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As discussed What exactly should 10k users be doing to help the site? the flag review queue has disappeared, but it isn't clear to me whether flagging answers is still useful.

With questions, the implication of the the above question is that it's better to put effort into voting to close and downvoting as appropriate. With answers there is no vote to close, so for answers that are really comments, or spam, or whatever flagging and downvoting are the only options.

So my question is whether it's helpful to the moderators if we flag answers, or should we just downvote them? If the answer is that flagging is helpful, are all the flags helpful or just the more extreme ones like offensive, abusive or hate speech?

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  • $\begingroup$ Mods still do see some kinds of flags, and those are generally helpful, but I'm not sure anymore if we see all flags cast. So I would tentatively say it's still useful to flag answers, but someone more familiar with the flagging system should clarify. $\endgroup$ – David Z May 4 '14 at 20:53
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Absolutely. Flagging is no less useful now than it was before; only the process by which flags are handled has changed.

Let's use this answer as an example:

Could I ask then what is the comparable "blocking" ability of lead, zinc and regular carbon steel (ie steel used in general construction), In simple terms, for example 1mm of lead is the same as ?mm zinc and ??mm steel????

Clearly, that is not an answer. Flagging it as such puts it in front of the moderators and other users via /review/low-quality-posts. If multiple people flag the same answer, it gets pushed toward the top of the moderator queue. It also gets a bit of additional weight on the side of "delete" in /review.

In this case, either moderators or reviewers can delete the answer - this means the flag will be handled regardless of whether or not there are moderators or reviewers active on the site - the post will be dealt with by whoever gets to it first. In this case, both queues contributed to handling the flag, with a reviewer leaving a comment explaining why this was not an appropriate answer and a moderator following up by deleting it.

In some other cases, the flag may not be able to be handled by reviewers. These flags enter the moderator queue only, and remain there until a moderator is able to respond.

As a 10K user, you're now kept abreast of the state of /review via the number at the top of the page; if that number isn't budging for days at a time, neither moderators nor reviewers are keeping up and flagging isn't working - maybe ask around and try to find out why.

A pocket guide to flags

As a reminder, the following flags are available in various situations:

  • Very Low Quality: used to call out a question or answer that is abysmally bad - not necessarily even incorrect, but impossible to understand or utterly irrelevant. The sort of post that would embarrass you if it showed up when you were showing off the site to a peer. Each "helpful" VLQ flag comes with an automatic downvote, compliments of the system. Only available for posts scoring <=0.

  • Not an answer: used to call attention to posts that do not even attempt to answer the question they're posted in response to. Follow-up questions, commentary on other answers, rants, etc.

  • Offensive: posts that shock the proverbial conscience. Generally, such posts will have other problems as well, which might otherwise result in them being closed or deleted - but in this case the author has gone out of his way to make his work odious. Each flag generates an immediate downvote from the system, which will be retracted if the flag is declined.

  • Spam: overt self-promotion. Can be anything from mechanically-generated offers of discount handbags, to someone obnoxiously pushing their tangentially-relevant blog in lieu of actually answering questions. Like Offensive, you'll know it when you see it. Also generates an automatic downvote.

    A sufficient number of either Spam or Offensive flags on a post will cause it to be instantly removed, locked, and the author's reputation docked 100 points. If you find spam inherently offensive, just pick whichever option seems more appropriate.

  • Other: You're not quite sure how to categorize it, but something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Hopefully, an experienced moderator will be able to sort it out. Requires entering a description of the problem - be specific!

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    $\begingroup$ One minor detail I've occasionally wondered about: just how often do VLQ flags actually get dismissed as helpful (triggering the extra downvote) without the post getting deleted? $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen May 6 '14 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ For questions? All the time. For answers? Not very often. For answers, they effectively just amplify the effect of the flag itself when it comes to calculating quality-bans: someone who shows up and leaves a string of low-quality answers will quickly find himself unable to post more of them. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 May 6 '14 at 19:35
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I'm giving up on flagging. The system is flawed and broken.

  • Rejected flags are punished. There's a big difference between bad behavior with regard to flagging and a mere difference of opinion. There's no leeway. Moderators have two choices. They can either accept my flag, in which case I'm awarded a meaningless brownie point, or they can reject my flag, in which case that rejection does count against me.

  • There's no way to retract a flag. I've mistakenly flagged the wrong item once, an answer instead of a question.

  • The last straw: I flagged an obviously garbage answer as spam. My flag was rejected, and yet the answer was deleted. WTF?

I gave up on flagging at the stackoverflow for more or less the same reason. It's a flawed and broken system.

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    $\begingroup$ How are flags held against you? Unless you make a whole bunch of flags that get rejected, you don't lose any privileges or anything. Regarding your last point -- I've had flags "rejected" as well when the content in question was removed. And when I asked about it, it turns out nobody saw my flag and it sat open too long so the system closed it out as rejected. All that said, there's really no punishment or negatives for rejected flags unless you do it to an annoying degree. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Oct 10 '14 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114 - Even one wrongly rejected flag bugs the daylights out of me. The one that bugged me this time was an answer that was pure garbage, worse than garbage. It needed to be deleted, and it was. I called it spam. Other flaggers probably called it something else. When different people choose different options, all but one option are deemed invalid. That's broken. Compare to close votes. Some vote for reason A, others for reason B, yet others for reason C. Result: A closed question. We all decided the question was closable, we only differed on why (and that often boils down to semantics). $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Oct 10 '14 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ This is my opinion. Downvote me if you want. I don't care. BTW, this is a reason I don't participate much in meta, either. I like stackexchange, but sometimes it seems so very Pavlovian, and also so very soulless. I have moderated on multiple other sites. They don't seem to have the soullessness problem that SE does. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Oct 10 '14 at 4:41
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen: Having the daylights bugged out of you != "Rejected flags are punished". $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 10 '14 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ If I make too many false flags I can't make any more. That means rejected flags count against me. I don't have that many rejected flags, but having just ONE that shouldn't count bugs me. I stopped flagging at SE a couple years ago, and only restarted a year later. I'll stop again, thanks. It lightens my load. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Oct 10 '14 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ I just noticed this - I was the one who declined your spam flag. The post was garbage, yes, but it was not an advertisement and thus not spam. Since validated spam (or offensive) flags, unlike other flags, carry severe consequences for the flagged post, we make a point to decline spam flags when the flagged post is not actually spam, even if the post should be deleted anyway. (The appropriate flag for non-promotional garbage posts is "very low quality".) $\endgroup$ – David Z Oct 18 '14 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ - What about self-promotion of published papers of extremely dubious quality? This answer, physics.stackexchange.com/a/141808/52112 , claims photosynthesis violates the second law of thermodynamics. He got it published, multiple times. This answer, physics.stackexchange.com/a/116457/52112 , is about a paper published in Astrophys. Space Sci., arxiv.org/abs/1301.4720 . This may even be worse than the first. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Oct 18 '14 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ If it's not relevant (i.e. doesn't answer the question), it probably could count as spam, but there's a bit of confusion about that. We (mods) are working on a clarification of the definition of spam for edge cases like this. If it does answer the question, it probably doesn't count as spam, but it may still be wrong in which case the correct response is to downvote. $\endgroup$ – David Z Oct 18 '14 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen Note that, since August 2016, you can retract flags on questions and answers. The corresponding section of the Help Center can be found here $\endgroup$ – Loong Aug 9 '16 at 17:22

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