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I recently got penalized for flagging an answer that does not meet Stack Overflow's standards. The flag was declined, and I suspect because it was an accepted answer.

In this case, the declined flag counts against the person performing the flagging. I think that's kind of unreasonable. It unreasonable because the moderator's hands may have been tied because the answer was accepted, and the only direction for the moderator to move was reject at the expense of the person reporting it.

Please provide a way for moderators to decline a flag without penalizing the person who raises the flag.

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    Moderators can delete accepted answers. If they declined your flag, it's either that they found that it had insufficient merit, or they borked it. Either case, your proposal doesn't fix anything. – Mat Apr 27 '15 at 3:58
  • @Mat: "your proposal doesn't fix anything" - well, I don't have access to the Moderator tools, so I don't really know what they have at their disposal. The best I can tell there's a "accepted, helpful" and a "rejected, not helpful" (sic). If that's the case, then I can offer you proof by counter example that there's a need for "rejected, but helpful" that does not penalize the flagger. – user173448 Apr 27 '15 at 4:01
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    They mark flags as helpful if they have merit, regardless of whether they act upon it. (You'll find posts here and on MSO from people asking why they got a helpful flag but the post wasn't closed/deleted/migrated/...) – Mat Apr 27 '15 at 4:04
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    I think this is more about flagging properly than it is "fixing" moderator tooling. Accepted answers aren't usually deleted, even if they don't quite meet the standards. If you really believe this one just needs to go then use a custom flag with your reasoning. – ɥʇǝS Apr 27 '15 at 4:07
  • @ɥʇǝS - "Accepted answers aren't usually deleted, even if they don't quite meet the standards" - OK, this is where the problem lies. The site has rules and standards, and everyone is expected to play by them. When rules start getting bent and broken, then things breakdown (q.v.). If the rules are not going to be applied, then we seem to need another case to handle the rule bending that's going on. – user173448 Apr 27 '15 at 4:10
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    Or maybe we should just stop worrying about a single declined flag.. We've all had them. Flag right and the few you get won't impact you. There is no black and white. – ɥʇǝS Apr 27 '15 at 4:12
  • Can you link to the answer you flagged? Then we can discuss facts rather than generalise. – James Apr 27 '15 at 4:16
  • @ɥʇǝS - "Flag right and the few you get won't impact you" - well, that's one way to approach the problem. I think this reduces to "claim the person flagging was wrong, and don't really worry about the rules" (correct me if I am wrong). Another one is to follow the rules. I think following the rules is a better approach because it sets expectations for everyone. – user173448 Apr 27 '15 at 4:19
  • @ɥʇǝS - "Or maybe we should just stop worrying about a single declined flag" - OK, so you're making a leap here. I'm not worry about fixing "one problem" (my declined flag). I'm trying to fix the entire class of problems by enabling the moderators with the tools they need. – user173448 Apr 27 '15 at 4:20
  • @James - How can I convert a stack trace to a string?. Its a link-only answer, which is a non-no on Stack Overflow. The answer was not that impressive, but that's not a reason to reject it. Its obvious the community felt the same. I presume the flag was rejected because it was an accepted answer. – user173448 Apr 27 '15 at 4:39
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    @jww: that's not a link-only answer. Remove the link and you still have an attempt at answering the question; this is apart from being accepted and upvoted. If you don't like the answer you are free to downvote the post. – Martijn Pieters Apr 27 '15 at 7:07
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    @jww: I should have used a custom decline message it appears; please don't flag content you can fix yourselves as a community. Downvote, or edit to improve. But a +hundreds accepted answer that answers the question even with the link removed is not going to be deleted by a moderator. – Martijn Pieters Apr 27 '15 at 7:11
  • @jww: if you feel such a posts needs to be deleted then create a meta post to discuss this. If that reaches a consensus to delete only then would a moderator have a clear mandate to remove something that a lot of members of the community have found to be useful to them. – Martijn Pieters Apr 27 '15 at 7:14
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How can I convert a stack trace to a string?. Its a link-only answer, which is a non-no on Stack Overflow.

Ah, I see the problem.
That answer has 387 upvotes, is an accepted answer, and has been around 5 years (and has 15 comments).

The answer is argued to be "link only" (or not, depending on who you talk to), but arguments aside - no mod is going to close such an answer because of the upvotes/age/accepted status.

It has helped 387 people, over 5 years, which is a fair bit.

Also, the link is to apache.org, who are not likely going to be shutting down shop any time soon.
And while they could change the file structure or move content around, leaving the link going to a 404, it's unlikely.

In this case, you should just edit the answer and take the text from the link and quote it under the link. It doesn't appear to be much text.


Given the grey area, I don't disagree with your feature request. Because what constitutes a link-only answer is often debated, so it's sometimes likely unfair to get a "black mark" for flagging as such.

However, even if your feature would be useful and arguably correct to use on occasions, you have to consider all the work required to make it happen only resolves a rare issue, such as the one you encountered.

It's not really worth it imo.

  • Thanks James. "... but no mod is going to close such an answer" - this seems to be a case where the moderators need a "rejected, but valid" reason that does not penalize the person flagging. Hence the reason for the request. Or maybe it was like Mat said - the moderator dropped the ball and used the wrong reason. – user173448 Apr 27 '15 at 4:41
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    Well, yes and no really. You have to ask yourself why you'd want to remove such an answer from the site. Many things are not black and white, and in this case, while you are correct this is a link only and by definition of the "rules" and flag reasons it should be deleted, you can also see the grey area as per my answer. It is also and has very much been arguably useful :) – James Apr 27 '15 at 4:44
  • "You have to ask yourself why you'd want to remove such an answer from the site" - that's easy. (1) Its not a good answer, and (2) it violates the site's policies and rules. I'm very rule oriented, so I have no problem going after low quality answers. Not following the rules absolutely disgusts me. The canonical case of not following the rules is the US government and its human rights violations across the world (and its constitutional violations domestically). I've raised so much hell with them I've had federal marshals and FBI agents visit me to intimidate me. No shit... – user173448 Apr 27 '15 at 4:50
  • (1) is untrue in terms of "good" being "helped many users", (2) I agree with, but it contrasts with (1). See my answer edit. And consider, that the FBI coming after you is nothing compared to Shog looking over your shoulder... – James Apr 27 '15 at 5:04
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    Actually, the answer does not meet the criteria for a link-only answer. Without the markup, it is still an answer. Sure, not a great one, but that doesn't matter when determining if something is link-only. – Martijn Pieters Apr 27 '15 at 7:37
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This already exists, if you correct the concept from "decline" to "dismiss", where the choices are either "helpful" or "declined".

In the first instance, if it was borderline or you were on the right track, the moderator would have been able to dismiss the flag as helpful, and added a note as to what/why it was not going to happen.

But if they decline the flag, they decline the flag, which means it was declined for reasons. Here they can also leave a custom message as to why it was declined.

Fundamentally you want to have that declined flag not count, but it was declined. Instead you would rather it was marked helpful. But they chose not to do so.

We call this "wanting a mulligan".

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The answer in question is not a link-only answer. It suggests to use a certain method to solve the problem, and provides the method name as well as the name of the class and library it's part of in the answer.

The link to the documentation is just for convenience. You know which method to use from just reading the answer, and can search for the documentation yourself if the link does not work.

Of course it would be better if the answer demonstrated how to use the method, with a couple lines of code. But that's no reason to flag it for deletion.

You're obviously free to downvote the answer if you don't like it. But it does not meet any of the criteria for deletion.

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    Hmm, it can be argued as is a link only answer. The link text is only the required "method" and not an actual answer. And if the remote site is gone/404 etc, this answer is not much use other than using it to search Stack or Google. Then it would be useless, and hence it currently being "link only". That said, please note that I don't totally disagree with you, this is a highly debated area and people have varying opinions, even between moderators sometimes :) – James Apr 27 '15 at 5:03
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    @James: no, you cannot argue it is a link-only answer. Remove the link and you still have an attempt at answering the question. See Your answer is in another castle: when is an answer not an answer? – Martijn Pieters Apr 27 '15 at 7:38

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