I flagged this answer as not an answer, but my flag was recently declined with this reason:

declined - flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer

The question was asking what the purpose of the Tumbleweed badge is, and the answer says "to get a song stuck in your head" with a link to a Youtube video.

I guess that it can be considered as a wrong answer, since that's obviously not the purpose of the badge, but that's not why I flagged it. I flagged it because it was obviously a joke and not a serious attempt to answer the question. The intention of that answer was probably not to provide an answer to the question, but to joke about the badge's name.

Was I wrong in flagging this answer? Are jokes posted as answers really allowed?

  • 2
    I think this is somewhat subjective, but I personally agree that this is more of a non-answer than just a bad answer. There is another answer that says it's to give you an "A" for effort. That is somewhat relevant (in a "consolation prize" sense.) What you flagged doesn't address the question in any way at all. So, in one sense, I'm with you. But it's also on Meta, which may be more relaxed about this than the main sites are . . . (Otherwise, what would the "not an answer" flag be appropriate to apply against?) Aug 12, 2018 at 21:21
  • Some answers here are posted for fun. Did you know Tim Post once lost his keys? ;)
    – EKons
    Aug 12, 2018 at 21:26
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    @ΈρικΚωνσταντόπουλος That's slightly different. The answer about Tim Post losing his keys contains a joke, but it does address the question by saying basically "don't worry about a single downvote if you know your post is good" as an answer to a question complaining about downvotes. The answer I flagged, on the other hand, doesn't address the question at all. Aug 12, 2018 at 21:34
  • @DonaldDuck The answer you have linked in your question is actually an answer too (it does provide a "reason" for the tag's existence), just a fun and obviously wrong one. The question also invites for fun answers. ;-)
    – EKons
    Aug 12, 2018 at 21:45
  • 1
    It appears that you didn't downvote. The community can also delete answers, but only if they have negative score. Just FYI. Aug 12, 2018 at 21:48
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    According to How does Meta Stack Exchange work?, "Meta has a reputation for being more... relaxed than the other Stack Exchange sites. Jokes and non-serious posts that would be swiftly deleted on [main Q&A sites] have been welcomed here in the past and are sometimes still tolerated today". Aug 12, 2018 at 23:47
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    Also note that that answer was posted in 2009, when jokes on Meta were usually tolerated. Perhaps the fact that the answer was posted then played a factor in the SE employee's decision to decline the flag. If it were posted today, it would likely be deleted and your flag would likely be deemed helpful. Aug 12, 2018 at 23:49
  • @ΈρικΚωνσταντόπουλος Two wrongs don't make a right.
    – Masked Man
    Aug 13, 2018 at 11:15
  • Y do u hate fun?
    – user1228
    Aug 14, 2018 at 20:17

3 Answers 3


I think on most sites this would be true. On the other hand, meta is very different. It acts as a sort of collective memory - Its talked about in the "FAQ" for meta, and you can find some input on why the 'humour' level of meta has changed over time here

We consider things like many memes of meta and posts like part of the history, and DNA of the community, and while things evolved over time, it dosen't make sense to just bury inconvenient pasts.

I disagree with what masked man says when

Incidents like these further contribute to the oldtimers vs newbies divide, and goes against the ongoing Welcome Wagon initiatives.

We've not all walked the same paths - folks wander in midway, and sometimes wander off and back. Old posts like this are useful in showing newbies where we've been before.

On meta I tend to stick to flagging things that actively cause harm over "eh, we don't do this any more, we need it gone".

In a sense history is fine - and its better we deal with things to handle now over stuff that's really old. If someone posted that now, the appropriate action would still be to downvote (and maybe delete vote it) over flagging it for mod attention IME, simply cause its quicker and gets the job done.

  • "Old posts like this are useful in showing newbies where we've been before." The site told them to flag answers with problems. This answer has 3 problems: 1. Doesn't address the issue 2. Joke answer 3. Link only answer Yet the flag was declined because ... you know, SE wants you to follow the rules at all times, except in a few specific cases, such as posts which are "valuable" for prehistoric reasons. Why should newbies care where "we" have been before? I thought we should deal with the "now", not stuff that's "really old"? Which one is it? And what happened to reducing "noise" on the site?
    – Masked Man
    Aug 13, 2018 at 11:24
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    Oh, and one simple question: exactly how is the "Not an Answer" flag supposed to be used? Apparently it isn't meant to flag posts that are not answers, so what is the actual purpose of the flag? "If someone posted that now" The fact that you distinguish the "now" from the "old" also shows the newbies vs oldtimers divide. Oldtimers were allowed to joke, but if you joined the party recently, then sorry, the rules are different for you. That is exactly why I want to get rid of all the old useless garbage and not keep it around for "prehistoric" reasons.
    – Masked Man
    Aug 13, 2018 at 11:28
  • There's a sign at an antique store near where I live "We Buy Junk And Sell Antiques, Some Fools Buy Some Fools Sell. " To you its junk - to many folks its part of a history of the site and the network as a whole. Personally I believe a certain level of flexibility is useful in dealing with stuff like this. Posts like this let me go "Oh, this sort of thing used to happen but its changed cause of that other thing" . Meta's basically the institutional memory of the network and its worth keeping that in mind, even if some of those things are a little embarassing. Aug 13, 2018 at 13:41
  • So, there are two categories of "noise" on the site? Some noise that lowers the quality of the site, and some that enhances it? Also, I still don't understand these things: 1. Why was the flag declined? 2. Why should new users should care about all that baggage of prehistoric value? 3. Exactly what is the purpose of the Not an Answer flagging option? 4. Why exactly shouldn't new users be allowed to post joke answers unlike oldtimers?
    – Masked Man
    Aug 13, 2018 at 16:32
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    Answers should not be kept around because they have sentimental value to some folks. We should snapshot moments that we want to preserve (I have on occasion), then let them go. The SE community evolves, and the content of the site should be maintained to reflect current standards.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 13, 2018 at 17:38

TL;DR: it depends when the answer was posted.

In the past, this was acceptable. And even funny. Yes, in the past humor was allowed. So the answer, when posted, was valid.

If such answer is posted these days (e.g. last couple of years, I'll say) then I agree it should be deleted, and flagging is reasonable way to have it deleted.

However, I don't think we should hunt down and nuke all the past humor. Let it be. Downvote if you don't like it, but don't have it deleted.

Of course, this all applies to non offensive answers, which are "clean" jokes/humor. Otherwise, flag should be raised no matter when it was posted.

It makes me sad to see that specific answer deleted. Maybe it was useless, but it was not offensive, and using the Welcome Wagon as excuse to delete it is abuse of the whole Welcoming project in my opinion.

  • "it depends when the answer was posted." So, decline the flag because the flagger didn't know what was acceptable when the answer was posted?
    – Masked Man
    Aug 15, 2018 at 0:38
  • @MaskedMan like I said, I don't think people should hunt down old posts. And yes, the only way for mod to "teach" the one flagging is by declining, though I agree custom message will be better. Anyway this is all not relevant, SE itself disagree with my opinions as Tim Post proved by deleting that joke post. This answer is just my personal view, which isn't relevant for the actual actions of SE. Aug 15, 2018 at 6:19

Humor can be tutorial, containing elements of truth juxtaposed with an opposing convention that becomes laughable in contrast. The criteria should not be for any site whether the question or answer makes one smile but whether the writing is clean and tasteful and whether the content is edifying to the readership.

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    Of course humour that actually also adresses the question in a reasonable way is absolutely no problem. But when the sole purpose is putting a funny remark in the answer section, there's no point to it. Aug 13, 2018 at 17:29
  • @ChristianRau, I agree. I suppose some might aptly call that sort of thing a stupid joke. Aug 13, 2018 at 17:44

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