Say I post a question about distributed locking using the Win32 API and somebody replies with a post about the semantics of the Perl range operator. Is that still an answer, or is it something that should be flagged as "not an answer"?

Logically, it would seem that the post is not an answer, since it bears no relationship to the question. However, I've seen people on a number of site metas state that any post with the syntactic structure of an answer should be considered an answer -- in other words, if you can imagine a question to which the given post would be an answer, then the "not an answer" flag does not apply.


Yes, it's an answer, but not an answer to the question. It should be deleted.

From the flag dialog box (as an example of deletion criteria):

This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question.

They key phrase is "answer the question". Relevancy is all-important here.

Take the following case, for reduction ad absurdum. If I ask

How old is the Sun?

and an answer states

The world's population is over 7 billion, as of 2015.

then it should be flagged. It's a perfectly fine part of an answer to a question asking about the population of the world, but it has nothing to do with the age of the Sun.

  • 3
    the flag may be declined if you only flag. I add a comment explaining why this is not an answer to the question that was asked (for example on cooking someone asked how to roast a chicken and one answer was about how to use leftover roast chicken). These flags are not declined so I can presume I am doing it right. And the comment helps the answerer as well as others who read the answer and comment while the flag is pending. – Kate Gregory Oct 23 '15 at 1:10

Yes it's an answer, flagging it as not an answer will not, therefore result in a moderator deleting it.

The best action to take is to downvote it if it's not useful, and if it's wrong it isn't useful. You might also add a comment to say why you think it's wrong. Trusted users can vote to delete negatively scored answers, so it might get deleted that way.

  • I agree - downvoting, editing and/or commenting should be used rather than flagging (which is there as a last resort). – PolyGeo Oct 23 '15 at 0:18
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    Wait, but Anna's answer to the first post states: "The "not an answer" flag is for posts that are either completely unrelated to the question . ." Why wouldn't the answer then be deleted? – HDE 226868 Oct 23 '15 at 0:28
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    @HDE226868 moderators are not subject matter experts on every tag. They generally can't tell if an answer is wrong so they won't action not an answer flags for wrong answers. It's more likely some trusted users who do know something about whether it's right or wrong will vote to delete it. There are a lot more trusted users than moderators and it only takes 3 of them. – Robert Longson Oct 23 '15 at 0:30
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    @RobertLongson That's generally agreed upon, but moderators should have a general idea of whether or not an answer is relevant, right? On some sites that get highly specialized questions, this may be a valid point, but on most Stack Exchange sites, I would imagine this isn't the case. – HDE 226868 Oct 23 '15 at 0:32

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