I've been declining a lot of flags about "not an answer" and wanted to ask a straw question to explain why. Pretend I just had my flag declined and am here to ask WTF!?
I'm seeing a lot of "not an answer" flags when there are bad answers, answers that lack a reference, wrong answers, or answers that people disagree with.
Before handling a flag of "not an answer", I am pausing to look critically and assess the question. Since we want to optimize for questions that allow for (or perhaps even demand) good answers - I'm more interested in fixing the question if that's the real problem. Rather than delete an answer that points out the question needs help, let's use the tools to fix a question or guide someone that is attempting to move the discussion forward and only delete an answer if it truly is not of better quality than the question itself.
As moderators, we try to keep some order in terms of deleting things that are actually offensive, mean spirited or blatant spam (spam - n. advertising that is either repetitive or totally not relating to the question) . And we are also here to ensure that criticism of specific choices or functions is constructive as opposed to be unsubstantiated accusations or blowing off steam at someone else's expense, so be sure to use the correct flag if that's your primary complaint with a specific post.
Here's a great post that should be flagged as not an answer.
The only way that would be an answer is if someone asked an off-topic question and we would want a flag on the question since I can't really blame the answerer for a mis-placed question.
Here is what a moderator sees when declining a flag when "not an answer" is in play:
So, as you can see, *even if an answer is totally wrong, that's not enough for us to delete it. It has to be unsaveable by an edit and we like to see that the bad answer has a down vote or two and hopefully a constructive comment before we like to step in and summarily delete an answer. Even totally wrong answers with a polite, concrete rebuttal is of great use to the community.
Think how many people with a similar wrong answer in their mind could be helped if we kept all the wrong answers online, searchable, but properly down-voted and explained as to how and why the post is incorrect.
Since our site has so few trusted users, the reopen queue is not maintained well, and when a moderator deletes something, it's extremely rare that anyone will see it, let alone have a chance to fix it.
I've been sending detailed rejection messages in cases where I decline a flag and also wanted to post here. We need flagging, but I wanted to correct several instances of people flagging things due to an answer not being one they like or one that needs help. The next time you flag something as "not an answer" - do a check to see if it can instead be voted / commented if the poster has clearly tried to move the discussion forward. Not all answers are right from the get-go, but we need to give new users and the collaborative editing process a chance for some answers rather than just deleting them outright.
As a counterpoint (I would just comment, but I can't put images in comments):
This is what we see on the flagging page:
Under "it is not an answer" we see "It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether". It sounds like you are considering all the flags as requests for deletion when the flagging page mentions 3 other options.
I will try to start commenting and voting rather than flagging (except for spam) but I am confused about the phrasing the flagging interface offers.
I think a tangential confusion stems from new users not being able to comment and so they go to the answer field (or maybe they don't even see the comment option, but even if they did it isn't an option)
and yes, this should probably be flagged because it isn't an answer :D