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