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When there are no questions to answer, I click on the "flags" or "reviews" numbers next to tools in the hope to contribute something to the housekeeping. This question is about the "flag" screen and how I get stuck every time I try to use it.

The first button says I can "flag or disagree". But when I "disagree", the only option seems to be to ask moderator attention. See this question: 10k+ users can see flags now, but can't unflag.

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Now, I don't care enough about a question I find through the flag screen to make a big deal out of it. I just want to give the system more information by providing a vote on a flag.

Since I can't disagree with flags, it feels unfair to add more flags to flags I do agree with. So I keep leaving the flags screen without flagging done.

Why do "disagree with flag" votes have to go through a moderator?

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I'm not sure I understand your question, starting at "Since I can't disagree with flags..." By selecting the "invalid flag" option you are disagreeing with the existing flags on the post. This shows up in the moderator queue so we can see who flagged for what reason and who disagreed. This extra information helps us decide how to process the flags. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 18 '11 at 11:45
    
@Bill the Lizard: So the question, answer or comment is already queued for moderator attention, and my "invalid" flag vote is just appended to it? Perhaps I what I'm looking for is some basic explanation of how the flagging system works and what you'd like me to do when I click on the red icon with the white number. –  Andomar Jun 18 '11 at 11:55
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It's definitely helpful if you weigh in on flags when you strongly agree or disagree. First, this moves them up in the queue so we process them first. Second, flagging often goes overwhelmingly in one direction or another, making it much easier for us to see how the community feels about a post. I don't always go with the majority, but it definitely can influence my decision in borderline cases. –  Bill the Lizard Jun 18 '11 at 12:06

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If someone initially flags a post, it tells the moderator "Something must be done". But it's not always clear that something actually has to be done. Yet, until that flag gets dismissed, it's going to stay there. Subsequent flags help to support that viewpoint... or in the case of disagreement, oppose it. Both serve to aid the moderator in determining what action must be taken.

Fact is, it is always possible to be wrong - that's why you can vote to disagree with a flag in the first place. But just in the same vein that the initial flagger is capable of being incorrect, so too is the one who votes to disagree. So much in the same reason that the initial flags have to go through moderators, the same goes for disagreeing with a flag - it goes through a moderator who must decide whether action must be taken.

Your concern seems to be that "disagreeing" will just increment the flags on a post and not lead to the conclusion you desire... so I hope it comforts you to hear that this is not the case. Moderator flags do not have any systematic or mechanical resolution from quantity. Furthermore, these "disagree" flags are distinguished sharply from other flags, which means it's easy to spot when a flagged post is unanimous versus contested. As such, if you disagree with a flag, then flagging that "invalid" there is the best way to express it. It does nothing towards supporting the existing flags, it only opposes them.

Note that because invalid flags are fundamentally different, as well, they no longer cause that particular post to provide flag weight changes.

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Ok, so the whole flagging thing is basically the moderators asking for advice in "borderline cases" (quote from Bill the Lizard's comment.) I think the UI would benefit from rewording to reflect how it really works, like "Advise moderator to ignore flag" instead of "Needs moderator attention - Invalid Flag" –  Andomar Jun 20 '11 at 8:57
    
It's more accurate that flagging is "Moderators need to see this and take action". We can't be everywhere on the site by ourselves, so flags help us quickly identify the problem spots. Multiple flags, however, are indeed what helps us with borderline cases - in one way or the other. –  Grace Note Jun 20 '11 at 10:18
    
There will already be at least 1 flag before the item pops up in the tools/flagged list. If the tools/flagged list uses the same text as the normal flag function, that explains why the text is confusing –  Andomar Jun 20 '11 at 10:31
    
They actually are the same kind of flag - the tools/flagged list just gives you an easier way to see what already has been flagged (much like the closed/deleted lists show you what has been voted on). The text is almost identical, except these "invalid" flags are only used on tools/flagged. –  Grace Note Jun 20 '11 at 10:36

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