This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

There could be another case of misunderstanding: a reviewer simply doesn't get the meaning of NAA flag and could think that if he sees a wrong answer, he should "recommend deletion" (or "delete", but I doubt if there are 20k users which really don't understand what is "not an answer").

This is not a reason to provide an ability to add a reason of flagging to this flag - after all, this would be quite a strange way to explain the reviewer how the things work - a reviewer should consult a help center if he doesn't know how to handle NAA flags.

  • "A post couldn't be a hidden "not an answer"" Yes, it can -- I gave an example in my post. – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 15:34
  • @T.J.Crowder How is it hidden? It's just a bare link. The most common example of NAAs. – nicael Mar 20 '15 at 15:36
  • As I said in the post, a link-only answer isn't an NAA, not if the link is relevant. – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 15:37
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    @T.J.Crowder That's true on some SE sites. But certainly not true on some, especially Stack Overflow. – Mooseman Mar 20 '15 at 15:39
  • @Mooseman: That's oversimplifying the answers there (and elsewhere) rather a lot. (For the record: My personal view is that link-only answers are NAA at least 99% of the time [on SO, I'm not that active elsewhere]. The other 1% they're good answers to bad questions, e.g., "where do I find X"? :-) But my opinion isn't the community's or SE's opinion...on several things.) – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 15:48
  • @T.J.Crowder Quoting Mr. Shog: i.stack.imgur.com/vAUaw.png – Mooseman Mar 20 '15 at 15:52
  • @Mooseman: Okay, great, pure link-only answers are NAA. (Quoting shog9: "Is there even one tiny speck of information there?") I'll flag accordingly. But there aren't that many pure link-only answers. For those that are link-only with a bit more (like the one I referred to in the feature-request, which also named a product -- so, no link-only, there is a speck of information there), I want to be able to say how they're hiding without bothering mods. – T.J. Crowder Mar 20 '15 at 15:57
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    I agree with your FR... – Mooseman Mar 20 '15 at 16:03

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