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Answers can be flagged as "not an answer", the description for which says the following:

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.

Often, if I raise this kind of flag, I find that it is disputed or declined. The latest example is this answer, which to me is clearly either a comment or maybe even another question, but doesn't really come close to what I would consider an answer.

Why was my flag declined on this (not an) answer?


Extra reading for general use of the flag:

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking for a general explanation, or asking about why your flag on that particular answer was declined? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 10 at 10:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Both? Probably more the latter, but the former would also help inform my future flagging. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 10:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: your other comment: You're thinking of the "very low quality" flag reason. I see it just below "not an answer" if I click the "flag" button on any answer. (Also, here's a post on MSE about when the VLQ flag is appropriate.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 10 at 10:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Yup, that's what I was thinking of; that's also good to know, since I'd have used it for some of the reasons listed as when not to use it. Essentially, it's if the answer is so bad that it's literally a waste of time to even try, that's how I understand it. A bad answer isn't necessarily "very low quality". Had I seen that flag reason and raised that, I now understand why that would have been declined, and how that wasn't the right flag in this case. I've noticed that an answer needs to be quite long before I see it as an option; maybe there's a lower char limit before it's listed? \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 10:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ After pointing me to that other meta post, I've just found this and this, which is helping to clear things up for me. I'll add these (plus what you found) to the question. I guess that covers the former (from your first comment). I still think mine was a valid use of the flag, though, so I'd still want to know why this flag was declined (i.e. the latter from your comment) \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 10:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your link to the answer is only going to the question now for me. Possibly because it is gone, possibly because you need 10K+ rep to see it, possibly because 'aliens', I don't know but thought I'd give you a heads up incase you want to take some action. \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland Sep 12 at 16:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanfaeScotland It's been deleted since, so yeah its a 10k+ rep thing. Thanks for letting me know though :) \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 12 at 18:33
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I declined that flag.

It may be low quality, but it is a sincere attempt to answer the question, which makes the not-an-answer flag not apply to it.

Consider: “What was that noise?” “Could it have been a wolf?” — this reply is an answer, not a request for clarification or a separate question, even if it may have a question mark on it.

It has an insufficient explanation post notice applied which will hopefully prompt the user to explain in a bit more detail.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ From this answer to a meta Q&A, "Clarify the existing question" is listed, is that not what this answer was? Or perhaps a better thing to ask is, how is this not something more suitable as a comment? \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 11:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS Definitely not appropriate as a comment. They're not seeking clarification, they're trying to tell the querent what the monster they're trying to identify might have been—that's an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 10 at 11:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, why have the two delete flags suddenly been cleared on that answer? \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 11:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS They haven't been cleared, they're still present. We can't clear delete votes. But the answer just hit a non-negative score which prompts deletion to behave differently. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 10 at 11:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, fair enough. Well, in that case, I think the only other thing I have to ask here is: if the NaA flag isn't the right course of action, what is? Is it just downvote and vote to delete, or is there some other kind of flag or some other way to put it in the review queue or similar? \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 11:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also (just re-reading your answer since you edited), do users get pinged when that notice is applied to their answer? If it's silent, they may never know... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 11:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS There's a flag as low quality option available for negatively scored answers. I believe users get pinged about post notices. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 10 at 11:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going to do that originally, but it wasn't listed as an option for that answer; also, V2 pointed me at this, which suggests that is an even worse choice than NaA, since low quality flags are just for indecipherable walls of text that would be a waste of time even trying to interpret, and this answer clearly isn't that kind of bad, it's a different kind of bad not covered by... well... any of the flags, it seems... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 11:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point. Yeah, it's a situation where flags aren't appropriate. It's a valid contribution, albeit relatively low quality, and it is a sincere and valid attempt to answer the question. So it's not in any flag catchment. It's even a novel answer—no other answer present mentions mimics! Vote it up/down per your conscience. I'm not sure deleting it is appropriate. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 10 at 11:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ So it's one of those answers where downvotes and delete votes (where applicable) are my only course of action against such answers? And no flags are appropriate? It would be nice to have a way to put this sort of answer into the "Low Quality Answer" queue, then let the community decide, but it seem as though there isn't. Well, at least I understand why my flag was declined now. NaA and VLQ flags confuse me, so I'll probably have to study those meta questions I linked in my question whenever I am tempted to raise one... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 11:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correct. This is a case where the relevant “queue” is just the site's front page and its questions-by-last-activity list. The answer's not inappropriate and doesn't need flags/removal, it's just lacking detail. We're attempting to address that problem with the post notice. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 10 at 11:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS I don’t know if the exact recipe is published, but as I understand it, things will automatically go into the Low Quality Answer queue based on its length, certain keywords(?), and vote patterns, so downvoting low quality, short answers like this is how to help nudge them into the queue. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 10 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Thanks for the tip; this further backs up doppelgreener on the fact that downvoting is my best course of action rather than trying to use the flags in this situation. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 10 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS and doppelgreener, I can confirm that users get a notification about post notices, as I distinctly recall getting one. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 11 at 2:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS "downvotes and delete votes (where applicable) are my only course of action against such answers?" - And comments! Don't forget the comments! We are people on the other side of the answer (honest) and if you think there is an issue with an answer you may find a lot of people respond well to a little prompting before you send the WMDs (Weapons of Mass Downvoting / Deletion) \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland Sep 12 at 16:21

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