The First Posts and Late Answers review queues are arguably the two most important review queues on the site. They help moderate content from new users and point them in the right direction to act in accordance with our rules. There should always be some action taken even if it's just a welcome message, especially as a lot of these users aren't registered and haven't taken the tour yet.

However, we seem to get a high number of people selecting "No Action Needed" (higher than it should be in my opinion). I'd like to campaign to remove the "No Action Needed" button altogether but that would most likely be a system change and a local policy change or wake up call should be a first step.

To avoid calling out any users out in particular or being accused of doing so here's the last 10 "No Action Needed" reviews from these queues and what I think could have been done.

First Posts

  • 1: Certainly needs editing to be easier to read, if you don't feel up to editing it either skip or post a comment asking them to do so.

  • 2: It's a nice answer: let them know and/or upvote it. Leave a comment as me and another user did. Point them to the tour.

  • 3: This was reviewed in the questions initial state as far as I can tell, it certainly needed editing to include information.

  • 4: It's a decent answer though answers from an out of universe perspective so leave them a comment. There are some grammar mistakes so edit it.

  • 5: Looks to be a decent answer, encourage them to edit in the actual sources and ask them to register/take the tour.

  • 6: A bit of an awkward one but the tag might not be right, is it about the film or TV show? They're from another site so will have a bit more knowledge but welcoming them and pointing them to the tour again is always better than nothing.

  • 7: Could be improved by adding sources/evidence - let them know! Encourage them to register their account and take the tour.

  • 8: A decent out of universe answer but would be better if it had some in universe evidence too, let them know. Other than that you can always upvote the answer in the queue!

  • 9: It's a nice find and answer to the question but isn't the oldest, let them know. They haven't taken the tour and point to the author not the book series. Comment.

  • 10: Comment encouraging them to register their account and take the tour. Ask them to add evidence to their answer. It isn't a great answer but with some editing could be quite good.

Late Answers

  • 1: I think we can all agree this isn't great, it's more of a comment on another answer than an answer itself. Flag it and in fact I did the First Post for this and commented along with my flag. Let them know why you're flagging/downvoting, a new user is unfamiliar with the site and so needs pointing in the right direction. (Note: This has now been deleted, not sure if <10k users can still see it).

  • 2: A decent answer but would be greatly improved with sources - encourage them to add them. The end part of the answer is tangential and a slight rant edit it out or ask them too. Encourage them to take the tour.

  • 3: Same user as above and the same advice as above follows. Might also be worth editing this one so it's not one large block of text.

  • 4: Again same user so same advice. As another user comments on that answer they also provide OoU reasoning so encourage them to add IU reasoning too.

  • 5: On first glance I can tell this needs editing: incorrect markdown and mistakes in a few places. As a user has said encourage them to add an actual canon backed answer not just fan fiction. And again point them to the tour.

  • 6: Not bad of an answer but has some irrelevant information in it so edit it out. Ask them to add evidence to their answer. And of course encourage them to register their account and take the tour.

  • 7: This is FP 5 explained above so look there.

  • 8: Decent answer but would be better with sources encourage them to add some. Of course point them to the tour.

  • 9: As usual encourage them to add sources, let them know they can [edit] their answer to add the extra information from their comment and encourage them to register the account and take the tour.

  • 10: Same user as above so general advice there applies. Could do with some basic editing and looks like a nice answer, let them know and/or upvote it.

Even with that specific advice there here is some general advice that apply to a most posts:

  • Comment: You can always comment something even if it is just welcoming them and giving them some basic feedback on their post.
  • Let them know they can [edit] their post.
  • Point them to the [tour] and/or [ask].
  • Edit the post yourself.
  • If it is a post point them to the relevant guide.
  • Upvote/downvote if applicable.
  • Flag/close/vote to delete if applicable.

There is always something to be done on a post and in my, admittedly, limited reviewing experience I have yet to see a post that requires zero action and I'm pretty sure I never will.

Can we take action in these queues from now on? Doing so will welcome new users and point them in the right direction to contribute better content to our site.

As an aside we have this guide on our meta written by @Rand al'Thor♦ that gives the same sort of run down as I do for general guidelines and also this one from Puzzling's meta which strongly suggests to try and not click "No Action Needed". As linked by @Null♦ in the comments Code Review also recommend against no action.

  • 2
    didn't we just have this post like 6 months ago?
    – KutuluMike
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 13:42
  • @KutuluMike Are you thinking of this question, perhaps? I wrote some stuff there about reviewing FPs and LAs.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 13:50
  • 5
  • 9
    I agree that we should not be clicking "No action needed" if the post needs to be changed (as you point out, if we don't feel able to make the change, we should at least leave a comment). I do not agree that "No action needed" is never appropriate. I believe it is appropriate for posts that have no clear problems, but are not especially good. Not all posts deserve either an up-vote or a down-vote. Even in the case of a great answer, I may not have enough subject matter knowledge to know it is great.
    – Blackwood
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 14:35
  • 2
    @Blackwood In that case let them know it's a good post, welcome them to the site. Have they got the Informed badge? If not point them to the tour. Just because you haven't seen some action that could be taken doesn't mean others haven't. Click skip, it's there for a reason.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 14:37
  • @Blackwood if a post isn't especially good then you can leave a comment as to why you think it's not especially good, otherwise how else is the user meant to learn how to make improvements? If you don't have the subject-matter knowledge, you should be pressing the Skip button, not pressing the No Action Needed button. As for the post your present, it needs the lightsaber tag.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 14:55
  • 2
    @Edlothiad I would never criticise a post because it is not especially good. By definition, most posts are not especially good.
    – Blackwood
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 14:57
  • 5
    @Blackwood perfect. The good ones get upvotes, the bad ones get downvotes/comments on how to improve and the "indifferent" ones get a comment on how to make them worthy of an upvote, so there isn't need for a NAN button then.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 15:06
  • @Blackwood Basically what Edlothiad just said and also you can leave a comment to the user asking them to take the tour if needed or even just welcome them. I have a few first posts where I haven't Uved but left a comment saying it's a nice post and welcoming them to the site.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 15:07
  • 9
    @TheLethalCarrot Just saying it's a nice post and welcoming them to the site, without any useful comment content such as constructive feedback, is too chatty and ripe for deletion as such, by meta consensus.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 16:47
  • 9
    As a tip, if you're going to point new users towards the tour/help/etc. add a softener like "if you haven't already" to indicate it's general advice. A lot of the comments I see sound like the user did something wrong and should study the tour to figure out what because you're not going to point it out.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 17:35
  • 2
    When the user believes that no action is needed, then no action by said user is needed. Taking away that option is essentially imposing a responsibility and job on the SE user, and I find that a patronizing approach. SE is an excellent platform because the users want to try and improve the quality of the posts, not because they are forced to.
    – Misha R
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 0:33
  • 4
    @MishaR If no action is needed by said user there is a skip button, every post can be improved somehow or it most likely deserves an upvote. If you don't feel qualified to judge the answer just skip it. No one will be forced to by encouraging people to not press No Action Needed because they can still Skip it.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 8:01
  • 7
    As the person who passed on the greatest number of the linked posts without action, I though I might follow the advice here and provide a welcoming comment to new people. However, I just got snarked at for doing that, so I'm going back to what I was doing before.
    – Buzz
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 11:24
  • 3
    @Buzz - The goal isn't to make the most noise, it's to post comments that are both welcoming and that offer useful advice on how to improve a post.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 22:25

2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: this answer may contain some personal biases, as I'm an active reviewer myself. But I'll try to make clear where I'm speaking as a moderator and where I'm just voicing my own opinions as a user.

NAN is sometimes flat-out wrong, but sometimes it's a matter of taste.

You mention the idea of removing the "No Action Needed" button altogether, but that's absolutely out. Not just because it'd mean a system-wide change and isn't high enough priority for SE to work on it, but because we wouldn't want people taking some random action on the post just for the sake of taking an action. That would just be a different kind of robo-reviewing, and a harder one to detect.

Also, we can't dictate how people review. As a moderator, I have the ability to temporarily ban people from the review queues for robo-reviewing. I've done this when people were e.g. clicking "No Action Needed" on blatant spam. But if people decline to take action on a "meh" post which is (at least arguably) neither particularly good nor particularly bad, I'm not going to review-ban them for that.

Taking my mod hat off here: I personally hardly ever click "No Action Needed". But that's because I'm a prolific voter and editor - I vote on a lot of posts which others might consider neither good nor bad enough to be voted on, and I edit a lot of typos and minor things which others might consider not worth bothering with. But I'm also aware that it's not possible to fix every post, nor to impose my own standards on other users. Voting and editing are privileges, not responsibilities.

All this is not to say that your points in this meta post are wrong - just that you shouldn't take them too far. Of course people should review carefully, and NAN is rarely the best option, but it is still possible to consider a post carefully and still decide not to take any action on it. (As I did for this review which you mentioned.) It's important to distinguish between the following two possibilities:

  1. blindly clicking "No Action Needed" because you haven't taken the time to examine the post properly and work out what kind of feedback it needs;
  2. clicking "No Action Needed" because you've examined the post carefully and decided that, in your opinion, it doesn't need any specific feedback.

The first of these is "robo-reviewing"; the second is proper reviewing but just not the same review that you would have done. The first is bad, and just the sort of thing that can lead to temporary review bans; the second is fine, and trying to eradicate it would be bad.

Remember that disclaimer I put at the top of this answer? The same idea can apply to one's attitude towards reviews. As a moderator, I try to talk about what's good for the site as a whole; as a user, I feel freer to express my own personal opinions and preferences. Are you opposing "No Action Needed" reviews because they're objectively bad for the site, or because they're not what you would have done? Are you sure? Is it an absolute necessity that this post be upvoted and that one be downvoted, or is it just your opinion? We have to draw a line between "making people review properly" and "making people review as we would".

(I hope that last paragraph doesn't come off as patronising. Obviously you're acting in good faith here, and trying to do what's best for the site; I just think you may be being a little too over-zealous about it. I say "we" because your ability to review reviews is almost moderator-like, and in some sense you're overseeing the whole site on a high level by making use of that.)

Please don't leave "contentless" welcome comments.

I mention this because it came up in the comment discussion on this meta post, and also because earlier today I had to handle an abnormally large number of flags on recent comments which all said something along the lines of "welcome to the site, please take the tour" without providing any constructive feedback on the post in question. I suspect this is a direct consequence of your meta post, but it's not a good one ...

... because we have a policy against such comments. They're discouraged as useless, and should be flagged and deleted. One of the concerns mentioned in those previous metas - that they can be seen as some sort of chastisement - was also mentioned by Kevin in the comments on this meta.

In fact ... dare I say it ... if you really can't find anything to do to a post except to leave such a comment (not worth upvoting, downvoting, flagging, or editing, and nothing more substantial to comment about), then it might be a case where "No Action Needed" is appropriate!

  • 2
    We can't dictate how people review While I absolutely agree with this, I think it's possible to create a soft push toward making sure people don't simply substitute NAN for skip by renaming NAN into something a bit more active. "No action needed" is fairly passive phrasing, and renaming it to something like "post meets site standards" encourages the reviewer to either press "skip" or to consider / review the site's standards before voicing their judgment. I think this kind of soft UX solution may be best for this.
    – Misha R
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 1:50
  • 1
    @MishaR I don't know if changing the wording from "No action needed" to "Post meets site standards" would satisfy those who object to "No action needed" being an option, but I would have no objection to the change (although I don't expect it to happen).
    – Blackwood
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 3:34
  • 1
    Incidentally, am I the only one who keeps misreading NAN as either "Not A Number" or "Not A Nanswer"?
    – Blackwood
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 3:35
  • 1
    For what's it's worth I worded my meta post a little stronger than necessary because of the amount of NAN reviews I saw when I had a look. They might not all have been bad, though subjectively I think quite a few were, but the point was to try and have a push towards reviewers to hopefully take more care when reviewing.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 8:03
  • @MishaR I wouldn't object to such a change, but it would have to be requested on main meta (and even then would probably be unlikely to get implemented).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 14:13
  • @TheLethalCarrot Fair enough. In my opinion, if the Skip button is entirely available and the user keeps pressing another button, then the instructions are likely unclear. Different wording as a push is, in this case, a matter of clarifying the action for the user. In fact, I would actually have the link to rules regarding post standards embedded in the selection, just to drive the point home. Hell, I'd even rename Skip to No opinion, to remind someone who uses NAN in place of Skip that NAN is an opinion. But Rand al'Thor's comment might be even more right on that.
    – Misha R
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 19:47

It would confuse people to run these queues differently than the rest of SE/SO

NAN is generally the idea that the post doesn't need any moderation action (edits, flags, comments, etc). SFF is a bit different in that it considers "noisy comment" answers to be non-answers(NAA), but, failing that, NAN is often a good choice because as long as it attempts to be a constructive answer it doesn't need moderation (NAA/LQP).

I also don't fault people for not wanting to edit giant run-on paragraphs that are otherwise acceptable. It would be helpful, but not everyone is that skilled at writing, let alone discerning what other people wrote. I'd rather have no edit than a terrible edit that prompts a rollback.

That having been said, I've seen good responses to canned instructions on SO (I use a flagging tool to nail NAA/LQP all the time using 10k tools to find them). I've seen several people take the canned advice and edit their posts into shape. Maybe SFF needs an AutoReviewComments library of comments. But you need to remember that the comment is meant to be corrective. Needlessly saying "Welcome to SFF! Here's our [tour]!" on a post that has no other issues probably isn't going to be received well. I also don't want to see nitpicking used to justify a comment. If it looks good, give them the benefit of the doubt and just move on.

  • 1
    "I also don't fault people for not wanting to edit giant run-on paragraphs that are otherwise acceptable. It would be helpful, but not everyone is that skilled at writing" - That's why they can skip it. The major dissatisfaction this question is posing, though, is that by "no action"ing you are removing the review so other people, who might be able and willing to edit that, are less likely to see the post now. This isn't to say removing that option doesn't come with other problems, but the argument that not everyone can or wants to do what's needed doesn't really work there.
    – TARS
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 21:32
  • @TARS: Skip is a perfectly valid option, although I know I'm ill at ease using it, thinking that there's some machine intelligence out there that tracks it and might mark me as someone who simply isn't involved in the site moderation.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 23:55
  • 1
    @FuzzyBoots Nope. You only get into trouble if you skip audits and I'm not sure I've ever hit an audit on SFF
    – Machavity
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 2:51
  • 2
    I've downvoted as you seem to be supporting the fact that being too lazy to edit "giant run-on paragraphs" or not "skilled" enough is reason to press NAN when it most certainly is not. That's when you skip. There have been plenty of times when I've seen a long post, thought "Nah I'm watching a film, someone else will review it" and clicked skip. That's what that button is for. The No Action Needed button is for the extremely rare case that there really is no action needed on behalf of the user, not simply because you're too lazy to take no action but because it is indeed not needed.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 6:14
  • The later case seems to occur more often than it should given that I've spent countless mornings cleaning up poorly reviewed posts. That is the reason for this meta.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 6:14

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