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I very often use tools such as "new posts by new users" or "new answers to old questions" in order to quickly hunt down problematic posts, e.g. "I also have this problem" answers.

Sometimes, though, I am not the first user to see that answer, and someone already left a helpful comment on that answer. That's great, but it would be even better if that comment leaver would also flag the answer for moderator attention. Flagging can really shorten the duration these bad answers remain on the site, and thus directly increase the site's quality.

Our traffic is constantly increasing, and hopefully there will come a day where the moderator team could no longer monitor the "new posts by new user" list by themselves. Please help us by flagging posts when appropriate.

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    I agree, contrary to what everybody may think, flagging is good, and we enjoy reviewing them (at least I do)! – juan Oct 5 '10 at 1:47
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    I'll throw in the final vote, then! So let it be understood that all 3 of us are very happy to read flags. – Grace Note Oct 5 '10 at 3:18
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    I like flagging. So I flag this to be retagged [featured] – Zommuter Oct 5 '10 at 7:07
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    Thanks @Tob, good idea! :) – juan Oct 5 '10 at 13:13
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There's a related issue that I ran into once or twice before I had 3k reputation to cast close votes, and I know based on chat that some other people have run into as well.

Sometimes, people flag a question as an exact duplicate, off-topic, or whatever, and the flag will get rejected with the following message:

declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention

This is problematic. First off, why does the system give <3k users the means to flag with a close reason if they shouldn't be flagging since non-moderators can close it? Secondly, seeing their valid flags get rejected with this reason makes them extremely hesitant to flag in the future, or, you might even say, makes them afraid of flagging.

It would be nice to get all moderators on the same page with regards to how to handle close flags. If users shouldn't be leaving these kinds, consistently reject them and if possible remove the ability for users to even leave these kind of flags. If they're okay, which I would assume as the system seems to clearly allow them, stop rejecting them. If the close flag is invalid because they were wrong that it deserves closure, leave a message about why they're wrong rather than indicating the flag should never have been used for this sort of thing in the first place.


Proposal:

  • Get mods to agree not to decline such flags (assuming the flag is correct)

or

  • Enact a system change so that users can't create flags that specifically match VTC reasons, if they're going to be rejected as "not a valid reason to flag".

My entire problem boils down to this: The system specifically encourages these types of flags, which some moderators then reject as an invalid flag reason. Get the mods and the system in agreement, one way or the other.

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    Mods aren't supposed to close posts that aren't blatantly off-topic (see the theory of moderation). When high-rep users flag non-obvious things, we can't take action - we're supposed to let the community decide. So in these cases, we can do one of two things - one is dismiss the flag as helpful, even though we did nothing and it wasn't, really. The other is to dismiss the flag as unhelpful. I think in the past (when flag weight mattered) it was more likely to get a dismissed as helpful simply to avoid people getting :( about their flag weight. – agent86 Mar 23 '12 at 16:05
  • Now I think it's more likely that you're going to get flags dismissed as unhelpful. Please try not to feel hurt if a flag gets declined - it makes very little difference to anything in the system. For "low rep" users who flag instead of closing, I generally just leave the flag be if possible, on the hopes that the community will close it and the flag will be confirmed on its own. – agent86 Mar 23 '12 at 16:07
  • Declined in this case just means the moderator disagrees, although possibly they chose the wrong message; IMO the canned "no evidence" would fit much better here. Also, I should think that declined close flags are more rare these days, as anyone casting any type of close vote will instantly dismiss all close flags on the question as helpful, even if it doesn't end up being closed. – a cat Mar 23 '12 at 16:08
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    @agent86 I don't think flag weight is the issue. I know I never cared what my flag weight score was. I'm not even sure what that means or how it's used. I think the issue is that the decline message, as currently worded, reads as "Stop wasting my time". I don't want to waste anyone's time. This will specifically make people afraid to flag, which is what Oak's post is about. And again, if people shouldn't use flags this way, why does the system specifically allow flags to be used this way? Why does it have all the same options that voting to close has if "off-topic" is the only valid one? – Sterno Mar 23 '12 at 16:20
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    To be clearer, I'm not so much advocating that flags are appropriate here. It's actually kind of weird you can flag a close reason straight to a mod with <3k rep, but with 3k+, you've got to get 4 other people to agree with you. I'm trying to call out a possible flaw in the flagging system here. If the policy is that these types of flags are just going to be rejected by mods in the first place, it doesn't make any sense to have them as options you can select when flagging. You just end up with mods seeing flags they don't want, and new users feeling like they did something wrong. – Sterno Mar 23 '12 at 16:22
  • @Sterno There are different decline messages, and also an option to enter a custom one. And, from experience, moderators seem to defer flags they're not sure about, and if just one other 3k+ user agrees with you during that time, it's an automatic helpful (that's a semi-recent change from late 2011 I believe). Doesn't even have to be chance; 10k users can see those flags as well, and dismiss them acting on them. – a cat Mar 23 '12 at 16:42
  • @Sterno, there's something like 3 "canned" messages, and we typically use one of them - one is "we reviewed your flag and found no evidence to support it" (ie, we disagree) one is "we reviewed your flag but there's nothing we can do about it" (ie, we can't act on this) and one that's essentially "don't flag this, downvote it." There's also an option for a custom message. Again, I'd say don't take declined flags personally - as long as you understand the general rules and try to abide by them, I never think you're wasting my time if we disagree. – agent86 Mar 23 '12 at 19:05
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    @agent86 I wasn't really thinking about this on a personal level. I'm talking about how it appears to newbies on the site who try to be helpful by flagging. The same newbies who will probably never read this meta post and see your comment not to take it personally. Honestly, I never would have brought it up except for Oak resurrecting this thread about not being afraid to flag, and me remembering this as being something that specifically made me afraid to flag. And I remember at least two others in chat who brought up the same issue in the last 2 months or so. – Sterno Mar 23 '12 at 19:13
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    @agent86 I disagree with declining flags because you didn't act as a moderator. A close reason flag is valid as long as the question should really be closed and the user casting the flag has <3k rep, even if you chose not to use your moderator vote. The decision of a moderator to let the community handle it is completely separate from deciding if the flag is valid. Those flags will be auto-resolved when the question is closed anyway, and they point other 10k users towards the question, so they are not useless. – Mad Scientist Mar 23 '12 at 19:20
  • @Sterno, I'm not sure what you think the solution is precisely - maybe we should have a meta post that says "don't be afraid to flag" and some comments from some mods that say "hey, don't take it personally if sometimes your flags are declined?" Perhaps we could discuss it with people on chat when it gets brought up and try to explain it then? – agent86 Mar 23 '12 at 19:21
  • @Fabian, yes, if you read my comment, I said "For "low rep" users who flag instead of closing, I generally just leave the flag be if possible, on the hopes that the community will close it and the flag will be confirmed on its own." I don't believe I have declined them in the past, and if I did I apologize as it was a mistake :) – agent86 Mar 23 '12 at 19:22
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    @sterno your OP is always how I felt when using other sites with less than 3k rep - I would flag for close and it would always get declined. If mods don't feel they should act on these flags (and I'm not sure why - I don't like the current reasons) then this should be taken to meta.so for a system change. For example - allowing 3k users to accept close flags as a normal close vote- like how suggested edits work. – Resorath Mar 23 '12 at 19:22
  • @Resorath, that'd be a good feature-request in my opinion – juan Mar 23 '12 at 19:40
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    @agent86 I've updated my answer with a clearer proposal. I don't feel that "read meta!" and "read chat!" are valid solutions to encouraging flagging. We need the system to encourage whichever behavior it is that we want. Right now, the system seems to encourage one type of behavior while the decline reason seems to encourage the opposite. – Sterno Mar 23 '12 at 19:53
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    @Sterno, I firmly believe that low-rep users who put valid close flags on questions should not be declined as unhelpful. I have done my part to raise awareness of this issue to the other members of your moderation team. – agent86 Mar 23 '12 at 20:00
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I haven't flagged the posts because I'd rather have the post remain there for a little. This way, the poster can find their post (downvoted) and read the comment even if they log out/clear cookies/access with a different computer in the meantime.

  • Well that's a bit extreme in my opinion. If the user does maintain the sessions/login he will see the comment in the mailbox and he will be able to see the deleted answer (deleted questions are something else); on the other hand other users will not see that answer, which is positive for our site. One of the virtues of Wikipedia is the speed in which vandalism is reverted, after all. If we want to allow a user to see his deleted answer even from a different session, it means everyone else will also see it. – Oak Oct 5 '10 at 8:28
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    @Oak, downvoting a 1 rep user only affects the downvoter's reputation (2,998 rep, gaaah!) while bringing the noise to the bottom where hardly anybody reads. :) – badp Oct 5 '10 at 8:32
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    true it brings the noise to the bottom, but it's still there. Besides, maybe it's just my personal opinion, but I use downvotes for answers that are wrong, misleading, unclear or lack an understanding of the question, but I don't downvote answers which simply do not attempt to answer the question. For them I support hasty deletion. – Oak Oct 5 '10 at 15:02
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Fortunately for the site, but unfortunately for me and my fellow mods, people listened and are now, apparently, no longer afraid of flagging these new posts. Keep it up, and thank you for your effort!

(I guess =D )

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