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As the number of high rep users increases, so does the number of users able to see the currently flagged posts.

This leads to the issue that if 1 in 10 people think that a post is spam when looking through the list, it probably will get the required 6 votes even though it isn't representative of the community's opinion.

Take for example this question (the link is for 10k users) with at present 3 offensive and 2 spam flags. I would agree that it is off topic a bit, but I don't see how it is offensive or spam. The only reason it is still being flagged as spam is that it is no. 2 on the "Flagged Post" list. (The last flag was about 40 minutes ago, despite the question being asked yesterday.)

There are other times when I have had to resort to writing a comment explaining to people who are thinking flagging it why they shouldn't flag it (with links to meta threads).

My only thought was to allow 10k users to disagree with flags, more akin to how voting works. I am not sure how well it would work and it would also add quite a bit more interface complexity to the 10k flags page which would be quite a bit of work for a minor problem.

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5 Answers 5

I don't think that the problem here is lemmings. It's frustration. To those people who take the 'avoid subjective questions' faq seriously, the site is under siege by subjective questions, and by the dedicated fifth column upvoting and otherwise promoting them. To those people who also take the definition of CW seriously, the CW compromise just makes it worse.

It seems to have dawned on some of these anti-subjective people that the flag system is the answer to their problem. If six like-minded users click on the flag, then the post is gone. Juliet and her pro-subjective fellow-travellers can't reopen it. The author can't take advantage of their upvotes to undelete it. Only a diamond moderator can bring it back.

I agree with you that this is not healthy. However, turning flags into a vote will just spread the ongoing conflict into a new arena. Either way, the original purpose of the flag system is compromised. Short of penalty-boxing people into compliance, I can't see how to recover the flag system. Unless, of course, them who are in charge are quietly smiling at this bit of vigilanteism.

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It this is true, then we need to do something with the flag system. We need at least to gather some comment when the flag is set. The comment would only be visible to diamond-mods, maybe. It might allow them to confirm if anti-subjective is the reason for the flags. BTW, I'm anti-subjective, but don't use flags for this, so I wonder if this is what's really going on. –  John Saunders May 8 '10 at 23:56
    
@John: I'm with you if that's what's really going on, but I suspect that it's actually the opposite, that the people using flags are those who do not have enough rep to vote to close/delete. Flags are obviously anonymous, but I'm sure someone on the team could verify this. –  Aarobot May 9 '10 at 0:26
    
@John I see your point, I certainly can't prove it either way. –  Rosinante May 9 '10 at 11:41

I think this problem is only getting worse. I've noticed that a small number of users have recently taken a hard line stance against people posting on-topic links to their own commercial products. It only takes six people for the "community" to have decided the post was indeed spam. With no way for anyone to disagree with these six people, we aren't really getting a fair assessment of the community's position.

If we could "un-flag" posts (with 10K powers), this would go a long way to solving this problem.


(Clarification: "un-flag" means remove one flag vote, not all flags)

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+1, something in that direction would be definitely better - some people e.g. seem to have gone on an overly agressive crusade against certain users. There are however corner-cases: Suppose user A posting spam and a supporting user B. Now with direct "unflagging" user B can just let the post vanish from the flag-list again if he got the right timing. –  Georg Fritzsche Jul 21 '10 at 22:00
    
@Georg: to be fair, that would require user B to have >= 10K on SO - not that there aren't 10K users who could be talked into supporting spam, but the whole idea behind rep-level abilities is that the site trusts you more if you've put more effort in - if a majority of involved 10K users want SO to be spam-infested, then SO probably deserves to be infested with spam. –  Shogging through the snow Jul 21 '10 at 22:05
    
@Shog: Right, but all mod-powers are designed to not give one single user control. We have 647 10kers per the last dump and just one being, euh... say drunk and pissed, could prevent flagged posts from being seen by other 10kers. –  Georg Fritzsche Jul 21 '10 at 22:47
    
@Georg: I guess... Maybe limit them to 5 a day, and only allow "unflagging" a post that has more than one flag. Just to be clear, I don't particularly like the idea of "unflagging" - if there's actually real controversy over a specific post, then it probably needs to be locked (== moderator intervention) while folks cool down a bit and/or hash it out in comments or on Meta... so it'd be better if those who disagreed just flagged for moderator intervention. But if it was implemented, I don't think the potential for abuse would be terribly high. –  Shogging through the snow Jul 21 '10 at 22:55
    
@Georg, just only allow a singe user to unflag each post once –  Ian Ringrose Mar 30 '11 at 8:38

10k users no longer see spam flags in the list of flagged posts, so pile-on is not an issue any more.

They can, however, disagree with any flags that do appear in the list (such as "not an answer" or "not a real question").

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There are other times when I have had to resort to writing a comment explaining to people who are thinking flagging it why they shouldn't flag it

That's not a bad thing. Indeed, even if some sort of "unflag" vote existed, it would still be a good idea to explain your reasoning when using it...

If posts are collecting enough spam or offensive flags to actually be deleted, then I suspect the reasons are fairly obvious (even if incorrect in your opinion). Merely wiping out a flag doesn't change that - you're just increasing the number of people who need to flag it by 1. Turning flagging into yet another voting game not only destroys its intended purpose, it does nothing to help the users whose posts are being unfairly flagged - their enemies are still out there, they'll still be penalized heavily if the flags come in while the unflaggers are asleep, and if the reason for the flags is something that could be corrected then they're not being informed of that either.

So leave a comment. Explain why the post isn't spam, or shouldn't be considered offensive. In the latter case, consider editing out the offensive portions - the author may simply not realize that his words are hurting our more sensitive members. If the author rolls it back, the results are on their own head.

If that doesn't work, consider flagging for a moderator's intervention. They can lock posts to prevent rolling back edits (if the author rejects your corrections), and clear flags (if necessary). Moderators shouldn't feel pressured to react to every single flag, but if enough users vocally disagree with the flags a post is getting, they should be expected to take action. By relying on moderators to act as mediators, we can avoid dangerous "flag-wars".

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What if we removed the lock and simply tweaked the undelete mechanism a little?

When a post is flagged by 6 people, the post is deleted and the poster is penalized. However, the post should not be locked.

The only way to bring it back should be 5 - 10 undelete votes from users over 10k reputation.
(OP should not be allowed a vote)

This gives us a way to bring back questions that we wrongly flagged, and questions that are truly offensive probably won't be brought back. (Especially if it requires 10 undelete votes)

The only part of this I'm not sure about is after the first flagging occurs, if it gets another 6 flags, what should happen? My guess is that after this second round of flags, it should be locked and deleted.

This gives us with a system where the flag posts were deleted, and in the unlikely case that they were wrongly flagged, they could be brought back with a second chance. However, there are no third chances.

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This might be a little too complicated/involve too many users, but it works a lot like the current delete/closing mechanisms, where wrong actions by one set of users can be undone by others. –  Tyler Carter May 9 '10 at 0:26
    
This sounds complicated. Wouldn't it be quicker/easier to flag the post for moderation attention with a comment like "this was incorrectly/unfairly flagged?" I think that gathering a full 10 undelete votes from 10k users might actually take longer than just notifying a diamond mod. –  Aarobot May 9 '10 at 0:29
    
@Aarobot You can do that already... I'm just trying to think of a systematic way that users, without moderator intervention, can reinstate a wrongly flagged post. –  Tyler Carter May 9 '10 at 0:32

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