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I was looking over my flags and I noticed two of these flags were declined:

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If you find the post, the answers have since been deleted. Is this why they were declined? Or is it something else?

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Oh boy, the Futurama event.

Both of these answers had several flags, some “very low quality” and some “not an answer”. Neither had any comments. Neither had any downvotes (Shawn's had one by the time it was deleted — mine).

I think I agree with “very low quality”, but it's not at all obvious that they are “not an answer”. They offer very convoluted explanations, but with Futurama, the correct answer is also usually pretty convoluted.

If you flag a post that looks like it may plausibly be an answer, you need to say more than just “not an answer”. On, say, a Star Trek question, it's possible to tell a joke answer from a plausible-looking answer, even if you aren't familiar with the material. On a Futurama question, it's not possible. So please leave a few words to say that the answer is completely made up, either in a comment or in your flag.

Also, downvote. Completely wrong answers are supposed to be downvoted, not deleted. Noise answers are supposed to be deleted. When distinguishing noise answers from wrong answers is difficult, remember that the moderator may be unfamiliar with the work being discussed: give us enough information to confirm that this is indeed a noise answer.

I know your flags were VLQ and not NaA. We can't dismiss flags separately, we have to pick a reason that applies to all the flags. So the VLQ flags got caught up with the NaA flags. VLQ is a difficult flag to handle anyway: what's a moderator supposed to do about that? There's been talk of doing away with VLQ flags on the main Meta, it has neither been done nor declined as far as I remember. So please avoid VLQ¹ and instead use a custom flag reason to indicate what you want moderators to do with the post and why.

Declined flags aren't a slap on the face, they aren't even a slap on the wrist. They're the way a moderator can provide feedback on the flag to tell you that sorry, but we can't do what you asked us to do, or we disagree with this particular case. Don't sweat it. A declined flag is just that, there's no penalty attached.²

¹ On Stack Overflow, VLQ is useful because it's a canned flag, and canned flag are seen by users with 10k reputation and they can take action on the flagged post. With thousands of flags per day, having the community take care of as much of them as possible is important. On this site, moderators can handle all the flags anyway, so don't refrain from using custom reasons.
² If you have a lot of flags declined — and by a lot, I mean consistently more declined than helpful for a while, your flags may end up being ignored. You're likely to receive a moderator message first, asking you to use flags more carefully. This has never happened on this site so far, not even close.

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  • Something to add was that none of those declined flags were handled by we 3 mods. During the worst of the Futurama flood of '12, we had the emergency assistance of some non-scifi Stack Exchange people. So on top of the issues Gilles mentions in his answer, we had people unfamiliar with our particular community doing some quick moderation to help out. You're not going to get consistent behavior under these circumstances, to say the least. – user1027 Sep 1 '12 at 4:26
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    @Keen Actually, double-checking these particular flags, I'm the mod who declined them. IIRC what I did was to look at the flagged answers, look at the non-flagged answers, and I wasn't able to tell a marked difference of plausibility (so I was declining NaA because I didn't think I should be deleting these answers, I would have validated VLQ because these don't really call for action). All this under pressure as there were as many flags that day than we otherwise see in a year. – user56 Sep 1 '12 at 11:23
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    Thanks for the answer! I'm not surprised these were ignored/put to one side due to the deluge of flags. In the future I'll be more liberal with my 'other' flags. Though I don't quite get the difference between wrong and noise? Surely wrong answers are noise, and vice versa...? – AncientSwordRage Sep 1 '12 at 12:31
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    @Pureferret Answers that are factually wrong are stil useful as a warning of what not to do, so we don't delete them, we let them remain on the site, hopefully downvoted (in principle, that's how we know they're wrong). Deleting is for answers that should have been comments or edits or follow-up questions, that are completely unrelated (“I like turtles”) or “aren't even wrong” (the ravings of a diseased mind, when that mind is the answerer's and not the show writer's). – user56 Sep 1 '12 at 12:40
  • @Gilles Oh, I misread the poster's name as the mod who dealt with the flag. – user1027 Sep 1 '12 at 14:14
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    VLQ flags do have a desired action: they're saying the answer should be deleted outright, because they have no redeemable content - they can't be edited into shape, and they're not even worth being converted to comments. – Martha Sep 3 '12 at 15:28

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