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I have finally reached 10k on stackoverflow and since then got into the habit of taking a look at the flagged posts every once in a while.

A surprising and recurring theme among posts flagged as spam is that many of those aren't spam, at least according to my definition which isn't very strict, but which would include a link in a flagged post. It's similar with posts flagged as offensive when all they are may just be an insult to someone's intellect. Posts that are mere junk get flagged, sometimes also stuff that people think is so bad, it deserves some penalty.

Apparently, people hesitate to flag for moderator attention, I guess because they don't want to bother a human being that may have better things to do than deal with useless junk posts. Thus they flag those useless posts as spam.

A post here on meta asked for another flag for exactly those kinds of posts and the accepted (and most upvoted answer) said you should flag for moderator attention. Alas, this doesn't seem to cut it.

I think the fact that we don't have other flag reasons (besides "offensive") is also responsible for the ridiculously tiny amount of spam flags users have per day.

Would adding another flag help? Or should the reputation threshold be raised that enables you to flag? Or is there another option?

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Nice job guys: 1 vote to close as spam, 1 vote to close as blatantly offensive. –  Ether Dec 17 '09 at 21:29
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And not to mention the two spam flags. –  random Dec 17 '09 at 21:32
    
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FWIW, this behavior is officially considered abuse: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/56223/… –  Pops Oct 7 '10 at 19:57

6 Answers 6

Speaking with my ♦ moderator hat on... we keep an eye on these numbers. Typically moderator flags first, but we do watch the spam / offensive too. Thanks to [ctrl]+click it takes no time to blitz through a handful of posts. Typically, my thought process is:

  • is it clear junk? "you all suck", "w0w g0ld", "buy my product", etc - 'tis deleted with vengence (quite often along with the poster)
  • is it completely harmless? Perhaps somebody flagging it out of revenge? the flag is cleared
  • otherwise: leave it alone and let the community decide

So while the second category really is a misuse, it doesn't cause me any lost sleep.

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+1 I agree and do the same. I clear flags that aren't valid and ignore those I don't agree with but is borderline. –  Diago Dec 18 '09 at 5:58

I'm risking life and Internet dollars here, but I'm going to agree with Manni. I have a fairly narrow definition of spam (unsolicited commercial), and an equally narrow definition offensive (offensive to the general community).

Now, I'm not saying these posts getting flagged are worthy of upvotes and praise. They're crap. I'll grant that in a heartbeat. But I'm saying that they are being mislabeled. (And, I might add that I feel closing questions as "blatantly offensive" or "spam" falls into this flagging category as well.)

I do think there should be an additional flag, something like "noise," for posts. This would allow us to be accurate.

Unfortunately, there are some folks who are going to insist on misusing the flags anyway. Ultimately, that will be their prerogative. I don't think that raising the rep required is going to help that much, to be honest.

I suppose Jon B is right in one regard -- are these flags being misused to the point where posts are being deleted as spam/offensive all that frequently? The flags do reset, and it probably is a no harm, no foul kind of thing.

But I'd still like to see a fourth option, just because I'm anal retentive. There are a lot of times I've wanted to flag crap like the posts to which Manni linked, but didn't, because it frankly wasn't appropriate. You have to be responsible, you know.

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A 'noise' flag would be nice. –  Paul Nathan Dec 17 '09 at 20:57
    
You risk all that because you agree with me? I should flag that as offensive. But I'll upvote instead. –  innaM Dec 17 '09 at 21:02
    
Just upvote me: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/29723/… –  Ladybug Killer Dec 17 '09 at 21:13
    
@John: Already did. I agreed with it then, and I agree with it now! –  John Rudy Dec 17 '09 at 21:20
    
@Ezekiel: Click harder! –  Ladybug Killer Dec 17 '09 at 21:22
    
Would it make you feel better to know I also upvoted your comment in that post? –  John Rudy Dec 17 '09 at 21:44
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A "noise" flag would be used an awful lot, I fear, for things that should simply be closed as "not a real question". For what type of post would it add value? –  Ether Dec 17 '09 at 21:54
    
You're a wise man, Dialling :) Even if you have a lot of Ls in your new name for an American guy. –  Ladybug Killer Dec 17 '09 at 21:55
    
@Æther: Chris Lutz found an example. –  Ladybug Killer Dec 17 '09 at 21:58
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@Æther: Remember that flags apply to both questions and answers. You can't close an answer, you can only flag or edit it. (And with sufficient rep, vote to delete.) –  John Rudy Dec 17 '09 at 22:14
    
@John: Deep in my heart, I'm actually Tasmanian. –  John Rudy Dec 17 '09 at 22:15

See, this is why visibility is limited to 10K users now. And even the 10K users have to visit a special page...

'Time was, the current flag count was shown on the flagged posts, and folks would whine about it incessantly. Not because things were getting incorrectly removed, but merely because they were collecting a handful of flags, which melted away like morning dew in a matter of days and accomplished nothing.

But, here we are again... So here's what I do, when I see a post flagged and don't agree with the flagging: if you can edit it to improve it, do so. If you can't, then flag it for moderator attention, and request that they kindly delete the post before it's flagged to death...


Note that 10K users no longer see spam/offensive flags - the 10K flag queue now contains certain types of moderator flags that don't require the flagger to be revealed (those with canned messages).

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Thanks! This sounds pretty helpful. –  innaM Dec 17 '09 at 21:00
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So does this mean that 10K users can only see flags for spam/offensiveness but not "moderator attention"? –  Ether Dec 17 '09 at 21:35
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@Æther: Yes, it does. –  Georg Schölly Dec 17 '09 at 21:38

What could be done to stop the misuse of the spam and offensive flags?

at least according to my definition which isn't very strict

Very subjective. The reality is that this flagging process is 'owned' by the community, and whatever they decide personally is their limit when it comes to spam or offense is what they will use to vote.

I wouldn't say it's misuse - at best it's merely a different line in the sand than the line that you draw for yourself.

I suppose one could start a campaign to force people to narrow their definition of spam and offensive, but I don't see that being terribly productive. Adding a new flagging reason such as "noise" is just an invite to flag even more posts - not fewer. I doubt it will cause people to re-categorize posts they consider spammy and offensive to noise in a significant amount.

Keep in mind that precious few posts and comments are flagged. The system gets about 1,000 posts a minute (comments, answers, and questions - in that order) and right now there are very few items that are flagged.

One could hardly say we are being inundated with flags, properly or improperly used.

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It takes five flags before the post is closed. I don't think there are many cases where five people abuse the flag and cause the post to be closed. The flags also reset after a day or two, anyway. So if I flag something random as spam there will be no harm done.

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Harm? No, apart from the cluttered "flagged posts" page no harm is done, nobody gets killed or hurt. But it's obvious that people sometimes do need another flag reason. –  innaM Dec 17 '09 at 20:53
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It actually takes six offensive flags to delete a post. –  mmyers Dec 17 '09 at 21:59

I've finally reached 10K, and I agree that flagging is being abused. Offensive flags should be used for obscenities or directly insulting posts. Spam flags should be used for those posts that seem to be posted for advertising.

I'm still waiting to see a useful flag in the list.

It seems like a lot of people are just flagging the post to hurt the user with the -2 lost rep.

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@Down, thanks for putting the link here, I'd already upvoted it and hope it gets implemented at some time. Of course, based on downvotes I just received here for something so obvious, I think once people start see the lost rep from the flags, there'll be something of an uproar. –  Lance Roberts Mar 24 '10 at 21:11

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