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If an answer is heavily downvoted by the community for inaccurate content, obsolescence, or some other indicator of low quality, is there a threshold it should meet before being flagged for review? Or should they never be reported, only to be handled by 10k mods who come across them? Or do they fester at the bottom of a page for all eternity? How are these answers handled? What about for questions?

For instance, I recently filed two "very low quality" flags—the -8 was deleted, but the -5 wasn't. Is there a magic number?

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    This Meta discussion is related to what you're discussing. Basically, 20k+ users can delete bad answers (score -1 or less) with 3 delete votes, but since we only have 12 20k+ users on the site, and 6 of those are mods, it currently makes it difficult for us to get low low-quality answers without significant coordination by those 6 non-mod users. The general feeling, though, seems to be that mods should not be flagged to delete such things. – Sterno Apr 23 '12 at 23:02
  • er, "get low low-quality answers" should have been "get rid of low-quality answers". – Sterno Apr 24 '12 at 0:04
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Your best bet is too look at the description of the flag reason and apply your judgment.

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

In general, merely wrong answers shouldn't be flagged this way. Downvoting is for unresearched and unhelpful answers, as the tooltip on the button says. Save flags for things that moderators need to take action on.

Gibberish would be a good candidate for this flag, since it gives a poor impression of the site and (likely) wasn't intended to be helpful. On the other hand, I would actually hope that anyone who sees a single downvoted well-intentioned-yet-wrong answer and gets in a twist about it would not use the site :P. It's not truly hurting anything.

Vote counts really don't matter; in general I would hope that things really requiring deletion are deleted before too many people have seen (and therefore been able to vote) on them. If you can't tell whether it's low quality and needs to be removed without looking at the vote count then you definitely shouldn't flag it.

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I am in the process of reviewing and trying to understand the best way to handle negative score answers. As there's some level of discussion around this topic, you can expect somewhat inconsistent behavior in "low quality" flag handling. If this behavior bothers you, I'd suggest abstaining from flagging negative score content as "low quality."

The general impression that I get from the moderation team (especially through discussions with Grace Note) is that flagging these is not always appropriate. Flags are intended for things where moderators must intervene, and there's a sort of implied urgency in a flag. In fact, one of the canned flag dismissal notices is that flags should not be used on answers which are incorrect or technically inaccurate. The voting system is intended to sort the useful answers from the useless, and there is sometimes some utility in knowing the right and wrong answers to a question.

However, they do represent an issue on the site that (right now) frequently requires moderator intervention. There's a counterargument to the previous paragraph that since there are so few users with delete access, moderators must intervene when something requires deletion, and low score answers require deletion.

For the time being, I'd suggest downvoting these bad/incorrect/unhelpful answers. I am working on a tool that will allow people who can delete (high rep users/moderators) to examine bad, stale answers and aid in the cleanup effort. The side effect of this is that your downvotes will be actioned on far more often, and that manually finding and flagging these answers will be unnecessary.

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As discussed on StackOverflow, I believe downvoted answers should be left in place if they add value, and considered for deletion if they do not. So as a first criteria, even if the answer is highly downvoted, if someone else is likely to provide the same bad answer I would leave it for others to see. This provides the opportunity for one such bad answer without constant flagging and deleting.

Assuming it has passed that first test, I think the next test is how much harm does it do if left as is? This is a simple cost benefit analysis trade off of the time it takes to review and remove, versus the damage it is doing in place. If we want mods and high rep users acting to remove the really bad stuff, we want to avoid overwhelming them with inconsequential delete flags. There are many more of us than there are of them. We'd like this place to be a well manicured garden, but in reality we should accept there are going to be some weeds.

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