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A new user recently answered this question querying the syntax of Had they have gone to the same place, they would have talked to one another with...

what about the usage of "Have they had"?
(sic - that's the exact text)

Clearly that's not an answer, and I can't see much hope of it being successfully edited to meaningfully address the question. Anyway, it turned up in the review queue as first answer posted by a new user, where I realised I don't actually know what my preferred course of action should be.

In the event, I chose to flag it for moderator attention, citing "Not an Answer" (note that the clarification text for that option gives It should possibly be an edit, a comment, or another question as potential reasons for flagging).

In this particular case, I wouldn't be interested in seeing it posted as a separate question anyway (though the question: Do mods ever convert such posts into questions? comes to mind).


But my understanding is that as a general principle, high-rep users are supposed to use their enhanced voting powers to save mods from having to intervene.

So - did I do the right thing? Or should I have simply downvoted - in the expectation that others would do likewise, so that soon the system would automatically have offered us the option of deleting the post without bothering the mods?

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    There are currently four "Not an Answer" flags on that answer, together with a system "Low quality" one. It might be interesting to see whether another NAA flag will delete it; or, since it's now in a review queue where there should be a "Delete" option, what actually deletes it. – Andrew Leach Jan 15 '17 at 18:35
  • @AndrewLeach Maybe another mod will take action before the community does. – NVZ Jan 15 '17 at 18:38
  • @AndrewLeach Are all flags considered "mod-flags"? I chose NAA flag because I didn't want to trouble a mod for it. – NVZ Jan 15 '17 at 18:39
  • @NVZ Moderators do see all flags, including those which appear in the review queues. I tend to regard NAA flags as low priority, but they are easy to deal with since it's usually obvious from the post (without even seeing the question) that an answer is poor and deletable. – Andrew Leach Jan 15 '17 at 20:17
  • Do mods ever convert such posts into questions? – Moderators cannot convert answers to questions. – Wrzlprmft Jan 16 '17 at 7:04
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  • @AndrewLeach: Moderators do see all flags, including those which appear in the review queues. – That’s not exactly correct (assuming to flags that are raised to moderators and not to flags which moderators can see due to their normal-user powers or omniscience). Flags for closure never appear in the moderator queue, and VLQ/NAA flags usually only appear after a certain time. – Wrzlprmft Jan 16 '17 at 10:20
  • @Wrzlprmft Yes, you're right. It's so long since I've flagged for closure I had forgotten about those. – Andrew Leach Jan 16 '17 at 12:19
  • I'm not sure it should be the last resort, but mod-flogging should probably not be done without some deliberation. (What?? It's "flagging"?? Never mind!) – Hot Licks Jan 29 '17 at 5:09
  • Would that be flog=whip, or flog=sell? The latter is common enough in BrE, but I've not come across it in AmE (where someone flogging fags would be a violent homophobe, not just someone who sells cigarettes! :) But I rather like the idea of us selling off our mods to the highest bidder - a bit like football teams trading their top players in the international transfer market! – FumbleFingers Jan 30 '17 at 17:39
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what my preferred course of action should be.

  1. Leave a comment along the lines of:

    Welcome to English Language & Usage. Note that we follow a strict question-and-answer format and questions posted as answers will be deleted. Note that before asking this as a separate question, you have to add more information as to what your concern is and what you already understood.

    This will tell the poster how to best proceed and reviewers what you think is wrong with the post.

  2. Flag the post as not an answer (NAA). This will place the post in the low-quality queue and where users above 2 k reputation can decide upon its deletion. If six users recommend to delete the post from this queue, it will happen. In my experience, this is the most effective way for a post to be deleted.

    Note that flagging as very low quality (VLQ) will have almost the same consequences.

    If a post flagged NAA or VLQ was in this queue for some time (fifteen minutes, IIRC), it will also appear in the moderators’ flag queue. This rather short time span was made for Stack Overflow, and most moderators are aware of this and will leave the flags to be handled by the low-quality queue. Anyway, it’s not your fault that moderator time is wasted with this.

  3. If the answer has a non-negative score¹, downvote it to facilitate the following:

  4. If you have 20 k reputation, and the post has a negative score, also cast a delete vote. If you ask me, this should happen automatically when you cast a NAA or VLQ flag and vice versa, but it doesn’t. If three 20 k users cast a delete vote, the post will be deleted. However, this rarely happens without the low-quality queue (from which delete votes can also be cast).

Or should I have simply downvoted - in the expectation that others would do likewise, so that soon the system would automatically have offered us the option of deleting the post without bothering the mods?

No. While downvoting enables 20 k users to cast delete votes (see above), it does not bring the post to the attention of anyone who could do so². Flagging as NAA/VLQ does exactly this: It places the post in the low-quality queue, where even 2 k users can cause it to be deleted. (Sidenote: Most such posts are automatically placed in the low-quality queue by heuristics, but I would not bet on this.)


¹ and untraceable +1 notifications in the reputation tracker caused by the post being deleted do not bother you
² well, there is a list of recent delete votes in the 10 k tools, but from my experience it is rarely used

  • While it doesn’t directly answer this question, Shog9’s Your answer is in another castle: when is an answer not an answer? is relevant, as it (at least tangentially) addresses the difference between bad answers and non-answers.  Bad answers should be downvoted; non-answers should be flagged. – Scott Jan 22 '17 at 18:51
  • Two things to note: 1) Flagging the answer in this question as NAA is likely not to do much good. There are a fair few high-rep users on ELU who are very broad in their view of what constitutes an answer (essentially: if it relates to the question, it’s an attempt at an answer), and it is likely that your NAA flag would be rejected, which would affect your flagging history. 2) +1 notifications for deleted posts are not untraceable, just better hidden. (Also, #3 should say, “If the answer has a score of 0” since downvoting won’t bring it to a negative score if it has a positive one.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 24 '17 at 21:30
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: 1) First of all, it only takes 2 k reputation to review NAA flags. I have cast several dozen of such flags (roughly 50) and only had one rejected so far. Finally, a question posted as an answer (such as the example in question) is a very clear cut case. If I were a moderator and it came to my knowledge that a reviewer did not opt to delete such posts regularly, I would review-ban them. 2) Enlighten me, how do you find out the source? 3) That’s already addressed in point 3 (the real one). – Wrzlprmft Jan 25 '17 at 6:24
  • @Wrzlprmft Go to your own profile, click on the “Reputation” header, and in the detailed reputation view, removed questions and answers are also included. I always check what it is when there's a +1. The most annoying thing about it is that there's no easy way (that I know of) of figuring out which SE site you have to look in. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 25 '17 at 7:18
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Flagging is an option in the 'First Post' queue, and the usual reasons are available, including Not An Answer. Since this post could have been written to illustrate what the help page means when it says

"Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are:

commentary on the question or other answers asking another, different question"

it seems likely that four other NAA flags will close the post, and in due course, if not edited into propriety, it will be deleted; all without bothering a mod unless one happens to look at the review queue or this question in the meantime (obviously very unlikely (?)). If you wish to flag for mod attention you could do so, but I see no need, this is unfortunately far from the worst they will have seen recently.

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    it seems likely that four other NAA flags will close the post, and in due course, if not edited into propriety, it will be deleted – Nope. First, answers cannot be closed, just deleted. Also, a post can be drowning in flags without being deleted. Deletion can only be caused by reviews from the low-quality queue and delete votes from 20 k users. – Wrzlprmft Jan 16 '17 at 9:18
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High rep users, with +20K, have the following moderator privilege

Voting to delete answers with score of -1 or lower

If a low quality answer has been downvoted, the delete button appears underneath.

enter image description here

Click on the button, and you'll see your vote has been recorded.

enter image description here

For high rep users, the flag option, "Not an Answer" isn't necessary if you believe that it should be deleted.

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    For high rep users, the flag option, "Not an Answer" isn't necessary if you believe that it should be deleted. – That’s debatable. Flagging as NAA brings the post to the attention of other users who can vote to delete it (see my answer). Voting to delete doesn’t (except for placing the post in the recent delete votes overview in the 10 k tools). – Wrzlprmft Jan 16 '17 at 9:26

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