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The /privileges page that explains "voting to close" nowhere mentions that you now should no longer flag questions for moderator attention, but vote to close yourself.

We've seen some users abusing the system in the following way:

  • Gain 3000 reputation
  • Click "flag" on a question you think is off topic, not constructive, too localized, etc.
  • Enter custom message instead of going to It doesn't belong here (which would automatically convert it into a close vote)
  • Bother a moderator with something they shouldn't handle
  • Gain flag weight Increase "Helpful flags" count, because declining such a flag would seem awkward

This has lead to some big discussions over how privileges are "abused" in the sense of letting moderators to the dirty work for you.

Once you gain 3000 reputation, you should use your privilege and vote to close, rather than flagging for moderators to do it for you.

I believe the page that explains these privileges should explicitly mention that, since it doesn't seem too clear. On Meta.SU, we've created a FAQ that covers this: How should my flagging change when I gain the ability to vote to close?, but it's unlikely this is visited by everyone who gains the privilege.

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because declining such a flag would seem awkward --> I've stopped worrying about that & tend to decline flags more now. –  Sathya Mar 4 '12 at 13:55
btw @slhck you should be to edit the privileges wiki meta.stackoverflow.com/privileges/edit-wiki/16 –  Sathya Mar 4 '12 at 13:57
Yeah, that's what I'd personally do as well, but <cry>I was just helping!</cry>. Of course, moderation should be consistent with regards to that, so nobody ends up confused. –  slhck Mar 4 '12 at 13:58
But still, I can only change it here on MSO, not anywhere else, so there's limited use from that. –  slhck Mar 4 '12 at 14:04
that acts as a template for the network of sites –  Sathya Mar 4 '12 at 16:20
They do still gain flag weight, that number just isn't visible to us anymore. –  animuson Mar 4 '12 at 23:50
There has been at least one high-rep user who has been consistently doing exactly this for a long while now, even for migrating to the other trilogy sites. It's like the user doesn't even know about close votes at all! –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Mar 5 '12 at 2:07
@Bolt: Maybe they just run out of close votes every day? I've thought about doing that myself after running out, but decided against it precisely because of the reason presented in this question's title. –  Cody Gray Mar 5 '12 at 9:06
Well, it's not like that would stop them, but you'd have something official to point to in case they're not getting it (which I've seen before) @bolt –  slhck Mar 5 '12 at 9:08
I updated the privilege wiki — maybe somebody can check that and ping waffles about pushing it to the rest of the network? @bolt –  slhck Mar 5 '12 at 9:10
@Cody Gray: I have never seen that particular user vote to close a question, ever. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Mar 5 '12 at 16:47
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2 Answers

There are exceptions to this general rule. Especially on SO it can be easy for a question to get moved off the front page so quickly that it doesn't garner enough views to attract close votes. If I find a very poor question or an obvious duplicate that has lingered for a long time (hours, days, months) without attracting views and the attendant close votes I will sometimes both vote to close AND flag a moderator with a custom message indicating the question is stale but should be closed (and why). I don't see this as an abuse of the system, but bringing an issue to the attention of a moderator who can then exercise their judgment with respect to my report.

Another case where I might choose to flag as well as vote to close is a "double post." Sometimes accidentally (or maybe on purpose) a user will post the same exact question twice in relatively quick succession. In cases like this I think it's important that the duplicate be dealt with quickly so people don't waste time dealing with the second question. Because a moderator can quickly short-circuit the close process (and merge any answers on the later question), I will often let a moderator know about these sorts of questions.

In general, though, the normal voting mechanisms should be used. I'm not trying to give outs for not using it; just thought I'd mention that there are cases where I think it's appropriate.

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The cases you mention are valid uses of the "custom message". On SU, we have a chat room just for gathering votes on old and stale questions. For double-posts, merge requests, etc., a moderator flag is really more efficient too, you're right. –  slhck Mar 4 '12 at 14:15
Not sure how useful it is in the double post scenario. In my experience most custom flags take a few hours to be handled. On the other hand once a merge becomes useful, so does the flag. –  CodesInChaos Mar 4 '12 at 14:15
@CodeInChaos I do what I can. I wouldn't feel right not trying to do something to improve the situation once I'm aware of it. –  tvanfosson Mar 4 '12 at 14:18
I tend to automatically flag for questions which are "too localized" since people don't tend to pick up on that and leave it be. –  animuson Mar 4 '12 at 23:49
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There is another reason for flagging for attention: the huge backlog on Stack Overflow. I may be wrong, but I recall there being currently over a thousand questions with pending close votes. Especially questions that obviously should be closed and that are nowadays not seen much by users who can vote to close can linger for weeks or months without being closed. Flagging for this reason, however, is appropriate only if:

  • there is very little to no doubt that the question should be closed;
  • the question is months old; and
  • the Stack Exchange site has a huge backlog of questions with pending close votes. For now, only Stack Overflow seems to meet this criterion. Other Stack Exchange sites, have much fewer questions and their backlog is accordingly smaller.
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We also have this same problem on SU. See the comment I posted under tvanfosson's answer. We have a chat room set up for this, where anyone can post questions that need closing, and other community members will step in. No moderator attention needed for this trivial task. Why not do something similar on SO? –  slhck Mar 5 '12 at 9:09
Good idea. In Stack Overflow, there is a similar process going on in the PHP chat room, where users can write "cv-pls" followed by the questions that should be closed as a chat message. –  Peter O. Mar 5 '12 at 9:11
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