I have seen that this topic is discussed widely on Meta, even there are a number of feature requests on this topic. Here I would like to present my clear and easy-to-implement recommendation.

In my opinion voting and flagging are very similar, both express an opinion, which is valid at that specific moment of time. Votes can express both positive and negative opinions, most flags can express only negative one. I have a recommendation for expressively negative, post-oriented flags.

If an edit has been made on the post, the situation may change. Despite of that, votes and flags behave differently:

  • Votes can be revoked, or even altered
  • Flags will remain the same, even though a positive change happened in the post.

My recommendation is very simple: If I cast a positive vote on the post, all my negative flags on that post should be deleted (if not yet accepted or rejected).

  • It does not require extra UI features (possibly one information message may appear)
  • It really expresses the flagger's opinion (if the change is positive, then it is worth to upvote)
  • If an edit made to the post, then (and only then) has the flagger the right to change his/her (very negative) opinion
  • It is easy to implement (under the hood)
  • We can really achieve reduction of the moderator load
  • It is simple to understand, the community will understand easily (I hope so)

To make the picture clear, one additional rule must be introduced: I should not be able to flag negatively a post that I voted positively.

This way we would exclude the situation that you wouldn't be able to revoke your flag, because you cannot cannot click upvote, because you have already clicked before.

The additional rule is also very reasonable: you either agree with the given post, or not. It has no sense to do both.

As a response to a comment: when I mention negative flags, I mean those flags that are directed to delete a post. If it's not clear for everybody, the community should decide whether a flag TYPE is negative or not.

  • 9
    "In my opinion voting and flagging are very similar" - Well my opinion's different. For example I won't hesitate to upvote and flag a blatant non-answer if it's funny enough.
    – Mysticial
    Mar 7, 2013 at 22:41
  • 9
    All flagging is not negative toward the post it's being made on. Mar 7, 2013 at 22:41
  • 1
    @AndrewBarber Ah yes. I forgot about the "good" flags. I upvoted an answer before and then flagged it out of wiki.
    – Mysticial
    Mar 7, 2013 at 22:42
  • @Mysticial I cant't see the reason, the poster will not get the points if the post is deleted.
    – gaborsch
    Mar 7, 2013 at 22:43
  • Flagging does not mean the post will be deleted if accepted. That may be what often happens, but it's not always the intent. There are positive reasons to flag, too. Such as trying to get an old, edited post reopened. Mar 7, 2013 at 22:44
  • 2
    Such flags are always "Other" flags. Those can't be automatically detected as positive or negative. They could be either. Or they might not actually be about the post itself at all. Mar 7, 2013 at 22:45
  • @downvoters Please read before you click. I am sure that you miss important details.
    – gaborsch
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:02
  • 2
    You're concerned people aren't reading the post before voting, but you have supreme confidence they'll read the comments? Mar 8, 2013 at 15:12
  • @AnthonyPegram :) I just hope so. Actually both answers started from a misunderstanding of the post. And seemingly everybody agrees them, so they don't realize the contradiction.
    – gaborsch
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:20
  • Your re-written version of this question did not convey the same information as the original. People's answers were specifically directed at the suggestions you made in the original, so I have reverted to it. If you would like to ask a question about how something works, please do so as a new questions. Incidentally, this is also an answer to your question: your question did just the sort of thing you were worried about and community review is the mechanism used to catch issues like this.
    – Caleb
    Apr 1, 2013 at 22:46
  • @Caleb Good. Now you can see what was the real meaning of my original question. This "experiment" shows that the OP - with one significant, or a few slight changes - can really alter the whole meaning of the question. Obviously you can rate one version positively, the other one negatively. Also, if the question is modified, the rating of the answer should change, as well. So, all the ratings, flaggings should change. BTW, it wasn't incidental, rather intentional. So, here I just exactly demonstrated my problem. Do you think it's all perfect this way? I don't think so. Think a bit, like me.
    – gaborsch
    Apr 2, 2013 at 0:24
  • @Expendable: You are being pedantic. And no, I don't think this problem. The system isn't perfect, but it works. This is only an issue in cases like you in this post here where the OP is trying to be difficult, which happens very rarely and often requires moderator intervention anyway. Automatic handling of these edge cases would be useless.
    – Caleb
    Apr 2, 2013 at 8:22

4 Answers 4


Your suggestion has one major flaw: All flags are not 'negative'. Some are positive, and some are not even directly related to the post they are made on at all. You simply can not make any automated assumptions about a user's intent toward a post by trying to look at their votes and flags on it. You might think you can, and you might be right 95% of the time, but this feature's usefulness is not, in my opinion, compelling enough to put out those 5%.

  • You may be right, but most people are complaining about the edit-after-downflag effect. Maybe we should restrict this rule for downflags only.
    – gaborsch
    Mar 7, 2013 at 22:50
  • Updated the recommendation reflecting your answer.
    – gaborsch
    Mar 7, 2013 at 22:53
  • 2
    If flags are ambiguous in their positive/negative nature, then maybe that is a separate issue that should be resolved first? What's the issue with allowing negative flags to be removed with an upvote beyond the logistical issue of predicting what the intent of the flag is?
    – jmac
    Mar 7, 2013 at 23:29
  • @jmac Good point, I thought it is clear that those flags that are directed towards deleting a post should be considered negative. But it may worth to clarify. For now, I recommend that in this question we should consider those flags to be negative that the community considered to be negative.
    – gaborsch
    Mar 8, 2013 at 8:37

The reason voting is largely separate from moderation features like closure/deletion is that just about any joe-shmoe can case an upvote for any reason, and slightly fewer, but still very many, joe shmoes can case downvotes.

I myself and deleted, voted to delete, closed or flagged posts with upvotes. Sometimes the upvotes were even valid; it was a useful post, but also needed to be closed (duplicates are often useful, NC posts can even be useful). Sometimes a post was popular but also totally not an answer. Sometimes a post was upvoted but blatantly stolen from another post or otherwise be abusive.

Finally, this gives a lot of weight to upvotes, which are often thrown around like candy. Many of those negative flags can only be handled by moderators or community deletion (on sites other than Stack Overflow, moderators are almost the only way to handle Not an Answer flags). Suddenly a flag that required some serious review by solid community members can be dismissed by a drive by upvote. Since many of those flags are indeed warranted, that just seems scary.

  • OK, I can see that not everybody understands my words. I mean that Whoever made the flag, should upvote to delete his own flagging. If you flag, then I upvote, I don't delete your flag. If I downflag, then I upvote, only then I delete my own downflag.
    – gaborsch
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:00

Answering the question after it was entirely changed (see revision 7)

There is a mechanism for it. I visit your post, see that you have rewritten it, and flag it for a moderator. There may be no automated mechanism; but we can't catch everything through automated mechanisms. With good community moderation, I don't see this will be a problem. The burden of proof that it is on you.

  • 1
    This answer is not intended to apply to the question as originally asked, or as reverted, or in any other arbitrary state the the poster may think to put it in.
    – Kazark
    Apr 1, 2013 at 23:02

There is no such thing as "negative flags" vs. "positive flags". Flags are specifically calls for a moderator or high rep user to manually review something. They are calls for human intervention. Automatically processing them based on other actions would completely defeat the purpose.

If a post has changed by the time the flag handler gets to it, they will take the current version of it into consideration when handling the flag. The post revision history is available to see how it changed.

The changes you propose are confusing and counter-productive. The SE engine already handles this use case pretty well. I have rarely seen complete rewrites be a problem on any site, and the only cases where it is a problem requires moderator intervention anyway.

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