I recently flagged this answer for being low quality (on the original revision of it, my flag fell at 1:32pm on March 18th) and my flag was declined with the following comment:

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

My train of thought on flagging it was that, as a lone link, it directly violated the rules laid out in the FAQ and, as such, was worthy of moderator attention. Was this an incorrect way to handle a bad answer? Would a downvote have been more appropriate?

  • As toscho notes below, flags are only appropriate when a question/answer requires moderator attention. In the case of that answer, a downvote and explanation would have been more appropriate. – EAMann Mar 21 '12 at 14:42

A downvote and a comment explaining it is usually enough. It is better when the author fixes the error for himself than letting a mod do it. We are just moderators, not sheriffs. :)


After thinking about it I have to add an important note: A declined flag doesn’t mean you did something wrong. It is just a sign for: No intervention necessary, the community or the author of the flagged post can handle it without moderator super powers.

I cannot speak for other moderators. I’m still learning each day, and I try be very cautious with those privileges. Sometimes I miss the ability to set one close vote and let us decide together if a question should be closed. In short: If you’re not sure, use the flag. If we reject it, don’t take it personally.

  • So, the wording of the "Low Quality" answer flag is "This answer has severe formatting or content problems. This answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed". Your answer basically says, "that's not a valid reason to flag, ever"; which begets the question: why does that flag even exist? – Chip Bennett Mar 21 '12 at 15:36
  • No, that's not what I mean. Sorry for being not clear enough. When an edit cannot fix the issue – flag it. – fuxia Mar 21 '12 at 15:46
  • @ChipBennett If someone has already commented and down-voted the answer, but the OP hasn't taken the time to come back and fix it, then flag it. But flagging first, rather than explaining how to fix it, doesn't help newer members of the community learn the rules. We have a similar issue with questions. – EAMann Mar 21 '12 at 15:48
  • @EAMann adding your comment to Kaiser's answer would improve it greatly, as the two together imply a process: first downvote/comment, then allow time for Answerer to improve the answer, and only then flag the answer. But my reading of Kaiser's answer outside of the context of your comment implies that there is never an appropriate time to flag an answer as "low quality". – Chip Bennett Mar 21 '12 at 16:01
  • Really, it depends on the situation. The example provided in the question was someone posting a link without any explanation. That isn't something flag worthy. But an answer that's complete gibberish would be. – EAMann Mar 21 '12 at 16:21
  • So, as a matter of clarification: I very easily might have flagged a URL-only answer as being not an answer. Would such a flag also have been declined? – Chip Bennett Mar 21 '12 at 18:10
  • @ChipBennett Probably not. But I would just add a comment and ask the poster to enhance the answer. Something you can do too. – fuxia Mar 21 '12 at 18:21
  • @toscho I usually at least leave a comment asking the answerer to add some description to the answer, and especially any relevant code, so that the answer is self-contained. – Chip Bennett Mar 22 '12 at 12:53

As there're already dozens of such images out in the inter webs…


What we think mods do | What mods think they do | What they actually do

…don't slap me for that ;)


One useful guideline for flagging is that you should flag a post if you want a moderator to do something that you can't do yourself.

If you think a post should be deleted, e.g. because it is not an answer, flagging is perfectly appropriate as most users can't vote to delete and community deletion is extremely rare.

If you don't expect the moderator to do any moderator-specific actions, if the post only needs to be downvoted or edited, you usually shouldn't flag. Those are actions you can do yourself, there is no need for a moderator.

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