When a user has only ever previously used the site for trolling, and then they post an answer that looks like it might be a genuine attempt to answer the question, except:

  1. The answer is not likely to be helpful.
  2. The answer ignores important information provided prominently in the question.
  3. As you read the answer, it becomes more and more absurd, until you wonder if perhaps it is a work of satire rather than an attempt to provide any help.

...should such a post be flagged? Or just downvoted?

If it weren't by a known troll, I wouldn't flag it. Lots of bad answers suffer from problems 1 and 2. And 3 is pretty subjective.

Please note that I'm deliberately not identifying the post I'm thinking of, because:

  • I'm interested in general guidelines about this, not just applicable to the one post I have in mind.
  • If it is trolling, I don't want to publicize it or feed the troll.
  • If it's not trolling, I don't want to cause hard feelings by publicly calling out someone's post as "humorously bad."

Of course, I'll certainly provide identifying information about the post that's motivated this question, on request by a moderator.

  • 3
    Why not link the answer and let people vote on the content of the post itself? I mean, that's why we have the voting system. Jul 20, 2012 at 18:07
  • @JorgeCastro People can vote (and have) without me calling out the poster here. If the user who posted the answer really has abandoned his trolling ways, I don't want to attack him here. Your comment might be a good answer to this meta question, though, if you're saying that this sort of thing is simply best dealt with by votes. Jul 20, 2012 at 18:09
  • 2
    Can this be extended to questions with similar characteristics?
    – nanofarad
    Jul 22, 2012 at 20:34
  • We need examples, because otherwise the terms you set up "humorously bad" are subjective, that others might interpret differently. Also how are users marked as "known trolls" is this a stigmata set up in their profile so users know to act when interacting with these users. If it really is trying to help, perhaps an edit that sofetns the tone will help, or correcting false assumptions (often simple mistakes, or misunderstandings) If it is beyond help down-vote first, ask questions later.
    – Mateo
    Jul 24, 2012 at 1:24
  • 1
    Retrospective: I now regard this meta question of mine as the worst post ever on all of Ask Ubuntu Meta (at least of those not deleted) and I'm sorry. I understand why it hasn't been closed or deleted--it has good answers, we don't delete meta posts for wrongness--but I wish it had a lower score. "Humorously bad" and "known trolls" are indeed opaque and useless. Also, I don't recall the details, but I once looked into this and concluded (a) my judgment of the answer may have been wrong and (b) its author wasn't a troll and it was unfair and unreasonable of me to think so. I am sorry! Jul 25, 2019 at 12:55

2 Answers 2



We don't have the time or patience to play police with every single answer. That's why we wrote these flagging guidelines.

If you're uncertain, feel free to ask in our Chat room.

  • This. Just because I flag everything between /dev/null and /dev/full, doesn't mean you should. (And even then, its usually Not an Answer stuff or spammy stuff or Offensive stuff i'm flagging... or comments that are ancient and old and decrepit that need purging)
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Jul 20, 2012 at 18:47
  • 1
    /dev/full... I've never heard of that one before. Jul 24, 2012 at 1:35
  • 4
    @GeorgeEdison It actually exists and reads with zeroes, reports being full on write.
    – nanofarad
    Jul 26, 2012 at 12:22
  • 1
    @ObsessiveFOSS: I never noticed it. I need to spend more time exploring the filesystem :P Jul 26, 2012 at 16:56

A post like you describe should just be voted down. By -3, most people get the idea and delete their own rubbish...

But there are occasionally posts that start as you've described but then descend into abuse, shouting, or long, boring, off-topic rants. There's a line where nonsense answers become harmful to the site and need removing.

Unfortunately that line is very subjective. Even between moderators, some people might be happy to let something sit at -2 on the site while another might feel deleting it is the best action for everybody involved.

It's a hard subject to quantify. I doubt any moderator would penalise you for flagging a question which is clearly junk regardless of it being harmful.

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