I'm a moderator on two SE sites, and I'm active on several other sites. Acting on flags is one of the primary duties of a moderator, but to be able to see a flag I have to visit the specific site. There is no shiny instant update like for new questions or inbox notifications, I even have to refresh the site manually to see if there are any new flags.

I'm visiting some SE site regularly, but I'm not necessarily visiting the correct site to see that there are new flags. So even though I might be actively reading an SE site, I might miss some drama going on on one of the sites I moderate as I'm not currently looking at that specific site.

I'd like to have some kind of global flag count that is updated without having to refresh the page, that shows me if there are any flags on a site I'm a mod on. This indicator would be shown on all SE sites to me. The usefulness of this of course depends on the flag volume of a site, it certainly doesn't make sense for SO mods and probably also not for mods of the other larger sites. But it would be very useful for moderators of small sites, that have a low flag volume.

  • Would putting this in the global inbox (as a "mod/10k somewhere" feature) seem sensible to you? – voretaq7 Oct 4 '12 at 19:16
  • @voretaq7 The inbox works in a fundamentally different way, messages are never dismissed in there. I'd rather have a parallel indicator, but somethin similar to the inbox notifications. – Mad Scientist Oct 4 '12 at 19:17
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    The viability of a site is pretty questionable if the moderators can't bring themselves to visit it regularly – Michael Mrozek Oct 4 '12 at 19:17
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    @MichaelMrozek If a site gets 2-5 new questions per day, visiting more than a handful of times per day only shows you a static page. I'm on my sites at least once a day, usually more often, but it still would be nice to react quickly to events when I'm active, but just not on the correct site. – Mad Scientist Oct 4 '12 at 19:19
  • @MadScientist Yeah, that's what I meant - another tab in the panel similar to the inbox, with active flags from the sites you're a mod on. – voretaq7 Oct 4 '12 at 19:19
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    It could get confusing...I have mod rights on 2 sites and 10k rights on 2 more. How would this show up? A second flag count for all sites I'm a diamond mod on? – Ben Brocka Oct 4 '12 at 19:25

Aside from the basic and solvable technical issues (such as, "how would you handle folks who are moderators on multiple sites?"), I feel that this feature proposal is misguided at a more fundamental level.

But my site is kinda slow

"There aren't many flags on my site" shouldn't be a reason to skip visiting the site. There is more to moderation than flag handling. If there aren't many questions, maybe the moderator could ask one. Or maybe there are some edits to be made or answers to post. I know first hand how easy it can be to stop participating in the primary purpose of the site - the Q&A - once one becomes a moderator. It's important to keep in mind that the site would still benefit from those activities in addition to handling moderation issues.

With that in mind, if the site activity is so low that moderators don't even bother showing up, the last thing we want to do is make it easier for them to stop showing up.

When a site slows down, regular users also start visiting sporadically. This means that the flags you're looking for might not even be raised. If the site's community stops participating, it ends up with non-answers, outright spam, poor questions, and generally goes into a spiral of fail. Now, of course, a single moderator or even a group of moderators can't salvage a site that's plain not working, but again - we don't need to make it easier to not show up.

Relax... have a Kit Kat

And with all that said, there's still the simple fact that we want people to take breaks and balance their time. We don't want anyone to burn out handling flags. If you are a moderator on some site that's not Sci-Fi and you just had a long, horrible day at work and you just want to zone out for a bit and read some interesting Star Wars questions on Sci-Fi, you have to be able to do so without having your own site's flag queue hanging over your head.

We appoint and elect multiple moderators and enable regular users to help out precisely to make sure the workload is shared. Nobody should ever be in a position where they have to be on the site all the time or have to watch that flag count like a hawk all the time or else problems don't get handled.

If I don't do it, who will?

What happens sometimes is that the teams are unbalanced. A small subset of the moderation team is greatly more active than the rest, and so all the moderators who don't get to do much get out of habit of checking in on issues. Sometimes folks get elected and then never do much with the diamond. All of this happens. The solution is to balance the team better, not to put the responsibility for the workload on that small subset of the team.

As a side note, that's basically what's going to happen on Drupal. We're going to take a closer look at the team dynamic there and see what (if anything) we need to do to balance things out.

This holds for every site out there: if you are having issues with moderation (too much, not enough, the wrong kind) or site activity, come talk to us. And if your moderators are doing a great job, be sure to let them know. It can be a bit thankless sometimes. :)

  • I like that you're adding additional mods to older beta sites. I'm hoping bringing in some fresh perspectives will help and possibly bring renewed energy. Our flag queue isn't huge; it's practically non-existent. So the primary job of a pro-temp moderator, IMHO, at least on low traffic sites, is to rally the community and encourage people to get involved. This involves a much more "hands-on" role than just passively visiting the site. – jmort253 Oct 5 '12 at 1:07
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    @jmort253 Yes, exactly. I don't know if I'd call it a primary job, but it's definitely a major task. Pro-tem moderators are, ideally, champions for their communities. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 5 '12 at 1:08
  • I think I messed up explaining my motivation for asking this. I'm visiting my sites very often and even though it was the trigger, my idea wasn't meant for the Drupal situation. My idea is not for situations were flags aren't handled at all, but for improving the response time. There are quite some situations that are far easier to handle if you catch them early. My original feature request on this subject was a flag queue on the stackexchange.com filter, so that I could check both sites at once. – Mad Scientist Oct 5 '12 at 6:16
  • @MadScientist Yeah, I know the Drupal thing is tangential. I tried to deemphasize that part of my answer. My point overall still stands. I don't believe we have any significant response time problems right now unless there are other problems on the site. If the response time is ever increasing, it's a symptom of larger issues on the site. In most cases, it's "good enough" and doesn't outweigh the cons of having a flag count follow folks places. – Adam Lear ModStaff Oct 5 '12 at 19:37

Our primary duty might be handling flags, but if we aren't even visiting the site we're moderating, then I fear the problem is elsewhere, and it won't be solved by having the flag count stalking us around the network. If your feature ever gets build, first thing I'll do is write a userscript turning off the flag count everywhere but Programmers.

When I'm not on Programmers, I'm yet another regular user, and I like that very much. I have absolutely no need for the flag count calling me to intervene on yet another comment war on Java vs C++, while I'm answering a "how can I be moar awesome" question on The Workplace, or while I'm reading the latest "OMG I never imagined there was any truth to this" question on Skeptics. I enjoy moderating Programmers, but I also enjoy being a regular user on other sites. Sometimes I even enjoy being a regular user on Programmers, and I switch to the mobile interface (yay! no flags!).


This came up earlier today. All the mods on Drupal.SE had been AWOL for a few days. One was on vacation, and the other two's user pages showed that they were last seen days ago. Some flags were piling up. However, one of those mods had been seen on SO 22 hours ago.

If this suggestion had been in place, that mod could've seen and handled the flags.

(Obviously there's something to be said for actually visiting the site you're moderating, but there's no reason not to allow keeping an eye on things while wandering around other parts of the network.)

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    Thanks for the clarification, now I'm going to ask what your definition of "piling up" is, only because I'm an SO mod and our definitions are probably vastly different. =) – casperOne Oct 4 '12 at 19:26
  • @casperOne shouldn't you be clearing flags?? – voretaq7 Oct 4 '12 at 20:04
  • @casperOne It's not me! Someone over there's been doing such a great job that users start wondering what's going on when flags aren't handled instantly! – blahdiblah Oct 4 '12 at 20:55
  • We're all volunteers, and there's no rule that says you must visit the site you mod on every day, but it might be a good idea to make it a personal/unofficial guideline that if you visit any SE site that day, you should probably also visit the site you mod on and spend at least a few minutes looking around. It shouldn't require a flag for you to notice something amiss on a low volume site...... I kinda like SO's mod rule. For example, CasperOne doesn't have to visit SO everyday, but if he participates on SO answering questions but doesn't regularly resolve flags, then that's an issue. – jmort253 Oct 5 '12 at 1:00

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