# Flagged a non-answer for deletion, flag denied. Was it too old, and if so, what is too old?

I recently came across a joke-answer in an older question, and I flagged it as not an answer. It's simply a link to a youtube video of someone blowing up a capacitor. Not what the user wanted to know.

When I was about to flag another, unrelated, answer, I saw that my previous flag had been denied, which surprised me. I can think of two reasons, one more likely than the other:

• The answer is posted by a high-rep user. I hope this is not the reason!
• The answer is three years old. This is more likely the reason.

I did some research and found this very similar meta-question: Answer flag declined because of the age of the answer, which has the following quote:

Part of the concern is to discourage going through old questions looking for trouble. When you go back 3-4 years, to the infancy of the site, you see a lot of behavior that would not be allowed now because people were unfamiliar with the format. Also, rules have changed over the years.

I agree with this in some cases - perhaps it's not constructive to edit old answers or questions, or delete old questions that are now off-topic. However, there is a benefit of having a consistent "answer base" because all questions and answers serve as examples on how we want the site to be, and I don't think that old answers should be immune to scrutiny. Heck, it's not even old! The answer I quoted above is from 2014. 3-4 years ago would have been 2010, which is ancient in comparison.

The last point is what I wanted to discuss or at least ask about. Questions from 2010 were obviously written in another life, if I may anthropomorphize stackexchange. Different rules, different topics. But 2013? I don't see much difference between the questions posted then and now. I would definitely hold posts from 2013 to the current standards. Am I wrong here? Have the rules changed too much since then?

Since I'm such a (relatively) new user I haven't reflected much on that, even though I've used StackExchange a lot as a passive seeker of knowledge. Since I've always admired the focus on straight answers and no fooling around, it is something that I would like to preserve now that I have an account.

• Yes, the answer is quite on the humorous side, but it isn't that wrong and not the worst suggestion. It states that the OP should get rid of them and suggests an unusual way. If you disagree with the answer, by all means downvote it, but it is an attempt to answer nevertheless. – PlasmaHH Aug 26 '16 at 11:24
• I think that answer is great, probably wouldn't fly by the moderating community filter today though, I think its best to let the voting system take care of the bad answers with voting, if they are really bad then people will delete them because of rep. IMO the flagging and moderation system is for damaging answers, bad links, spam or rude and abusive comments. I've seen answers that were marked length and content that may have been nonsensical, but that's not what the flagging and moderation system are for. The community should be left to decide what happens to answers. – Voltage Spike Aug 26 '16 at 22:18
• This is a no fun zone, sirs buznes – Passerby Aug 30 '16 at 0:57
• @Passerby lets go to fun zone @ 220V! electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/240567/… ZOT ZOT. Some people die every day because of lousy safety measures and misunderstanding safety regulations... ain't that funny? Let us all living laugh at those who are dead, because, duh RTFM LOL ORELS WUT ZOT DED KEK! – user20088 Sep 6 '16 at 17:59

Clearly the correct moderator course of action would be to accept the flag as "helpful" and ignore it (end sarcasm).

For reference, that post had been flagged as "Not an Answer" twice, even as early as October 2013. Two separate moderators have handled this flag, and the answer still remains. The poster in question has probably not been a "high rep user" for most of those flags, I really don't think the reputation plays a part in it at all.

I'm glad you found my previous answer on really old posts. In the beginning, the questions were literally from a different exchange (RIP Chiphacker). But keep in mind that moderation and moderation attitudes also change over time, so we still don't want everyone digging through the archives to find flags. I think the difference today is that I might say 3-7 years old now.

I understand your point, that this is not a real answer towards the question. I still just don't feel moved to delete it, even after 3 years, even after 3 flags. It can go if it needs to, but I'm not sure that the need is there.

• Sorry, but I don't agree on the fact that digging in the archive is something bad. Although stack exchange sites do have some differences in local policy, there are badges to incentive that kind of searching (Excavator, necromancer, etc.). Saying that digging into the archive to remove old cruft is against this site de-facto policy is going against the baseline policy of the entire SE network. – Lorenzo Donati -- Codidact.com Aug 29 '16 at 3:58
• Moreover, although such an "answer" is humorous, it is not an answer at all. I also posted slightly humorous answers, but I tried to make them answers nonetheless (explaining whys and hows). That post gives almost nothing to a casual reader. It should definitely be a comment. It is not, by all means, an high quality answer. Not because it is now off-topic, but because of its lack of explicit and clear information: it is a link plus some humorous comments, which BTW are more meta-comments, because they tell nothing about EE design. – Lorenzo Donati -- Codidact.com Aug 29 '16 at 4:03
• I've seen answers with better effort deemed off-topic and closed. Although I agree that policy has changed, answers should still be answers, not a bunch of comment-like link-only answers. Change in "on-topicness" is ok, but not change in what are basic requirements on what is an acceptable quality answer. – Lorenzo Donati -- Codidact.com Aug 29 '16 at 4:05
• @LorenzoDonati The specific behavior that I don't want to encourage is users digging through old posts with the primary intent of finding things to flag. The badges are specifically designed to reward improvement of old posts, either by adding a new good answer on an old post (Revivalist/Necromancer), or editing an old post (Excavator/Archaeologist). No other badges have a "find an old post and do X" mandate. – W5VO Aug 29 '16 at 5:00
• @LorenzoDonati Also, you haven't seen any answers closed, simply because they can't be closed, only deleted. I realize this may be a pedantic/language issue, but I really prefer to be precise with these terms to be unambiguous. My (as a moderator) options are basically to 1. Leave it alone, 2. Delete it, or 3. Delete it and convert it into a comment somewhere. – W5VO Aug 29 '16 at 5:08
• I understand that a user whose only purpose is digging out things to flag can be obnoxious to mods, and I recognize the difficult job you all are up to. Nonetheless, how could you distinguish between a flag on an old question by a user who stumbled upon it and one by user who actively searched for it? Anyway, if a post deserves to be flagged it is insubstantial whether or not the user is a "serial flagger" or not, as long as the flags are not abused. – Lorenzo Donati -- Codidact.com Aug 29 '16 at 14:55
• Moreover there are also two badges that encourages flagging: deputy/marshal. Although they are not meant specifically for old posts, they are there to encourage housekeeping by community. And probably (I should recheck old meta.SO now meta.SE posts, so I'm not sure) they were just meant to encourage people to dig old cruft out: after all, something new which needs to be flagged is easy to spot, so encouraging people to dig in the past for bad posts could be well the rationale behind those two badges. – Lorenzo Donati -- Codidact.com Aug 29 '16 at 14:58
• In the end, if we follow the rationale that leaving old bad posts there is ok, just because the community was a bit "relaxed" when the site was young, we are going against the philosophy of all the SE network: we are going toward the "general forum" attitude. I think a mod could warn the OP of that answer and if he really cares about the post, he should spend a couple of minutes to improve it: just to add the minimum of info to make the answer stand on its own (and leave the humour as it is). If he doesn't care, just delete it and turn it into a comment. – Lorenzo Donati -- Codidact.com Aug 29 '16 at 15:04
• I think that "we can't be bothered to moderate old posts even if they are crap" is a weird policy stance. The old posts are published on the internet, so the site is responsible for them. If nobody wants to moderate them, they should be deleted or moved to some archive that you cannot easily find through Google etc. Like anything else printed, E.E must have a publisher who is ultimately responsible for the quality of the site. Also, the reason why Stack Exchange sites "rank" high in search engines is because the contents is usually of relatively high quality compared to other sites. – Lundin Sep 5 '16 at 11:39
• Btw is there no such thing as "low quality review" on E.E? I don't see how these kind of trivial flags need to be brought to diamond mod attention to begin with. – Lundin Sep 5 '16 at 11:43
• FWIW: electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/11234/… ... I'd say we have a slight "mod bias" on this matter chuckles – user20088 Sep 6 '16 at 17:54
• @vaxquis Nah, that's a bad question with a good answer. Here is a good question with a bad answer: electronics.stackexchange.com/a/8696/638 – W5VO Sep 6 '16 at 18:05

For the sake of discussion, it may be helpful to look at Stack Overflow, as that is the oldest site in the network with the most users by far. The policy on SO is roughly: crap is crap, no matter when it was posted. Had you raised a similar flag on SO, the post would have been deleted quickly.

They can make exceptions for highly up-voted or popular posts, or posts generating lots of traffic. SO then has a mechanism called "historical lock", which can only be set by diamond mods. Basically it means that they recognize that the post is poor by today's standards, but they want to preserve it anyway. A post with "historical lock" can not be voted on or edited in anyway.

The same mechanism should be possible to use on EE.

As for this specific case, I see no reason why that answer shouldn't be deleted. Moderation rules need to be consistent for the sake of users and moderators both.

• I agree it should be deleted, while at a stretch you could say it answers the question title alone it clearly doesn't answer the question content at all. An historical lock wouldn't be good however, the question itself is fine and I noticed I've upvoted the question and another answer and there's no reason that someone else shouldn't be able to add another answer. – PeterJ Sep 5 '16 at 14:01