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In the past couple of months, there seems to have been an increase in the number of posts landing in the Low Quality Posts review queue.

Some of them legitimately belong there, which is nice because the community takes part in the moderation of the site, but most of them do not, and this is what this post will try to address.

What flags are for

Questions and answers flags (and comments flags, for some of them)

spam

Exists only to promote a product or service, does not disclose the author's affiliation.

A post should be marked as spam ONLY when it contains an unsolicited advertisement.

It should NOT be marked as spam when:

  • The answer contains no useful information, such as an answer that says “I don't care about your problem”. Flag an answer as not an answer instead; if you find a weird non-question, then flag it for moderator attention with a custom explanation.

  • It contains only gibberish, such as “fsdguejgkfdlk”. Use the rude or abusive flag for these cases, or flag for moderator attention with a custom explanation if it requires more detail.

(Source)

rude or abusive

A reasonable person would find this content inappropriate for respectful discourse.

Even if a post is a bad post for some reason or another, it is probably not rude or abusive. The rude or abusive flag (formerly known as offensive) is meant to be used only in extreme cases, like hate speech, abuse against people, or abuse of the community or system.

For example, if a user posts obscene images to the site, that should be flagged as rude or abusive. But if someone says something bad about your favorite technology, that probably doesn’t apply.

As a rule of thumb, if you can’t justify something being hate speech or abuse, you shouldn’t mark the post as rude or abusive. Instead, you should downvote the post.

Abuse of the system or community is everything that is created with the intention to harm them. This includes posts that contain no useful content at all – i.e. gibberish posts along the lines of:

asyuv;laergap897wertp[98 gb;vp98a34

Cats are not allowed to walk across keyboards as part of Stack Exchange posts; this is abuse and should be flagged as such. (Source)

If an otherwise valid post contains vulgar words as an expression of frustration, edit the bad part out instead of flagging the entire post as rude or abusive.

(Source)

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.

The post needs to be removed, as it is beyond saving. This flag should be used when the others don't apply. E.g. The user is complaining that their grand-pa is always farting and ask if they can buy gas masks at the grocery store.

(Source)

in need of moderator intervention

A problem not listed above that requires action by a moderator. Be specific and detailed!

This flag is to be used if you feel there is something wrong with the question but it does not fit in the other categories. For instance, if you feel that the user is "sock-puppeting", or trying to abuse the reputation system, or if the user re-posts the same content again and again, etc.

Questions flags

should be closed...

This has already been covered here. Please note that this other post is about closing, but the same rules apply to flagging.

a duplicate

This has also been covered here. Please note that this other post is about closing, but the same rules apply to flagging.

Answers flags

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.

  • Comments posted as an answer: This is common from users who do not have the 50 reputation required to comment, but feel they have something useful to say.

  • “Thank You” answers, “I’m having this problem, too” answers and different questions posted as answers: These are considered noise; answers must be actual answers.

  • Link-only answers: These tend to break under maintenance of the linked reference. Users should be encouraged to include the essential parts of the solution in the answer's body. Note that, only if the answer is fully worthless without the link, it actually is a link-only answer.

  • Answers that fail to address the question: If the answer is not answering the question, it clutters the answer list and add noise to the site.

(Source)

Comments flags

no longer needed

This comment is obsolete, chatty, or otherwise unnecessary.

As described in the help pages, some questions or answers need clarification or improvements, and this can be is done via comments. When a user post an comment, and the post is updated accordingly, the comment is no longer needed. Flagging a comment with this reason is a way to tell a moderator that the comment should be removed because no longer needed.

Comments are not for extended discussion. If the comments turn into a chat between a couple of users, without the aim to improve the question or answer, this is another valid reason to flag these comments. A moderator will likely move the comments to the chat and delete them from the post.

What flags are not for

  • Telling the user that their post sucks. Use the downvote button instead.
  • Telling the user that their answer is wrong. Leave a comment and use the downvote button instead.
  • Downvoting without losing rep. Use your own rep instead, -1 rep will not kill you.
  • Telling the user that their English is bad. Suggest an edit instead.
  • Telling the user that they suck. Although you might feel annoyed that a certain user always asks very newb question, the flags and the downvotes are to qualify the content, not the user. Either help the user by answering or commenting, or ignore the user and move on.

Did you notice?

These flags are there to ask moderators to delete the post and possibly punish the author (aside from should be closed..., a duplicate and in need of moderator intervention flags).

This is a very drastic measure.

So, before flagging, please make sure that the issue with the post can't be fixed first by editing the post, then make sure flagging is really appropriate. If it's not, consider using the site's feature to notify the user that the content is not very good: use the downvote button.

And use the upvote button more often :)

Happy non-flagging!

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    \$\begingroup\$ About the gibberish, the reason to use the rude/abusive flag is that after enough of these flags raised, the post is automatically deleted, and the author is punished (-100 rep); this does not seem to be the case with the VLQ flag. So if a user posts gibberish content repeatedly, they're abusing the system and should be flagged as such. If a new user posts gibberish, and he's posted only once, one can assume that they started to write a question/answer, did not know how to backtrack and hit the 'post' button. Flagging as abuse is preferable, but VLQ eventually work to delete the post. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Mar 21 '17 at 12:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the abuse vs VLQ flag for the gibberish posts is a big issue here, at least for now. The VLQ is a safety net for the new users. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Mar 21 '17 at 12:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Abuse/VLQ for random gibberish are both valid. What I see as being a more widespread problem today is the misuse of VLQ as a "this answer is bad" or "I disagree" button. That's what the downvote button is for. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Mar 21 '17 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, the utility in this post, I think, is not to be helpful for new users (they have the Help Center and are less likely to see this meta post anyhow) but rather to act as a reminder for existing users. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Mar 21 '17 at 14:23
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This is an excellent summary.

It's hard to provide good individual feedback to users who use flags well (or not so well). In case you're not aware, you can get a summary of your flagging history from your profile. In the "Activity" tab, under the "Impact" section on the right, there's some text about "X help flags cast." This text is a link to a summary page with some statistics about your flag casting and a list of every flag you've raised, including a blurb that explains why it may have been declined, if appropriate.

Ultimately the point of a flag is to bring attention to a post, either the attention of higher-reputation users (in the case of "this should be closed" flags available to those who cannot yet cast direct close votes) or the attention of the moderators (in the case of inappropriate behavior, abuse, and so on). If you are in doubt about which flag to cast, but know that a post needs attention that you can't provide, flagging it in any way is generally better than ignoring it.

For the most part nobody is going to get on your case about flagging incorrectly, so don't worry so much if flagging guidelines seem overly complex. Unless and until there's a trend of incorrectly-raised flags, it's not going to be a concern.

That said, please don't consider that a license to avoid even trying to interpret the post and find the correct flag. Almost every flag you raise causes human intervention, so you want to be respectful of your fellow members' time and energy when doing so. If you dig through your flag history and see a bunch of "declined, a moderator reviewed your flag but found no evidence" type of notes, you may want to return here and review Alexandre's post and/or A Close Vote is not a Super Downvote and see if you can see how you can improve. You can always ping me in the chat if you have specific questions about why a flag was declined; even if I wasn't the one to decline it I can usually explain to you why I think it probably was declined.

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