I've made three "not an answer" (NAA) flags recently, which have all been declined as "a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it". Why are these flags being declined?

I've read ire_and_curses' post on NAA and I still believe that two out of these three flags were correct.

  1. This answer on deck randomizers in Dominion says "don't use deck randomizers, use this website instead". While that might have been an acceptable answer to "How do I use deck randomizers?", the actual question was "Why are there Curse, Copper, Silver, Gold, and victory point cards in the randomizer deck?". I therefore flagged it as NAA because it does not attempt to answer the question.

  2. This "answer" on shooting the moon in hearts is a response to a comment, and is clearly a comment, but could not be posted as a comment because the user didn't have enough reputation. The question is about the probability of shooting the moon, not asking for stories about people doing it!

  3. This answer on the longest road in Settlers of Catan is clearly by someone who misunderstood (i.e. didn't read) the question. Following ire_and_curses' meta post, I now (just about) understand why this one should be downvoted rather than NAA.

3 Answers 3


Looks like me for all three.

For the past couple years every time I've declined a flag, I've had to select a reason from a short list. You do get that feedback, right?

The short answer to each one is that immediate feedback.

The longer answer is that what you think requires a moderator's attention is not in tune with mine.

In most cases that I've seen lately where someone has flagged for "Not an answer" no moderator was needed. Downvoting, voting to delete and commenting are sufficient.

When I get the flag, it is presented to me as just the flag and the answer. There are no comments, and most importantly, I don't see the question. Yes, I could click thru and get it, sometimes I do, but I'm not required to in order to make the decision.

Therefore, it has to be really cut and dried. Spam, and self-promotion are the two things that come to mind when I think about "Not an answer" flags that I've approved recently.

The flag is "Not an answer", it isn't "Not the answer". When I respond to the flag, I'm asking myself if what I see could be an answer. If it is, I let it go.

The community is downvoting and deleting answers all the time, it isn't necessary to involve moderators unless the answer is actively harming the site. Additionally, the community can also undelete answers, unless it was a moderator who deleted it. One more reason for me not to perform this particular function except in very clear cut cases.

For more info, more concisely worded, see How do I properly use the "Not an Answer" flag?

  • 2
    That is what should be remembered, the flag isn't for judging the quality of the answer.
    – Joe W
    Oct 7, 2015 at 21:26
  • Many thanks Pat. I didn't realise that NAA was exclusively for posts that couldn't be an answer to any question. Yep, I get feedback. It says "a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it" which tells me nothing about why. As to the other options - I always understood downvoting to be for answers you disagreed with, rather than answers that didn't answer the question; I never knew there was such a thing as "vote to delete" - clearly I don't yet have enough rep on any SE website for that. And thanks for the link - that's a good explanation.
    – AndyT
    Oct 8, 2015 at 8:25
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    @AndyT - no problem, coming to meta to clarify when things get confusing/frustrating is the way to go. As you participate more the privileges will build. The difference between a moderator and someone with 5k rep isn't too large.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Oct 8, 2015 at 14:20
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    I generally agree with everything you said, but one part sounds a little odd. "Downvoting, voting to delete and commenting are sufficient." "The community is downvoting and deleting answers all the time..." -- it takes a lot of attention for something to get community-deleted, since it's a high-rep privilege and community members aren't seeing that "not an answer" flag like you do. Maybe if you think something should be deleted, and you think the community would agree (but take a while to do it), it's reasonable to just delete it?
    – Cascabel
    Oct 10, 2015 at 16:36
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    @AndyT "NAA was exclusively for posts that couldn't be an answer to any question" -- well, it's for posts that can't be even a partial answer to the current question, in any form. If someone answers "who goes first in Pandemic" with "white always moves first", that's not an answer.
    – Cascabel
    Oct 10, 2015 at 16:38
  • @Jefromi - I can't think of an instance where I thought an answer should be deleted and I didn't delete it. There isn't always enough information to make that determination within the mod tools so for those I generally let the community handle it.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Oct 11, 2015 at 6:59
  • Well, moderate as you see fit, but for what it's worth, on Cooking (which I believe has a higher flag volume than here) we typically do take the time to click through to the post if there's not enough information in the mod tools to make a good decision. And there's UI affordance when you do (flag summary at the bottom of the page, arrows for browsing between flags), so I think it's something that the devs expect us to do sometimes.
    – Cascabel
    Oct 12, 2015 at 2:44
  • 1
    @PatLudwig According to what you say, it looks like NAA's description of "does not attempt to answer the question" is misleading. It's not "does not attempt to answer a question".
    – tsuma534
    Feb 29, 2016 at 9:29

People do not always ask the question that they really need the answer for. I cannot tell you how many times I have ignored a question and instead addressed what I considered to be the real problem. Consider this made up example:

How can I sacrifice my mana?

I might respond with:

Land and Mana are two different things. You can sacrifice Land to cards like Aggressive Mining.

I did not answer the question, and yet I think I solved the problem. The author of the Dominion answer probably thinks the same thing - he found a way to solve the problem that does not involve directly answering the question that was asked. You may not agree that the solution is good, and you should vote accordingly.

The answer on shooting the moon in Hearts (now deleted) truly does not address the question. I think that flag should have been accepted.

The answer on longest road in Catan is a wrong answer. Wrong answers have value, because they highlight a mistake that others could make. For more about the value of wrong answers, read this answer on Meta (and check out the comments too).

  • 2
    I understand the concept of answering the question that should have been asked, and I'm fine with that in general. But the Dominion answer solves a problem that is not directly related to the question. The question is equivalent to "There are Type A1 card and Type A2 cards. I understand how to use Type A1 cards, but Type A2 cards appear superfluous. Is there some way I am supposed to use Type A2 cards?". The answer is then equivalent to "Don't use Type A1 cards at all." That has no relevance to the question! The question is about Type A2 cards.
    – AndyT
    Oct 7, 2015 at 14:21
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    I suspect you have a different definition of "wrong" to me. To me "wrong" is the opposite of "right". So in a question, such as the Catan question, which is "Is A or B correct in situation XYZ", a right answer might be "A" and a wrong answer might be "B". An answer "In situation UVW, C is correct" is not wrong it is plain and simple not related. It is not "a mistake that others could make", it's a lack of being able to read and comprehend a simple question.
    – AndyT
    Oct 7, 2015 at 14:28
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    @AndyT You did the right thing by flagging an answer that you feel is unrelated to the question. The moderator who declined your flag disagreed with your assessment. No harm done. As for your second comment, I can see where you are coming from. The answer is so far off from the question that it looks like the author did not even read the question. It's an extreme example of misunderstanding, and probably worth deleting.
    – Rainbolt
    Oct 7, 2015 at 15:06

First, I agree with your flag on the second answer you linked to, and it looks like it has since been deleted.

I think the most relevant point in the answer you linked is the last sentence:

If an answer is technically inaccurate, wrong, or just doesn't answer the question, downvote it.

Even though the first answer you linked doesn't actually answer its question, it does answer a question, and it looks like a real attempt to solve the problem in the original question. Therefore, a Not An Answer flag is not appropriate.

The third one is similar: it doesn't actually answer the question, but it looks like an attempt at answering at least a related question.

The theme here is that both of these "answers" have an answer-like structure and have keywords that make them appear. That makes them answers from the point of view of that flag, and it's up to experts in the domain (Settlers of Catan in this case) to determine whether the answer is relevant and correct, and vote accordingly.

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