On the question Getting MTP enabled devices to work with Ubuntu? , I flagged an answer as "not an answer". It was declined with "flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer".

Since this is perhaps the third time I've gotten a decline for this reason, I want to make sure I am on the right track with my reasoning. (I also realize the Mods are likely getting hammered by all the traffic/activity at the moment, so this might also be an issue of this one just not being clear cut enough for the quick accept/decline decision that the site workflow encourages.)

In any case, my understanding of the OP's question is (to paraphrase), "How do I get MTP to work with my phone and Ubuntu"?

(All of my following statements can be prefaced with "It is my belief/view/reading that ....")

Here's the answer ( https://askubuntu.com/a/109678/8844 ):

"It's neither a Samsung nor an Android issue per se. It's a design decision. [...snipped discussion of architecture decisions...] IMO, mtp, as long as it works, is better choice than either of the two above [....]"

The answer immediately seems to veer off into forum-like discussion. It then tacks into a discussion about generic design choices -- failing to take the listed specifications from the OP into account, and then posing additional questions, as if the OP didn't exist.

To the question, "How do I get MTP to work?" the linked answer replies, "MTP would be a better thing to try and get working than X or Y."

I don't see this as a technically deficient answer, I see it as not answer to the question at all, since it is only answering and paying attention to itself. It seems to use the OP as a discussion springboard -- while it is fine or interesting as a discussion of tangential issues, it doesn't attempt to answer the question at all. To me, this seemed like a good candidate for a 'not an answer' flag.

Am I on the wrong track here? Should I have used a different flag (perhaps "other", with an explanation), or no flag at all?

  • I personally agree that this is not an answer to the question, and from the comment on it, it appears that the OP doesn't think so either. The question is specifically about getting MTP to work, but the answer given seems to be for a different question altogether, like about why one would want to use MTP in the first place. Could we get a mod to weigh in on this? Commented May 9, 2012 at 0:46
  • The answer seems to be deleted now.
    – jokerdino Mod
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 5:20
  • @jokerdino Hmm -- well, I hope I didn't scare the person who posted that -- I'd hope people stick around when they (like that person) have useful insights. It's great when we can somewhat gently steer people into a better understanding of how to use and contribute to this site.
    – belacqua
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


There's a thin line between "Not an answer" and "Not an answer delete". From a moderation standpoint where not here to clean up every answer that doesn't address the question but rather chooses to drive off in to a tangent or an answer that misinterprets the question. For that it's up to the community to police the content and vote. Voting is how the majority of disagreements with the content of questions and answers should be handled. If this answer is inadequate, incomplete, or just wrong - then down vote it and leave a comment.

When to flag are more serious things, when you really don't have an answer. A few examples include:

  • Putting a comment as an answer
  • Asking a new question in an answer
  • Posting offensive content in an answer
  • People saying 'Me too'
  • Rants

These are things that aren't actually answers and don't follow any form of a semantically valid answer to a question. That's when a flag should be employed. Moderators don't have the bandwidth to deal with just technically wrong or inaccurate answers - that's what voting is for.

  • I think part of the problem is that it seems that there are not enough active voters to adequately police this kind of thing. I operate with a 'broken windows'[1] model -- I don't want new users (of which there is a current flood) seeing the wrong behavior modeled here. Basically, I figure mods can take care of these less black/white issues when or if they have enough time to investigate. In practice, I see that this is not realistic. [1]:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – belacqua
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 15:14
  • 2
    This site sports over 51k users, if we don't have enough active voters that's a much larger problem that needs to be addressed. Most active flagers are already in chat, pinging chat to help motivating down voting wouldn't hurt. Furthermore, in my experience we have an overwhelming number of voters - they are just mostly positive voters and won't negatively on an item that's either a 0 or higher score. We need people to be bold and vote down more when it's warranted. Often once a single downvote is cast more follow. Commented May 9, 2012 at 15:33
  • Well, there are a couple of older meta threads on encouraging people to vote. It's my perception, though, that there are a lot of users that aren't very active -- if I had more time, I'd try to pull more stats from the info dump. I think a lot of people just don't grok the stackexchange voting/answering/commenting thing. (Which is a moving target, anyway, since the rules change, aren't documented in any formal way, and everyone has their own subjective interpretation of things). I'm not complaining about this -- the site machinery makes it all work out. But confused newbies are confused.
    – belacqua
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 16:42
  • Hmm. What does non-answer 'remove' versus 'delete' mean? Is one of those supposed to be 'not remove'? I'm also not sure I understand this: "[We're] not here to clean up every answer that doesn't address the question but rather chooses to drive off in to a tangent or an answer that misinterprets the question." Should this be read as 'we're not here to clean up answers which go off on tangents or answers that show a misunderstanding of the question'?
    – belacqua
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 17:14

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