I have had about a dozen Not An Answer flags on this site disputed or declined. In most if not all of those cases I thought that it was pretty straightforward why the post was not an answer, and in some cases I left a comment explaining why. I would therefore like to understand where I am going wrong.
I see a few possible options:
- Some reviewers/moderators disagree with my assessments of the specific posts.
- Some reviewers/moderators disagree with the underlying premises of what makes a post not an answer.
- Some users/moderators misunderstood what the questions were asking and therefore thought the posts did constitute answers, or I misunderstood what the questions were asking and therefore thought the posts did not constitute answers.
- Some users/moderators misunderstood what the answer posts were saying and therefore thought the posts did constitute answers, or I misunderstood what the answer posts were saying and therefore thought the posts did not constitute answers.
I know from other Meta posts, both here and on the network-wide Meta site, that the second option has been subject to various debates. Particularly in this post and its follow-up post there was much discussion (including in the comments) about whether an answer post must be recognizably not an answer even without the context of the question in order to qualify for a Not An Answer flag. on this specific Meta site there have been at least two general discussions (here and here) about what makes something not an answer, and (to my understanding) the top answers to both assume that an answer post has to specifically address the specific question asked in order to qualify as an answer.
However, the parameters of that are still somewhat vague. Answer posts can look like actual answers to a question because they discuss the topic in general, or related issues, or cite many sources, yet still don't actually tackle the question head on. Particularly in the comments here there seems to be some confusion about answers that address a question's title but don't actually address the elaborated version of the question in the body of the post.
Here are a bunch of examples:
Spell Propagation Speed? asks about the speed at which spells travel from the caster to the object being acted upon. This answer discusses the speed at which the acted upon object travels back to the caster. At a quick glance it seems like an answer. It discusses the general topic and it cites an authoritative source, but it doesn't appear to address the actual question that was asked. My flag there was disputed.
Why did Dumbledore place a guard for the prophecy at the ministry? asks how a single guard for the prophecy would be of any value. This answer explains why Dumbledore wanted the prophecy to be protected in the first place, but does not discuss the value of a single guard. My flag was disputed (though the answer was eventually deleted by the owner).
Why did Voldemort need to get the prophecy from the Ministry? asks why Voldemort needed to get the prophecy from the Ministry if he had already gotten it from Snape. This answer explains why Voldemort needed the prophecy at all, but does not address why he had to get it if he already had it. My flag was declined as: flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer. In fact I do not think the answer is wrong or inaccurate; it's just an answer to a different question.
Should Quirrell Have Survived Harry's Touch? asks why Quirrell died if he had unicorn blood that should have protected him. While this answer talks about Quirrell and cites sources, making it look like an answer at a glance, it does not address why Quirrell died. My flag was disputed.
Why did Harry Potter take place in 1981? asks why Harry Potter took place when it did. This answer explains how we know that it took place when it did, but offers no explanation as to why.
There are more examples, but I don't think it is necessary to list all of them. A common denominator that I see here is that it is not immediately obvious that these answer posts do not actually address the question. If you only look at the answer post, or look at the answer post after a quick glance at the question title, the answer posts seem relevant. But (at least in my opinion) once you carefully read the questions you see that these answers don't actually address the specific points being raised.
So, what is actually going on here? Am I missing something that makes these types of answer posts actually considered to be answers? Or are there simply reviewers not reviewing carefully enough, or perhaps reviewing on topics that they don't know enough about to evaluate the answers? Either way, what if anything should be done?