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Generally, moderator flags fall into one of the cookie-cutter categories given in the "flag" sheet. And even when community users choose to type a custom message into the "other" box, the flags require no communication back with the user. The action is simply taken (or not taken), and everyone goes about their business.

But what do we do in those (I imagine relatively rare cases) where a community member uses the free-form "other" box to ask a specific question about their post? For example, after having one of their posts deleted by a moderator, the user who originally posted the answer flags it and asks:

Why was this answer deleted?

How are we supposed to deal with those flags? It seems like a perfectly valid question that is deserving of an answer, but there's no obvious way to communicate back with the user and provide them with such an answer. You could leave a comment on the deleted post explaining the rationale, and the person who posted it would still be able to read them even though the post has been deleted, but there's no way to add comments to a deleted post.

I suppose you could send the user an e-mail, but that seems like a pretty heavy-handed solution. Not everyone wants to receive correspondence for this site over e-mail, and e-mail seems best reserved for extended discussion, not simply answering the question of why a post was deleted.

Certainly I agree that we don't want to make such usages of moderator flags common-place. Perhaps it would be best to advise the user in question to take up the discussion on their site meta. But how do we advise the user of this without the ability to contact them?

I've seen this feature request, which attempts to provide a solution to the question that I'm asking. But I'm not necessarily in favor of adding a new feature. I'm merely seeking advice or input on what the expected practice is in the status quo. Surely this situation arises on Stack Overflow—how is it handled?

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Can you flag them? Recursion for the win. –  Octavian Damiean Jul 1 '11 at 14:55
    
@Octavian: Well, you could if you wanted to communicate with other moderators. But how is a regular community user going to see your response that way? –  Cody Gray Jul 1 '11 at 14:56
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I should totally read questions before commenting on them. Would make me look less dumb. –  Octavian Damiean Jul 1 '11 at 14:58
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Perhaps it would be a nice feature to be able to dismiss with message, or perhaps a generic one that pops up a notification telling the user to ask about their flag on [meta]. –  Won't Jul 1 '11 at 15:13

3 Answers 3

up vote 15 down vote accepted

how do we advise the user of this without the ability to contact them?

There are several ways to contact them. You can message any user through the mod link on their profile; the action is labeled "contact user privately". However, the page says messaging users through the site is "to address serious behavior problems", and the devs are pretty strict about it, so you probably shouldn't use it just to answer a question.

The right way is probably to contact them on chat. Mods can ping any user (even if the user has never been to chat before) using @@ -- type that in chat and you'll get a popup explaining what to do. Your chat message will end up in their global inbox, and they can click it to join the room if they want to continue the discussion

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Yeah, I'd seen the "private message" feature, but also seen the cited guideline. It didn't seem like a good fit to me. But the chat feature is something I had no idea existed. Maybe that's because I don't spend any time in the chat rooms... That does seem like the best option here. –  Cody Gray Jul 1 '11 at 15:07
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Nice to learn about the @@ thang. –  Won't Jul 1 '11 at 15:11
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Helpful, but it doesn't really work for flags that are confidential in nature. Fortunately those only account for (probably) less than 1% of all flags. –  Tim Post Jul 2 '11 at 4:03
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@TimPost You can make a private room for that –  Michael Mrozek Jul 2 '11 at 4:18
    
The other answers are helpful as well, but I'm accepting this because you taught me something new about chat. And a private chat room is definitely a good suggestion. The flags that do ask questions seem more likely to be of a personal nature. –  Cody Gray Jul 2 '11 at 11:45

If it is something common or minor I usually find their most recent post and add the following comment:

(psst, re your flag, you might want to ask about that on [meta]

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In the specific case of

Why was this answer deleted?

http://stackoverflow.com/faq#deletion is linked by default on any deleted answer, so no response is necessary.

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