A recent review of this answer was declined, because

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

But the description of the flag used, states

VLQ means the flagger thinks this post is beyond saving -- no amount of editing or polishing will turn this particular turd into gold. It is a call for a pooper-scooper. To clarify this, we are making the language a bit stronger:

very low quality

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

This phrasing is apparently not understood in the same way by me as by the moderator, and I think my comprehension of English is pretty good. Thus clarification is in order.

If something has "technical inaccuracies" or is "altogether wrong", does that not directly imply it must have severe ... content problems, is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and therefore might need to be removed?

It seems that this flag has been declined precisely for being used the way its usage text (and the associated meta post that heralded said usage text) tells us it should.

What exactly is the limit on using VLQ flags? How bad does it have to be, while still not falling into a different category?

NB: I am not interested in discussing the merits of this particular answer, or whether the flag was correctly applied to it (though the latter question will likely be resolved as a matter of course).

Assume for purposes of discussion that some hypothetical answer does contain total dross and should be removed, receives this flag, and is declined for the reason given.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, nope. That is not what we can assume. A wrong answer is far better than "total dross". Let me elaborate in an answer. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 1 '16 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ @TIPS please do. I would particularly like to hear how a (perhaps subtly, but still definitely) wrong answer is anything but total dross. $\endgroup$ – Nij Aug 1 '16 at 10:25

The following discussion already provides clear evidence, that these flags are often not easy to handle: Difference between 'very low quality' and 'not an answer' flags.

The answer given by TIPS (or whatever name he chooses to be next time you open a browser) there quite well summarises the general problems with VLQ flags. These are usually the most difficult to handle, especially when it is not obvious what is wrong with the post.

So let's have a very brief breakdown about how I would personally handle various cases:

  • The answer is technically wrong, contains wrong statements, but attempts to answer the question, then comment and/or downvote. Point out what is wrong and needs to be improved.
  • The answer does not provide an answer to the question, then comment and flag NAA. Bear in mind, that sometimes (even though it is a very bad practise) the question changes after an answer was given.
  • The answer is mostly gibberish due to non-existent grammar and spelling, then maybe you are lucky and still understand it somehow, then try to fix it. If there is really nothing to be taken away from it, then flag VLQ. In some cases NAA is also appropriate, because in such cases it is quite obvious what's wrong.
  • Anything else, leave a custom flag and be descriptive about it. This might result in no other action than a mod commenting on the answer, but it will likely not be declined.

As for the particular answer. It was based on a different version of the question and was later invalidated. It might not have been the best answer in the first place, but to be honest, neither was the question. I could also find nothing wrong with the way it was written. (And I believe it is very much salvageable.) Sure, it does not answer the question any more, but that is essentially the fault of the question (which could also have been flagged instead/ rolled back). A comment pointing out that the question has changed would have been in any case more appropriate.
Always remember, once a mod casts a delete vote on the answer, it is gone. Any comments that have not been read are gone with it. The user might not even know what happened. I am very hesitant when it comes to posts where there have been comments on to delete them right away.

  • $\begingroup$ Hey, thanks for unburdening me from writing an answer. I'm inclined to change my name to "Martin" to confuse people that read this answer in the future. If only I found a chemical named Martin . . . $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 1 '16 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ What I get from this and the questions related, is that the VLQ flag should simply not exist, since it is apparently difficult enough to moderate in SE, and then anything it might refer to, can be dealt with under a different flag (particularly NAA or custom). $\endgroup$ – Nij Aug 1 '16 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Nij no, but VLQ flag is meant to cover anything that the other flags don't, and that's not a lot. At times I have been at a loss on how to flag an obviously flaggable post. That is my placeholder flag. It's like saying "there's a problem with this post that it likely warrants deletion", but the threshold for deletion is too low (or too high, for that matter) for the wrong answers to be subject to deletion. That said, a wrong answer isn't totally useless; it (with a combination of votes) indicates what the right answer is not. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 1 '16 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Nij total dross would be a new user testing the answer function of the site and posting "asdfghjkl;'asdfghjkl;'". With the logic that wrong answers should be removed, we wouldn't need the downvote button, at least on answers. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 1 '16 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @TIPS an answer may be disagreeable, and hence receive downvotes, without also being wrong. A chemistry example in particular might be suggesting an inefficient synthesis method when better alternatives are well-known (or have even been given as answers already). In contrast, VLQ would apply to an answer that might seem superficially valid in suggesting a route, but be crucially invalid (such as steps favouring a product which prevents forming the desired product). ... $\endgroup$ – Nij Aug 1 '16 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ ... Hence, if an answer clearly attempts to respond to the question, but (as per VLQ text) could not possibly be fixed except with total erasure and replacement, or worse, is actively misleading, then it can't be reasonably labeled NAA (because it is an, and does, answer to the question) but would clearly fit under the description given for VLQ. $\endgroup$ – Nij Aug 1 '16 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Nij the main problem here is that the label isn't exactly representative of all VLQ posts, and there are other posts that aren't VLQ but the label fits to. Take spam as an example. While no amount of editing will make spam legitimate content, VLQ is not the flag option I go for when seeing spam. Frankly, the labels mean nothing at all compared to how members have established the usage of pretty much any function in an SE site. The main reason that your flag got declined was that the post attempted to answer the question, and this is sufficient reason not to delete it. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 1 '16 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ @TIPS so being totally, unfixably wrong is not an overriding reason to remove it, then? $\endgroup$ – Nij Aug 1 '16 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Nij incorrect answers should be downvoted, rather than deleted. If they attempt to answer the question, they're not VLQ. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Aug 1 '16 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ We allow people to express their opinions, then rate them @Nij. This is democracy. We then curate and remove noise, which is called moderation. The poster of a wrong answer would never know they're wrong beforehand, and might never do afterwards. If we punish them and remove their content because they wanted to use the system as-is, this would be called censorship. Not our thing. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Aug 1 '16 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Nij If it is wrong comment and/or down vote. Flags are only here to moderate content that needs to be removed, because it does not fit into the usage of the site. Moderators will not judge if the information is correct or not. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Aug 1 '16 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode I see no reason why that could be true. The mere fact that an answer is earnest and intended to help, does not imbue it with the power to overcome any material issue with its content or format. That's a reason to not flag it as NAA, not a reason to not flag as VLQ. $\endgroup$ – Nij Aug 1 '16 at 11:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Nij The correct reaction to an incorrect answer is to downvote. The VLQ flag is intended for posts whose formatting is irreparable, or whose content is irrelevant and useless. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Aug 1 '16 at 11:15

This issue is confusing, even to long-time users, so I am grateful that you have brought it up on meta again.

Here's a fresh example of what (I think) is a answer that should be flagged as VLQ. Hopefully this will make it a little bit clearer.

I predict it will be deleted very soon, so here's a screenshot for <10k rep users.


It is clearly an attempt to answer the question, so it is not NAA. However, the grammar renders it almost incomprehensible (to me, it reads more like the output of a Markov text generator).

I made an effort to try to read it. Essentially it is saying exactly the same thing that ron discussed in his other answer to the question, with much less detail, and in much poorer English. (Disclaimer: Just because the English is poor doesn't mean I think the person is stupid. It just objectively makes for a bad answer on SE.)

Martin wrote:

[If] the answer is mostly gibberish due to non-existent grammar and spelling, then maybe you are lucky and still understand it somehow, then try to fix it. If there is really nothing to be taken away from it, then flag VLQ.

I think there is nothing to be taken away from this. There is no point in editing the grammar or the formatting of the answer since ron covered everything already. Hence VLQ is appropriate (I hope).


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