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I recently hit 500 reputation which opened up the Late Answers and First Posts review queues to me. I took a look through the available items and was presented with this first answer to review.

To be honest it's not a good start, but, it does go on to answer the question. However, having looked at some of the other existing answers on the question, it became clear that while the answer I was reviewing was indeed technically correct, it didn't bring anything new to the table. As such I downvoted it, left a comment and raised a custom moderator flag on the answer.

Based on the discussion here, and from previous experience of raising similar flags on Stack Overflow, I expected that the answer would have been deleted, but the flag was declined:

While this answer is correct, it doesn't really add anything that hasn't already been covered by the other answers which were posted six months ago as it is effectively just re-stating what has already been said.

declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention

Truth be told this has me somewhat confused. I thought that's exactly what I was doing!

My thought process was the following:

  • It's not spam
  • It's not offensive or abusive
  • It definitely is an answer

Which leaves the VLQ flag or a custom flag. Past experience (admittedly on Stack Overflow) has taught me to be extremely wary of using the VLQ flag on answers. Yes, the answer isn't great, but a decent edit could make it passable, and if I ignore the other answers on that question then I don't feel it fits the criteria for a VLQ flag (also bearing in mind that the VLQ queue doesn't show the other answers, so it may not be immediately obvious to the reviewer why that answer popped into the queue in the first place - although granted, I did leave a comment which does go some way to explaining it).

Obviously in this instance it was felt that a custom flag on the answer wasn't necessary, so for future reference, how should I have flagged that answer? Should I have worded the flag differently to make it clear that I felt the answer should be removed?

  • @galacticninja Very much related, yes, and it was one of the questions I read before I posted this one. Somewhat confusingly, the answer that I got here seems to contradict the answer on that question. It would be nice to establish once and for all what the appropriate course of action is... – JonK Nov 12 '14 at 9:57
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    I have also found myself at odds with people, as I am firmly of the opinion that we should remove answers which are late addition inferior duplicates. Sometimes flags get enacted. Sometimes declined. Depends on the mod who handles it. – shanodin Nov 12 '14 at 15:09
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    I agree with Shanodin here and would like to see an actual delete option for this. – Studoku Nov 23 '14 at 23:44
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I'd suggest not flagging it at all. Downvote and move on.

Yes, the answer isn't great, but a decent edit could make it passable,

Sure. It could. But mod flags shouldn't be used to say "this needs an edit", because anyone can edit a post. If you feel an edit could save it, either suggest the edit yourself, or downvote the answer to indicate that an answer is of low quality and needs editing or deletion. One or the other will generally happen in short order as active and high rep users come across the post.

Save moderator flags for content that requires moderator action.

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    That said, do flag when in doubt: flags marked as invalid are unlikely to do you any harm. – badp Nov 11 '14 at 0:56
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    I don't think that it should be edited; it doesn't add anything that hasn't been already said, so it would feel rather like polishing a turd if it was edited – JonK Nov 11 '14 at 0:56
  • @badp "do flag when in doubt:" If that's what you want, then you should use a different response than "flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention". That response indicates that you should not flag that situation. EVER! The other two canned responses are better for saying, "I disagree with this flag but keep on flagging when in doubt." That message pretty clearly says that you were wrong to even consider flagging that message since it obviously wasn't a moderator issue. – Brythan Nov 22 '14 at 12:34
  • @brythan "flag when in doubt" does not mean "flag always." There is little to no penalty for having your flags declined. – badp Nov 22 '14 at 13:25
  • @badp I'm not talking about the penalty (which is losing the flag). What I'm saying is that the message is the wrong one to send for "this flag is questionable." If the flag is borderline but refused, one of the other two messages should be used. The message sent says, "DON'T EVER FLAG FOR THIS REASON! YOU WERE AN IDIOT TO FLAG THIS!" The psychological penalty of that response is high even if the Stack Exchange penalty is mild. The "a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it" message also indicates that the flag was incorrect but isn't as dismissive. – Brythan Nov 22 '14 at 14:17
  • @Brythan In the case in question, "no evidence to support it" would have been straight lying. – badp Nov 22 '14 at 18:20
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I just Skip those kinds of answers. Yes, it would be great if we were clearing them off the site, but I don't have enough reputation to vote to close much less delete. I also don't have enough reputation to downvote answers in anything but a technical capability. I can see privileges that I would like to have, so I'm reluctant to spend reputation.

By using the Skip button, I essentially pass the problem onto someone else. That person may have more reputation and therefore more options. Or that person can Skip too.

When I review, I follow the following procedure:

  1. Check if it is spam or offensive. If so flag as spam or offensive. This does not require moderator intervention, just consensus. Once a consensus is reached, the post disappears from the site.
  2. Check if it is a comment or question masquerading as an answer. If so, flag as Not an Answer.
  3. Check if it needs an edit because it uses slang, chatty text, misspelled words, bad grammar, incorrect tags, etc. If so, edit. Try to fix everything about the post if you can. Try not to interfere with what the person was trying to say though.
  4. Comment if you think it will help the person write better posts or if you have or can find information that might help that doesn't rise to an answer.
  5. Upvote if you know that the post deserves it.
  6. Downvote bad questions (downvoting questions is free).
  7. If I don't vote, then I use the Skip button, even if I might be able to use the Done button instead.
  8. If you can answer a question, then do so. If the post is an answer to one of your questions, consider if you should Accept it.

Every new post should get a flag, an upvote, or a downvote from a review. Flag if the post clearly shouldn't be there at all. Downvote if you have the rep and want to indicate that in your opinion the post is inferior. Upvote if you think that the post deserves it.

Upvoting is particularly important on first questions. Note that if the question isn't upvoted at least twice, the asker won't even have enough reputation to upvote answers. So unless the question is actively bad in an unrecoverable way, it should get upvoted a couple times so that the asker can participate on the site.

My most common response is to Skip. The usual reason is that the post concerns a game that I haven't played, so I Skip unless I'm flagging. My next most common response is to flag as Not an Answer. If I have time, I like to comment on Not an Answer answers, as they often seem like they could use some guidance.

There's nothing wrong with using the Skip button. It basically says that you don't know what to do with a particular post or that you don't have enough reputation to do what you think should be done. Using the Skip button makes it as if you didn't review. Concentrate on helping where you can rather than tilting at windmills.

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