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In the past, I've been told (via the 'declined' message of a flag) that a certain action was not within a moderator's power; I had flagged the post (and indicated in the flag report) in the hope that a particular action could be taken with regards to it (I don't recall what it was, and it is not important for this discussion), and I was told it couldn't.

To prevent flagging in the hopes of a particular action that is not within the moderator's power to perform, let me ask whether the following actions are within their power. I'll include some I already know the answer to (and indicate it) just for completeness. Also, I would like to know if some of these are actions that could be taken by other members of the community (even if not unilaterally).

  1. Can a moderator take what has been posted as an answer but is clearly a comment (e.g., the author states s/he cannot comment and is posting an answer instead) and turn it into a comment?

    (Yes, I know this can be done, and community members cannot do this.)

  2. Can a moderator take what has been posted as an answer but is clearly a question unrelated to the original post (e.g., not even in the same general field, like a combinatorics questions posted as an answer to a question about algebraic geometry) and turn it into a question?

    (While community members could vote to delete the "answer", they would not be able to post it as a question)

  3. Can a moderator take what has been posted as an answer but is a follow-up question and add it into the original question, or does this involve simply deleting-and-editing (which could be done by others)

Please feel free to add other actions to this list as questions. I will request that this be turned into a CW question; perhaps if the community understands a bit more clearly what is and what is not within moderator's "special powers" (as opposed to stuff that can be done by any high-enough-rep user, such as voting to delete), we can lighten the load.

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  1. Yes.

  2. No. I have been deleting such answers.

  3. No. I have been converting such answers into comments. See Shog's comment below, this is actually possible using the Moderator Tools.

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    $\begingroup$ #3 is actually possible, assuming both were posted by the same author. If comments have been left, you'll generally have to view the question directly in order to find "convert to edit" on the mod menu however. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 May 25 '12 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ Okay; #2 is a particular issue that has been raised recently. I can't remember ever raising such a flag, but I would probably have done so on the theory/belief that the moderator could turn it to a separate question. (The only other instance I saw was someone trying to ask a question by editing a tag, and I rejected the edit and explained in the box that he should post it as a question). If the best the moderator can do is delete, then that's something to consider. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin May 26 '12 at 4:06
  • $\begingroup$ With #2, if such a power comes into being it would be nice for the vote-counter of the post to be re-set (which is clearly an advantage to them re-posting it as a question properly). $\endgroup$ – user1729 May 29 '12 at 10:29
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For comparison, I do the same for (1) and (3) as Qiaochu, but for (2) I generally add a comment to the owner of the answer-that-should-have-been-a-question suggesting that he post an actual question, and let the post/flag stand for a couple of days. (This depends on other users with powers to vote to delete to wait also. If 3 20k users vote to delete such an answer, the owner will not be notified of what happened)

If the user returns and fixed the situation, all is well. If not, then there is no loss in deleting the post. I emphatically prefer that this be done by the post owner, though.

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    $\begingroup$ Worth noting: if a moderator leaves a comment on an answer and then deletes it, the author will still be notified of the comment, and able to view it (and the answer) via a link from the notification. Normal users' comments will not (reliably) generate notifications once the post is deleted. This was implemented specifically to avoid forcing moderators to remember and revisit answers they'd commented on for later deletion. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 May 25 '12 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Shog: I had this suspicion (because it makes sense) that moderator comments are more persistent. This is one of the reasons I usually don't leave comments, too. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 25 '12 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: you should leave comments when flagging, at least when there's something constructive to say. If the moderator can leave a simple, "Please see Asaf's comment" or such, it's much easier on him - and the author of the post, if there's any chance he cares enough to read either. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 May 25 '12 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ I will do so in the future. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 25 '12 at 22:46
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    $\begingroup$ Please do, Asaf. When you flag something, you already know what the problem is. By not leaving a message you only contribute to global warming: a mod has to read the whole thing, figure out the problem (it is not enough that you explained what the problem is: we have to check that the problem is actually there) and write the comment which, in many many cases, is the same comment you might have written :) $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez May 26 '12 at 8:59

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