I recently stumbled on this question and among the answers I found this one from an high rep user AND a moderator.

Although there is nothing wrong in the content of the "answer", it is clearly not an answer according to our standards, but just a comment.

It simply states:

It takes a lot of technology to make that possible. A grid-tied inverter is significantly more complex than an off-grid inverter.

Hep! That first sentence could be used as a reply to more than half the questions posted on EE.SE! And the second sentence barely dismiss the question as "too difficult to explain", without even attempting at answering the actual question, which is about how a grid-tied inverter is able to do so.

The fact that the question was answerable in a highly professional way is demonstrated by the very good answers that have been posted in that thread, so I hope there is no one arguing the "answer" I flagged was the only meaningful way to answer the OP.

Therefore I flagged the post accordingly as "not an answer" and then, to my utmost surprise I got this notice on my flag summary page (yellow emphasis mine):

enter image description here

I really think the mod reviewing the flag has done a mistake. How on earth could that "answer" be considered otherwise than an insightful comment?

Otherwise I could be well go hunting for random questions and posting a canned answer on the following lines:

It takes a lot of technology to make that possible. A [thingy named X cited in the question] is significantly more complex than an [thingy named Y somewhat related to X].

and see how many rep points I can reap, just for fun!


Since an answer and relative comments made me think that maybe I wasn't completely clear, I'll try to reformulate my objections:

  1. The original question was comprehensible, on-topic and answerable in our format.

  2. Any answer posted on any SE site must

    a. attempt to answer the question

    b. stand on its own feet (no link-only answers, cryptic statement with no explanations, etc.)

    c. provide information to the community, regardless of whether the user asking the question understands it or not

  3. The above conditions in point 2 are to be met by an answer, regardless of the quality of the question. A bad question doesn't make a bad answer good!

Even if the question was poor or had problems, this doesn't authorize a user to post low-quality answers. The problem I see with the answer I pointed out is exacerbated by the fact that it was posted by high-rep user which is also a moderator, who should know the rules and help enforce them.

Note: I'm not particularly upset because that answer was posted. People (mods included) can do mistakes.

On the other hand, I'm almost pissed-off by the flag rejection. Whoever handled that flag completely ignored the SE guidelines on what constitutes an answer. And this is still worse given that our site is notorious for having a harsher moderation policy.

Moreover, that answer will give other users a really bad example. They could point to that and justify any silly answer they could give with "See. A mod did it, so it's good practice!".


It has been brought to my attention by a comment by user Ilmari Karonen (posted on the meta-answer of user Pipe) that the title of the question was changed after the answer we are discussing about was posted.

I did notice the question was edited, but I didn't notice the editing involved its title. That's a reminder to myself to check the editing log more thoroughly! My bad!

With the question's original title that answer was more justifiable, even if not great, since the question was really more blurry.

I still stand by my opinion regarding the objections raised by other meta-answers: if originally the title were really what appears now, that answer would amount as "not attempting at an answer", IMO.

Anyway, the point is now moot since the poster deleted his answer (kudos to Dave Tweed for recognizing it turned out not be an acceptable post, even if it marginally was when it was posted).

If Ilmari Karonen reposted his comment as an answer, I'd accept that.


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    \$\begingroup\$ "The original question was comprehensible, on-topic and answerable in our format" That's debatable. Looks a rather broad question not necessarily suitable for this site. I'm not sure why it has been closed as unclear though, probably should have been "too broad" if anything. I wouldn't have closed it at all, because there's a good answer by Harper worth preserving. (Closed posts won't get deleted if they are up-voted or have accepted answers though) \$\endgroup\$
    – Lundin
    Sep 2, 2019 at 10:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, it is completely irrelevant if the answer was posted by a mod or high rep user. Reviewers won't even see who posted it and you can't review your own posts. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lundin
    Sep 2, 2019 at 10:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ If anything, I'm all in for a higher quality standard for answers. You can literally answer half of the questions with such canned answers on some sites (try "Your job sucks, quit it" on Workplace, "Just say NO" on Interpersonal or "Never threaten to sue, either do it or don't" on Law), and if you do that on HNQ questions, you'll get a net rep gain. However, flagging bad answers as NAA will not achieve anything except rejected flags. Those are reviewed formally and used to weed out spam and the like, not keep answers to a standard. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 3, 2019 at 7:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DmitryGrigoryev I think the root of the problem is what's considered on-topic though. The current policy electronics.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic could do with an update. We could do without (questions from) hobbyists and amateurs fiddling around with VAC for example, the DIY site is more suitable for such. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lundin
    Sep 3, 2019 at 8:19

3 Answers 3


The question, as originally asked, was clearly based on a fundamental misconception. (The original question title was "Why is adding AC power is easier than adding DC power?") The answer you refer to corrects that misconception, and is thus a valid answer to the question as originally asked. In fact, it's arguably the only answer the original question needed — the other answers just went off on various tangents.

However, after that and several other answers were posted, the question title was edited (by a person other than the OP) into something quite different (and more in line with the assumed question the currently top-voted answers are answering). As a side effect, any earlier answers that didn't go off on tangents about the internals of grid-tie inverters were seemingly invalidated by the edit, at least if you're mainly focusing on the title. (The question body does still include some evidence the OP's original misunderstanding, if you read all of it.)

The legitimacy of editing questions in ways that invalidate existing answers can be and has been debated in various places. My personal opinion is that it's situational, and that one needs to always consider whether the advantages (get a better question, hopefully invite better and more focused answers, possibly avoid the question getting closed) outweigh the disadvantages (put words in the OP's mouth and possibly piss them off, screw over folks who spent time answering the original question in good faith, maybe end up with answers that the OP doesn't want, need or understand). In any case, it's already been done here, and at least so far nobody's reverted it.

In the mean time, it looks like the question has since then been closed as unclear, the OP has accepted an answer that sort of answers both their original question and the edited version, the author of the top-voted competing answer is about to get a gold badge, and the answer you flagged has now been deleted by its author. In short, it's all a big mess. Whether it's a bigger mess than if the question had not been edited is anyone's guess. Anyway, maybe someone will edit the question further and get it reopened, or maybe this is how it will stay. Who knows?


Bad answers are still answers. Not an answer flags are used for things that don't even attempt to answer the question (and thats obviously subjective), as in asking another question, an attempt to get op to provide more info, thanks, "does anyone else have an answer to this" etc. How do I properly use the "Not an Answer" flag?

That answer wouldn't even qualify for the low quality flag.

The mechanism for that type of answer is voting. Downvote and move on.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, but I don't agree. In the answers in the thread you linked to there are some "don't use this flag for this and that". In the most upvoted answer the "don't use it" cites 3 reasons: partial answer, makes an attempt, subtle problem. I argue that the answer we are talking about doesn't fall in none of those three categories. 1. it is not a "partial" answer because it doesn't address the "how" in the title; 2. for the same reason it doesn't even attempt an answer; 3.it is not subtle, it is just plainly dismissive: it takes a rhetorical portion of the question and answers with "nope!". \$\endgroup\$ Aug 31, 2019 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Where is the attempt? Where is the subtlety of a corner case? As I said in my meta-question, that answer is so generic and void of all information that can be easily used to answer gazillions questions on this site with little changes. And even if I did use the wrong flag, of which I'm not convinced though, whoever reviewed the flag should have done at least something about that. The answer has been getting upvotes instead of downvotes so the mechanism for getting rid of bad content is not working here. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 31, 2019 at 18:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ You don't agree because "not an answer" is subjective. People upvote it because they think it answers the question as posed by OPs writing, not just the title. The thing is that a flag by you is not a method of overriding everyone else's opinion on an answer. Even to me, it's a borderline quality answer, and that means voting is the mechanism to use. Besides that, that question has much better answers that are more highly upvoted so that one bad answer wouldn't even get noticed anymore except for you posting about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Passerby
    Aug 31, 2019 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't want to override anyone's opinion. The problem I see is, if that answer is legit, and the only mechanism to keep such "answers" under control is downvoting, what could stop a user to post canned answers as I explained in my meta-question? If that behavior is legit, why would a user refrain to do so (especially since that answer has a net positive score)? I say it again: the fact that a diamond mod did that sets a very bad example. In fact I'm quite tempted to do so and see how the "system/community" reacts: maybe I get downvoted to death, or maybe I get a boost to my rep (grin). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1, 2019 at 11:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LorenzoDonati This post here is the correct answer. Flagging for deletion should be used for posts that don't answer the question, are completely off-topic, or very low quality. Other than that, flagging shouldn't be used because an answer is bad - that's what down-voting is for. Sometimes the answer to a question is "no, it isn't possible". I agree that the post you flagged is a poor answer that probably would have been better off as a comment, but it does try to answer the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lundin
    Sep 2, 2019 at 10:49

You claim to quote the whole answer when you write "It simply states", but you left out the part that actually answered the question! Why did you do that? Would your message read differently if you kept it?

The crucial part of the question is:

…is it really that easy?

And the crucial part of the answer (which you did not quote) is:

No, it isn't really "that easy".

This is an answer to the question. Perhaps not the best answer, but that's what voting is supposed to sort out.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ What? Do you really think that is the crucial part of the question?!? That is clearly a rhetorical appendage! The real question is right there in the title! If the crucial part of the question were that, and the crucial part of the answer was that, the whole thread would be worthless! It would be like thousands threads in general electronic forums! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 29, 2019 at 21:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ And, BTW, if that were really the crucial part of the question, where are the technical justifications of such an answer? Where is the added value for the community? The whole answer, as you put it, just amounts to a "NOPE!". There is more factual information in a comment from @Alexander directly under the question. At least there is a link to some additional info! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 29, 2019 at 21:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LorenzoDonati If the question is in the title, then what's the rest of the text? I agree that the question is badly phrased and I'm VTC unclear so OP can elaborate what the problem actually is. OP even admits he doesn't understand the accepted answer, so the answer you have a problem with seem to be the one that has the least amount of confusing detail and answer the question in a way that matches OPs understanding of the subject. \$\endgroup\$
    – pipe
    Aug 30, 2019 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ "the least amount of confusing detail and answer the question in a way that matches OPs understanding of the subject." Sorry, but you are still missing my point. It is a fundamental principle of any stack exchange site that any answer is not given just for the sake of who asks the question; the answer should stand on its own feet and provide information for the community. The answer I'm concerned upon is an answer only in the linguistic meaning, but it doesn't attempt to answer the question posed.... \$\endgroup\$ Aug 31, 2019 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... It's completely irrelevant whether the original question is badly phrased or not. A bad question doesn't make a bad answer good. And that answer is coming from an high rep user AND mod, who should know better! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 31, 2019 at 14:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LorenzoDonati: You did notice that the title was rewritten after it was asked (and after the answer we're discussing was posted) by someone other than the OP, right? The question it now asks is not what the OP originally asked (nor what this answer answered). The OP's original question (both the title and the body) was founded on a misconception. This answer corrects that misconception. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 2, 2019 at 8:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IlmariKaronen This! Thank you for pointing that out. I missed the editing of the title! Doh! If you repost this comment as a proper answer I will accept it. This really hit the spot. See my latest edit to my question. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 2, 2019 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LorenzoDonati: Done. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 2, 2019 at 16:39

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