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Recently, the Very Low Quality (VLQ) flag underwent a major change. It is now no longer available on answers older than 7 days, as described here.

There are many answers much more than a week old that could be considered very low quality. For example, this one is a one-line, completely unsupported fan theory. This one is similar. Of course, my assessment of these specific answers may be incorrect, but the basic problem remains.

How do we bring VLQ answers that have slipped through the cracks to the attention of those who can do something about them, now that we no longer have the flag for them?

  • Should we flag as Not An Answer? Presumably this is a bad idea if the answer attempts to answer the question.
  • Should we not flag at all, and post in chat? This could be bothersome to people who want to use chat without being interrupted several times an hour.
  • Should we use custom moderator flags? This could bother moderators.
  • Should we just ignore them? They probably are not doing much harm if they are that old.

What is the correct course of action now?

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    "This could be bothersome to people who want to use chat without being interrupted several times an hour." - Contrary to what it may seem like, discussing the site and supporting its maintenance is one of the primary functions of a site's main chatroom. Serious site issues will thus always have precedence over animated GIFs. – TARS says Reinstate Monica Jul 7 '16 at 17:45
  • Could we get a dev to tweak how VLQ flags work here? – AncientSwordRage Jul 7 '16 at 19:52
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    @AncientSwordRage Or on the entire network with the exception of SO, perhaps :-/ – Rand al'Thor Jul 7 '16 at 19:54
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  • Should we flag as Not An Answer? Presumably this is a bad idea if the answer attempts to answer the question.

    Indeed: NaA flags should be reserved for actual non-answers. (For more information, see Your answer is in another castle: when is an answer not an answer? on main meta. It has an explanatory picture at the end which is elaborated upon in this meta.SO post. Both of these meta posts are probably worth a read.)

  • Should we use custom moderator flags? This could bother moderators.

    Bothering us isn't a problem in itself - after all, part of a moderator's job is to get 'bothered' by flags about posts that need moderator intervention :-) However, note those last four words: "that need moderator intervention". One of the flag-decline reasons says:

    flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention

    We don't often mod-delete answers unless they're either clearly non-answers (not even attempting to answer the question) or objectively extremely bad (e.g. spam, offensive, nonsense, rants). So while we'll be happy to delete any awful old crap that's fallen through the net and hasn't yet been noticed and deleted, please don't start flagging every wrong or poorly written old answer, because being wrong or poorly written are reasons to downvote or edit, not to delete.

This site has plenty of users with >20k rep, three of whom are sufficient to delete any negatively scored answer. Which brings us on to the last two of your possibilities:

  • Should we not flag at all, and post in chat? This could be bothersome to people who want to use chat without being interrupted several times an hour.

    As long as you aren't flooding chat with such posts, this should be fine. I often post in chat about some site-upkeep issue: "should this question be closed/reopened", "are these questions duplicates", "should this answer be deleted", and so on. It's a way of informally engaging the community in discussion without going to the trouble of writing up a meta post.

    Bear in mind, though, that when you post in chat you're only addressing a small subset of the site's users. To attract a wider audience, you could post on meta, but that seems like massive overkill to get deletions for a bunch of old answers that have probably been downvoted already. Which brings me to your final point:

  • Should we just ignore them? They probably are not doing much harm if they are that old.

    Indeed. It is nice to get rid of old crap, and do go ahead and try to do so if it's convenient, but don't put too much effort into it. If an answer's been around for months or years, there's probably no pressing urgency to delete it; you might be barking up the wrong tree in your (very welcome) efforts to improve the site, which might be better spent elsewhere.

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    Why not have a dedicated chat room for such posts? Then, post a LINK to that chat room to Mos once in a while and pin it? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 7 '16 at 15:19
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    @DVK-in-exile That sounds like a good idea. – Adamant Jul 7 '16 at 16:27
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    @DVK I actually thought about that and decided not to suggest it in this answer. My point about only a small subset of the site's userbase hanging out in chat becomes even stronger when we're talking about a small offshoot chatroom rather than the main room for the site. Imagine we did set up such a chatroom, and only three 20k+ users ever went there; we'd have the same three people deleting loads of answers, which isn't ideal. People have been known to accuse Mos of being cliqueish - imagine how much more of that there'd be with a small dedicated room for deleting stuff! – Rand al'Thor Jul 7 '16 at 19:29
  • @Randal'Thor - Interestingly, that's precisely the route that Movies:SE have gone down. Even more interestingly, it seems that the community have completely blanked the room. – Valorum Jul 7 '16 at 23:35
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In the course of analysing flags, we've discovered that "Very-Low Quality" means wildly different things to different people. The flag is intended for unsalvagable posts such as:

woop woop woop woop woop woop woop woop woop!

For reference (since they are deleted), the answers called out in the question are:

I think when hermione cast the spell on her parents (obliviate) her memory of her parents had been taken from her so if she lives she won't remember her parents so she won't have to live though the pain of knowing her parents will never remember her

and:

Elves are neither good nor bad. They play by their own rules.

These are garden-variety unsupported answers. If anybody cared, both answers could theoretically be fixed with some additional evidence and arguments. (Additionally, the first has grammar issues.) Assuming you don't want to edit, the best course of action is to downvote. That sends a clear signal to both the reader and the author of the answer that something is lacking.

Both answers also got comments suggesting that the author find some evidence to support their theories. Commenting is commendable when an answer can be fixed. Most people won't bother if the answers are just junk. Truly low-quality posts rarely make it a week on Stack Exchange sites*, which is the primary reason the VLQ flag has been restricted to new posts.

Finally, both examples provided were subjected to previous reviews. One passed the low-quality queue and the other passed the first post and late answer queues. More indicative of very-low quality posts would be a near unanimous consensus that they are irredeemable.


The two examples given aren't examples of VLQ posts. But for the sake of argument (and to be able to answer the question), suppose they were. If you do run across a post that truly stinks and nothing has been done about it for 7 days or more, any one of the proposed actions seems reasonable. None of them work quite in the way the VLQ flag does, but the difference in terms of the end result (what readers see) should be minimal. Either the answer is deleted or has a low score.


* The example I gave lasted 22 minutes.

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    Should something like "woop woop woop" not be flagged as NAA? – Adamant Jul 7 '16 at 23:07
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    @Obie2.0: Sure. In fact, it got 2 flags: a NAA and a VLQ (auto). Very low quality posts tend to have many problems. Happy [posts] are all alike; every unhappy [post] is unhappy in its own way. – Jon Ericson Jul 7 '16 at 23:16
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    If a one-sentence description of elves is not considered VLQ, I guess I just cannot think of something that is VLQ that is not also NAA. – Adamant Jul 7 '16 at 23:18
  • It seems like the way VLQ flags are used (even as indicated by mod feedback) does include answers like the first one. – Adamant Jul 7 '16 at 23:23
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    Thanks for taking the time to clarify some of the reasoning behind the recent change! But on all of the three sites where I've been most active (SFF, ELU, and Puzzling - especially the latter two), answers are routinely deleted simply for lacking sufficient explanation, and people tend to flag such answers as VLQ and have their flags marked helpful. Not sure how much that really affects anything though ... your point that "Truly low-quality posts rarely make it a week on Stack Exchange sites" still holds on these sites. – Rand al'Thor Jul 9 '16 at 0:44
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    @Randal'Thor: answers are routinely deleted simply for lacking sufficient explanation – If the community ruled that answers must contain a certain amount of back-up, answers lacking it are not answers in the sense of that community, so NAA makes sense. – Wrzlprmft Jul 10 '16 at 9:45
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As with most unilateral actions from SE, this one seems to have taken the community a little by surprise.

Parsing out Shog's advice gives you three options;

  • Editing to fix the problems or simply downvoting will suffice.

  • Their greatest flaws tend to be in not actually answering the question, for which there exists another flag

  • A flag doesn't really help much. A downvote will speed things along a bit though.

If it's really bad (and has somehow managed to slip under the radar for more than 7 days) then I favour option #4 - Flag it with the "Other" and just type "Low quality" as your custom reason

  • Re your last paragraph: flagging with "other" will bring the post to the attention of the moderators only, whereas flagging as VLQ/NAA sends the post into the Low Quality Posts review queue for all >2k-rep users to review. (As a former mod, I'm sure you know this; I'm just leaving this comment for the benefit of those who don't.) – Rand al'Thor Jul 7 '16 at 10:59
  • @randal'thor - I trust our mods to act appropriately when they see a low quality post, presumably by doing at least one of the things listed above. – Valorum Jul 7 '16 at 11:23

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