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Is it considered an abuse of the flagging system when someone casts a close vote on a post and also flags it for moderator attention for the same reason?

In particular, does the above justify declining a flag?

Reference to example - recent discussion at Programmers Meta.

(Just to avoid misunderstanding - it was not me who did that; so far I never tried to flag along with casting a close vote.)

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As well as a close vote I've been using the VLQ flag on meta as a proxy for "I would delete this too if I had the power" with the questions which pop up because the user has a question ban on main. –  Flexo Feb 22 '12 at 9:29
Honestly, it's better than raising a flag but not voting to close despite possessing the privilege to do so. I know of at least two users who do this, and it's incredibly annoying especially for questions that just need one more vote to close. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Feb 22 '12 at 14:20
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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If someone is abusing the flag system, whatever that abuse may be, it is absolutely justifiable to decline their flag, but determining what's abuse isn't as simple as a hard and fast rule like "if someone flags a question and votes to close it's abusive".

To wit, flagging a question after voting to close is not prima facie abuse. There may be good reason to do so, particularly if the question is egregious and should not wait for 5 close votes. It'd be more abusive if a flagger—who has the ability to vote to close—decided to flag instead.

And in reality, declines happen when a moderator believes it had no merit: either it's clearly not something a moderator can handle, the flag is way off the mark, or a number of other reasons beyond mere abuse.

That is, every flag handled is a judgement call made by moderators based on the specific facts of the situation, and trying to speculate about why a flag might've be declined isn't nearly as effective as the measures we already have:

  • When flags are declined, moderators are required to give a reason, which shows up on a user's flag history.

  • It's very easy to just ask why a flag was declined or dispute a moderator resolution on the child meta or in chat.

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declines happen when a moderator believes it had no merit have to admit to me this sounds a bit different from what I've read in SE Mod newsletter? "...Marking a flag [declined] was designed to deter serial abusers of the flagging system..." Maybe there is some er nuance I somehow fail to catch? –  gnat Feb 22 '12 at 10:31
@gnat I explained the nuance in my answer. The moderator newsletter is a set of reminders and summaries of conversations mods and users have throughout the month: they're not a set of immutable laws. They lack nuance and edge case enumeration by design. –  user149432 Feb 22 '12 at 19:52
The simple rule is that declinations are a way of sending feedback to a user regarding their flags. You might want to provide feedback for the reasons Mark listed in the answer (the flag is not something a moderator can handle, the flag is invalid or unhelpful, etc.), or you might want to provide feedback for the reasons @gnat indicated: serial abuse of the flagging system. We don't need a bunch of rules for edge cases because the general rule captures everything. Especially now that flag weight is not displayed, replaced instead with a list of past flags and declination reasons. –  Cody Gray Feb 22 '12 at 20:24
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You can't actually do this. If you have close vote privileges, then any attempt to flag a question by selecting the "it doesn't belong here" reason will be automatically converted into a close vote.

It would therefore be impossible for the same user to cast a close vote as well as raise a flag on the same question. I suppose they could choose the "other" reason and type in their reasoning by hand, but I can't imagine why someone would do this.

That said, there's absolutely nothing keeping one user from casting a close vote and a different user (without close vote privileges) from raising a flag indicating the question should be closed. And in that case, the flag is perfectly valid. Both users are doing precisely what we encourage them to do, and their flag will be automatically validated when the question is closed.

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I completely forgot about the automatic conversion :) –  Tim Post Feb 22 '12 at 8:27
The same user can flag via Flag -> Requires mod attention though –  Sathya Feb 22 '12 at 9:11
@Sathya That's exactly what happened. –  user149432 Feb 22 '12 at 9:23
If you are not supposed to be able to do this then there seems to be a bug in the system as I have done that myself quite a few times and don't get any message saying you can't vote to close and flag the question. –  rob Feb 22 '12 at 12:23
@Rob: What is it, exactly, that you're doing? What Sathya and Mark discuss—selecting the "other" reason? Or are you actually clicking "it doesn't belong here" after you vote to close? –  Cody Gray Feb 22 '12 at 18:22
The process was to vote to close the question followed by flagging it, selecting the "Other" justification and indicating that the question was off-topic for Programmers.SE. –  rob Feb 22 '12 at 19:26
@Rob: Yes, that's what Sathya said. You can certainly do that, and it's not a bug. The "other" reason is always enabled because that goes directly to the moderators. It's intended for things that only moderators can handle and can't be taken care of by other high-rep users in the community. We wouldn't want to prevent people from doing that if they choose, because there might be some urgent reason the question should receive attention from a moderator beyond whatever reason you've voted to close it—like if it displays a user's sensitive information that needs to be expunged. –  Cody Gray Feb 22 '12 at 20:20
But of course there's no way to filter what users choose to type. You can certainly explain that it's off-topic if you want, but we already provide a button for that. It's unclear why someone would want to take this approach. –  Cody Gray Feb 22 '12 at 20:21
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I occassionaly will vote to close as off-topic and also flag other and request a moderator migration on questions that I think are off-topic on Server Fault, but they are a good question and fit on another site not listed as one of the migration targets. I suspect Server Fault has the most overlap of all the sites. I believe this is a perfectly valid case where you would both flag and vote to close.

Most of these flags I cast like this were considered helpful by the Server Fault moderators.

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I heard that the closing succeeding cancels the flag. So I typically don't vote to close on questions for which I requested migration. –  CodesInChaos Feb 22 '12 at 10:12
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I handled the flag in question on Programmers. I outlined my thought process for this particular flag there, as well.

If the community is acting on the post appropriately and it doesn't need special mod powers to clean up, I honestly consider that abusing of the flag system. Don't vote to close and then immediately flag for a moderator. Unless the question is blatantly rude, offensive, or abusive of other people or the system, give the community some time to handle it and hopefully resolve it in a way that doesn't end up with the question simply closed. Use your powers to vote to close, down vote, comment, and edit to try to salvage the question. As a moderator, I only want to step in when there's a problem and the community (with sufficient time) has not done anything to correct it or is unable to correct it.

Of course, if I see something that needs attention (like people are flagging to move a question that shouldn't be moved for any reason) or a flag that needs immediate attention (it has 0 place in the community), then I'll act. Otherwise, if you have the powers to use tools at your disposal, use them and don't flag.

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give the community some time to handle it well similar logic can be applied to declining a flag don't you think? I mean, eg in this particular case, community handled the question the same way as was suggested in flag, making your decline look quite questionable. If the question would stay open at least for a day or two, you action would probably look better but this is not what happened –  gnat Feb 24 '12 at 6:52
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