I applaud The Team for coming up with a better Flag for Moderator Attention dialog, especially the "Not an Answer" reason. The overwhelming majority of posts flagged as "Not an Answer" really are not answers, and can be summarily deleted.

However, I am troubled by the observed usage of the "Low Quality" reason.

I thought that "Low Quality" meant questions where the asker:

  • Didn't do his homework,
  • Wasn't specific, and
  • Didn't make the question relevant to others.

But I see a large number of questions like this one get into the moderator queue, flagged as Low Quality by users who just seem to dislike the question. Now I will grant you that the question doesn't have the best grammar and punctuation, but it otherwise meets all three qualifications above.

Here's the problem: This question (and many others like it) is unlikely to ever get a close vote or a downvote. As a moderator, I'm inclined to wait and see if the community disapproves of the question (by use of their down votes and close votes) before I take any action.

We see a LOT of flaggings that look like this.

Are you sure you want to use your "Low Quality" flags for these kinds of questions? Or would you rather reserve them for the really bad questions that we all know and love?

  • 10
    Sounds like a great opportunity to reduce someone's flag weight...
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 6:25
  • 1
    @Shog9 is 100% correct. I don't think this will be as problematic in the next couple of months as the flagging system learns to more intelligently triage flags, based on our feedback of validity.
    – user50049
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 6:35
  • 1
    FYI The explanation given to users when they select the Low Quality flag template is: This question/answer has serious formatting or content issues and might not be salvageable. - so the usage of this flag template should be for this reason alone. Users should be using the Other box and entering thier own reason if they want to flag for some other issue.
    – DMA57361
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 9:42
  • hmm, the question you cited is pretty "low quality" to me. I would say that user did not do his homework, nor is that really relevant to anyone else. Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 4:46
  • @Jeff: For several weeks there were about two or three high-rep users who regularly clogged the mod queue with low-quality flags for questions that had minor issues (i.e they were salvageable), but that problem seems to have gone away now. I'd say about a third to a half of the low quality flags are actionable now, which is a much better situation. Let's face it, it's hard to write the perfect question. I've asked about a hundred or so myself, and I'm still trying.
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 5:27

3 Answers 3


I think I agree with you, I'm not sure what purpose flagging as low quality has. I am working using the following process:

  • If the user didn't do the homework, how bad is it? New user? If I can, I'll edit, comment, and wait for an improvement. However, if the user has say 100+ rep or a history of asking such questions, I use my close vote. They should really know better.
  • If the user asks an overly broad question, again, is the user new? Is English not perhaps their native language? If so, perhaps a comment. Perhaps a vote to close.
  • If the user didn't make the question relevant to others, vote to close (too localised). This is almost always obvious. Questions like "what is wrong with my code pls fix" or "I'm doing the facebook hacker cup how do I solve this copy-and-paste-of-problem-statement".

I never vote based on not liking something. Thankfully there's those nice favourite tags so I don't have to see questions about iPhones and PHP scripts or JavaServer Faces. So I'll take not liking something as being fundamentally technically wrong, such as:

I'm trying to dereference a null pointer in a kernel module, please help.

In this case, I have downvotes.

So what purpose does Flag|Low Quality actually serve? I agree with Shog9 that flag weights should hopefully filter out noise flags as the system learns. I'm flagging carefully so that my flag weight is high. As I rarely flag anything, when I do it's because I've seen something quite seriously wrong and I want that to have some weight.

Now I'm actually going to answer my own question via an educated guess. You know those poor questions that pop up along the lines of "can ne1 help???? pls tell me how parse regex with html" etc? (yes, that's the wrong way around on purpose...) Well what usually happens is lots of people see it and think expletive! downvote-downvote-downvote. I've never understood that - just wait till enough 3k people come along. Anyway, I suspect that this low quality flag is designed to allow users with less rep a way of saying to 10k users "look, problem here".

I wonder if it isn't already in the pipeline already that rather than have low-quality go directly to a moderator (since this is unnecessary - diamond mods are for spam, stopping open/close wars, revenge downvoting. They aren't needed to do self regulation us common folk can do) that a flag of low quality direct a post to the /review route?

In that case objectively measuring flag weight gets harder, but perhaps could be measured by outcome i.e. if an edit happens and the question is answered or if the question is closed, then the flag weight increases. However, if the question is upvoted to a certain threshold (say 2 upvotes overall after 24(12?) hours) then the flag weight decreases because this clearly wan't low quality at all.


The direct answer to your question is, no, low quality doesn't mean I don't like it. IMHO, low quality are questions that are extremely poorly written to the point that they are unanswerable. A question that is not general is not necessarily low quality, so long as it is on topic, is a real question and is not a duplicate.

The example question you gave seems to be doing alright, it had some comments and several answers. Note that the question has not even been edited. I do see why the title of that question could be better, but I can't call it flaggable low quality.

I suppose people will flag questions that they don't like, depending on why they don't like it. If I see a low quality question from a help vampire, odds are that I flag it. A low quality question from a user with higher rep and decent participation will most likely get an edit instead.

  • 2
    I would say that maybe 25 to 40 percent of the questions flagged "Low Quality" are of the kind you describe in your first paragraph. These are good flags; sometimes these questions go under the radar before accumulating enough close flags, and it's nice to have a flag to close them with. The remainder of the flags are questions like my example.
    – user102937
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 6:29
  • 1
    Sometimes I'd flag as low quality also, if the question can be understood enough to be answered, but would require almost a complete rewrite of the question to have proper-ish grammar and spelling. Basically as a "I don't feel like editing this question and rewriting it, but I think it should be done. So I'll flag it so other more dedicated editors will do it for me"
    – Earlz
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 11:45
  • @Ealrz I agree. Upvoted. (Except I'm not always lazy about editing. I often am on iPhone and cannot easily make the proper edits.)
    – Moshe
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 21:52

If you take a close look at that question then you see that it falls into the category of "guess what number I'm thinking of" questions where the author simply hasn't provided enough information to figure out what it is they want.

if some one search by google.com then I want to list yahoo and bing from above sample table

(I'd guess that he means "if someone searches for the 'search' tag in the above table then I want to list yahoo, bing and google, but I can't honestly be sure.

This case isn't that bad and I would probably just post a comment rather than vote to close, but I can see why this question got flagged.

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