I have always felt that the criteria for the use of the Very Low Quality flag are fuzzy, confusing, and ultimately wrong, and I recently had a VLQ flag declined that I would like some clarifications on.
The answer in question is this one, which I'll quote as an image in case it is deleted.
I think the question, Why opposite poles of magnet attract each other, why don't they repel?, is relatively poor to begin with, but depending on your perspective, this answer is either (i) a load of waffle with very little to do with the question, (ii) a push for a non-mainstream personal theory, (iii) just plain wrong, or (iv) a load of waffle that doesn't even manage to mean much.
Either way, I find that this answer is in active detriment to the site, and it needs to be downvoted and deleted relatively quickly. As such, a VLQ flag is precisely the thing to put this answer in front of review-minded individuals with independent perspectives and a handy Recommend Deletion button that can remove bad content when acted upon.
I therefore did just that, and I flagged it as VLQ. The reviewers apparently agreed with me, giving it three Recommend Deletion votes to one Looks OK.
However, despite the reviewers agreeing with the flag, it still got declined with the usual
declined - flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer.
I really, really, really don't get this. The flag text reads
it is very low quality
This answer has severe formatting or content problems. This answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed.
and the answer ticks all the boxes. It is definitely very low quality, it has severe content problems, it cannot be salvaged without a complete re-do, and as it stands it needs to be removed. A VLQ flag is the organic mechanism we have to deal with content that's so bad that it needs to be removed.
Moreover, it seems that I am currently banned from raising that specific kind of flag, partly from this incident and a VLQ flag on this answer, which received a single review that also agreed with the flag.
So, I have a number of questions.
Procedurally, how did these two flags come to be declined even though reviewers agreed with them? Since both reviews are incomplete (not enough Recommend Deletion votes to delete, but not enough Looks OK votes to kick it out of the queue) I imagine it was manually handled by a disagreeing mod.
However, if moderators are going through VLQ flags, what's the point of the review queue? Or are there clear signs that the VLQ queue is not coping with its job and moderators need to step in and do the community's job for it?
How are those two answers at all content we want to remain on the site? How do those answers and users contribute anything but a bad image in the eyes of a prospective expert who's looking for a cool place with interesting questions to answer? What reason is there that changes the response away from "delete them as fast as a consensual community process will be able to process them"?
Taking as a premise that they do need to be deleted, what review mechanism other than the VLQ queue does this community have available to keep the site clean from detrimental posts like these?
Is the site still at a stage that community moderation (particularly at the 2k+ level) cannot cope with things like this and explicit moderator intervention is needed at every stage, even after the mods explicitly stepped back from going through the Close review queue because the reviewer traffic was high enough?
Conversely, is the site mature enough, and with a strong enough 20k+ population, that direct votes to delete are sufficient to handle posts like this?
What is it that compels us to make available to the world posts like these, even after they've been judged by the community to be somewhere between plain wrong and intentionally misleading? When posting users license their content to SE, give it permission to host it, and ask it politely to do so. There is nothing that compels us or SE to keep wrong content on our walls.
If flags are not meant to handle "technical inaccuracies", what on Earth does "severe content problems" even mean?
I appreciate that there is a lot of inertia here, and that there is some amount of general guidance that emanates from the Stack Exchange team and broader community, and that some of our moderators take this guidance very explicitly to heart. However, I do not think that the answer to any of the above questions should be "because SE says so". That's just intentionally crippling the community moderation mechanisms without any amount of critical analysis.
Instead, we need to recognize that the flagging and reviewing mechanisms are tools provided by Stack Exchange to multiple communities, that they need to be uniform to keep the development process manageable, and that they therefore need to take a very general form that is able to serve over 130 different sites with different requirements. However, these are still only tools, and it is up to us to find the ways and community processes to use these tools that work for us as a site, and that respond to the unique pressures that this site is under.
In particular, this includes crackpot answers (particularly the lower tier, the ones for which "non-mainstream" is a stretched compliment) that only serve to make this site look unattractive to prospective experts. We have a software tool (VLQ flags then queue) that enables us to efficiently clean these up as a community without unilateral action. What is there, beyond blind SE dogma, that forces us to shoot ourselves in the foot and disable this tool from use?
Sorry for the long rant, but I really don't see it. Rant aside, I really am interested in the answers to the questions above.
Edit, just to have a clear tl;dr proposal:
- Answers which are (i) flat-out incorrect, (ii) so completely incorrect that no amount of editing can make them useful or constructive, and (iii) so completely incorrect that they are actively harmful to the site and its standing, should be flagged as VLQ, which then feeds directly to the Low Quality Posts queue. There, if people agree with that three-point assessment, they should vote Recommend Deletion (or, if 20k+, Delete). Flags should sit there for X hours (where X is much bigger than 1/4), and should only be handed over to the moderator review queue after that time, or if there is obvious conflict in the review outcomes.