TL;DR: Split the low-quality queue in two, separating posts with possible quality issues (autoflagged posts) and posts that may need to be deleted (NAA, gibberish), as having both of them together causes confusion and mistreatment of posts. To keep things simple, reorganise the FP, LA and LQ queues, while you are at it.
Looking at the triage and help-and-improvement queue over at Stack Overflow and the Meta posts on that, I sometimes think that this is planned already, but then again sometimes statements make me think that the idea has never crossed anybody’s mind. So, here I am, suggesting it anyway.
- I will start of ignoring questions for this at first, as this only complicates the explanations.
- I will also keep my proposal as close to the status quo as reasonably possible (except for the restructuring). This is not about the details, this is about the general direction.
- This is not written from the perspective of Stack Overflow with its special needs. I do not see any argument why it could not apply there though.
Create two review queues:
- Help and improvement (HI)– The interface and processing of posts in this queue are identical to the first-posts and late-answers queues with the only exception that a post may need more than one review to be dequeued.
- Not an answer queue (NAA) – Interface and processing are identical to the low-quality queue except for the wording (which should be along the lines of what I suggested here).
Introduce a needs improvement flag for answers saying something along the lines of:
This answer can be severely improved by editing or the author needs guidance on answering.
The queues are fed as follows:
First posts, late answers and answers flagged with needs improvement are sent to the HI queue and so are answers that would be autoflagged and sent do the low-quality queue nowadays due to heuristics. If a post is sent there for more than one reason (or is already in the queue), the number of required reviews is increased (details need to be determined, this request could be considered).
Posts flagged not an answer are sent to the NAA queue.
Retire the first-posts, late-answers and low-quality queue as well as the very-low-quality flag or morph them into one of the above.
What does this actually change?
First posts and late answers receive the same treatment as before – only that one person cannot review the same post in both queues (and the low-quality queue on top). Correctly flagged not-an-answers also receive the same treatment. Answers whose only problem is a lack of quality, however, get sent to a queue that is not about deleting them but about improving them. Also, the very-low-quality flag gets removed, as it is pointless in its current form anyway (see below). Instead there is a needs improvement flag, which essentially sends a post to the late answers queue.
So essentially, I could have proposed a new separate queue for low-quality posts, but then I would have received complaints about yet another queue or wanting to reintroduce the 10 k queue. Also, restructuring seems like a good idea.
Depending on how the queues are organised internally, this may be rather easy to implement.
Why do we need this?
The current low-quality queue is about deciding whether a post is actually an answer and about improving low-quality posts. This is the cause of a lot of problems. The wording of this queue is mainly aimed at improving posts, but if a post is just low quality (e.g., a short and unelaborate answer), there is no proper action to take. Thus a post that gets autoflagged (due to heuristics) may be deleted because only the original author can improve it and nobody wants to click Looks OK. This leads to a lot of confusion, disappointment and disgruntling of new users, who sometimes just need a little bit of help to write proper answers. I wrote about this more extensively in these answers of mine.
Therefore posts that are autoflagged should first be sent to somebody willing to improve them in a queue that is not about deleting them (HI queue). If such posts turn out to be not-an-answers, they can still be flagged such there.
The very-low-quality flag was probably intended to say this post needs improvement at some time, and apparently some sites and people use it as such (see here and some of the comments and and answers on this question), but the current wording does not reflect this:
This answer has severe formatting or content problems. This answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed.
According to my understanding, unsalvagable severe content problems are cat-on-keyboard or unparsable English – but those can as well be flagged as not an answer. I have no idea how unsalvagable formatting problems even look like; if I can identify formatting as the source of a problem, I can also solve it. So, there is no need for this flag in its current form. What we might need, is a low-quality flag that sends salvageable posts to those who have the time, temper and expertise to improve them – which is the purpose of the needs improvement flag.
At what reputation shall the queues be available? The most straightforward solution would be 500 for the HI queue (same as first posts and late answers) and 2 k for the NAA queue (same as the low-quality queue). The main effect of this would be that autoflagged posts and posts flagged very low quality/needs improvement would now be sent to a queue which is available to users without editing privileges. I have no problem with this, as first posts often require edits as well and often for the same reasons, but one could also make these posts available later in the same queue (just as tag-wiki edits only become visible in the suggested-edits queue at 5 k reputation).
Answers that are autoflagged or flagged needs improvement are sent to a queue that allows to vote. I do not consider this a big problem, but if it turns out to be one, this can be fixed by not uniting the queues or disallowing votes for those posts specifically.
The number of queues would be reduced by one and so would be the number of times a given reviewing badge can be earned.
Autoflagged posts are not directly sent to a queue that is about deciding their deletion anymore. Thus, utter junk detected by autoflagging may take a tiny bit longer to be deleted (this may be counteracted by having a flag from the HI queue count like recommend deletion/delete from the LQ queue, if the user has sufficient reputation).
The needs improvement flag may do more harm than good as it allows users to lazily delegate the responsibility for a bad post they found instead of editing it themselves. On the other hand, sometimes you really lack the expertise, time or temper to edit a bad post yourself, in which case the flag would be appropriate.
What about questions?
The triage and help-and-improvement queues on Stack Overflow pretty much go into the same direction as what I propose, in particular by separating improving questions and weeding out questions without any value. Moreover, the problems described above do not apply that much to questions anyway, as the correlation between low quality and closeworthiness is much stronger for questions, the close queue and low-quality queue are separate and the very-low-quality flag for questions is hardly used in my experience (but even more pointless than for answers, IMHO).
It is however uncertain whether and how those two will be implemented on sites other than Stack Overflow. However the mentioned stand-alone implementation of the help-and-improvement queue on other sites pretty much corresponds to my suggestion, I would just unite it with the first-posts queue, as the two are mainly about the same thing anyway.