It seems to me (I may be wrong) that there is some sort of confusion or disagreement (recently) about what makes something "not an answer" as opposed to a bad answer. I think it is important that there be some kind of sitewide understanding/agreement about what constitutes a non-answer. What follows is my understanding; anyone can feel free to respond with an alternate understanding:

  • Something which is an answer should not be deleted as "not-an-answer".
  • Something is an answer if it directly addresses the question. If a question is made up of multiple questions or multiple premises, a partial answer can address a distinct part of the question.
  • If a post does not directly address the question then it is not an answer. It is not an answer even if every word in it is true and even if it cites authoritative sources for what it says. If the information is related to the question but does not address the question then it is not an answer, and in certain cases it should be posted as a comment instead.
  • If a post does directly address the question then it is an answer. It is an answer even if every word in it is not true and even if it cites no sources.
  • If a post is unclear, unintelligible, written in a different language, etc. then it is probably not an answer.
  • Something which could technically be an answer (i.e. it addresses the question) can still be deleted for other reasons (e.g. spam, abusive, etc.)
  • If something is a bad answer (i.e. it addresses the question but it is not correct) it should be downvoted. (Enough downvotes deletes the question automatically?)
  • If something is not an answer it can also be downvoted (primarily by those who don't have the power to delete it).

In short, I think that bad answers should not be deleted as non-answers, and non-answers should not be not deleted just because they contain good information.

I think the above is more or less supported by the explanation given for the "not-an-answer" flag which states:

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.

If anyone thinks that any or all of the above is wrong, or if anyone disagrees with any or all of my understanding, please post an answer outlining your understanding of the parameters of "not-an-answer".

If you think this is not an issue at all, or has already been properly addressed, feel free to ignore or downvote this question.



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