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I flagged a post today, typed out a fairly thorough explanation, clicked the button... and got told that I'd already flagged this post (for something else, which I'd forgotten about) so this flag wasn't allowed. (This happens if the first flag is still active.) The dialogue with my explanation was gone at this point, so if I wanted to communicate with the moderators about that, I was going to have to start over. (In case you're wondering how this could happen, one flag was related to the post itself and one was related to the user -- there being no way to flag a user directly, you have to hang it off of a post. But I've also seen this with cases where the first flag hangs around unhandled for a week or two and I've forgotten about it.)

Since the system is going to detect that I've already flagged a post and reject a second flag, can it do that after I click the "flag" link instead of waiting until the end of the process? (Or gray out the link so I can't click it in the first place?)

2015-12-18: someone suggested to me in chat today that this had been implemented, so I tested again. The behavior has not changed: I flagged a post using "other", then flagged it again (also "other") before the first flag was handled, and the flag was rejected only after I'd typed the message. (I did this on a site where I'm a moderator so I could then clean up after myself.)

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Maybe I missed something, but when did the system start rejecting 2nd flags on posts? – psubsee2003 Jun 17 '13 at 23:01
@psubsee2003 my first flag hadn't been handled yet. I suspect that's relevant. (On some sites flags can hang around for a while.) – Monica Cellio Jun 17 '13 at 23:03
Huh, never ran into that before. Any idea if it is 2 flags of the same type, or any 2 flags? – psubsee2003 Jun 17 '13 at 23:05
I don't know. In both cases I used "other". (Please don't flag this post in the name of science. :-) ) – Monica Cellio Jun 17 '13 at 23:05
I'll go find another post to experiment on (j/k). ;-) – psubsee2003 Jun 17 '13 at 23:08
Dupe?… although I would close that as a dupe of this purely on grounds of vote count. – djechlin Jun 18 '13 at 2:30
FWIW, "other" was not preselected on the dialogue I got, though that had been the previous type of flag. – Monica Cellio Jun 18 '13 at 2:34
Aren't spam/offensive flags allowed as well as other flags at the same time, or do they replace the original flag? In either case, we don't know what they are going to select until they click the submit button, because (I think) you're allowed to select them even with another flag in place. – Qantas 94 Heavy Jun 18 '13 at 2:35
I have opened this as a bug - in that case my first flag was NAA and the second was Other, and I too saw my explanation get lost in the same manner as @MonicaCellio describes. – user213634 Oct 14 '13 at 8:17
I've proposed a design change that would also fix this here. – Monica Cellio May 16 '14 at 23:42
up vote 4 down vote accepted

With the implementation of being able to retract flags, this is now inherently completed, as the flag dialog will not allow you to complete the form while you already have a pending flag on the post (it gives you buttons to retract it instead).

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Here is a proposed design (originally suggested for a related question) that could address this problem too. I believe this design would not add burdens to (a) the typical use case where there is no prior flagging history or (b) the servers. This design provides "just in time" information, an improvement on the current "too late" behavior.

When a user clicks "flag" on a post, the system should first fetch any previous flags.1 If the user has previously flagged this post, he sees a dialogue something like this (except that an actual designer should improve on my "developer art"):2

UI mockup showing previous flags and their responses and asking whether to flag again

If the user says "yes", then proceed to the usual flag dialogue. For bonus points: except that now that we know that certain re-flags are going to be disallowed, either disable those options or warn the user.

If this is the first time the user has flagged this post, there is no history to present and the system should proceed to the usual flag dialogue. The user will only notice a difference in behavior if there have been previous flags.

1 Yes, that's a server call, but the client is going to make that call anyway later (per this question), so this moves it earlier but still after the user has indicated a desire to act. I remember a proposal that suggested graying out the "flag" link if you can't currently flag, which was rejected because that would mean a server call for every post on page load. This is not that.

2 There would be no reason to obscure user names in the real implementation; I'm just doing that here to protect the people involved. Ideally, because we know the ones for flags are always going to be you, we would just omit those. I based this mockup on a screen shot from a flagging-history page.

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This seems like another case of the gains being possibly small, but the drawbacks being precisely nil.

Of course, problems like this do not feel minor to the few people they affect. It can be infuriating to have one's time wasted, and separately infuriating to lose something you have typed out, so I would say this should be implemented.

To spell out the alternatives to solving this problem, in addition to the ones the questioner posted, they are:

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-1 - while I agree with you I don't feel this adds anything. – djechlin Jun 18 '13 at 2:05
There are plenty of feature request threads with answers for the "yes" and "no" positions. If one was here and I agreed with it, I would vote it up. Not everyone thinks that downvoting the question itself is the best way to express disagreement with a proposal. Also, I was highlighting the main advantages the questioner alluded to and adding that despite what little benefit some people might perceive the proposed functionality to have, there are no drawbacks to speak of. – A.M. Jun 18 '13 at 2:15
The effort to fix this is small. As OP noted, they already check whether the post can be flagged. They just need to move the check to right before the modal is shown, rather than after the flag button is clicked. – Adam Rackis Jun 18 '13 at 2:33
These would be useful changes. They would be larger, requiring some analysis, UI design, and new code. Regardless of what happens there, we should fix the issue where somebody finds out only after he invested effort that he can't perform an action. A similar philosophy was used to allow people with answers in progress to answer questions that were closed while they were writing. – Monica Cellio Jun 18 '13 at 15:23
I seriously don't understand the problem with this answer... It's giving alternative solutions. – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Oct 25 '15 at 21:29

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