I'm opening this post in reference to this question: Access ext4 disk that lost superblock and its backups

The only person who answered seem to be a a highly regarded member of this community, not just by his rep but checking his profile too.
I am new to Unix SE but not new to SE, despite the fact the sum of all the rep i have on the various SE communities is still far lower than his, but I have been an avid SE reader way before making an account.
This said, my issue with this situation is that i feel like we started with the wrong foot and I want to know if i acted correctly or not.

In the comments he asks some things that i thought were clear from the question, but I'm always up for improvements and clarifications so i answered properly. He then proceeds to answer my question with what seems to be a series of tips rather than an answer (at least, that's what it looks like to me) all of which I had done already, when i clarify that i had already done what he was suggesting (in particular that i was using copies of the image i made from the disk) he tells me he can't find in my answer where i wrote that i was working in images and not on the disk.
I copy the part of text where I said that, but i also wrote that it was not explicit and that i was implying it from the fact i made a duplicate of the image to test on. I then edited my answer to make it clear.

After this he answered by linking the edit history and pointing out that previously it didn't mention it at all, and this is what baffled me because:

  1. I copied the previous text in my comment, so it's not like i was trying to hide something
  2. I admitted I was implying it and it was not explicitly written

I flagged the answer as not an answer and asked the answerer to be more thorough in reading what i write. I now see that the flag was declined, therefore i must ask:

  1. Was I wrong in flagging it as not an answer? Or better, why was i wrong to flag it as not an answer?
    I want to make it clear i did not flag it as not an answer out of spite, but I don't think that can be considered a proper answer when none of the suggestions is a solution, just tips on how to attempt data rescue. He mentions mkfs -S /dev/sda3 but as i said when i do that the partition is working again but it's empty. To me it seems like that answer belonged in a comment.

  2. This said, was my behavior correct in general? I want to make it absolutely clear (i feel like i'm overusing this word in this post but...) I do not want to "wage war" on someone, I always respect people who try to help and in particular i see this person has always been very helpful in the community and i don't want a misunderstanding to make me be on bad terms with someone


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    I propose to change the title of the question to something more meaningful, like "Flagging an answer as not an answer" or similar, to help future readers. Jun 16 at 13:42

First off, thank you for taking the discussion to Meta instead of in comments! This is the right place to hash out "meta" level discussions like this one.

Second, sorry to hear about your troubles with the disk!

To tackle your questions here:

Was I wrong in flagging it as not an answer? Or better, why was i wrong to flag it as not an answer?

I understand that you saw it more as "tips" than a step-by-step recovery procedure. It gets to be a judgement call as to when an Answer is not an Answer. When I was learning the review queues, I was pointed to Your answer is in another castle: when is an answer not an answer? where the "apple" analogy stuck with me. In my personal opinion, the answer has enough "there" there to qualify it as an Answer:

  • possibly confusing the disk /dev/sda with the partition /dev/sda3 in some actions
  • a suggestion to restore the partition table before retrying a mkfs command

Your votes are yours to cast, but this is a situation where I might recommend a downvote -- if you think that the answer isn't helpful to your situation. Of course, a clarifying comment or two -- like you did -- can point out the misunderstandings or things you've already tried. I know I've answered questions where it turned out I had missed the point, or mis-read the question, or they had already tried it, or an obviously-better answer turns up. (I have 121 deleted answers? oh my!) Sometimes answers are helpful to the situation, and sometimes they're not. Some authors will delete posts that don't turn out to be helpful; others will leave them around in case they're helpful to someone else -- there's a fine balance between solving the one specific problem that's asked about and being generally helpful to the next few thousand people that see it in their search for a solution to a similar scenario.

was my behavior correct in general?

From what I can see, yes. You were desperately trying to find a solution to your problem and found an Answer that didn't seem helpful and so you tried to point out the parts that were missed or wrong. My only constructive criticism here would be to remind you that you're on a site of volunteers, so if you feel like they're not "getting" your Question, disengage and take whatever value you can from the answer. Following it up with a Meta question to double-check your behavior tells me that you care about the community and its standards, so I certainly appreciate that!

  • 4
    Thanks for your answer and your kind words! I can see your reasoning about it being considered an answer and a downvote being enough and i shall do as suggested. It's true i was a bit desperate because of a perfectly working disk suddenly stopped working after using a linux distro from a USB drive. But at this point since it's been 4 days i'll just get a backup from 4 weeks ago and start from there (good thing i keep most of the important stuff on a remote repository). Thanks again
    – valepu
    Jun 3 at 14:32

Was I wrong in flagging it as not an answer? Or better, why was i wrong to flag it as not an answer?

The "not an answer" flag is incorrect in this context. The answer is a direct response to your question intended to help you and others in your situation. I would use the "not an answer" flag more for situations where someone has posted a follow up question as an answer, or if they are so totally off topic that the presence of their answer could be considered destructive.

In this case, if you feel an "answer" was really not answering your question and significantly missed the topic, then down-votes are much more appropriate.

was my behavior correct in general?

I don't see any real area of concern there.

More Generally

I'd always be cautious about taking high rep as meaningful in this context. I infer nothing about the specific high-rep user in question. High rep can be achieved through sustained high activity and doesn't necessarily show a person's knowledge of a particular topic. So as a general rule, if you feel a high rep person has completely missed the point, don't let that "magic k" on their rep intimidate you.

Tone is very hard to guess, so I can't tell what impact you feel this has had on you. But wherever possible you should avoid such interactions bothering you and "Keep Cool". People make mistakes.

Defining "being helpful"

Let's say someone calls out "throw me a float", and you see no floats around, but you think the person could be drowning. You do see a rope tied to a tree, so you pick up the other end and throw it to them. That's "being helpful", even if you're not 100% certain the person was drowning.

Particularly on StackExchange, where future readers are expected, this not only helps the person reading, but even if not, it can help future readers who really are drowning.

Obviously offering them two-for-one on new shoes, or shouting out "has anyone else having this problem?" isn't classed as helpful in this context.

Now let's say you find a question asking for "float" and an answer offering "rope". The two things are intrinsically very different and you can't see any connection.

  • It's perfectly fine to down-vote it: your opinion matters. Indeed it might be your own specific technical knowledge that lets you make that judgement call. Others might know something you don't and put their own up-vote against your down-vote. That's fine too.

  • Moderators should not delete it: It's unfair to expect a moderator to know every possible technial subject and to know the specifics of when a "float" can be replaced by a "rope". If they were to delete it, then they could be destroying a very useful answer.

  • 3
    Thanks for your answer! I have been on the internet long enough to not assume the worst when it's hard to recognize someone else's tone (or not be bothered by it when it's easily recognizable) so it's ok! You are right i should not infer anything from reputation
    – valepu
    Jun 3 at 14:36
  • 1
    "intended to be helpful to you and others in your situation" being helpful or not isn't part of whenever is an answer or not. It's whenever it addresses the question being asked. I can be helpful linking you to the wiki, but it would still be not an answer if that's the only thing I do (unless you ask for the link to the wiki).
    – Braiam
    Jun 14 at 11:59
  • 1
    You address the question if you address either the underlying issue or the superficial one, but you have to address it.
    – Braiam
    Jun 14 at 13:09
  • If there's multiple underlying reasons that we can't agree on one, then we should just close the question as too broad.
    – Braiam
    Jun 17 at 12:08
  • @Braiam I've edited in an attempt to address your concern (at least what I think your concern is). However I stand by my statement that answers seeking to help the OP out of their quagmire should not be deleted just because they don't address the question as asked. Your suggestion about voting "too broad" is incorrect. Questions can be very specific, even if others have multiple opinions on what lead up to the question. Jun 17 at 13:13
  • That's a weird stance to have since we already do delete those. We've always deleted those. Maybe you are looking for a new discussion, rather than this one.
    – Braiam
    Jun 17 at 13:16
  • @Braiam I'm a little unclear on which you are saying you do delete, but if you are referring to answers which do not directly address the question, the I'd be very surprised since so may get well up-voted and accepted. The heavily down-voted ones are deleted, but that's not really the "not an answer" route. Jun 17 at 13:40
  • If you answer a question with a recipe for an apple pie when the question asks how to configure a systemd service, it may be helpful, but it doesn't addresses any of the issues present on the question. We already delete and have always deleted those.
    – Braiam
    Jun 17 at 14:53
  • @Braiam that's obviously interpreting my words much too broadly, a recepe for apple pie would not be would plainly not be "a direct response to the question" as worded in my answer. Nevertheless my edit does try to deal with that head on. Jun 17 at 17:34
  • My problem was with this part "intended to be helpful to you and others in your situation", not with the rest. Intention to be helpful isn't enough to produce an acceptable answer. The example I provided in my first comment was less ridiculous, but they use the same argument.
    – Braiam
    Jun 17 at 21:14
  • @Braiam You've taken a phrase out of context and you're now refusing to consider it in context of its own sentence. You are changing its meaning. The phase's meaning is limited by "the rest". The OP made the mistake of believing answers are only allowed to answer the question as asked. I disagree with that, and it appears so does Jeff Schaller. If your only problem with my answer is words taken out of context even from their own sentence, then I see no reason to continue this conversation. Jun 18 at 14:50

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