Back in the heady days of 2010 when the chat system was being refined, it definitely made sense to have user validation of chat flags.

At that point I'm guessing we had a dozen or so moderators across the network, and we needed a way to make sure anything questionable could be responded to quickly.

Fast forward a few years, and we have 300+ moderators in the network for 100+ sites. At any given moment there are at least 10-15 active-ish mods in the moderator chat, and more in their own chat rooms for their respective sites.

At this point, the negative consequences of having users review and validate chat flags outweigh any benefit that once existed.

  • It's extremely (some might say too) easy to get 10k rep network wide! If you have 200 rep any ANY site, you can associate your account to all the other sites and get 10k. (99*101 = 9,999, added to your original 200 -- you can now chat ban!)

  • Moderators have better judgement than random users. Mods use things like context to determine if a chat flag is valid or not.

  • There are so many 10k users checking flags now that actual mods don't get a chance to see them very often. I'm a mod on the DBA site, and I spend a good amount of time in chat, and almost NEVER get to see flags as they pop up. There are just too many users responding to them. This makes spotting potential behavior issues much more difficult.

In short, I'm pretty sure that the 300+ (mostly) elected moderators can handle flags in chat just like we do on the sites. We know the rules, we communicate with each other and the comms team, and are better equipped to manage chat and be exception handlers than random 10k users.

If you disagree, I'd be interested to hear some reasons to keep this feature in place.

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  • @MadScientist OK good point! It's still not super hard to hit 10k with 100 sites, though. – JNK Apr 17 '13 at 14:38
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    This will probably be status-declined ... We should probably ask for chat-specific moderation and drop the SE wide notices. – Kermit Apr 17 '13 at 14:38
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    The fundamental problem of chat flags is not that the 10k users can decide, it is that only the users that decide the quickest have any influence on the outcome of the flag. Any user that reads up on the transcript and takes their time won't have any input, as the flag is long decided by then – Mad Scientist Apr 17 '13 at 14:39
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    @MadScientist and that's because we have a ton of users checking the flags. If this was left to actual moderators it would be a lot more deliberate. – JNK Apr 17 '13 at 14:40
  • Today, there are 336 mods to be exact. Not including employees. Says $('div.mods-container div.mods-item').length on the moderators list – RichardTheKiwi Apr 17 '13 at 14:42
  • There are only 50 users talking at the present time. How many actually have over 10k rep, and how many among that can be bothered to in/validate flags? I can't – RichardTheKiwi Apr 17 '13 at 14:43
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    @JNK I've seen really, really stupid flags that were validated by a mod, e.g. one on the message "holy hell". I remember this one as I unsuspended the user. – Mad Scientist Apr 17 '13 at 14:44
  • @MadScientist so because a mod was human and made a mistake, let's keep letting the entire 10K user pool continue to make mistakes? – Aaron Bertrand Apr 17 '13 at 14:45
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    @AaronBertrand While I think mods are less likely to make mistakes, they also need only one vote. So they need to be six times better at deciding flags correctly to beat the 10k users. I just don't think the 10k chat users are the problem with the chat system, the problem runs much deeper. – Mad Scientist Apr 17 '13 at 14:47
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    We've had multiple bans in a particular room based on flags that were raised - as far as we can tell, by people not engaged in the room - on messages that were not deemed offensive by anyone present (because obviously it's led to some interesting discussions). I just don't see how random 10K users are qualified to qualify context and determine whether a swear word is offensive to a room they're not in. – Aaron Bertrand Apr 17 '13 at 14:50
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    In other words, I agree with @FreshPrince - 10K users should only be notified if they're actually in the room. Mods should be notified if the same message is flagged twice. If only one person in a room finds something offensive, hey, they are not being held prisoner. – Aaron Bertrand Apr 17 '13 at 14:51
  • Just want to note that 10K users seem to do ok on chat.so, while I've certainly heard complaints about moderator handling of flags on chat.se. I tend to think this is less about moderator vs. 10K judgement and more about... Well, folks who disagree with you being able to handle flags. – Shog9 Apr 17 '13 at 16:29
  • @Shog9 valid point about SO vs SE, I'm not on chat.SO very much if at all. The judgement issues aside, don't you think that with our current moderation levels the need to crowdsource flag handling (which is limited only to chat at this point) is unneeded? – JNK Apr 17 '13 at 16:32
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    I really liked this suggestion: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/112756/…, and prefer it much more than the idea of making chat flags a mod specific problem. They're hard to judge and individual chatrooms are usually pretty good at defining where the line lies in their own community. – Flexo Apr 17 '13 at 19:14

The SE platform is one that allows users to take action. Users are the engine that powers it. Privileges are bestowed upon responsible users a little at a time until they mature at about 10K or 20K to utilise moderation tools.

I believe in the philosophy that the site empowers users to act and react responsibly. Perhaps 10K is not so hard to reach anymore, but to be honest, the pool of 10K users sitting in chat rooms at any given time is not really that high. At the time of writing, the chat room tells me

There are 144 users currently talking in 53 rooms.

Without even knowing if the users are counted uniquely, let's assume there really are 144 users chatting. Limit that pool to 10K users. Further limit it to those that care enough to even look at chat flags. Reduce that even further to those that are active. The pool is now small enough you could probably count it all on your digits, or even just the ones on the hands.

I also strongly disagree with this statement

Moderators have better judgement than random users

Some, definitely. Most, maybe. Not all. But then, the same goes for 10K users.

  • If you get a random sample of 20 moderators I guarantee they will have better judgement regarding disposition of flags than 20 random users. 20 random judges will have a better knowledge of the law than 20 random jurors as well, though some of those judges (being human) may not. In short mods are elected for this stuff, we sign non-disclosure agreements and have support systems in place to help us make decisions that normal 10k users do not. – JNK Apr 17 '13 at 15:08
  • Perhaps we need to vote out some moderators then after a pain staking election process? – Kermit Apr 17 '13 at 15:19
  • FWIW, @JNK... The last time I saw folks in the DBA chatroom upset about flag handling, it wasn't 10K users who validated the flags in question... – Shog9 Apr 17 '13 at 18:44
  • @Shog9 You are correct, and we mostly addressed that with the mods. We can talk to the mods as a group more effectively than every 10k user in chat though. – JNK Apr 17 '13 at 19:18
  • @JNK: probably worth remembering then that there are an awful lot of moderators on chat.SE right now. You probably reached the handful most active in chat, but I highly doubt that the majority know or care. (Also worth noting again that chat.SO is much larger than chat.SE, has fewer mods, and generally relies on them for actual blow-ups rather than trivial 'he used a bad word' flags) – Shog9 Apr 17 '13 at 22:09
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    @Shog9 then probably we should set things differently on chat.SO than chat.SE? – dezso May 8 '13 at 9:40
  • @dezso: well, they already kinda are - that's why there are gobs of mods around. Needs to be moar differenter. – Shog9 May 8 '13 at 16:24

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