We've been getting a lot of complaints about moderator flag decisions being incorrect or inconsistent lately.

Some of the complaints about specific posts turn out to be unfounded, but the general problem still exists. Sometimes moderators make mistakes.

In part because I'd like the chance to fix my own mistakes, and in part because I'd like the complaining about flag weight to stop (or at least be reduced), I'd like to propose that moderators be able to reverse flag decisions, or at least nullify them in borderline cases. Here's how I picture this working:

  1. A user flags a question for moderator attention as "Not a Real Question."
  2. A moderator disagrees and dismisses the flag as unhelpful.
  3. The community later closes the question as "Not a Real Question."
  4. The user now has the option to dispute the flag decision from their flag history console, and three things can happen:
    • The flag can be reversed by a moderator, which means the user gets back the 10 points of flag weight that they lost plus whatever they would gain from a helpful flag at their current flag weight. This would be used in cases where the moderator originally just made a mistake like hitting the wrong button.
    • The flag can be nullified by a moderator, which means the user only gets back the 10 points of flag weight they lost. This would be used (at the discretion of the moderator reviewing the disputed flag) in borderline cases where the moderator may not agree 100% with the flag, but the user shouldn't be penalized for it.
    • The flag dismissal stands as "unhelpful." In order to prevent every single flag that gets dismissed as unhelpful from being disputed, the user will lose an additional 10 points of flag weight if their dispute is not either reversed or nullified.

If this gets implemented, any future complaints here on Meta about flagging decisions should be met with immediate closure and comments instructing the user to dispute the flag.

I'm not 100% convinced of the utility of having both reversal and nullification, so maybe an implementation only needs to include one or the other. (See my update below.) As always, I'm open to ideas and suggestions for improvement.

TL;DR: Moderators should be able to reverse flag decisions, but users should have to risk something so every single decision doesn't get disputed.

Matthew Read wrote in his answer below:

Our friendly neighborhood waffles has determined that approximately every 1 out of 6 declined flags, or ~17%, is for a post that gets closed. That's really high. This auto-nullify method would eliminate the trashing of flag weight for users who were probably doing the right thing to flag these to-be-closed questions.

1 out of 6 is really high. A lot higher than I would have guessed, but I was only thinking of those cases where moderators mistakenly dismiss a flag as invalid and the community (or another moderator) later takes the exact action suggested. In a lot of those 1 out of 6 cases the flag is marked invalid purposely to send a signal to the flagger that the post really didn't need to be flagged at all (like when it should have just been downvoted, edited, or a vote to close would suffice). In those cases I'd really prefer if the flag had never happened, so I'm even more in favor of having both the ability to nullify flags and the ability to reverse them.

If we can't get this as a moderator ability to review and correct mistakes, I agree with Matt and waffles that just automatically nullifying all of the flags that are disputable would alleviate most (if not all) of the problem.

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    I think we could go without the dispute penalty at first, to see how much of a problem it really is. I know some users are extremely concerned about their flag weight, but most probably won't even notice if a flag gets declined – Michael Mrozek Sep 8 '11 at 13:35
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    I see the potential utility in this, but ultimately they need to Stop Worrying and Love the Declined Flag. Close the questions as too localized. – user7116 Sep 8 '11 at 13:37
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    We can do a portion of this in code, nullify penalty on closed questions. – waffles Sep 8 '11 at 13:43
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    @waffles: I think that would be a big help. As a user, those dismissed flags that are later justified by community action must be the most annoying type. – Bill the Lizard Sep 8 '11 at 13:50
  • @Bill: I went and looked through my list, and it's less than 1 of every 25 flags (and that's just assuming they were all declined but shouldn't have been). Seems like a lot of moderator effort to save me 10 flag weight that doesn't even matter...automatic effort I'm ok with. – user7116 Sep 8 '11 at 13:56
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    @sixlettervariables It's very big of you to not care about flag weight, but until you can make every user on the network not care it doesn't really help -- the point is to fix mistakes for the users that do care – Michael Mrozek Sep 8 '11 at 13:59
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    @sixlettervariables: I'm firmly in the "flag weight doesn't matter" camp personally, but a lot of people do care about it. Those 10 point jumps backward really hurt people trying for the Marshal Badge. In addition to that, someday I'm going to suggest using all those flagged posts as a filter in the low-quality post detection algorithm, and I'd like to remove as many bad data points as possible. – Bill the Lizard Sep 8 '11 at 14:01
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    @Bill: SO mods have a lot of work on their plates already, additional disposition for flags seems onerous. waffles' automagical disposition would be helpful surely. But I can't imagine fixing the 1% case is worth the workload. – user7116 Sep 8 '11 at 14:07
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    Ugh. Just stop displaying the flag weight to users. – ale Sep 8 '11 at 14:09
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    @sixlettervariables: If it's only 1% of the workload, then it's not much additional work. Adding an additional penalty should restrict disputes to cases where we really made a mistake, and I'd really like to fix my mistakes. – Bill the Lizard Sep 8 '11 at 14:10
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    @Al Everett: That's ignoring the problem, not fixing it. Whatever problems it has, the flag weight feature has worked amazingly well for increasing the number of posts that get flagged. – Bill the Lizard Sep 8 '11 at 14:12
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    @sixlettervariables: That's exactly what we're doing. Encouraging more flagging has been a positive change. Frustrating those people who are doing the flagging is negative. – Bill the Lizard Sep 8 '11 at 14:15
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    I think the problem here is that users can see flag weight. If we didn't show that to anyone, 60% of this would go away. Or, alternatively, just lie our asses off about their flag weight. – Won't Sep 8 '11 at 14:49
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    @Won't ಠ_ಠ, I agree that was the problem initially, but now that there are two badges tied to flag weight I think it's too late to turn back. – Bill the Lizard Sep 8 '11 at 14:53
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    @Won't ಠ_ಠ That's not the problem. I wouldn't have posted to meta about this if I didn't see it- BUT- just because I wouldn't have noticed doesn't mean there isn't a deeper problem – Factor Mystic Sep 8 '11 at 16:49

Sorry, I am declining this.

Given the recent abolition of flag weight all complaints on meta have ceased.

The decision of what to do with a flag is subjective; it is entirely possible and justifiable for some mods to decline certain flags while others will not. There is no objective measure out there. The hope is that moderators use the decline feature as a tool to teach the community how to better flag.

Obsessing over every little flag is wasting moderators time. I do not think we should build features that encourage this kind of obsessing.

The cost for a declines are now very small. I see no reason to make any changes here.

  • That makes perfect sense in light of the recent changes. Thank you. – Bill the Lizard Feb 3 '12 at 0:09
  • "Obsessing over every little flag is wasting moderators time." is a slippery slope argument. First off, most flags are not declined. Second, if they're declined with a clear explanation, the user who flagged should understand the decision. Third, most users won't bother to check the status of their flags (unless they see the "Your last flag was denied" warning), and out of those who do, few will want to dispute it. By this point in the funnel though, the reasons for wanting to dispute should be pretty solid. – Dan Dascalescu May 18 at 7:20

I'm one of the previous complainers, although I don't appear to be on Bill's list.

Ultimately, we all understand that flag decisions are subjective, so I don't mind so much that some of my flags are declined.

I'd just like to not lose the flag weight if the community subsequently agrees with me. I don't even care about getting the extra point - just don't penalise me.

We can debate and debate whether flag weight is productive or even relevant, but it is used to prioritise flags in the mod queue and is a measure of how appropriately you are flagging. If the community subsequently agrees with you then I don't think it's unreasonable that the 10 point penalty is removed.

I don't much care either way whether you are awarded the ~1 point increase since it's not so hard to get that back with another flag.

In fact, if all that happens is the penalty is removed, then we don't even need to bother anyone to go back and revalidate the flag - the system can handle it automatically.

It's not even necessarily about ego as @JNK suggests - nobody else sees your flag weight so any ego boost is minimal with nobody to compare against.

The problem as I see it with flags being declined, is it makes me less likely to flag in future and since flagging is an important mechanism for maintaining the quality of the sites, I'd think we want as many people flagging as possible. This shouldn't place too much burden on mods, since we have a mechanism that identifies flags from users who consistently flag appropriately and it's called flag weight.

I can speak from experience that I've ignored several cases that I consider appropriate to flag recently and they stay around on the site because I don't want to take the hit in flag weight. I've heard the argument that there are plenty of other users who will flag, but I don't think that's enough. this argument just further reduces the perceived value of flagging since it gives the impression that any one individual's efforts are irrelevant because there are many more people who would do it.

While that may be true, I think it's unnecessarily discouraging.

If nothing is changes (which is fine - it won't stop me contributing), then I vote we remove flag weight altogether but obviously keep flagging.

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    One factual quibble: flag weight is publicly displayed. Technically, it's not shown if it's 100 (the default), but since that's the only value for which it's not shown, it might as well be on display. (Also, each flag is worth more than one flag weight point, but I'm assuming you were using "1 point" metaphorically.) – Pops Sep 8 '11 at 16:23
  • You didn't show up in my initial search. You have been added. – Bill the Lizard Sep 8 '11 at 16:26
  • As Peter Gibbons so eloquently put it, "[this] isn't Riyadh. You know they're not gonna saw your hands off, alright?" Do the right thing and flag questions and answers that need to be flagged, your flag weight will increase over time and you'll get badges. If you don't flag, you won't get badges. – user7116 Sep 8 '11 at 16:51
  • This is my reasoning exactly, and +1 for the system can handle it automatically. – Matthew Read Sep 8 '11 at 17:13
  • This sums up EXACTLY how I feel too. Thanks for expressing so eloquently. – razlebe Sep 8 '11 at 20:55
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    It is hard to get the points back in the area where you are getting your Marshal badge. Soon after that you hit the ceiling and can then make a 100 correct flags and net exactly zero points. One mistake by Bill, or one of his colleagues, and you still lose 10 points. That tends to discourage you from flagging posts where a mistake might be possible. Having people with a high flag weight avoid flagging doesn't seem to be what the community needs. – Bo Persson Sep 8 '11 at 21:17
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    @Bo - That's precisely why I would support the penalty being revoked, but not necessarily getting the flag weight boost, even if the community agreed with you. I'd rather it not affect your flag weight, than potentially incentivise excessive flagging since you only need the community to eventually agree with you in order to benefit. This way, even if the community eventually agrees, you don't benefit but at least you don't suffer either. People make mistakes, that's life, I don't think the mods are doing anything wrong. Maybe the solution is as simple as having a smaller invalid flag penalty? – RivieraKid Sep 9 '11 at 12:15
  • @RiveraKid - What happens after several hundred correct flags in a row is that the "boost" goes all he way down to zero (plus you get a Marshal badge). After that the "bonus" stays at zero until you (or a moderator) make a mistake and you get the -10. Now it takes a lot of .12 to .15 boosts to earn that 10 back! I would be much nicer to have the flag state turned from Declined to Disputed. – Bo Persson Sep 9 '11 at 12:49
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    @Popular, you're right, I didn't think it was public but of course, it is only shown on your profile page (and I don't usually go looking for it for other users). I did indeed mean around 1 flag weight per flag - as Bo mentions, since flag weight asymptotically approaches 750, then higher your flag weight, the less increase you get from a valid flag. In my case, I get a little over 1 flag weight, but lose 10 when a flag is declined. – RivieraKid Sep 9 '11 at 15:00

In a lot of those 1 out of 6 cases the flag is marked invalid purposely to send a signal to the flagger that the post really didn't need to be flagged at all (like when it should have just been downvoted, edited, or a vote to close would suffice)

Adding another answer just to address this particular sentence.

I don't agree with this mentality at all for flags about closing and here's why: most posts on Stack Overflow will never, ever get the 5 close votes necessary to close.

That does not mean that users should never cast close votes, but that there is a harsh, stark reality of:

  • how many views will this question get?
  • how many of those views will be users who have the 3k rep necessary to cast a close vote?
  • how many of those 3k users will understand the purpose of close votes and how to use them at all?
  • how many of those users will be willing to cast a close vote on this question?

If the average no-name question gets, say, 20 views in a day.. the odds are looking mighty slim here. Here's a question I picked randomly from page 100 of the questions page:


This has 19 views. Now, our view counter is very strict but I can assure you no more than at most 3x that many human beings viewed this question. Out of those 57 hypothetical users, run the questions I asked above. You'll be lucky to get ONE, yes, ONE user who cares enough to cast a close vote in there.

Therefore, flagging in low-view tags for closure -- provided you feel strongly about the close -- is about the only way a close is ever going to happen in practice.

Now, I can see the issue with

Why didn't you just downvote this instead of flagging it?

(though I might suspect in some cases on answers where a downvote costs -1 that would be why, and that's certainly not healthy..)


Why didn't you just edit this instead of flagging it?

But even in those cases, unless I have specific reason to believe the person is flagging in seriously bad faith I would still dismiss them as helpful provided the post had something actionable in it.

Of course, using the moderators as proxy workhorses for stuff you're too lazy to do yourself is bad and grounds for flag dismissal. But of all the flags I deal with (a few hundred on weekends) I see that maybe 1/100 of the time!

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    Isn't this (nobody else would also vote to close) why we have the close-vote list in the 10k-tools? Maybe we would need a kind of flag which puts the post at this list, without needing moderator intervention? – Paŭlo Ebermann Sep 11 '11 at 14:41
  • I've flagged a bunch of questions as dupes to be closed, exactly for this reason: 1 or 2 close votes since year ago, and mine wouldn't bring the count up to 5. Most of the time, my flag was found helpful, but not this time and now I can never mark that question as a dupe again. Is that fair? – Dan Dascalescu May 18 at 7:37

Edit: The new flagging dialogue is very good. As long as mods stick to Jeff's strategy (only declining when there is compelling evidence that the flagger wasn't trying to be helpful) this should be a non-issue.

I recently proposed that flags declined due to an edit occurring after the flag should be automatically nullified. I think the same could work here. If a post is closed for any reason then all prior flags on the question that were declined should be automatically nullified instead.

Our friendly neighborhood waffles has determined that approximately every 1 out of 6 declined flags, or ~17%, is for a post that gets closed. That's really high. This auto-nullify method would eliminate the trashing of flag weight for users who were probably doing the right thing to flag these to-be-closed questions.

In the end, is a flag as "Not A Real Question" really so different from a "Not Constructive"? I don't think so, and the difference is certainly not big or important enough to warrant multiple reviews of the flag. When things get complicated, I don't think we should agonize over the outcome. Just stick with the middle ground (nullifcation, no flag weight change) and let that be done automatically as I propose.

Users can still learn from helpful and declined flags, and shrug at nullified flags. (Which is not to say that the occasional obsessive won't get upset by a nullification, but it will be much less frequent, and more easily dismissed as unjustified whining. And mods can't be blamed since the nullifcation is automatic.)

  • "As long as mods stick to Jeff's strategy (only declining when there is compelling evidence that the flagger wasn't trying to be helpful)" - that's wishful thinking. – Dan Dascalescu May 18 at 7:35

Wouldn't it be easier just to hide flag weight? It doesn't really matter but has been the cause of an inordinate amount of stress about this.

Just change from showing a numerical weight to a tiered system (maybe expand the existing badge system to add additional levels).

I don't think it's a productive use of moderator time to make sure that users' egos are soothed if they flag a question and it's not acted on. Mods should be dealing with issues, not making sure nobody's feelings get hurt about whether their particular flag was valid or not.

All that SHOULD matter is that appropriate action has been taken. Whether JoeUser gets credit for flagging correctly or not is beside the point, as long as the question/answer is deleted or acted upon correctly.

If you obfuscate the numerical weight behind "grades" like Deputy, Commander, Marshall, Superhero, Will or whatever, users won't obsess over individual flag decisions but will still get gratified that they are progressing. Don't take away the game aspect, just the minute granularity that now exists.

EDIT, based on feedback from Bill the Herpetological Mod:

Alternatively, base the flag weight on final action on the post instead of individual moderator actions...

  • A mod rejects the flag but question is closed by the community? Flag weight bump.
  • Above question is reopened? Flag weight drop.
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    Why do people care about flag weight, anyway? Just use the site tools you are granted appropriately. If you don't, you get penalized. Focus on the questions, answers, and comments, not on the intricies of how moderation works. – Thomas Owens Sep 8 '11 at 15:21
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    They care because it's a number that is displayed in their profile, they are geeks and they want to make it higher. That they care is actually a good thing overall because it encourages flagging, but there has been too much focus on minute details of individual flags that is wasting a ton of energy on meta. – JNK Sep 8 '11 at 15:22
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    +1 I like the idea of displaying the badge instead. – user7116 Sep 8 '11 at 15:28
  • If you disagree please leave a note explaining why you think flag weight works as is, and/or why you think moderators should spend more time working on this to make users feel gratified. – JNK Sep 8 '11 at 15:31
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    This isn't just about soothing hurt feelings. If it were, I wouldn't be posting this request. People use moderator's flagging decisions to learn how to flag more appropriately. We're sending false signals when we make a mistake. The flag weight number itself isn't that useful to me, but people are reviewing individual flags to learn how to flag better. I'd like to encourage that. – Bill the Lizard Sep 8 '11 at 15:36
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    +1 for the tiered display idea with one exception. Users need to be able to evaluate their own flagging, so they should still see their own exact flag weight or some kind of flag results page. – Pops Sep 8 '11 at 15:36
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    @Bill - Then maybe tie it to the final action taken on the post instead of moderator action. – JNK Sep 8 '11 at 15:45
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    @JNK: I'd have to see the numbers on disputed flags to be sure, but I have a feeling that would be a huge step in the right direction. – Bill the Lizard Sep 8 '11 at 15:49
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    Above question is reopened? Flag weight drop. -- Totally disagree with that. A lot of re-opened questions are edited by the OP who can change content much more drastically than any other editor. So you'd be dropping the flag weight of users who flagged, essentially, a different question. Not to mention that the closure is what often prompts such positive rewrites. – Matthew Read Sep 8 '11 at 16:05
  • @matt - would it hurt to remove the gain they had when the question was closed? – JNK Sep 8 '11 at 16:10
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    Ah, no, I think nullifcation on re-open would be acceptable. – Matthew Read Sep 8 '11 at 16:11

Well, I think the problem here is that too many flags were being declined. Declining a flag should be exceedingly rare.

(and it didn't help that the language we used before we changed to helpful/declined was valid/invalid).

We've improved the flag decline process in two ways:

  1. It is more steps to decline than mark helpful, which properly reflects the amount of effort that should go into a decline.

  2. There are reasons for a decline, which will be presented to the user automatically if they look at their flagging page. These reasons also help educate mods about proper decline scenarios for flags.

Like so:

declining because...

Then, if you select "declined..." you must select a reason:

these flags are...

The current default decline reasons are:

  • flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer
  • a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it
  • flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention
  • other ...

"Other" allows typing in an arbitrary sentence of ASCII explaining why the decline was necessary.

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    I have to admit that I don't quite understand what "flag is about technical accuracy of post" is supposed to tell me. – Hendrik Vogt Sep 11 '11 at 8:29
  • mod flag text: "this answer is wrong! it says i++ but it should say i--!" does that help? – Jeff Atwood Sep 11 '11 at 8:51
  • Ah, OK, you want to express that (part of) the answer being wrong is no reason for flagging. Maybe one can say that more explicitly? (The word "technical" pushed me into thinking this is about markup of the post.) – Hendrik Vogt Sep 11 '11 at 9:30
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    I guess that message is particularly capable of being misunderstood on sites like, say, English Language & Usage. – Hendrik Vogt Sep 11 '11 at 9:59
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    So now I need to hit “declined” if I want to provide feedback for the user, and “helpful” if I don't? The wording on the buttons makes even less sense, and flag weight becomes even more meaningless (it counts the number of flags according to whether feedback was provided). P.S. what use does Community make of its feedback text? – Gilles Sep 11 '11 at 11:02
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    Yes, please add a "helpful with feedback" button, too. – Paŭlo Ebermann Sep 11 '11 at 12:07
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    "too many flags" by what metric? For whom is this an improvement? – Aarobot Sep 11 '11 at 14:02
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    The "will be shown to the user" part seems to be not yet implemented. So for now it is only to annoy moderators, it seems. – Paŭlo Ebermann Sep 11 '11 at 22:36
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    @Jeff: What kind of ass-backward reason is that? Whose decision was it to make this information public despite repeated protests that it would create exactly this situation? It's like replacing the bathroom door with a giant window and then surmising, after repeated complaints from guests, that people are using the bathroom too much. – Aarobot Sep 11 '11 at 23:49
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    I think this has great potential to make a distinction between "I don't agree with your flag but I don't see any reasonable option but to decline it" and "I don't agree with your flag but I can see why you did that, so I'll decline as helpful" while still allowing mods to decline flags with "Dude, WHAT were you thinking?". Time will tell how it pans out, but I'm optimistic that this will significantly reduce the number of declined flags that cause frustration. – RivieraKid Sep 12 '11 at 15:46
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    @Aarobot, the problem is less about flag weight as a metric, and more about how the SE network and community handle declined flags. Hiding flag weight would help, but would only be hiding the underlying issue. Kinda like saying "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain". The problem is when flags are declined but then for all intents and purposes approved by the community Not displaying flag weight wouldn't change that, and that is where most of the frustration comes from. As has been shown, ~17% of declined flags are subsequently approved. Flag weight has nothing to do with that. – RivieraKid Sep 12 '11 at 16:05
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    @RivieraKid: As Bill has explained to you before, moderators are allowed to disagree with the community. That's why we have moderators. Worrying about declined flags is particularly silly because if the community subsequently voted to close/delete/migrate/whatever then your problem got solved anyway, so who cares what happened to the flag? – Aarobot Sep 12 '11 at 16:15
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    @aaro on the site you mod, you get all of 175 flags in four months spread across three moderators, so I'd apply the same "who cares" logic to your flag decline situation. In general I think I am siding here with the community over the moderators; anything that helps keep the streets clean of trash is helpful, even if omg that item should have been recycled not thrown in the trash, you moron! We can't expect users to understand the subtleties of recycling every time they see a bit of trash on the street and point it out; penalizing them for this is insane and harmful. – Jeff Atwood Sep 13 '11 at 0:16
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    I can't believe you just used the word "penalizing". Declining a flag is not supposed to be a punishment. You created this situation by turning flag weight into this big spectacle and now we get berated for dismissing too many flags and told that it's our responsibility to fix. What a waste of everyone's time. – Aarobot Sep 13 '11 at 0:31
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    @aaro you're not getting berated for anything; we just built the feature wrong (that is: in a way that did not teach proper usage) so we're rebuilding it. I don't understand why you consider this a waste of your time, since 175 flags over 4 months amortized across 3 moderators is just .. an incredibly trivial amount of "time" by any metric I can think of. Surely there are more important things for you to worry about, that take more "time" than this? Help me understand how much "time" this is taking you on a daily basis, because I surely don't get it when I look at the actual, y'know, data. – Jeff Atwood Sep 13 '11 at 0:39

I was going to edit my first answer, but the edit ended up being longer then the original so I added a new answer. Bill, et. al. feel free to merge it with my previous answer if you think that would be more appropriate...

Bill hit the nail on the head in an earlier comment with

As a user, those dismissed flags that are later justified by community action must be the most annoying type.

That's exactly the kind that frustrates me, and are really the only declined flags that I object to; after all, if I flag and the question is never closed/migrated, or the answer removed/converted to a comment, then it was almost certainly a bad flag, or borderline enough that it becomes subjective, or maybe I was having a bad day and overreacted. I'll get over it. The mods do a great job and as a community driven site, there are going to be differences of opinion, I can live with that. I guess the real annoyance for me is when you start building up flag weight, the penalty remains the same while the boost for an accepted flag decreases.

I understand the reasons for the boost decreasing, and actually agree with it - we've already got reputation so we don't need another ever-increasing metric as a signal of how much we interact with the community.

I do have two different suggestions for a solution to the frustration, both of which the system could handle without increasing the load on any mod:

  • Have the flag weight penalty for a declined flag be equal to a number of accepted flags. For example, when you start out each accepted flag is worth 10 and a declined flag is worth -10. For me right now, a declined flag is still worth -10, but an accepted is worth around 1.1. This means that for me, a declined flag has a much greater relative impact than for someone new to flagging. This doesn't seem right to me - I've already demonstrated I can flag reasonably well since my flag weight is currently 626.4. A new flagger with no proven history of good flagging gets a penalty of one good flag (-10) but I get a penalty of about 9 good flags, despite having shown that I flag reasonably responsibly. Let's say the penalty was 5 flags rather than 10 points - the new flagger would get a penalty of 50 and mine would be about 5.5; seems unfair, right? Except for both of us, that would only require 5 good flags to reverse.
  • Or, as a variation, how about having the flag penalty asymptotically approaching a low number (maybe zero, but more likely two, or three so it still smarts a little, but doesn't necessarily feel punitive) as the maximum flag weight asymptotically approaches 750? This would allow the algorithm to factor in the fact that users with higher flag weights have necessarily demonstrated their ability to flag responsibly and this is reflected in their declined flags getting a lower penalty than a user who has no track record.

A possible problem with the first is it may discourage flagging since it could be perceived as unfairly penalising new flaggers. If flag weight was a representative overall good flag value then this wouldn't be an issue since the penalty would no longer be relatively disproportionate at one end of the scale.

Personally, I think I prefer my second option as it can make allowances (admittedly in a simplistic manner) for a user's previous good flagging behaviour, but still includes a penalty for declined flags.

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    I don't think they're going to change the flag weight penalty. See Brian Reichle's answer explaining the importance of identifying a "good" flagger vs "long term ok flagger". But I definitely feel your pain. I've had a dismissed flag later justified by another moderator, which definitely discouraged me, but not enough that I still don't want my precious Marshall badge – Some Helpful Commenter Sep 9 '11 at 22:12
  • Why would you, as an ordinary contributor, have a problem with a declined flag when the question gets closed anyway? This demonstrates nothing but a needless and counterproductive obsession with an arbitrary number. The purpose of flagging is to identify problems on the site; whether they're ultimately handled by a moderator or the community makes no difference at all. The whole argument really hurts your credibility - you should be concerned about those instances where you think something is really harming the site and nobody cleans it up. – Aarobot Sep 13 '11 at 11:46
  • @Aarobot, I have a problem because the message it sends is that my flags don't matter. If it will get acted upon from somebody else's flag, then why should I bother flagging at all? Correct? That's the message you're sending. I'm most active in the Android area of the main SO site. We really need lower quality content to be flagged and if you're saying to your users that their flags don't matter you risk alienating them and the quality of the site and usefulness to the community suffers as a result. Nobody cleaning up is IMHO a tiny issue compared to the loss of flags due to frustration. – RivieraKid Sep 13 '11 at 21:03
  • It's saying that the moderator didn't agree with your flag. Nothing more, nothing less. If the community then votes to close, that is saying that the community didn't agree with the moderator; nothing more, nothing less. This absurd dissection indicates that you're furiously monitoring your flag weight score and/or flagged posts to see the response. That is totally not how flags are supposed to be used. If you see a problem, flag it and move on. – Aarobot Sep 13 '11 at 22:36

I don't care about rep or flag weight. I just want to contribute, and not waste my time doing so. My most recent flag was denied, and I've been wasting the past half hour trying to figure out why, looking up flag disputes and landing here, and just trying to submit a better flag.

This question had been flagged as a duplicate since 2016, but hadn't been closed. I flagged it for speed close because I've done that in the past with similar questions, and they did get speed closed.

This time though, I drew the short straw and an unnamed moderator (accountability and transparency anyone?) declined my flag like this:

they're different languages

I find it hard to believe that both myself and the 2016 user who initially flagged this question as a duplicate failed to notice the two questions were for different languages. Anyway, I wanted to see if I was wrong. However, that mod also deleted the comment that marked the question as a dupe.

Worse, when I attempt to flag the question as a dupe now in order to see what duplicates SO suggests, I can't. The option is gone:

Can no longer mark question as duplicate

Other reasons to dispute flags

So there might be other reasons to dispute flags, such as mods making human mistakes and making it impossible to flag questions as duplicates. Or maybe I made the mistake, but later found a legitimate question that was duplicated by this one.

Is there no recourse?

  • Yeah, I see it better now. That said, the screenshot you show here should only be shown if you've cast a close vote that is still pending, led to a successful closure but was later reopened, was retracted, or has aged away less than 14 days ago. Which one of these is the case? – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog May 18 at 7:54
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog: I have no idea :) Where can I look to find out? – Dan Dascalescu May 18 at 7:57
  • Please remove the link to your flag summary. It's not visible to non-moderators (and through that, most of the readers of this post) – Olivia May 18 at 8:03
  • Click the "close" button on the post. (By the way, once you have 3k+ rep, close flags remap to close votes.) – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog May 18 at 8:30
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog: I get "You have already voted to close this question, but you may vote again on May 31 at 3:01". So I'm blocked from closing that question with a legitimate one for two weeks? How does this helps SO? If there's hope that I'll set a calendar event or something to waste more time on this issue in two weeks from now, that's very mistaken :) – Dan Dascalescu May 19 at 4:00
  • @DanDascalescu Yes, there is a two-week waiting period if you've voted to close but it's aged. This is to prevent people from frivolously repeatedly adding the same question to CV review. – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog May 19 at 4:02

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