I flagged this answer as "not an answer" the full text of which says:

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.

Emphasis mine, relating to all reasons I thought the flag would apply.

My flag was declined with a reason of "flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer". I don't follow this at all (and grant that it may be a 'canned' response selected from choices). The answer asks a clarifying question (should be a comment) and suggests 'using' an interface tolerance setting which has absolutely nothing to do with the question asked. It's not just wrong (in which case I would have downvoted it, not flagged, and have done so in the past), it's completely irrelevant. Should I have chosen "it is very low quality" instead?

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

Or should, as the declination indicates, it not have been flagged at all and just downvoted? I note this question is highly related to Why was Very Low Quality flag declined?

I want to make it clear I'm not asking this as an argument with whoever declined the flag, or over this specific instance. I'm genuinely trying to understand the flagging system and how it's being interpreted here - which may not be possible since there are multiple interpreters. I note on the help page some guides to using the flags. The one for 'not an answer' seems to indicate very specific cases of 'not an answer' - those where whatever the content is, it should have been posted somewhere else (as the rest of the explanation says) but that it has nothing to do with the quality of the content. In this case I find the phrase "does not attempt to answer the question" a little too broad.

  • 1
    I did my best to address the spirit of your questions, however, I advise you to focus this question more. As it stands, there is too much information here and it spans too many subjects.
    – Aaron Mod
    Dec 12, 2014 at 1:57
  • @Aaron Done. As mentioned to PolyGeo, I figured it was a bit extensive and should be split up. I'll save the rest for another time/question.
    – Chris W
    Dec 12, 2014 at 21:15

2 Answers 2


I echo much of what @PolyGeo already wrote, however, as I declined your flag I feel responsible to give you the thought process behind that action. I see flags as a binary response to questionable answers:

  • Is the answer vulgar, controversial, or simply not an answer (e.g. a question about the question)?
    • If no, do not flag it and instead use a downvote and/or comment to help guide the poster;
    • if yes, flag it for a moderator's attention, in which case, it will likely be deleted. In the answer that you highlighted, the poster met the minimum requirements for an answer, even though we can all agree that there needs to be significant improvement in the answer. My decision to decline the flag was also an attempt to help inform you on how best to use the flags.

Imagine the alternative--that is, if we deleted people's answers at the hint of technical inaccuracy rather than relying on the downvote and comment process. I believe that would go against the concept of SE and turn many people off to the site. I think that I can speak for many people here that we appreciate your continuing efforts to make this a better site and hope you do not view a declined flag as anything contrary to that.

  • I appreciate your responding. The long and short of it is I simply need to adjust what constitutes 'not an answer' for me to site convention, which I'll do. I don't necessarily agree with it (hint of inaccuracy and complete irrelevance isn't that fine a line to me, and I've seen such answers removed before), but I do understand the rationale and can adapt. And no, despite my perhaps 'passionate' question, as I said none of this was personal or anything. I simply found the existing guidance confusing.
    – Chris W
    Dec 12, 2014 at 21:13

With respect to:

Should I have chosen "it is very low quality" instead?

which relates to a flag on an answer to How to represent overlapping lines in ArcGIS for Desktop?

I cannot remember whether I saw this answer come up via a flag or the review queue, but I can see that my action on it was to downvote the answer and upvote the comment by RyanDalton that asked for more details to be added to the answer. I think this is inline with my actions on (m)any answers that include questions that I documented recently in a Meta SE answer.

I think declining this particular flag was correct because the answerer has tried to provide an answer. I had a big question mark over the technical validity of that answer, so downvoting seemed highly appropriate to me, and because there was already a good comment on the answer I upvoted that rather than echo-ing it with something similar.

To answer your first question I would have recommended you taking a similar action to mine rather than flagging on this occasion.

Please note that, without checking any statistics, the large majority of flags I see here from you and most others are Helpful, with few being Declined, so the above should be interpreted as my advice for tuning rather than resetting flagging behaviour.

  • Thought about it after posting and wondered if I should split to two questions - appropriate use of those two flags, and a separate how does the flagging system work. Appropriate use is somewhat answered by links in the help, but either I or others aren't interpreting that correctly or the same way, thus I seek clarification. As for the rest, I can see your interpretation. But for me there a line between technical validity/wrong/tried to answer, and an answer with complete irrelevance that should be removed. What if the answer were 'banana', or to be a bit less silly 'use polygon to raster'?
    – Chris W
    Dec 11, 2014 at 23:06
  • By me: 'banana' would be deleted - no attempt to answer; 'use polygon to raster' would get a post notice of "don't just give a one line answer" and a downvote (because I think it is irrelevant). There are many questions that we as mods are technically not able to assess as to their relevance so the conservative approach is to leave the community to make what they think obvious through downvoting. My guiding principle is that if the answerer appears to be trying to answer, however misinformed, then I'll downvote and not delete.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Dec 11, 2014 at 23:19
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    Gotcha. That seems in line with my interpretation of the help's guidance for that flag reason.
    – Chris W
    Dec 11, 2014 at 23:35

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