15

I flagged this answer (now deleted, so I can't repost its whole text) as spam. I was later greeted by this message in my flagging history:

declined - a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it

Now, it looked to me like there was lots of evidence. The post was just a link to a software download page, and the only context given was that the software is allegedly the best. I had literally never heard of that software before, and the poster offered no guidance as to how to use it to accomplish the task. The link wasn't even formatted correctly, so it looked to me like the user didn't care about helping, just about mentioning the product. The user has only 1 rep, so it's not like they were around a while and well-meaning.

Clearly, the answer was low-quality, and bad enough to merit deletion (I think through the LQP queue). If flagging as spam was wrong, what should I have done with the post?

16

For the interested, the entire body of the answer:

Below is the best free download for full system information. http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html

I have to agree that the post was low quality and did in fact deserve deletion, but the problem is that using the spam flag has some very harsh effects which could in the case of an honest (but low quality) recommendation be a bit over the top.

Spam flags train the spam filter and so may affect the users ability to post in future.

Amongst other effects:

  • 3 flags on a question (spam or offensive): question is banished from the front page and all question lists except search results.
  • 6 flags (spam or offensive): post is locked, deleted, and the first revision owner loses 100 reputation.
  • Each flag carries an implicit downvote for calculating the post's score (it does not affect the caster's reputation).

Additionally we have the low quality block mechanism which may or may not also be fed by a spam flag. I say possibly because the exact workings are known only to the SE team and we can only guess how the block works.

So you can see that we would prefer that honest posters do not get treated unduly harshly, as they could if the spam flag were considered valid. A single valid spam flag against a user who had only just gained the association bonus through another site would effectively wipe out all their reputation on our site.

As a result you may see an occasional spam flag declined, but the answer deleted anyway. This would generally be why.

In this case I do remember having a quick look at the user but I do not believe I was the one who handled the flag. From what I saw there was no real evidence of us getting a lot of spam from Belarc and the user seemed, at a glance, to be genuine. I didn't have time to investigate further and in the mean-time another mod handled the flag.

"Very low quality" does fit here but I have my own dislike of the phrase as what constitutes very low quality is somewhat subjective.

This is a link-only answer though, which is strongly discouraged and in my opinion completely delete-worthy. Generally a custom flag with "link only answer" may well see it gone.

  • 1
    I'm the moderator who handled it - and I can't really add much to this answer. And yes the flag was rejected primarily so as not to feed noise to the spam filters – Journeyman Geek Feb 20 '16 at 1:27
  • @JourneymanGeek That makes sense. If there was a way to mark a flag helpful without actually doing what it calls for, would this kind of situation be a good time to use it? – Ben N Feb 20 '16 at 4:26
  • In theory. Spam flags however are a nuclear option - and I don't see a clear intent to spam. Linking to a product dosen't always mean its spam – Journeyman Geek Feb 20 '16 at 4:31
  • 2
    Very informative! I didn't understand the consequences of the spam flag until this meta post. How should a new reviewer learn about this? Maybe adding a "(use with caution)" warning to the flag text might be instructive? – agtoever Feb 20 '16 at 7:35
  • @JourneymanGeek Can self promotion (in general) be considered spam? – Hastur Feb 20 '16 at 8:00
  • @mokubai "strongly discouraged" not forbidden... is it not better the link than nothing? We should comment with the invitation to complete or complete by ourself (or we can post the same link with the explanation as another answer after a netiquette time of ...xx days). Am I so far from what we can really do in practice? – Hastur Feb 20 '16 at 8:04
  • Quite often yes. But not always. Don't forget, while enough flags marking a post as spam results in an auto deletion, if there's any reasonable doubt, a moderator will probably look at it. If there is proper disclosure and the main purpose of the user posting here is not spamming and it is on topic and it is a quality answer, I see nothing wrong with it. It is not that simple. The best way IMO to deal with a link only answer is to comment, optionally downvote, and to *post a proper answer. – Journeyman Geek Feb 20 '16 at 8:26
  • @Hastur In some cases maybe. If all the link says is essentially "Come to my blog for the answer" then no, it's not really any use to anyone but the blogger and it would be better for someone to post a real answer here and delete the blog spam. The other side of the coin of "This hotfix/patch/incantation fixes it" then it possibly might be worth keeping, but it would be good to state why it will fix it. If the only thing you are achieving is to push people away from this site and to some other site then you've possibly missed the point which is to grow this awesome community. – Mokubai Feb 20 '16 at 22:44
  • @JourneymanGeek and Mokubai Thx for your time and the answers. – Hastur Feb 21 '16 at 13:09
5

I took a closer look at the deleted answer and it doesn't really appear to be spam.

Belarc Advisor, the utility linked in the answer, is in fact a legitimate program. The post was nonetheless deleted for low quality because it contained no meaningful content beyond the link to download the software; however, a mere link is not sufficient for a post to constitute spam.

In the future, the best thing to do is probably to downvote answers like this. If it warrants deletion, flag as "very low quality" or use a custom moderator flag explaining the issue (but note that I've gotten inconsistent results with such flags).

  • 1
    Upvoting to show favor of this review: "Belarc Advisor... is in fact... legitimate". I've been exposed to it in a college course; actually I think multiple times (multiple courses). Now that I've learned more, I'm not sure how much info it provides that isn't also available via WMIC (WMI), but the software's user interface is clearly easier for the inexperienced, and the software clearly has its admirers. So, I'm not making any statement on whether the software is worthwhile, but I am defending it as definitely belonging to the category of legitimate software that some people do like. – TOOGAM Feb 28 '16 at 16:12

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