The endless stream of blatantly off-topic questions never ceases to flow into MSE, which is a topic that's been brought up many times. I've written a userscript that automatically casts a close vote, flags as VLQ, and adds a comment (if none already exists) or upvotes a comment.

Recently I got a VLQ flag declined for the following reason:

Using standard flags helps us prioritize problems and resolve them faster. Please familiarize yourself with the list of standard flags: see What is Flagging?

Meanwhile, the description of the VLQ flag says:

This question has severe formatting or content problems. This question is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed.

What is wrong here? The inconsistency is particularly confusing that only one or two has been declined so far.


2 Answers 2


The VLQ flag IS NOT appropriate for blatantly off-topic questions here on MSE.

And not only on MSE, but it's inappropriate across the entire network.

I've been declining them whenever I see them because people should either flag those posts for closure or cast their close-vote, but NOT flag them as Very Low Quality.

From the Usage guide for very low quality link mentioned on the What is flagging from the decline reason:

You should not use it to describe the following, but should be using close votes, down votes and / or edits instead:

... Questions that are clearly off topic


If you vote to close a question that doesn't show any code and flag it as very low quality, a moderator is very likely to decline your flag as lacking evidence prior to closing the question anyway.

I've been declining them for another reason, the one for 'use standard flags', because it links to this user guidance.

Very Low Quality flags should not be cast on off-topic posts: People can not delete unclosed questions.

VLQ flags are automatically marked 'helpful' when a post is closed, without actually having done anything towards deletion of the post. Casting them on off-topic posts does nothing but boost your 'helpful flag' count. This also explains the inconsistency you've observed: if no moderator declines a VLQ flag before the question is closed, the flag is unjustifiedly marked helpful.

Please revise your user script to stop casting Very Low Quality flags on off-topic posts.

  • I was going to post a similar answer but then yours popeed up. But I think the flagging system (LQQ) really works with low rep users who haven't yet earned the privilege of putting on hold or closing questions but recognize an off-topic question when they see it. Am I mistaken here? Commented May 23, 2019 at 17:33
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA For those people that haven't yet earned the privilege to vote to close a question (and access to the close-vote queue), all they can do is cast a 'recommend closure' flag. And those don't really do anything if the post is already in a close-vote queue, which is already done by MetaBugWizard's script (it casts a close-vote).
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 17:57
  • But it's still, technically, a flag. A flag which moderators see and act upon or generally ignore? NOT my DV. I actually upvoted Commented May 23, 2019 at 18:05
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    @Mari-LouA A flag which moderators don't see, unless we really go looking for it. They don't show up on the mod-dashboard. Really all such a flag does is the question in the close-vote review queue, but it's already there if people have cast their close-vote. And if it's not a flag coming from the low quality queue, the person that originally flagged as very low quality should've flagged it as 'should be closed', and I would still decline such a flag with 'please use standard flags' to avoid the Low Quality Posts queue detour next time.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 18:16
  • 2
    +1 It can be a fantastically detailed and well-researched question (one of very high quality), but which simply doesn't belong on the site where it's been asked. Marking it as low quality would be very wrong. Commented May 23, 2019 at 20:10
  • @Mari-LouA A recommend closure flag is more helpful as it pushes the question straight into Close Votes review, whereas a VLQ flag pushes it into LQ review where it then has to be pushed into CV review, increasing the time and process required. Commented May 23, 2019 at 21:11
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    I'd also add that flags are meant for things we specifically need mods to take look at, and we have a very robust, formal and informal way of dealing with these so stuff more often gets deleted via chat than flags. Commented May 24, 2019 at 1:15

Flagging as VLQ is mostly a waste of time.

If you flag a blatantly off-topic question for closure, it goes into the "close votes" queue, where users have the option of voting to close it.

If you flag a blatantly off-topic question as "very low quality", it goes into the "low quality posts" queue, where users have the option of...voting to close it if they've got enough reputation, or flagging it for closure if they don't. Much the same effect as flagging for closure in the first place, but may require actions from more people.

  • 1
    Flagging as VLQ is mostly a waste of time. Shouldn't this be made clearer to users who have not yet earned enough rep to cast a close vote? When they flag a post and select the option This question has severe formatting or content problems. This question is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed. That option is selected because the post does not comply with the site's standards. They are saying it should either be closed or removed. How is a relatively new user supposed to know differently? If the OP, despite their 10.6K rep, didn't know either! Commented May 24, 2019 at 1:17
  • @Mari-LouA Close flags exist for that. Also, the VLQ option does not exist if the question is currently in the CV queue. Commented May 24, 2019 at 2:49
  • @sonic I'm arguing that the LQQ flag may not make it clear that a low rep user should flag an off-topic question for closure. You yourself admitted, as well as the OP to unintentionally misusing the flag due to a misinterpretation. Commented May 24, 2019 at 5:40
  • @Mari-LouA But this answer refers to the case where users don't have enough rep to VTC, and can thus choose only one type of flag. I actually think that the flag dialog makes this clear in that case which one to choose, since the "should be closed" option says "this question is ... not about the software that powers the Stack Exchange network". It was only after I earned 3k+ that I began flagging as VLQ since I couldn't cast recommend close flags since I could VTC. Commented May 24, 2019 at 5:43

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