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This answer only provides a link. As such, it is not unlikely that it will be deleted, and in fact a user has already suggested that the post does not really qualify as an answer (I may presume they also flagged it as "not an answer", but I cannot know that). But the link is actually useful, so deletion may not be the way to go. I therefore flagged for mod attention, with the message

Perhaps should be moved into the comment section. Thanks.

This way, a mod could study the case and decide on whether it should be deleted, moved into the comment section, or let it be. But the flag was rejected, with the message

declined - Using standard flags helps us prioritize problems and resolve them faster. Please familiarize yourself with the list of standard flags: see What is Flagging?.

I really don't get why this flag was rejected. I always thought that this kind of flags are useful, inasmuch as a mod might be able to act before it's too late -- before users vote to delete the post. A regular flag doesn't work, because regular users cannot turn answers into comments. Thus, "mod attention" seems the way to go. In fact, I have raised similar flags in the past (more than a dozen), and they were always deemed "helpful".

Getting a flag rejected is no big deal, but it discourages me from keep on raising them. Are these flags helpful or not? Should I keep raising them?

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Oh, hi, that was me. Basically DavidZ has described my reasoning, but I can elaborate a little more specifically about what I had in mind in this case.

I'm not a super-big fan of the "convert to comment" feature. It has its uses, but it's not great for low-content answers from new users without the reputation to comment themselves. I like that the StackExchange model encourages a new user's first few interactions with the site to be substantive answers or questions, and that making less-substantive comments is a privilege to be earned --- I think it's a clever way to encourage people to participate constructively.

Furthermore, comments aren't meant to be permanent. If the link is a good fit for the question, then it's worth the effort for someone (perhaps the original answerer, or perhaps another editor) ought to take a few minutes to summarize why, so that the answer stands on its own.

I certainly have converted answers to comments, and will again, but I don't like to do that as a user's first interaction with the site.

What I was imagining would happen when I declined your flag was something like this:

  • You'd flag again as "not an answer," the standard flag
  • One of the couple dozen folks who are keeping their eye on the review queues would leave the nice "link-only answers are discouraged" comment template, which I can never find when I need it
  • The original answerer would get that notification and write a useful paragraph explaining what's so much nicer about the derivation in their link than others
  • The original answerer would be inspired by this burst of effort to become an effective communicator of science, writing and publishing widely and improving the lives of their readers all across the globe

The first three of these steps have happened to other flagged posts.

Getting a flag rejected is no big deal, but it discourages me from keep on raising them. Are these flags helpful or not? Should I keep raising them?

Sure, raise the flags --- but use the standard ones unless something is super-unusual. Note that if the review queue doesn't handle your standard flag promptly, the moderators will still see it. Basically, the standard flag puts your concern in front of additional people, which I think makes it more likely to get resolved sooner.

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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough, thank you for the feedback. FWIW, I would like to note that 95% of the time I flag non-answers with "not an answer". I only use the "mod attention" one when I think that the non-answer contains substantially useful information (as e.g. a link with the exact answer). Otherwise, I raise a standard flag and move on. You do have a point though, so I'll keep it in mind. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – AccidentalFourierTransform Nov 8 '17 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ Yay, a good outcome! Hugs all around. $\endgroup$ – rob Nov 8 '17 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ I like this answer. I didn't think to mention the desired course of action when something is flagged NAA but that's definitely a good point. $\endgroup$ – David Z Nov 8 '17 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ You forgot the fifth bullet in the ideal outcome: 20 years later the answerer earns a Nobel Prize in Phyiscs for work they did inspired by their first Physics.SE answer. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Nov 18 '17 at 18:13
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Rejection (or technically "declining") of a flag usually means you shouldn't have flagged the thing at all, but other times (less commonly) it means you didn't flag correctly. That's what the response you received is for. It means you cast a custom flag on something for which a standard flag reason was perfectly adequate. In this case, to indicate that the posted answer was not suitable for the answer section (but may have been suitable for the comments), the standard "not an answer" flag was the one to use.

Now, I understand that you wanted to convey more than just that the posted content was not an answer; you wanted to convey that something out of the ordinary should be done with it, namely converting to a comment. But honestly, in those cases I'd suggest just posting the comment yourself, perhaps prefixed with "[username] suggested looking at this website: ...".

In general, though, if you think the "standard" non-moderator way of handling a flag would be inappropriate or insufficient, then you can indicate that by a custom flag - but you should be really clear that you're asking for something abnormal to be done with the content, and not merely reporting that it needs action. In this case, a flag message like

This is probably on track to be deleted as NAA but I think it should be converted to a comment instead, which requires mod intervention

might have helped your chances: it shows that you're aware of the standard way to handle the problem and you have made an informed decision that something different should be done. Even then, though, I'd wonder why you didn't just post the comment yourself. Custom mod flags work best when there's no appropriate way for a non-moderator (or the community at large) to deal with the content being flagged.

If in doubt about using a nonstandard flag on something that a standard flag appears to handle, you can ask one of the mods in chat, and we'll give you guidance on how (or whether) to flag. Keep in mind that mods can access deleted posts too, and undelete them if necessary, so you shouldn't have to worry too much about having this conversation quickly.


Getting a flag rejected is no big deal, but it discourages me from keep on raising them. Are these flags helpful or not? Should I keep raising them?

In general, no, you should not continue to raise moderator flags on non-answers. If you think you have an exception, I'd say just be clear about why it really needs to be handled by a mod.

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  • $\begingroup$ You do have a point. I flagged for mod attention because I thought that an outright deletion of the post was too much, and moving it into the comment section might be a better option. But it is true that a more descriptive flag message, and an explicit comment below the answer, would have been much better. I guess I was being lazy. Thank you for the feedback. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – AccidentalFourierTransform Nov 8 '17 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ @AccidentalFourierTransform Indeed, though don't overlook where I said that taking care of it without the need for mod intervention would be even more helpful. $\endgroup$ – David Z Nov 8 '17 at 18:44

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