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So recently I flagged this answer as VLQ and my flag was declined with the message:

While this is a terrible and wrong answer, it clearly shows the intend of an answer and should therefore be downvoted instead of deleted.

What then is the point of the VLQ flag. If something does not answer the question (i.e it is irrelevant, a different question, a comment etc.) then it can be flagged as NAA. But when should I use the VLQ flag. In my mind this answer qualifies as 'very low quality' since it is poorly written, making it difficult to understand, and incorrect.

In what situation would I use the VLQ flag rather than NAA?

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    $\begingroup$ I got the same message after tagging the same post as you did. Good question, thanks for bringing this up. $\endgroup$ – Todd Minehardt Sep 15 '15 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ I may illustrate this better with more self-contained examples, after I'm back to my laptop. Thing is, the community here can disagree with the decision, but the way the flag is processed is according to how it's exactly done anywhere else in SE. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Sep 15 '15 at 21:51
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tl;dr: I don't really know. I was probably wrong. I am sorry.


I have been the evil guy that declined this flag.

I find it very hard to distinguish between what is a low quality answer, what is not an answer, what is a mixture of both. Most of the times those flags are very helpful and easy to cope with. Sometimes you end up clicking the wrong button - it happens.
Sometimes there is disagreement within the community. It then comes back to the mods, who have to sort it out. And since we are all human we might make faulty choices.

I did not want to be content police in this case, because I saw the intention of the post. And while I really thought that this answer had terrible style/formatting and it was based on a wrong premise (that had been pointed out in the comments already), the core principle was correct. (The stabilising effect of the intramolecular hydrogen bond.) This is the main reason why I declined the flag in the first place. (It has now been removed anyway.)

Was the flag helpful? Yes it was. I should not have declined it. I should have probably left an encouraging comment on the post and maybe fixed the language a bit. I apologize for not giving you a helpful on the flag, I will pay more attention next time.

However, let me just run you through the timeline of this post, to point out why such things can happen.

  • the post was reviewed through the first posts queue, without a comment, which I would think it could have profited very much from. See also: Shouldn't we be a bit more welcoming to new askers/ posters?

  • the post was reviewed through the late answers queue wit "no action needed" which is very obviously not the case; another opportunity to be welcoming missed

  • I should have left the flag unattended for at least a day. It might have been cleared from the community this way, or it would have been disputed by the community (it was on this path anyway), putting it back on our table. And then what?

  • The meta effect (new flag shortly after this meta question) then lead to the deletion of the answer.

All in all, I guess we all learned something from it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting to see the timeline there. I think we need to be more rigorous when reviewing first posts/late answers. As for the flagging issue I think it comes down to what we do with incorrect, poorly written answers which receive multiple downvotes. Should we delete them or just leave them and keep downvoting. Personally I am in favour of deletion because they generate unnecessary clutter. $\endgroup$ – bon Sep 25 '15 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ @bon Once you are >10k it does not make any difference, apart from that deleted answers are red, while heavily downvoted are almost invisible. You have to hover over them. I think they at least serve the purpose to show, that low quality is not encouraged her. But I can go either way. I'd like some more opinions on that. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 25 '15 at 10:33
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When you flag something as "very low quality" your main point is

This post can't be reasonably edited into something that follows the least of our quality standards.

So if the moderator sees a "VLQ" flag and doesn't realize in the first moment what's wrong, or sees something technically wrong, then there is a good chance that you'll get your flag declined; usually with this text:

Flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer.

Well the mod that processed your flag used something else, for reasons unknown. (He could be German) But the point is, you should use that flag when there's obvious something's wrong with a post and you shouldn't use this flag when you can flag something as NAA.

I personally don't like or use the VLQ flag a lot, and I'm not alone. Here are some other things to read: What kind of answer should be flagged as "Very Low Quality", but not flagged as "Not an Answer"? A flag towards an answer was declined, but the reason given seems to conflict with the flagging option description The limits to a Very Low Quality answer Is the Very Low Quality flag too ambiguous?

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    $\begingroup$ If the post can't be edited into something that constitutes an answer then surely it's not an answer and should be flagged NAA. If the answer is poorly written and wrong then I would say there is something obviously wrong with the post. $\endgroup$ – bon Sep 15 '15 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ Bon wrong answer $\Rightarrow$ down vote. Down votes are supposed to say "there's something wrong here". You need to moderate the content that needs to be removed, like remarks of profanity etc. Not everything that's wrong is remove-worthy. Think about it IRL. If X came and ask Y something and you heard about them, if you say "Y is an idiot. That's not how this is done" then you should down vote him. If you say "What Y said is nonsensical, he's trying to sell you T-shirts", then you should delete Y's remark. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Sep 15 '15 at 21:16

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