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Lately I've been seeing a lot of "not an answer" flags on things that are answers, just not good ones. Most recent example:

How to search for a component?

The "not an answer" flag says:

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

I don't think answers should be flagged and deleted just because the answerer missed the point or is wrong, but that's exactly what's happening. Suggest improvements in comments, sure. Downvote if it's really bad. But if you say someone's answer "does not attempt to answer the question", when in fact the author did attempt to answer the question (but missed the mark), that's really rude and discouraging.

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I agree that the "not a answer" flag is for cases where someone wasn't even trying to answer the question. This is usually when someone new thinks this Q&A site is a discussion forum, tries to ask a new question, or writes a "me too" type answer.

In cases where someone is just being stupid, downvote it to oblivion. Not only does that push the answer to the bottom of the list and warn others of its low quality, but allows those with enough rep to vote to delete if they feel the answer is just noise or the site would be better off without it.

Worrying about whether or not downvoting or deleting might be discouraging or perceived as rude by the author is not our business and would be counter-productive. Our job is to keep the site clean, mark good and bad content accordingly, and to delete bad content in some cases. If you don't want your answers downvoted and deleted, don't write bad answers. If someone writes a mix of good and bad answers, they shouldn't get discouraged or insulted because they see that good answers get rewarded. If someone consistantly writes bad answers, then discouraging them from writing more crap is a good thing. Whether they simply leave and go bother some other site or run home crying to momma is not something we should be worrying about or considering when deciding if something is good or bad. If you can't stand being judged, you don't belong here (and most everywhere else in the real world) until you grow up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's also the "very low quality flag", which is probably more appropriate when a downvote just isn't quite enough. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Frost Jan 15 '14 at 18:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilFrost when an answer answers the question, but you can't do nor head or tails of what is trying to express, and editing wouldn't improve the situation, you use that flag ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Braiam Jan 19 '14 at 17:28
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Flags, close votes and downvotes can all be applied unfairly. There are "checks and balances" in the system to reduce this.

A minimum reputation is required to close vote; it takes more than one close vote to close; and questions can be reopened.

Patterns of serial downvoting are detected by the system and reversed and failing that, behaviors can be reported and investigated by admins and possibly acted upon.

In the case of flags, you can directly express your disagreement, if you have moderator privileges (10K reputation or more).

Sometimes a little yellow number appears in the main bar, denoting flagged items needing moderator attention. Next to items there is a button [Flag or Disagree].

The choices there are:

I am flagging this answer because

  • it is spam: This answer is effectively an advertisement with no disclosure. It is not useful or relevant, but promotional.

  • it is offensive, abusive, or hate speech: This answer contains content that a reasonable person would deem inappropriate for respectful discourse.

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

  • it has invalid flags: I do not agree with the existing flags on this answer, they are incorrect and should be ignored.

  • it is very low quality: This answer has severe formatting or content problems. This answer is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed.

  • other (needs ♦ moderator attention): This answer needs a moderator's attention. Please describe exactly what's wrong.

The "invalid flags" choice seems to be designed exactly out of concern for the same thing that you've identified.

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