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As a moderator, sometimes it's nice to defer a flag but not have it in the mod-queue. There are various reasons, but the simplest is that if the (1) count is static, you kinda gloss over it, but if it disappears today and reappears tomorrow, we're not going to gloss over it as often.

This is particularly useful when true resolution of the flag depends on actions from other users. You sometimes need to give people time to act on a comment the moderator left before truly resolving the situation.

So, can we have a way to delay a flag for N hours?

NEW EDITS:

Given the following Q/A flag types:

Not an answer (NaA): Can be postponed, additional similar flags revoke postponement

Low Quality (LQ): Can be postponed, edits revoke postponement

It doesn't belong here (IDBH): Either it's game for migration or it's not. Same goes for OT. If it's "meh", put it on meta and dismiss the flag until concensus is reached via discussion (at which point you already have a link to it).

Spam: If the mod can't do something right then then they should dismiss and annotate.

Comments:

rude or offensive (ro): Rude is usually pretty well understood. Decide or perish.

not constructive / off-topic (OT), obsolete, too chatty: same as (ro)

other: The only possible postponable one?

For those that do postpone:

For those flags that do get postponed, we should set a limit on postponement. Since the easiest way is to see if the flag already has a previous postponement, trying to postpone a second time seems like the easiest check and sounds like a good starting point.

And if we go that route, maybe instead of a dismissal we can have a button to insert a canned response "I won't honor the flag for (NaA|LQ) until someone from the community tries to make this post better" or something. But the dismissal should still count as a dismissal (negative flag weight score). Canned responses often suck, but we don't need a lot of commentary here, just mostly "no, you fix it first, then ask me to fix it". Also consider including a link to the "moderators are human exception handlers, not the only fixit men on the site" ;-)

Shog9 offers:

"Hey folks, someone flagged this q as offensive to all senses - but strictly-speaking, I can't taste the rot yet. Maybe you spend 5 minutes and clean this up before the next guy flags, and I don't delete it with prejudice?"

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Interesting idea, I've noticed the problem but did not think of this solution. –  Matthew Read Nov 16 '11 at 23:00
    
It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what "the (1) count" meant. –  Bill the Lizard Nov 17 '11 at 1:11
    
@BilltheLizard I still don't know, what is it? –  Kyle Cronin Nov 17 '11 at 2:46
    
@KyleCronin a circle with a 1 in it –  jcolebrand Nov 17 '11 at 2:50
    
@KyleCronin The moderator queue indicator. It rarely sits at (1) on SO, so I didn't get it at first. –  Bill the Lizard Nov 17 '11 at 3:31
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Yeah, most of us smaller SE mods don't get to look at (99) on a regular basis ;-) –  jcolebrand Nov 17 '11 at 3:59
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@BilltheLizard is this something you think we need? –  waffles Nov 17 '11 at 4:19
    
@waffles I can't picture using it on SO, but I can see the utility for most of the other sites. –  Bill the Lizard Nov 17 '11 at 12:49
    
Why? @BilltheLizard –  waffles Nov 17 '11 at 13:15
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@waffles Why can't I picture using it on SO? If I don't take action on an SO flag I can just leave it in the queue for other moderators to look at. This happens infrequently enough that the 5 that I've "deferred" don't distract me from the other 95 that I've yet to look at. If the queue only had 3 flags that I've already looked at, then I'd want to hide those (from myself) so I only see the mod signal when new flags come in, or until a later time when those are re-raised, reminding me to look again. –  Bill the Lizard Nov 17 '11 at 14:08
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6 Answers 6

So about a year ago, we started discussing this internally. This isn't something that's a high priority for us to implement, but it's worth keeping in mind in case other development work makes such a thing easier. In the interest of furthering public discussion, I'm posting the notes we took. Again, I don't see this happening in the near future, but feel free to comment on this or edit in improvements if you come up with something clever.


Scenarios for deferring a flag (or creating a flag for future consideration):

  • Comment wars (acrimonious or numerous comments posted in thread):

    • wipe comments
    • warn participants
    • check on it tomorrow to make sure they listened
  • Worrisome comment thread / deteriorating comment conversation:

    • Warn or do nothing
    • Check back to gauge degradation later on
  • Spammy first post:

    • Not terrible, can be ignored by itself
    • Check back after more posts to verify that this isn’t becoming a pattern of spam.
  • Borderline offensive comment:

    • Do nothing unless thread blows up into an argument
  • Borderline question (question is missing key information):

    • Close, if edited re-open.
  • Borderline question actively being worked on by author and/or others:

    • Leave open, close if not corrected in 1-2 days
  • Only a bad question if it attracts bad answers:

    • [Optional] leave post notice or comment
    • Check back after answers posted, close if they’re crap
  • Mainsite question being discussed on meta:

    • Do nothing
    • Wait for conclusion of meta discussion
    • Gauge community opinion, make sure it is reflected by outcome of question
  • User with suspicion of vote fraud no clear evidence at time want to check back later:

    • check voting stats in X days
  • Plagiarism in answer, good answer needs quote/attribution:

  • Spam-flagged answer, good answer but needs disclosure:
  • Rant-filled / condescending answer with good information:

    • warn
    • maybe delete
    • if not deleted, return to see fixed
  • Wholly good / bad question with pending close / reopen votes:

    • explain in comments why question CANNOT be closed/reopened
    • return when closed/opened to nail it open/closed

Notes (Robert)

I’m starting to think this should be called ‘defer’ rather than ‘postpone’ or ‘snooze’. It’s more indicative of waiting for more information rather than just “postponing” a bit of work.
The ‘attach note’ interface should use the same minimum-length requirements of our comment interface.

Requirements:

Allow mods to defer action on a post, with a scheduled time and action item note The “action item” note is not made visible to the original flagger - only moderators can see it.
When flags are resurfaced, the deferral time and reasoning will be clearly indicated next to them, e.g. “Flags deferred on 10/23/2013 - I’m taking a wait-and-see approach - by Shog9”
The existence of deferred flags is visible to moderators handling new flags raised during the deferral period
Deferred flags should have no default action (deferred spam/offensive flags do not delete the post)
Flaggers should not be able to re-raise deferred flags
Status of deferred flags will be either explicit (“deferred”) or helpful - with a dismissal comment indicating the time after which a moderator will revisit the issue.
Deferred flags will eventually have their status updated to “helpful” or “declined” based on the actions of the moderator after the deferral period has ended.

Mockups

Clicking defer would bring up a form that let you enter a delay and a description:

The time-period will be limited to 7 days at most (1 day at min); at least 15 characters must be entered in the description.

When the time period elapses, a new flag will be raised on the post, with the creation user set as the moderator who deferred it and the description set to the note that was entered.

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Thank you for sharing these notes. A simplification that would enable the use cases you listed (which, by the way, a "react to flag" trigger doesn't, for all of them) would be to allow mods to outright raise a flag for later -- "raise this flag in __ hours (or days" and then the flag text, nothing else. Works for "check back on these comments", "deal with this post I just annotated", etc. It wouldn't have to be tied into existing flags with deferred resolution and all that. That seems simpler; is it feasible? Does it satisfy the requirements? (Should this be an answer?) –  Monica Cellio Oct 1 at 2:58
    
Probably a separate feature-request, but certainly could work for many of the use-cases here. –  Shog9 Oct 1 at 3:01
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Separate feature request pre-existing actually. –  rolfl Oct 1 at 12:47

As I noted in chat, I'm not really wild about this...

Make it too easy for mods to kick the can down the road, hit the snooze button, and... They just show up late for work. Mods are supposed to be the exception handlers - the last resort when things go south. Throwing so much work at them that they don't have time to think about what they're doing is a problem - but the solution isn't a system that lets the rack up "flag debt" for later.

In fact, the longer I think about this, the more I suspect it's just codifying an existing "antipattern": marking a flag as helpful without actually doing anything to resolve the problem.

Not everything requires moderators to actually use moderator abilities. Sometimes, leaving a comment and walking away is the appropriate action. A flag can still be "helpful" in this case. OTOH, if there's really nothing needed (flag'd as rude because flagger didn't like the answer, flagged as low-quality because of some missing minor punctuation), the flag should be straight-up declined - no reason to defer the problem to someone else or some other time.

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I wasn't there for the chat, but this isn't at all about racking up debt for later. The problem isn't that we don't have time to think about what we're doing, it's that we want to take time to let users respond. Not all flags can be resolved immediately. –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 17 '11 at 18:12
    
What kind of comments are you talking about? I'm thinking of cases where I get a low-quality flag where the question can't be answered due to missing information and I comment "This is impossible to answer unless you clarify point X." When I leave that kind of comment, I don't want to walk away - I want to take care of it if we never find out about X, rather than leaving broken windows. I don't know in advance if the OP will respond, so I need to leave it for a while. –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 17 '11 at 18:14
    
@Kevin: a question that cannot be answered should be closed - Not a Real Question. Whether or not you leave a comment, the asker can respond to this by @-mentioning your name if he resolves the problem; ideally, someone else (perhaps whoever flagged...) would've already left a comment describing the problem. I'm talking more about, "Stop arguing in comments - take it to chat if you have some tangential point you need to discuss" or "don't keep rolling back essential edits". –  Shog9 Nov 17 '11 at 19:45
    
What about: "Please edit your question to have more detail along these guidelines" after it's been flagged. Do you want to let the flag just sit there? –  jcolebrand Nov 17 '11 at 20:06
    
@jco: is the question unanswerable without the additional detail? Close it - this dismisses the flag. Is it answerable, but potentially a better question with more details? Just decline the flag - there's no reason a moderator needs to be hovering over it, unless you think it's going to get worse... –  Shog9 Nov 17 '11 at 20:12
    
I think that's what us can-kickers are thinking, yes,. –  jcolebrand Nov 17 '11 at 20:13
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@Shog9 - Closing it inevitably banishes the question to never be answered and turns the author away permanently, no matter how explicitly and verbosely I comment that it's temporary and can be reversed if the problems are fixed. Commenting and leaving it open is much more successful. –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 17 '11 at 22:39
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So comment and leave it open then, @Kevin. I still don't understand how kicking the can helps here; you don't need a reminder to not close things. Honestly, it sounds to me like you're seeing flags on things you don't think require moderator intervention, but don't want to decline them - IMHO, that just sends the wrong message to the folks flagging: either you see the post as a problem (and do something about it) or you don't (and the person flagging needs to know this). –  Shog9 Nov 17 '11 at 22:42
    
I was about to ask an almost-duplicate of this question, but more closely related to add post notice insufficient explanation - We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. It would be great if this post notice came with an ability to auto-flag if the post was not modified in 'x' hours –  rolfl Oct 1 at 0:48
    
@rolfl: you might be interested in this discussion: meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/2456/… –  Shog9 Oct 1 at 0:57
    
Yes there's risk of mods kicking the can down the road, but there is a need for something, and you could always limit it to one snooze only if that's your concern. When we do something that requires somebody else (usually the author of a post) to act, we need to give him time to do so -- and we need to be able to get back to that without junking up our "favorites" or using browser bookmarks or having a bazillion tabs or something. –  Monica Cellio Oct 1 at 2:15

I am a frequent flagger (709 flag weight) and I've really wanted a "delayed flag" or "delayed close vote" for my own use.

I love reading new questions; I'll often see a bad question and leave a comment for the user asking for more details: source, output, error messages, references, whatever. I want to give questioners an opportunity to improve their post before it gets voted into oblivion or closed.

But the question, as it stands, is bad. It needs either the close vote or (if I feel the question won't get the views to garner the close votes because it is pretty far off the beaten path) moderator flag. But I'd like to give the questioner a chance to edit the post back to health.

Thus: I'd like a close vote / raise flag option that gives the user an hour to make corrections. If there's no edit, the close vote / flag "goes live". If there is an edit, my vote or flag is rescinded with no consequences and without ever alerting anyone.

I don't think it should be a default -- I really like that we can destroy spam posts in two or three minutes -- but I want something to give users the benefit of the doubt and some time to fix their problems.

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This seems to be an entirely other request –  random Nov 17 '11 at 1:15
    
@random: Yes, it probably is. I thought a perspective from someone generating the flags rather than consuming the flags might add to the discussion -- I want something similar. –  sarnold Nov 17 '11 at 1:41
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I, too, want this whole other request. A checkbox on the flag dialog to make it "provisional" perhaps? It sits for 4 or 6 or 12 hours, and if the post is edited in that time the flag evaporates, but if it stays untouched, the flag happens. What do you think? –  Kate Gregory Nov 17 '11 at 1:54
    
@Kate: Expressed much better. :) Thanks –  sarnold Nov 17 '11 at 1:56
    
I want this also! I lost 5 flagging points tonight because I flagged a question, that I wouldn't have flagged an hour later. –  stema Nov 17 '11 at 8:38
    
An hour? Most users, particularly those who ask bad questions, aren't on the site continuously; a one hour delay is likely to expire before the questioner sees it. –  Keith Thompson Jan 14 '12 at 22:48
    
@Keith: you might be right -- I've seen too many bad questions asked in desperation that end with, "I've been up too late looking at this, look forward to seeing the results in the morning". But as it is, someone who asks a mediocre question might have the question closed and downvoted to oblivion while they are editing the post to address questions asked in comments. I'd like to give those people some leeway. –  sarnold Jan 14 '12 at 23:10

The flag queue on Electrical Engineering is almost always empty. When it's at (1), there's probably something to do. When it's at (2) or more, there's something really wrong, and I can probably deal with it right away.

There are a lot of times when an answer needs clarification or cleanup by the original poster. The question may be inadmissible in its current format, but could have potential. In this case, I can:

  1. Guess at what the clarification should be, and change the question myself.
  2. Close the question, and comment that it could be reopened if it's improved. The edit never happens.
  3. Comment that it needs to be improved, and threaten that it will be closed if it's not improved. Frequently enough, the OP checks back in after a few hours or the next day, updates the question, I comment and thank them for the improvement, and upvote the question.

For the third course of action, I can either dismiss the flag as helpful and try to remember to come back the next day, or I can leave the flag in the queue.

I don't like leaving flags in the queue. Whenever I visit and see that little yellow (1), I want there to be something actionable. I really don't want to find out that the question was fixed and the flag cleared by another mod, and I ignored the queue because I thought it was just waiting on an improvement to the previous question (which is probably still on the front page).

Still, this use case is common enough that we occasionally use the flag queue as our personal todo list, and (as a mod) flag a post we come across and comment on as "Check back on this tomorrow."

Not everything can be dealt with "right now". As we're trying to nurture an SE 2.0 site to Stack Overflow proportions, we can't throw away content that needs improvement; we'd rather give the user a second chance. I support this proposal because it will help mods grow sites and train users.

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The delay time should decrease with each additional flag. Perhaps by 1, 6, or even 24 hours.

For instance, delaying a post for 3 hours should become 2 hours if another person flags it. Possibly extend this to include edits.

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a) why. I don't understand how that would help. (and it would "appear" that you don't have access to moderation tools.) But it's a valid consideration, and one I hadn't considered. b) why aren't your accounts associated? –  jcolebrand Nov 16 '11 at 23:00
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I would end the delay altogether if it's flagged again. It could be flagged for a different reason or with further details or something. –  Matthew Read Nov 16 '11 at 23:01
    
@MatthewRead I do like that option –  jcolebrand Nov 16 '11 at 23:04
    
@MatthewRead I assumed that most delays would be 1 hour, as most posts are improved within that period. If you wanted to delay a controversial post's flags for an entire day it would seem annoying to get reminded of it each time it gets flagged. Edits might make more sense to end the delay. –  Pubby Nov 16 '11 at 23:19
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Edits, even better. Now we're getting somewhere. –  jcolebrand Nov 16 '11 at 23:32
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In my opinion, the delay should be per-flag, not per-post. A new flag would be completely independent of any delays on previous flags. –  Kevin Vermeer Nov 17 '11 at 1:23

I agree with this, I was proposing the same thing myself.

What I'd change, however, is that "too chatty" is absolutely something that might need deferred resolution. Consider Where did all the comments go on "Is `*--p` actually legal(well formed) in C++03"?


In several cases, it's become apparent that a diamond mod has rushed to take action on a particular question, answer, or comment thread, because they were afraid of "losing track" of it if they didn't take action before moving on, and then the problem wouldn't be dealt with at all.

Therefore, I propose a time delay flag, "Flag for followup after n hours" (where n should be provided in options of 2, 6, 12, 24, 48, 72) so that a moderator can give the community some instruction on how to clean up / improve, then leave sufficient time before taking action. Until they come due, these flags won't appear on the moderators' flag queue at all.

This would give the moderators a way of eliminating time pressure on a particular cleanup action, give the subject matter experts in the community a chance to make edits better than a mod would, or provide input on a mod decision before it's finalized, without worrying about things spilling through the cracks.

I'm not sure whether it would be useful for the flag to come back to the same mod only, or appear in the general queue, or have an option at flag creation time. I'm of the opinion that the flag should go out to all moderators when it comes due, to increase the chance of a second opinion.


Some examples of where follow-up would be needed:

  • Comments being used for on-topic discussion: Yes, those should be folded into the answer, but most diamond mods are not subject matter experts on every question they encounter. Better to give several hours for the experts to deal with it.

  • Plagiarism: It's better to give the offender practice in proper attribution, than just to do it for them

  • On-topic advertisement answers: Sometimes "this commercial product will do what you're asking for" is a great answer. But disclosure of the relationship between seller and answerer is always needed, whether that's "I sell the product", "My employer sells the product", "I've bought and used this product" or "I have no relationship with this product; I found it with a Google search". Generally only the answerer can provide that information. The mod needs to give an opportunity to add it, and some time later check back and delete the answer as spam if disclosure still isn't present.

In all these cases, final action needs to be delayed by hours relative to when the problem is identified and a comment left advising the community on what fixes are needed.

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