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I came across this link only answer in review queue, and marked it as VLQ. It now has downvotes and similar comments that it's link-only.

However, it is declined with the following response:

declined - User has attempted to answer so any issues with the quality of that answer should be addressed using comments, edits and/or downvotes rather than flagging.

This logic is confusing at best. Most link only answers attempt to answer. And my impression with SO is that they should be flagged.

Should we not flag link-only answers?

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    "I came across this link only answer in review queue" - I have a question (following on from our comments on PolyGeo's answer below), why did you decide to flag the answer rather than using the review queue tools for Low Quality Posts?
    – Midavalo Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 23:06
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    @Midavalo I think this is a late-answer review (if I recall), not the VLQ. I see a lot of NAA and link-only posts there and just wanted to be a citizen. As said in the other comments, I thought I was helping by flagging it as VLQ and it will be sent to VLQ queue because of the flagging. But apparently, I misunderstood how posts got into the VLQ.
    – tinlyx
    Aug 13 '20 at 23:08
  • OK that makes sense
    – Midavalo Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 23:12
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My advice on how Very Low Quality flags are assessed is in my answer to your earlier question of Why is " Very Low Quality" on this question declined?:

The way I assess Very Low Quality flags is to see whether:

  1. the poster has attempted to answer or ask a question and just done so poorly. If so, I think this is a low quality post and should be addressed using a comment, edit and/or downvote. I decline such flags.
  2. the poster has not attempted to answer or ask a question and has instead posted something akin to jibberish. This is Very Low Quality and I mark such flags as Helpful.

That answer was endorsed in comments on it by two other moderators.

Your question here is about a slightly different case of an answer which is not much more than link-only by a new user. However, exactly the same two criteria are used to assess the flag you are asking about here as a Very Low Quality answer.

To understand more why I think such answers are not Very Low Quality, see the answers to Should all link-only answers be considered very low quality?. In particular:

They are low-quality, they just don't always meet the criteria for the Very Low Quality flag.


Link-only answers can lead you to information that answers the question ... If you're not willing to downvote an answer, you shouldn't flag it as NAA or VLQ. Those flags are cues to moderators to remove an answer. If the link isn't broken already, just downvote and leave a comment.


The reason why we want you to comment is that flagging is getting us nowhere.

Flagging does not provide feedback to the user that there's a problem with their answer. At best, their answer gets deleted and they raise a meta question. At worst, they don't notice and so they keep doing it.

Communicating with the user let's them know this behavior is not encouraged, and more importantly, tells them how to improve. That's what's going to improve the site.

Link-only answers can be improved, and all users with comment, editing and downvoting privileges can do much to assist in that effort without flagging.

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  • Two comments: 1. my previous flag is irrelevant as it wasn't link-only at all. I don't mind you mentioning it, but it only reduces the signal/noise ratio as it has nothing to do with link-only. 2. That answer was endorsed in comments on it by two other moderators. The comments you mentioned seems more as a critique than endorsement. While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. Then, I don't see much left.
    – tinlyx
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:05
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    I've edited my question to indicate more clearly the relevance of including how I/we assess whether a VLQ flag is helpful on any answer flagged as such. There are cases where I think they are. This and your earlier question are two cases where I think they are not. Link-only answers can be improved, and all users with comment, editing and downvoting privileges can assist in that effort without flagging.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:17
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    Agreed - I too would probably have declined the flag. The user(s) flagging are able to do, and should do, what I would have done - downvoted and commented to encourage the answerer to improve the answer
    – Midavalo Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:44
  • I think the purpose of VLQ is to send the question to the VLQ queue for peer review. And I think the problem of your logic, both in the flag message and in this answer, is the lack of clarity as a guidance. Most VLQ questions attempts to answer and can be improved.
    – tinlyx
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:48
  • @Midavalo I don't see how your downvoting leads to the conclusion flagging is incorrect. The logic is missing. You could always say someone should have done what you've done without looking into the real matter.
    – tinlyx
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:55
  • @tinlyx Flagging reports the question or answer to a moderator for moderator intervention. The review queue is for the user community to vote on opening/closing/deleting questions or answers. Short/link-only/down-voted posts appear in the Low Quality Post queue for users to vote on, the VLQ flags go to a moderator for moderation.
    – Midavalo Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 22:59
  • @Midavalo I am not a moderator, so I don't know how the queue works. Do you mean that link-only answers automatically go there by an AI algorithm? If so, I will stop flagging them. (I flagged them as VLQ to avoid bothering the moderators)
    – tinlyx
    Aug 13 '20 at 23:02
  • @tinlyx Flagging does not put a question or answer into the review queue. Each time a post is flagged one of our moderators has to review the flag. Posts in the review queue can be reviewed by any of our users that have review privileges
    – Midavalo Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 23:04
  • @Midavalo I've been looking for a good reference on all the ways flags can be used and where they create actions without success. I think all user flags go to moderators except flags to suggest closing/re-opening which can send questions to their respective review queues.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Aug 14 '20 at 1:56
  • PolyGeo and @Midavalo: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/181796/…. Aug 21 '20 at 1:26
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    @AndreSilva that's very informative, thank you. Learned something new today. I will reassess my other comments here now
    – Midavalo Mod
    Aug 21 '20 at 1:39
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    @AndreSilva that’s a useful Meta SE Q&A, and may explain why so many of us are not quite certain where particular flags end up.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Aug 21 '20 at 2:18
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I agree that the linked 'answer' is not an answer. Remove the link (which can become broken anytime) and there is nothing left. By not being an answer, it is not salvageable, hence very low quality.

From this Meta Stack Exchange question (which is linked to the FAQ) What does the "very low quality" flag mean in regard to answers?, here is what happens with VLQ flags:

Severe formatting issues: ... Otherwise, you can use the VLQ flag to indicate that the post is not salvageable. The post will be sent to a community review queue, where users can review to delete the post if it is of poor enough quality. They may also comment on the post with the reason for reviewing to delete, in hopes they may edit and undelete (or vote or flag for undeletion). (If the post has already been reviewed in the queue, the flag will be sent to moderators instead.)

Commenting to OP and voting accordingly (specially commenting) are activities which should be encouraged, but by no means invalidate flagging.


Responding to PolyGeo's comment about link-only answers being potentially salvageable while the link is active. From the answer flag dialog (emphasis mine):

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

*viewable on posts up to first 7 days.

It is not about having a minimum chance of being salvageable (hence, potentially salvageable), but the real chances this will happen, which is unlikely. Remembering that deleted posts can also be edited and then, undeleted.

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    While the link works I think it remains as an answer of low quality and potentially salvageable. I think of commenting/downvoting/editing and flagging as being sequential rather than complementary because flagging should be the tool of last resort i.e. to be used only when the others have not dealt with a situation.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Aug 21 '20 at 2:25
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    I’ve read your edit that you made in response to my first comment. I will probably end up deleting the “almost link-only” answer once the post notice on it is given a chance to elicit an improving edit from its author or someone willing to decide whether content from the link is useful to incorporate or paraphrase. Until that time I see the answer as low quality and addressable with help from the community rather than needing a moderator to immediately delete it using a Very Low Quality flag.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Aug 21 '20 at 23:50

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