Today, we had a user in the PHP chat bug people by repeatedly asking the same question. The user would ping individuals with the same message. I've asked the user to please stop bugging people and moved the messages to bin (message trashcan).

Unfortunately, the OP continued, so I started to flag his messages (about 5). I deliberately flagged all those to give those able to moderate the chance to have some sense of context about whats happening. Then the OP started to accuse us of being unhelpful. We explained once more what we think of his behavior. He started to flag some of our messages in turn.

Shortly afterwards, someone from the C++ chat comes in and complains about the flagging and a new argument started. Since this is not about pointing fingers or who said what to whom in what channel and to what effect, I'll just give you the quintessence:

Every time you guys flag something, all 10k+ users across the whole chat are asked to validate a flag given only a context free message and a link to the chat. That is terribly annoying. […] That button popping up irks me to no end. It's like a phone ringing, I cannot concentrate on anything else, and just have to pick it up.

Regardless of whether you agree with this or not, here is my suggestion:

Since there has been complaints about how the flagging system works in the past, I think we should add an opt-out for those not wanting to participate in chat moderation (or improve the process in some other way). If people simply mass-(in)validate just to get rid of the flags, the tool is ineffective. I'd rather have those willing to participate handle flags with care instead.

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    Just to clarify, I did not complain in the PHP room about the flagging of the one annoying user, I was complaining about the flagging that happened afterwards, against other users. That reeked of a flagging war, which we all have seen before.
    – sbi
    Feb 10, 2012 at 11:19
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    This user needs his ass kicked. I hope this is reason enough for a temporary ban - it should be.
    – Pekka
    Feb 10, 2012 at 11:30
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    I take great pleasure in completely ignoring a ringing phone. It didn't start that way, mind you. Feb 10, 2012 at 12:12
  • As a moderator I would like to ignore chat flags too :)
    – Kev
    Feb 10, 2012 at 12:13
  • @Mr.Disappointment I flagged sbi's initial message when he came into the PHP chat to complain about the flagging because i considered it rude. Regarding my question its not relevant to anything because its not about who flagged whom, but rather how we can improve the flagging system.
    – Gordon
    Feb 10, 2012 at 12:25
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    I'm going to play diplomat here: @sbi - I think if you're going to drop into a popular chat room and yell at everyone then it's not a good thing - be nice - the system is flawed and folks do genuinely forget that these flags pop up globally for 10k'ers. Gordon - sbi's chat room message quote is something of a catchpenny and is, as already evident in these comments, just rubbing folks the wrong way and distracting from your core argument. I'd suggest editing to focus more on the problem, and less who did what and when. I'd generalise this a bit if you can. Thanks.
    – Kev
    Feb 10, 2012 at 15:35
  • @Kev: In the C++ room, we have learned to be opposed to flagging, and prefer speaking up openly if we dislike something. If flagging crops up, this is a rather common reaction of mine, often being approved by others in the room. I guess I just extrapolated wrongly.
    – sbi
    Feb 10, 2012 at 15:53
  • @Mr.Disappointment: Maybe I was too krüptik with that one. What I meant is that it is a silly thing to hope for agreement from the rest of the chat for flagging a message, when that message complains about the very fact that you had annoyed the whole of the stack by excessive flagging. In the C++ room were almost half a dozen users who could/need to validate flags, and they alone might have shot down that flag within seconds, because they agreed with me. (OTOH, maybe I should have left your statement stand. it's nice to be seen as such a young one again. :))
    – sbi
    Feb 10, 2012 at 16:00
  • @Kev updated now
    – Gordon
    Feb 10, 2012 at 16:20
  • Appreciated. Can I clean out the comments referring to the now removed chat content /cc @sbi
    – Kev
    Feb 10, 2012 at 16:42
  • @Kev: I usually oppose comment "cleanups". The moment you delete this, someone will come along and ask why Gordon didn't include references to his story, so readers can appreciate what happened.
    – sbi
    Feb 10, 2012 at 16:46
  • @Kev i dont mind. do as you see fit.
    – Gordon
    Feb 10, 2012 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


If there is a pattern of misbehaviour from a user, you don't need to flag every single message, use one moderator flag and explain that the user is bothering random users with the same question. This will get a moderator involved who can first explain the user that he shouldn't continue this behaviour, and if that doesn't help he can simply suspend the user from chat.

The additional problem with spam/offensive flags is that they are shown out of context and contain no further explanation. I can imagine your flags looking completely innocent when viewed without context.

Dealing with troublesome user behaviour is not something for 10k users, they don't have the tools for that. A moderator can deal with that far more efficiently, so don't hesitate to call one in such situations. Generally, moderation from community members works on a per-post level, for anything that needs to be done on a per-user level you should involve a diamond moderator.

I agree that the flagging system is problematic, the flags are shown to far more users than necessary. I'd rather fix that than work around it by adding a preference to ignore chat flags.

  • while reasonable, diamond mod flags take time unless they are handled. the regular flags can result in much faster reaction. and if you flag five in a row, it adds the necessary context to better evaluate the situation.
    – Gordon
    Feb 10, 2012 at 11:22
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    IME, at this time of the day it could happen that several dozen flags can pile up without a moderator stepping in.
    – sbi
    Feb 10, 2012 at 11:24
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    @sbi I was going from my experience on chat.stackexchange, though it's likely far different on chat.SO. There are far more moderators on SE chat than on the SO chat, so the reaction time will certainly be different. Feb 10, 2012 at 11:36
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    @Fabian SO mods are never on SO chat... they're always on SE chat. That's why =) Feb 10, 2012 at 12:19
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    Maybe it would be worth assigning new moderators only for SO chat, if "SO mods are never on SO chat"? I'd volunteer for that.
    – salathe
    Feb 10, 2012 at 13:19

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