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I just got a flag declined for flagging this answer as "not an answer". The flagging comment stated "declined - Almost by definition, an accepted answer is an answer. Pointless or bad answer should be downvoted." I was a bit surprised since I made the flag in good faith (see the September 2011 Newsletter about flagging). Yeah, I was also a little bit annoyed at losing 10 flag weight, but I'll get over it by the time I post this.

What I really want to know is if the declined flag comment is correct. Should I bypass accepted answers that are clearly comments and not answers? I admit that this is probably a rare situation, but I want to be a better flagger and would like to know what is best practice.

As a more general question, is there a flagging faq that covers all the intricacies of flagging, or at least the best practices? I've been searching for "flag" on meta for days and reading all I can to educate myself. However, I have 18 flags with 3 declined which leaves me with the feeling that I'm missing some fundamental understanding of what's acceptable to flag and what's not. I want to do better than that.

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    I will decline a flag, even one made in good faith, if I've noticed a pattern I want to discourage. Generally that one correction is enough to get the flagger nudged in the right direction. These days, any time I click decline I hear about it in meta more often than not, which gives me a chance to clarify why. Mark nailed it. – sysadmin1138 Jan 12 '12 at 0:35
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If it's an accepted answer, there's nothing we can do about it.

In that particular case, a self-accepted answer is 99.999% of the time always left alone, because only the op knows what fixed it.

It sucks that they didn't tell us what happened, but that's life.

Although this isn't actually what you asked, I may as well elaborate:

  • An accepted answer is almost always left alone
  • An answer that is just plain wrong (e.g. "Q: What is 1+1? A: 3") should not be flagged, they should be downvoted and a comment explaining why they are wrong. Us mods are real people and we're not experts in all environments so we're not permitted to make judgements on the technical content.
  • Feel free to flag things that are really not answers (such as requests for more information, or rants)
  • How do you feel about an answer that answers a different question (e.g. "Q: What is 1+1? A: Blue")? – Scott Pack Jan 11 '12 at 21:49
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    Wrong answers need downvotes. Answers answering the wrong question need downvotes; they're still an answer, just a wrong one. Incomprehensible word salad can get the ax since they aren't anything. – sysadmin1138 Jan 12 '12 at 0:31
  • @ScottPack - it's very odd that something like that would get the a checkmark, but in any case, it still deserves just a downvote and a comment (because usally the answerer is just confused). If it gets three, the poster can get a badge for deleting it themselves! – Mark Henderson Jan 12 '12 at 2:35
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    When is an answer not an answer? When it makes no attempt to answer the question posed. At that point it's no better than random monkey thrashing. – Iain Jan 12 '12 at 7:56
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I have to say that if I'd seen that one I also would have flagged it. Learning now that it would have been pointless I've downvoted it instead. Either way, you're correct: That is not an answer. It's not even a reasonable comment.

Don't get too disheartened by the declines. As a general rule they will occur less frequently as your flag weight rises. I've had some for reasons I can't understand but just accept that as part of the deal.

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    TBH it just deserves closing as TL and then we can delete it. – Iain Jan 11 '12 at 21:06
  • @Iain, you're right. I had only looked at the answer, not the question. Vote cast. – John Gardeniers Jan 11 '12 at 23:08

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