I was rereading Jeff Atwood's answer to the question: Is the Very Low Quality flag too ambiguous? mainly because today I wanted to use that flag for the first time. Quoting him, this flag means that:

this post, and possibly this user, are totally stinking up the joint and need to be ejected from the premises ASAP.

My hesitation comes because I tend to just downvote a bad answer, no matter how bad it is, instead of flagging it. I believe that there's a system to evaluate the questions and answers in place that works very well, and thus I prefer to use that as opposed to spam the mods.

This answer in particular showed up to a quite old question, that had already a good accepted answer. Of course, there's always room for improvement, so that would not be an issue, if it wasn't that the new answer was pretty bad (in fact, it did not address the issue at all). Still, I would have downvoted that answer and continue, but the user was a 1-rep unregistered user, so he/she will probably not care about that downvote.

I ended up downvoting and flagging the answer, but instead I used the small textbox to explain this (in a much shorter version), instead of using the canned "very low quality" option.

I don't know about the user, but the question was stinking quite a bit. The problem is that I find quite blurry the limit between a bad answer that should be just downvoted and one that should be removed.

I did not post the link to the question because I would like to read your opinion about those limits, not about that question in particular.

Some of the specific questions I have:

  1. When an answer is bad enough to deserve a downvote and when it should just be flagged?
  2. Is it relevant for your decision if there are a few previous good answers to that question?
  3. Do you consider the user's history to decide between the above actions?
  4. Are you more prone to flag an answer from an unregistered user (who might not ever come back to the question, or even to the site)?
  5. In case of flagging, do you feel that you need to explain the flag or you're so sure about it that you just click the "very low quality" option?
  • 2
    Meh. It s nice that you spent so much time and thought on this case, but I think you need to find better examples. It should be obvious that an answer that doesn't address the question is low quality to begin with. Perhaps present a hypothetical answer that demonstrates the conundrum you're facing.
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 1:18
  • 2
    @Adam, I always spend time and thought on what I do. If I won't think about it, I will just pass: nobody required me to flag anything. With regard to this question in particular, I do not want to limit the answers to any example. I am posting this because we have a great set of tools but no so much (at least, to my knowledge) consensus about how to use them. I added a few specific questions to the post to clarify what are the points I do not see clearly defined. It is clear to me that in the end what governs the decision is your own common sense, but that can be useless without information.
    – Aleadam
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 15:36
  • Many of your questions have been discussed here previously...
    – Pollyanna
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 15:57

3 Answers 3


If you use the 'Very Low Quality' flag, you're sending a signal to moderators that the delete button probably needs to be pushed. You're telling us that:

  • The post is an indecipherable mess and can't be salvaged in the amount of time we're prepared to ask our users to spend editing a single post. This could be due to the post being written in a way that it can't be understood, or it containing horribly formatted code, or both. Put simply, it would take way more than a reasonable amount of time to straighten it out, put that responsibility back on the person who wrote it while keeping it from distracting others.

  • Casting close votes and down votes is simply not enough here.

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

  • Questions that can be understood, but don't provide enough detail
  • Questions that are sloppy, but contain everything needed and can be easily edited into shape.
  • Questions that don't show any research effort
  • Questions that are clearly off topic
  • Answers that are just wrong or even actively harmful
  • Posts that are blatant SPAM or trolling (use SPAM/Offensive instead)
  • Posts that you simply don't like, for whatever reason

Please keep in mind that moderators are extremely strict when it comes to handling quality related flags. 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. The signal you should receive from this is yes, this question should be closed, but speedy deletion was not warranted here.

If after reading this you feel that you should not normally use this flag, then you are correct. It's there as a handler for when something is so bad that nothing else fits. If a really horrible post locks eyes with you and you feel its cold, but amazingly strong hands pulling you down into the abyss, 'very low quality' is the napalm grenade you throw to save the rest of us from your fate.

When something is of poor quality but salvageable, use the flag or close reason that mostly describes what's wrong with the post instead. It helps us because the community can better shoulder whatever action needs to be taken, and the person that wrote the post learns something other than it's gone.

  • 5
    I added this much later, revisiting it because the flag is very often improperly used. With moderators recently taking a letter-of-the-law approach while processing quality related flags, it's important to have a clearer explanation.
    – user50049
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 1:45
  • 4
    "you feel its cold, but amazingly strong hands pulling you down into the abyss, 'very low quality' is the napalm grenade you throw to save the rest of us from your fate" that's a bit long for the flag dialog, but... I wish it wasn't.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 2:20
  • What about answers that exist in triplicates? I found a question today with answers referring to jsfiddle.net where the 1st of the triplicates answers it (Jul 31 '10), the 2nd answers it with a bit more info (Nov 11 '10), the 3rd answers it with less info than the previous two more than two years(!) later (Nov 29 '12). Upvotes in the order of creation: 6, 17, 1. I flagged the latter for deletion since IMHO such pollutes the Answers space and promotes confusion. Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 10:50
  • cont'd: The reply was "declined - twice before where? Provide links to duplicated content". OK, silly me, I didn't mention that they're on the very same page. Next try... Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 10:59
  • con'td: The 1st and 3rd were deleted and the question has been put [on hold]. Which was not my intention, but who am I... Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 11:16
  • 1
    Maybe it would be helpful to actually show an example of a question and an answer which you as moderator seem to be appropriate for the VLQ-flag to help understanding. The current argumentation is more or less strongly subjective. Without having a clear cut, we actually have no reference whether a question or answer is appropriate or not and so VLQ-flags might be raised in a wrong case. Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 12:43

I am not sure I have ever used "low quality" but here is where I would. You see a string of words and code labelled answer and they do not answer the question. They say "you could google that" or "I think there's a class in the .NET Framework for that" or "I know that's easy on iPhone so I'm sure you can do it on Android too, try searching the documentation." You want to flag "not an answer" but something stays your hand. Technically, it's kind of an answer. It's a really crummy attempt at an answer and it doesn't answer the question, but at least it's not "thanks!" or "I have the same problem" or "I tried that but it still doesn't work". It's VLQ.


Ask yourself this:

Would you be embarrassed to be associated with this post if it had your name on it?

To me that is the essence of Very Low Quality. Not just bad but embarrassingly bad.

  • 12
    I'd be embarrassed to be associated with a post that's incorrect, but I'm not supposed to flag all posts that are incorrect. Also all PHP questions :P
    – bjb568
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 4:31
  • 11
    I'm with @bjb568 on this. I'm embarrassed by typos. And judging by what some of our worst users post, they are embarrassed by nothing. Embarrassment is too subjective a criterion.
    – Louis
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 20:04

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