Many times, I see a flag (generally a custom one), and wish to reply to it. A common type is the "Convert to CW" flag that rears its head at times (it is helpful, since it leads to me closing the post, but the premise is incorrect). Such qs are usually closed as NC, so I mark the flag as helpful--but I have no way of letting the user know that their premise behind the flag is wrong aside from creating a private chat room, which is too much work at the moment (and would anyway be a waste of a chatroom in most cases). There are other cases where new users use custom flags when they basically want to call the question OT or NARQ (using the specific flag means that it goes to the close vote queues).

According to this answer quoting an authoritative source, as of now, "helpful" is for whenever the user was acting in good faith. Which means that there are even more "wrong" flags that must be marked as "helpful", thus giving us no way to teach the user what to flag.

My proposal is to allow us to write a custom message along with "helpful", which is delivered to the user's notifications inbox (linking them to their "flagged posts" page, which will show the full reply):

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For consistency, let us choose to ping the users on a custom decline as well:

enter image description here

There are many times when I'd want the user to read the decline message (especially when it's a user flagging in good faith). In the current system, I don't even know if the user reads the decline message. It is pointless for me to write the decline message in the first place if the user isn't reading it.

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    I always wondered if people check the non ping custom declines. I know I used to, since I wanted to see if I were wrong or not.
    – user176326
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 9:23
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    @simchona: Same here. The red thingy on my profile alerted me to it in the first place. But not all check it. And those who flag a lot may have the decline reasons buried under helpful flags, unless they check really often and obsess about it. Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 9:27
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    It also serves as a better teaching moment--I know that before I became mod, some mods did spend time at least citing a link of why I was being declined.
    – user176326
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 9:30
  • @simchona: Nice. I ought to start doing that, great idea! :) Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 9:32
  • One could argue that if you can't cite a link on your own meta, you shouldn't decline. You can't argue that "it's site policy to..." unless it's in meta :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 10:53
  • @Sklivvz What about the cases where it's on MSO? Sitewide policies and all
    – user176326
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 9:26
  • This is a good suggestion, but the feedback loop is sort of unidirectional. Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 13:02
  • @0A0D: Nah, we don't want a full dialog in the flags. That's too much. If the user wants, they can ping the mod in chat. (We cannot reveal who flagged what, but users can reveal what they flagged) Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 13:17
  • @Laura Thank you! Nice to see some popular features requests like this one being implemented! Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 16:31

5 Answers 5


We've (by "we" I mean "Jarrod") officially added this functionality to the UI, pretty much exactly the way Manishearth and Ilmari Karonen envisioned it. Note that the user still is not notified of the results of a flag they cast, so they won't see this feedback unless they go looking for it. For those diligent flaggers who do look, though, they'll now receive feedback on helpful flags as well as declined ones.

Custom messages on helpful flags are optional.

option to enter custom helpful message

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    Nice! What about moving the decline part in the same dialog? I.e. just having the feedback field and a bunch of decline buttons next to the "helpful" one? Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 11:40
  • OK, I'm a user going to look for this and I can't find it. I want to know whether I'm flagging correctly. I flagged something yesterday and am looking for some indication of that on my profile page and can't find it ... much less any feedback that may have been provided.
    – feetwet
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 16:19
  • @feetwet it's not the most obvious thing...on your profile in the "stats" section at the top, there's a "helpful flags" field. The number next to that label is a link; click it and you'll see your flagging history. If a mod enters feedback (it's optional, so you might not have any), you'll see it there next to "helpful" or "declined".
    – Laura
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 17:50

TLDR: Adding feedback is always a good idea since it helps the reviewer to get better at flagging. Better flaggers means a better site to work with!

If there is one thing people hate, it is to be clueless about the reasons behind something. This feature will improve the communication between the moderators and flaggers.

Educating users

The ping notification would allow moderator to make sure the users know about some important information that they provide by sending a custom accept/decline on a flag. Education of its member is the key to have a better site. And education happens trough a good communication.

Elucidate Accepted/Declined Situations Right Away

I totally agree with you. I often see on the meta post that looks like :

Why X flag was declined and those Y not?

To see a moderator answering something similar to this :

Well I declined X flag because it wasn't right but accepted the Y because I think you are doing at great job at ABC, and thus didn't want to reduce your flag weight too much for this.

Moderators are human and understand that most of the time people just want to be helpful to the site and thus decline only one flag in a bunch (instead of the whole bunch) from the same user to make him learn about a situation and not destroy his flag weight right away. Accepting with reply would solve this problem.

Providing More Feedback

Having a custom helpful reply flag would make the mods able to mark a flag as helpful (when it's the first one of the user on a special thing) and say something like :

Well I accepted your flag but the next time instead of XXX you should do YYY.

This also improves the communication. But now it extends the possibility communication from bad flags only to any flag.

In short, these two features would give a lot more feedback to users who try to make the site better and are sometimes wrong (we cannot always be right!). Feedback is particularly important since it would help reducing the flag queue to the most needed ones and would help "flaggers" to be educated about how to flag correctly.

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    If there is one thing people hate, it is to be clueless about the reasons behind something. That is so true. The only thing that is worse is having your stuff deleted and not being told about it, meta.stackexchange.com/q/2645/133217 (which is a very similar issue although not exactly the same).
    – hlovdal
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 1:40
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    Note: custom helpful exists, just with no UI. If anyone wants a bookmarklet to make it work, ping me in TL. Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 7:33
  • and understand that most of the time people just want to be helpful to the site and thus decline only one flag in a bunch Oh, I wish.
    – bjb568
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 15:53

I agree this would be a wonderful idea, especially since many people don't know why their flags are rejected.

  • You can already send a custom rejection message - you just have to look in your profile .../users/flag-summary/<your id> and scan down the list. It's linked to from the "helpful flags" total.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 23:44
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    @ChrisF There could be a notification (grey circle in the topleft corner) for a message to a rejected flag...
    – yo'
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 21:58

It turns out that technically, this is already possible — there's just no user interface for it.

That is to say, there's no official user interface to it. Manishearth, however, wrote a bookmarklet to add one, and I took his code (with his help and permission, of course) and integrated it, with a few tweaks, into version 1.6 of the Stack Overflow Unofficial Patch.

Here's what the patched UI looks like:

Screenshot of "dismiss flags" dialog with optional message

and here's the result (courtesy of Manishearth, again):

Screenshot of helpful flag with custom message

Happy moderating! :)

Ps. If this feature doesn't work for you, or if you spot any problems with it, please report them. Alas, I'm not actually a ♦ mod on any SE site, so I haven't been able to test this as thoroughly as I would've liked.

Edit: Per Laura's answer above, this workaround is no longer needed. It has been removed from SOUP as of version 1.8.3. Many thanks to Manish, Jarrod and everyone else who made this fix first possible and then unnecessary!

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    Tools to improve tools... wonderful! Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:02

Oy, what's this about a free bounty? I'll take free rep because as a mod, I get tired of drawing people into chat to say "hey, so about that flag ..."

However, I have used that to pretty decent effect so that I've only got one or two repeat bad flaggers (who are getting rejected when they should've just left a comment) and now I want to hit the occasional flaggers for the same thing.

So ... bounty? :D

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    A note: drawing people into chat and saying "about that flag" is technically against the mod agreement since the names on flags are private. Especially custom flags, since those are supposed to be treated with the highest confidentiality. Because of this I've never brought a flag to chat. Yes....bounty :) Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 17:34
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    The only ones I've brought to chat were the ones that have discussed their flagging openly in chat, and it's always been "not an answer" to which the appropriate behavior is "leave a guiding comment, don't rely on the moderators to do what you can do". I've never just gone "omg, you flagged this answer", it's always been an NAA flag.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 18:42
  • And more to the point I've been asked in chat (probably at least a half dozen times to date) "hey jco, I flagged an answer, blah blah blah" and it shows up on my inbox
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 18:44
  • ah, that's fine then :) Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 18:45

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