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I have noticed a few incorrect "not an answer" and "very low quality" flags, which I have declined with this message:

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

Both flags' descriptions are a bit misleading and have been misunderstood and abused across the network. The (canned) response is also a tad confusing, it tells you what not to do, but not what to do (spoiler: downvote!).

The problem with both flags is that they are (ab)used to ask the moderators to judge the technical accuracy, premise, or arguments presented in the answer. That, however, is not what moderators are for, this is a job for the community. We are not arbiters of correctness, you can't expect us to be able, or willing, to judge the technical merit of potentially every post on the site.

Our role, when it comes to posts, is limited to judging whether a post fits the site's guidelines and policies. If it does, but also happens to be wrong, then all we can do is... downvote it. If, for example, the post is offensive, or spam, or an one liner without any explanation, then, yes, we will put our moderator hat on. But for everything else, we are regular users like everyone else.

I hope all that is clear, but the question remains: What are these two weird flags for?

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Not an answer

The description of the flag is (emphasis mine):

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.

Assuming the question is "What is meant by the “left” and the “right”?", the following answers should be flagged as "not an answer":

  • I like turtles!
  • +1 Great question! I always wondered myself!
  • Could someone please clarify "Laissez-faire approach to economic activity"?
  • This is an excellent discussion, but I would also like to bring attention to this <tangentially related topic>.

And... that's about it. The flag is mostly designed to counteract buffoons posting obvious nonsense as answers (the first example) and newer users who:

"Not an answer" flags on all the above examples would be more than welcome and if the answer was posted by a new user who isn't yet familiar with our strange ways, please consider also posting a friendly comment after you flag.

On the other hand, answers that are bizarrely wrong, amazingly misleading, horribly opinionated but are attempting to answer the question, should not be flagged. Please use your downvotes instead. There's a good chance I'll be the one handling your flag. Ask your self: Do I really want content to be removed from the site based on Yannis' personal definition of bizarrely wrong, amazingly misleading, or horribly opinionated?

Very low quality

The description of the flag is (emphasis mine):

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

The flag is intended for answers that are unintelligible. A real example, from Programmers (fortunately, we don't have one on Politics):

If, on the other hand, you can read the answer and understand the words used, it is not "very low quality". Please consider editing it into shape and/or using your downvotes instead.

But it's not always as clear cut, is it?

Of course not. If you feel an answer may be "not an answer" or "very low quality", but aren't 100% certain, your better option would be the custom moderation attention flag. Make sure your write a clear and concise message, tell us exactly what's wrong with the answer and why it should be removed. And just in case we happen to disagree with you, don't forget to also downvote it.

  • 1
    What about answers that - clearly or less clearly - are answering the WRONG question (e.g. question that is somewhat related to OP's post but not actually what OP asked about)? (I've had an answer deleted by Robert based on that reasoning, but I also saw answers stay around despite suffering from the same). – user4012 Jun 26 '13 at 12:55
  • I can provide a specific example (id did NOT flag it) but don't feel like singling out the user here. – user4012 Jun 26 '13 at 12:57
  • @DVK Downvote them, and vote to delete them. If you must flag, use a custom flag and clearly explain how the answer is answering the wrong question. The space in the custom flag is limited, if your explanation doesn't fit, my workaround (on sites I don't moderate) is to post my explanation in comments and then tell mods in my flag to check out my comments (this also has the added bonus that everyone else will have the opportunity to read my comments). – yannis Jun 26 '13 at 12:59
  • A hypothetical example would be: Q: "Which of the two bills signed by President Harrison Ford was most unpopular with electorate and thus contributed more to electoral defeat: the Space Defense bill or the Spice Legalization"?. While the answer is "The defeate of President Harrison Ford was mostly because the radical Anarchist opposition ran a smear campaign accusing him of Royalist sympathies on account of marrying a beautiful Princess". – user4012 Jun 26 '13 at 13:00
  • @DVK If it requires subject matter expertise to know that the answer answers the wrong question, I'll decline the flag. If not, I'll delete the answer. – yannis Jun 26 '13 at 13:01
  • I feel it should be deleted because the question was clearly about comparing two specific bills, NOT about what the overall factors in defeat were. – user4012 Jun 26 '13 at 13:02
  • @DVK Then vote to delete it. Don't ask mods to do it for you, unless it's obvious it's not an answer (your hypothetical is, but... it's just a hypothetical). – yannis Jun 26 '13 at 13:02
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    not every user has privileges to delete. – user4012 Jun 26 '13 at 13:03
  • should I ask this comment thread as a separate Meta Q? – user4012 Jun 26 '13 at 13:05
  • @DVK Irrelevant. Non obvious non answers should be deleted by the community (if they should be deleted at all), not by moderators. Users who don't have privileges to delete should work towards getting them, if they want to delete answers that should not be unilaterally removed by moderators. Also don't forget that the community can't reverse mod deletions, that makes mod deletions even trickier. – yannis Jun 26 '13 at 13:05
  • Ah. OK. That makes sense. Can you please summarize this (with your last commment specifically emphacized) into either a separate answer or a new Q&A? – user4012 Jun 26 '13 at 13:42
  • "Non obvious non answers should be deleted by the community (if they should be deleted at all), not by moderators." If only Oddthinking, Fabian, Sklivvz practiced this on Skeptics.SE :( – user1873 Jun 27 '13 at 4:14
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    @user1873 Skeptics has certain guidelines for answers, the mods there act on those guidelines. If our community reaches consensus on a similar set of guidelines, we'll have to act on them as well. – yannis Jun 27 '13 at 5:13

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