Note: This is a follow-up on Is “Y” really a valid answer to “I want X, and tried to do Y, but it doesn't work”? — because I don't think this is sufficiently answered, or at least doesn't seem too consistent in its approach. Also, we can't add bounties here.
Furthermore, I asked this on Ask a SU mod, but haven't received a response so far.

Case #1:

I flagged this answer:

Also, […] there is easy alternative of using dropbox or box.net. You can sigup and download sync software (free) and use it as a remote folder. […].

My flag included the custom message:

Doesn't answer the question, the OP has specifically excluded Dropbox and similar services.

If we look at the question, it says:

I can't use Dropbox or similar clouds tools because of their license.

Yet, my flag was declined:

So, here's what irks me:

  • The question is: How can I do X? I can't ever use Y. The answer is Use Y. How does it answer the question? It doesn't.

  • The decline reason states "technical inaccuracies". That's not the point. The answer is technically accurate. It'll probably work fine. If there were a technical problem, I would have added a comment.

  • It also talks about an "altogether wrong answer". That's also not the case. The answer didn't include any wrong statement or misinformation.

  • Even more so, the How to Answer page specifically says:

    Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that […]

  • There's no way to post this answer rendering the OP's limitation invalid. They can't use Dropbox because of the license. Period.

  • studiohack♦ said:

    As for further misunderstanding, perhaps say something like OP already said that this answer doesn't work for him or something like that.

    … which I more or less did. The OP dismissed such an answer before.

So, what is the rule on these posts? Should these kinds of answers be left as they are? Or was this declined flag just a mistake?

I think we should at least be consistent with that. Note that I'm not crying about one declined flag, it's just that I feel there's no clear rule on these posts, given that it has happened before.

Case #2:

I flagged this answer:

Try adding […] unset MAILCHECK

… which was posted on a question that specifically said:

I have tried several methods […] including adding unset MAILCHECK

The flag was declined:

The post is technically accurate, but the OP had already dismissed that. The answer doesn't answer the question. It's not valid. Period.

  • 6
    The real issue here is that moderators apparently don't pay enough attention to custom flag descriptions. If it were simply not an answer, we'd flag it as such.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 18:44
  • 6
    The real issue here is that some moderators apparently don't always pay enough attention to custom flag descriptions.
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 13:59
  • PS: I fixed the misunderstanding, the answer won't mislead the OP ever again
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 22:51
  • Well, whether the issue is just a misread flag description or an actual policy saying otherwise, that's what I'm only interested in. Moderators are humans and make mistakes, it happens – I'm really not upset or anything ;) @Ivo
    – slhck
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 22:58
  • This has happened often too me too... Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 19:32
  • Well, I flagged again, now it was marked "helpful" but not deleted. This isn't really a solution either, I'd say.
    – slhck
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 20:15
  • 1
    Clearly, you haven't asked the right mod then :P
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 20:53
  • @IvoFlipse In the future, instead of flagging, I'll just nag you in chat, okay? ;)
    – slhck
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 20:53
  • 2
    No, I'd rather have them make you a mod so you can clean up your own little mess
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 20:55
  • @Ivo Yeah, we've been there. You know I'd be very devoted to this – if this is a concrete offer, count me in. I do hope though that by "little mess", you don't mean I'm doing stuff I shouldn't do?
    – slhck
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 21:18
  • 1
    No, I mean that I have to clean up your flags, even though you're perfectly capable of dealing with them yourself
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 22:00
  • I agree, in situations like these we should be deleting answers which suggest doing something that the asker already ruled out. I admit I've declined flags like this a few times before (chalk it up to being tired, I guess), and will make sure to evaluate them more closely in the future.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 18:38
  • @slhck we don't have the power to appoint other mods, but we do have the ability to request an election, which may happen before the end of the year. And if there were to be an election, I'm sure you'd be a top contender.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 18:39
  • @nhinkle Thanks for trying to look into these kinds of flags more closely. I just hope I don't have to dig up this thread again ;)
    – slhck
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 20:21
  • superuser.com/a/410857/22317 -- it looks like these are considered not an answer right now. Let's see how it continues.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


I propose that if a moderator is in doubt on how to deal with the flag, to either add a flag explaining to the other moderators why he's in doubt or simply 'ignore' it.

Then the next moderator that comes by can review the flag(s) and decide whether or not he agrees with his fellow moderator. That way, if your flag was 'ignored' than at least you can rest assure that multiple moderators thought it wasn't necessary for them to step in. Also note that we can see if other moderators have viewed the Question, so there often there's not a lot of ambiguity.

If after all this you still feel like moderator intervention is required, talk to us on chat or bring it up in a Meta discussion, where everybody can participate in it.

And just so you know, this is how we've always had to handle flags before we had chat or these fancy tools, so its just a little reminder that when in doubt: just do nothing.

  • Sounds like a viable solution. I just hope that by now there's some sort of awareness. I was a bit disappointed since I didn't get replies on chat (in both cases), and this question has been floating around for a month with you being the only mod ever responding (up until now).
    – slhck
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 20:06
  • I didn't respond the first time, because I wasn't one of the mods involved and think they are perfectly capable of speaking up for themselves. But if you took this much issue with it, perhaps you should have been more clear about it on chat :-)
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 20:08
  • Well, I was just waiting for any response, even a short "ACK, will look into it", I thought that was the purpose of the chat room ;) – but Meta is probably better to handle this publicly.
    – slhck
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 20:10
  • Chat's more convenient, but it's also easy to lose chat pings.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 20:27

Depends on how the off answer answers the question.

If they explain how what the question declares off limits is possible and how to go about it, it would be a valid answer to leave around.

If there isn't, it's a judgement call on if the noise of not reading the question will better fit as:

  • converted to a comment because it contains some shred of help or a link for more information
  • deleted

In all cases, the unsure moderator can look at the flagged post and mark it as seen by them, but leave it unattended. This implicitly states that they have seen it, but are unsure what to do about it and want another moderator to look at it. Explicitly pinging another moderator is optional.

If you bring something up in chat, it may be seen or slip through depending on how the moderators are around or taking a break.

Whether following up on a flag in the chat rooms or meta, it's public all the same for tracking.

  • > If they explain how what the question declares off limits is possible and how to go about it, it would be a valid answer to leave around — exactly. I wouldn't flag something that is somehow helpful, but if it just reiterates what's already been said, it should be deleted.
    – slhck
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 20:35

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