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I've had a couple of flags declined which has made me wonder if I fully understand the use of particular flags on Arduino:SE, so I'm going to post this as a question here in the hope of getting some guidance.


Flag: Not An Answer

A little while back, I flagged this answer as Not an Answer since it doesn't appear to make any attempt to answer the question that the OP had actually asked. The guidance for the flag states:

This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

In this case - in my opinion - the answer posted makes no attempt to answer the question that was asked. A later (upvoted) comment seems to agree. Yet the flag was declined:

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

Now, the answer in this case doesn't appear to be 'technically inaccurate', or 'wrong'. It just makes no attempt to answer the question that was asked!

Now, my analogy here would be if I asked how to get from London to Glasgow without using the train, and the reply told me to catch the 12:42 train from Euston. Yes, it's an answer, it may not be 'technically inaccurate', or 'wrong', but it doesn't make any attempt to answer the question that I actually asked!

So what am I missing?


Flag: Very Low Quality

Today, I flagged this answer for being Very Low Quality because it doesn't appear to be an answer to the question that was asked, although in this case it does attempt to address an 'assumption' mentioned by the OP in that question.

Now, I would say - again in my opinion - that this should have been posted as a comment on the question, rather than as an answer. However the user that posted the answer doesn't have sufficient rep to post comments.

The actual question is clearly stated both in the title, and in the body of the question, and this makes no attempt to answer it.

My first reaction was to flag it as Not an Answer since the fact that it should be a comment is explicitly given as a reason in the guidance for that flag. However, given my previous experience I thought I'd play safe and just flag it as Very Low Quality since - again in my opinion - the content problems mean that it also meets the criteria for that flag:

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

(Incidentally, the user that posted the answer has since made it clear in the comments that they were addressing the assumption rather than the question)

Again, the flag was declined:

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

Once again, the answer doesn't appear to be 'technically inaccurate', or 'wrong'. As before, it just make no attempt to answer the question that was asked!

So, was I wrong to flag this as Very Low Quality? Should it instead have been flagged as Not an Answer (as my first instinct suggested)? Or should we not bother flagging answers like this at all?


Clearly I am missing something, and some guidance would be appreciated here.

  • this answers should be closed by voting. the privilege is awarded at 500 reputation points, so you have it – Juraj Apr 5 at 5:25
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    @Juraj That is for questions. Vote to delete answers is awarded at 2000 rep. – sempaiscuba Apr 5 at 10:17
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Flag: Not An Answer

Answers should not be flagged just because they are wrong, or even appear to answer a different question, as in your example. "Not an answer" would be something like "I had this problem too, can you help me?". If it looks like an answer, then it is an answer, or to put it another way not not an answer. Voting answers like this down is the appropriate thing to do, as that reduces workload on the moderators.


Flag: Very Low Quality

This flag is for stuff like "nope, that won't work" or similar short, unpunctuated, unhelpful answers (or complete nonsense). I think this particular answer from your example doesn't really answer the question, but it is presented as an answer, and thus is neither low quality nor "not an answer". Again, voting it down, and/or adding a comment disagreeing with it is the appropriate thing to do.


It costs you a bit of rep to vote answers down (this is to discourage people from whimsically doing that) however you have other tools at your disposal:

  • Make a comment pointing out, politely, that this answer either won't work or doesn't address the question.

  • Vote up a better answer, that will put the "bad" answer down the list where people will give it less credit.

  • Make your own, better, answer. Personally I think that answering it yourself, and showing what a good answer is, with explanations and detail is really helping the site out. Merely pointing out that other answers are bad isn't quite as helpful. Other people will then, hopefully, agree with you and vote you up. Then you get rep points for your fabulous answer. Win win!

  • Fair enough. Although that does directly contradict the guidance for the NAA flag, which states 'This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question'. I'll try to use your definitions when flagging in future. – sempaiscuba Apr 5 at 11:40
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    Sounds like there's always going to be a fuzzy area in interpretation of "is or is not an answer" between something like "Is structured as an answer" to "Does not help the person asking". That is, deciding to consider only the structure and not the textual meaning, or to consider the meaning and structure together. – jose can u c Apr 5 at 15:26
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    I suppose it depends on whether you focus on "does not answer the question" or "does not answer the question". These have different emphases. My general attitude is "if it looks like an answer, and is at least vaguely related to the question" then it is OK. We have rep voting and vote-to-close for other sorts of answers. If it looks like an answer, and isn't something ridiculous like "to do that, boil the eggs for another 10 minutes" then that isn't really something a moderator needs to look at. – Nick Gammon Apr 6 at 4:15
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    I think that the Very low quality flag puts it into the Low Quality Posts queue, so if there is an answer that shouldn't be there, then that is how it should be flagged. At least, that is the assumption that I've been working under. This flag appears to result in no required moderator intervention Whereas the Not an answer flag does seem to require mod attention, and this attention would not have been necessary, had the answer been instead flagged as Very low quality. But I may be wrong - I was confused about this for quite a few years. – Greenonline Apr 20 at 8:06
  • If there is doubt, you could vote to close instead. That lets the general community decide whether they agree with you. – Nick Gammon Apr 24 at 3:38
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Just another perspective to add to the discussion:

I look at the answer with the thought of another person having a similar issue who has found this page through a search.

Sometimes it does not answer the exact question the OP has asked or has strayed out of the OP's bounds, I think to myself, if I came across this with my similar issue would I find it useful?

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