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I came across these two answers to an old question, which to my mind are simply link-only answers. Hence, I flagged them as NAA to push them into the review queue for the more experienced members of this community to take a look at and judge according to current standards. (Both answers are by currently reasonably high-reputation members of the community.)

I am aware that this says that flags shouldn't be used when the community has the ability to handle the situation. However, I don't have sufficient reputation here at present to even vote to close, let alone vote to delete. So the way for me to try to help curate the site in that manner is to push things into the review queues. (That said, and not for bragging rights, at 50k rep network-wide, diamond on one site, self-relinquished diamond on another, and an about 90% helpful flags rate on Server Fault, I think I have a decent idea of how the Stack Exchange system works and a reasonable grasp of this community's standards.)

I was rather surprised when I saw that the two flags had been declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention. I didn't expect a moderator to unilaterally delete the answers, or even really take any unilateral action at all; I was hoping for the community to take a look at them.

  • What should I have done instead of flagging, keeping in mind that the most recent activity on the question was almost five years ago?
  • Why were the flags declined? (Optional to answer, but would be nice to know.)
  • If you are a mod on another SE site, you should know that the only thing we can do about this is to unilaterally delete/convert the question - we don't have a feature to inject a question into any review queue or make the community aware of the question to act upon it. So, you didn't the only thing you know we can do to happen and now wonder about it? (Not my declines, BTW). – Sven Aug 27 '15 at 13:25
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    @Sven It is my understanding from before (though I can't quickly find a MSE post to confirm this) that NAA flags, even from a diamond moderator, pushes an answer into the review queues. – a CVn Aug 27 '15 at 13:49
  • Never heard of that, but even if it is the case: We don't leave flags open for days so it might run it's course through a review queue. In most cases, I either accept or deny a flag if I see it. Everything else is too complicated. – Sven Aug 27 '15 at 13:52
  • FWIW on the site where I'm a mod, these would have been slam-dunk valid flags and the answers would have been deleted. Just goes to show how much standard practices vary from one site to the next. – David Z Sep 9 '15 at 14:23
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First off, these are really old question and answers, which makes inertia important (It is not useful to pick through everything in our history for stuff that no longer fits with our current viewpoints).
Regardless, the first answer does have another answer than the links it posts:

The questions you're asking are answered in the hier(7) man page.

Read the manual is an answer, and in some cases it is the correct answer.

Secondly, not all link answers are inherently wrong, there are exceptions, doubly so with old posts.
From the post you yourself cited:

There's really only one valid exception to this rule, and that's when the question is:

Suggest me some tutorials where i can learn quick.

The question that has the answers you flagged:

Where can I find an explanation ... ?

I would put this in the same bucket as asking for tutorials.
So in practice... flag the question, it asks for tutorials / learning material and is OT.
But is it worth it for a question from 2010?

  • Good point about #2, I suppose. As for #1, I didn't exactly go out of my way looking at old content; as I recall, I came across that question because it was linked in the sidebar from another question and looked interesting at the time. – a CVn Aug 27 '15 at 12:34
  • @MichaelKjörling My point 1 was more about the first answer having an actual explanation, but there is only so much you can answer to a question asking for documentation links. I also added a bit more info as I pressed enter to fast :) – Reaces Aug 27 '15 at 12:35
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First off: Flagging link only answers is the correct thing to do.
You may also edit the answer if you're so inclined.

Second opinions can differ but in this specific Q & A I would most likely have declined the flag too, because :

  • The answer is 5 years old

Not every old Q & A is worth judging to current standards.

  • The answer is Accepted by the OP

So despite being nearly a link only answer the OP found it useful.

Additionally such an answer is actually the best in this specific case, it is so because that is the standaard and reproducing (sections of) the standard would not really improve the answer as much as simply pointing there.

  • The answer is upvoted a number of times

and at the time apparently a number of other community members found it a useful answer too.

And last: AFAIK there is no "black mark" if your flags get declined.

  • There used to be flag weight. But now the worst that could happen is that you annoy our poor mods. – Reaces Aug 27 '15 at 12:56
  • Annoying the mods is of course a HUGE black mark :) – HBruijn Aug 27 '15 at 12:58
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    With the average life shelf of our mods... I wouldn't worry too much! </horrible humor> – Reaces Aug 27 '15 at 13:01
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    Actually, getting too many flags declined gets your flagging rights revoked temporarily. – womble Aug 27 '15 at 20:45
  • @womble, I've just found this out myself. I had been searching through the Help Center for details and a quick search on Meta.SF for posts about this yielded nothing obvious. Thankfully I read this the whole way through and found your comment. Do you have any extra details on how that works: how many declined flags result in a temporary revocation of that right and for how long? – GregL Sep 15 '15 at 13:53
  • @GregL no, I don't have any specific, authoritative numbers. In general, StackExchange doesn't provide specific numeric details about bans, to prevent people from gaming the numbers, so it wouldn't surprise me if the temp-ban declined flag count isn't publically available at all. – womble Sep 15 '15 at 20:38
  • @womble, fair enough re: number to prevent gaming, but it's odd that they don't mention anywhere that there's even a temp-ban system. Thanks for clearing it up for me though, showing once again that your shinny new diamond is well deserved! – GregL Sep 15 '15 at 23:52
  • Awww, shucks... – womble Sep 15 '15 at 23:52
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Just for completeness, I declined both of these flags because:

In both cases, the answers could easily be improved by editing them, and this is not something you need a moderator for. Also they stand well enough on their own, that even if the links went dead they would still be useful. Iain has covered these points pretty well, so I won't belabor them.

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    Fair enough. And also just for completeness, I am not arguing; I simply want to understand the rationale behind the decision taken, since that will help avoid me taking up peoples' time the wrong way in the future. – a CVn Aug 28 '15 at 12:29
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Both of those answers are valid and will remain valid even if the links go dead, all someone has to do is go looking based on the information provided.

They are absolutely answers and should not have been flagged NAA.

There are lost of things you could have done with out flagging ...

You could have gone looking and found an online version of the hier(7) man page and you could have edited it into the accepted answer it's about 12k characters so it would fit.

The FSH and LSB though are too big to edit onto the 30K character limit set by SE so really the only option the OP had was to mention them by name and then leave helpful links. You could have done nothing in that case.

I just checked elsewhere and whilst there is an option for a Very Low Quality on Questions, the same does not exist for Answers.

I guess, if you felt the answers were low quality you should have either edited them (if possible) to fix them up, downvoted and/or left a comment.

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    You can flag VLQ on an answer, but only if it has not been upvoted. – Michael Hampton Aug 27 '15 at 14:31
  • Ah, I almost never flag anything except SPAM/Offensive these days. There's nearly always something else I can do. – user9517 supports GoFundMonica Aug 27 '15 at 16:33
  • @MichaelHampton If it has received a single upvote, it is possible to downvote it - and then flag it as very low quality. – kasperd Aug 29 '15 at 17:18
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One of those did show up as a low quality review. I voted Looks OK, because the question asked where an explanation can be found and the proper answer to that question is a link. And I don't know any better answer to that question, than the first of the two links provided.

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