As a moderator I see a lot of flags for "very low quality". Sometimes they can be fixed. A lot of the time the flag is code for, "this is a crap answer," and nothing can be done but down-vote it, delete it, or ignore it.

Based on the consensus of the flaggers, the community as a whole appears to want these answers expunged from existence rather than downvoted to irrelevance. Sometimes I handle such flags by downvoting them myself and dismissing the flag as helpful. I know I can afford the -1 rep for a downvote like that, so I do so.

I'm curious about the consensus of those who don't routinely flag. Is it better for bad answers to be quietly disappeared where they can do no harm to anyone, or is it better to downvote them severely to demonstrate the community's disdain for such behavior?

Note, there is a difference between bad answers and actively harmful answers. Bad answers can be as simple as link-and-run answers to more complex ones where the answerer clearly misread the question and answers the wrong point.

  • this really should be clarified, it is not "low quality", it's "very low quality" -- unless you are referring to manually entered mod flags. Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 1:30

5 Answers 5


I prefer that a relatively well worded but completely wrong answer remain but be downvoted so that future readers know that it is a Bad Thing. The more comments on the answer that explain why it's bad, the better.

I only flag answers that are:

  1. Obviously shilling for a product.
  2. Completely unintelligible.
  3. "Me too!"
  4. Asking a question of the poster.
  5. And sometimes: is so hideously formatted that it would take more than 15 minutes to correct.

Keeping bad answers around for posterity is a Good Thing.


Ah, but what about keeping dangerous answers around?

I think that dangerous answers, sufficiently downvoted and commented, should be kept around. That will teach future readers what should be avoided at all costs. Who knows what similarly dangerous answers lie out there on the 'tubes, on forums that don't have the same merit system with easily ranked answers. Mayhaps the same or similar dangerous advice on a lesser forum will not as easily be seen for the dangerous thing it is. On ServerFault, with its easily understood +/- system, an answer downvoted into the cellar will plainly teach that this is a dastardly thing. The comments usually tell why it's so dangerous.

I don't think viewers should be kept from seeing dangerous things, just kept from thinking they're anything other than dangerous.

  • 2
    I agree that bad answers should be kept, along with their comments though I may draw a distinction between "bad" or "wrong", and "Dangerous and Destructive" ("Q: How do I free up disk space?" -> "A: rm -rf /") - The latter should be expunged and the answering user horsewhipped in the town square.
    – voretaq7
    Commented Sep 13, 2011 at 14:20
  • @voretaq7 Updated!
    – Wesley
    Commented Sep 13, 2011 at 19:17
  • Re: dangerous answers update, If you have sufficient rep you can see the deleted dangerous answers (nudge nudge, wink wink, join the site and stop being a FREAKIN' LEACH ya damn Googlers!). My fear is always having the dangerous answer pop up in a google search - makes us look bad IMHO
    – voretaq7
    Commented Sep 13, 2011 at 19:44
  • generally this is not what we mean by "very low quality" -- very low quality questions are NOT well worded, they are barely intelligible and would take TONS of invasive editing to fix, to the point that deletion is a more effective solution. Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 1:29

I know you can vote to close/delete a question. A thought, what about extending this idea to answers?


Are you referring to this flag reason?

very low quality

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

It is IMHO self explanatory, provided people are reading the text when they flag -- the operative term is "not salvageable through editing". These sorts of questions (or answers) take TONS of invasive editing to fix, to the point that deletion is generally a more effective solution.


I don't think I've ever flagged a question or answer as low quality but I am more than willing to spend a few rep points where warranted. If I feel a low quality question should be eliminated I vote accordingly. Too bad we can't do the same for low quality answers.

I personally believe a question flagged as low quality should be viewed in the same light as one which has votes to close (not votes to migrate). It follows therefore that I believe that if you see a number of flag as low quality it should be eliminated just as if those had been close votes.

  • you can vote to delete negatively voted answers at 20k rep, see /privileges Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 1:28

I like WesleyDavid's formula for flagging; personally I am far more likely to downvote bad answers (and/or comment as to why they are bad) than to suggest they be completely removed.

I suspect this apparent predilection for flagging comes from a few different (and sometimes overlapping) motivations:

  1. Flagging sort of passes the problem on to someone else.
  2. Downvotes cost rep, and some people are far too focused on rep gain.
  3. IMHO, far too many sysadmins have this visceral hate for anything they consider to be "stupidity". I suspect this is often coupled with some amount of feeling that "I am certain the given answer is stupid/wrong, but conversely I am not certain of the canonical right answer."

Personally I've been a bit dismayed by the abrupt and binary responses to some bad answers/questions I've seen around here. To me it seems that there is often a voiced impulse to blast things into oblivion rather than expend the time and consideration necessary to improve them.

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