If the following feature request is approved, the discussion here might become irrelevant.
Proposed improvement to flagging, for answers

I sometimes see answers that definitely fall under "low quality" or at least "too short to be an answer" category. They've been outright deleted, but in some way they do answer the question.

Here are some recent examples (the deleted answers in the blockquotes below). Sorry Diago ♦ for picking these out, but I only remember those recent examples – nothing personal! Keep up the moderation work!

These aren't the best answers, but in some way they are helpful. If these are deleted, this gives the wrong impression to new users. They want to help, but their content is deleted right away. This can lead to frustration, and even posting again. Example:

<rant> I originally posted the following answer, but a moderator deleted it, probably because it contains nothing more than a link. In my opinion, it answers the question perfectly and succinctly and I'm more than a little annoyed that my genuine attempt to help was just thrown in the trash! </rant>

So, please, if the answer is a genuine attempt to be helpful, but not enough to be an actual answer, don't delete it right away, but at least make it a comment instead.

I'm all for keeping high quality content, but I think we can all agree that a somewhat helpful comment and a happy new user is better than just deleting their (small) efforts. In any way, a small moderation message like "Your answer is too short, please expand" or "Please explain how this answers the question", etc. would be nice to have.


3 Answers 3


One might also ask, should we be deleting these at all? If it answers the question, it should be an answer. It might be a crappy answer, in which case it should be edited, but if it provides useful information, perhaps it shouldn't be deleted in the first place. One of Jeff's mantras is "answers first". Sometimes that's taken to extremes (I personally think it should be easier for new users to comment, but that's a different issue), but in this case, an answer with useful info is still an answer.

It gets more complicated than that with moderation though. We get a lot of flags. We also get a lot of answers which aren't particularly good and which we might not personally have the time to improve and bring glory to these posts. Sometimes, we have to delete content even if it might be helpful, because it's cluttering things up, is too low-quality to be salvageable, etc.

As a user (and a flagger), you can help: if the answer is bad but has useful information, don't flag it! Anybody can edit or suggest an edit on an answer. Fluff it up a bit - include some more details from the link, try to find a screenshot to add, etc. If it's useful enough that you don't think it should be deleted entirely, then it's probably useful enough to keep as an answer, it might just need some help.

In short, there's no point in wasting moderators' time with a flag when the community can handle improving the question. If you really think it ought to be a comment, say so. All of us mods delete things sometimes which people might find handy, but we also delete a lot of stuff which is just bad. The false positive rate tends to be pretty low, and you can help reduce it by not flagging things if they really shouldn't be deleted.

  • So all of the examples were acted on due to flags?
    – slhck
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 6:41
  • @slhck yes, though in this case some of them were automatic flags from Community. I tend to take those ones a little less harshly (leave a comment and do some editing rather than delete away), but sometimes if there's a lot of flags or you're in a hurry, deleting makes sense.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 15:35

Please note that in two of the three examples you gave, a moderator is not necessarily necessary.

  • Links are easily expanded into a summary in the post.

    This is an edit like no others, it involves a simple copy/paste and some slight formatting corrections.

  • Comments can be left so that a moderator doesn't have to do that.

    This can easily done with Pro Forma Comments which comes with the following message:

    Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference.


    This is really a comment, not an answer. With a bit more rep, you will be able to post comments. For the moment I've added the comment for you, and I'm flagging this post for deletion.

    With this last one, you copy the content and add Comment from [username]: in front.

    You can also easily add a pro forma comment asking for further elaboration on a post.

In other words, improve the quality of valuable content and help valuable users.

Quality > Quantity.

  • That last one is unnecessary. Is it that much more difficult to convert to comment, keeping user name association, than to delete the post?
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 6:32
  • @ArneStenström: Yes. Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 13:54

Please note that this answer is aimed at any moderator.

Please just keep in mind that we only act on posts that are flagged not an answer by the community. If they want it as a comment, then indicate as such :)

When we click flag button and read the description of not an answer, we see:

This was posted as an answer, but it does not answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether.

So, people click not an answer in the case that they want it to be a comment.

The problem is we convert it to a comment and someone tells them to make it the answer so they can accept it, and the circle just starts again. Why can't we just not have high quality posts from the beginning?

Agreed. I think the answer should instead be flagged with low quality by our users rather than with not an answer in those cases, which means that you can safely say the flag is invalid. Just leave a comment asking to include a summary on such low quality posts, it doesn't make sense to turn it into a comment or to even delete it. An answer is an answer, even when the only effort that has been done was on Google. This is where a General Reference close reason would work well, but it does not exist yet...

Also keep in mind, when the answer is too short, the system displays a message telling the poster that his answer might not be accepted because it doesn't meet the minimum criteria. If they read it and skip it outright, and it gets flagged, is it really our job to make it a comment?

Agreed, although the job becomes simple with Pro Forma Comments.

I will admit there are exceptions to this, but 95% of the time it turns out to be spam or drive by posters.

No comment as I'm not in statistics. I think this depends on what type of posts you are looking at, I have a feeling that the 5% is higher as there are probably some low reputation regulars that might also make posts similar to the one @slhck quoted, perhaps of a bit better quality but still a bad quality overall.

The community can handle these with there editing abilities before it even comes to the moderator's attention.

Agreed, if what I said about flagging with low quality is done (or a comment is left), users that use the /review section could help by including the summary of the link into the post. It's usually just a copy / paste where the only thing left to do is a bit of formatting, which is very similar to usual edits.

We are sometimes extremely hard on moderating the site, due to past issues which we do not want to rehash.

Agreed, don't feed the helper vampires; although you can't expect new users to know most things...

Of course, it takes a lot of time, so perhaps we might look into a solution where moderators have delete reasons which automatically leaves a comment to the user. Similar to Pro Forma Comments, but then available to all moderators by default...

  • 2
    If you're wondering where the quotes come from: Tom is quoting a diamond moderator from a post that was deleted.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 6:36

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