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Once upon a time, I flagged this answer as "not an answer", which was deemed helpful, but no action was taken on it. However, I flagged it again recently with a custom flag and I typed in "not an answer" for the reason, and it was disputed. I thought that custom flags were treated with confidentiality and shown only to diamond moderators, but how did a 10k+ reputation user manage to see my custom flag in this case?

Screen shot: (The first flag was a standard "not an answer" flag, but the second is a custom flag)

My custom flag was disputed

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    Are you sure it was a custom flag? Looks like the normal "not an answer" flag to me.
    – Oded
    Oct 20 '13 at 17:59
  • @Oded The second is a custom flag. I typed in "not an answer" for the flag reason. You can't flag as standard "not an answer" (or "it is not an answer" since recent revisions) twice.
    – user215114
    Oct 20 '13 at 18:01
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    It's possible that exactly typing "not an answer" made the system think it was a normal NAA flag. I was confused why it let you flag it with that reason twice and hadn't considered a custom flag. When I saw it in the flags queue, it was being displayed as a normal "not an answer" flag and not a custom flag.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Oct 20 '13 at 18:02
  • @gparyani: are you certain you didn't flag it the other way around? First a custom flag, then a NAA flag? Oct 20 '13 at 18:12
  • @MartijnPieters I made the standard flag first, then the custom flag.
    – user215114
    Oct 20 '13 at 18:39
  • @animuson I think that's what happened. Let's see what the other developers say...
    – user215114
    Oct 20 '13 at 18:39
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    For your actual flag - The tone on Meta is typically more light-hearted - there are plenty of those types of answers around, so I'm not surprised your flag was disputed and the answer is still around. Oct 20 '13 at 23:20
  • @Dukeling But why was the first one deemed helpful?
    – user215114
    Oct 20 '13 at 23:51
  • @gparyani It was deemed helpful, but the answer wasn't deleted - so my guess is the mod decided it was a borderline case - the flag was decent, thus not to be declined, which would negatively affect your flagging history and reduce the number of available flags you have, but not really an inappropriate answer either. (the answer appears to have been deleted now) Oct 21 '13 at 0:00
  • @gparyani I just tested (now that I'm at home). Typing in "not an answer" directly does treat it as a normal not an answer flag even though it's a custom-written flag. Oddly, the same does not occur if I type in "very low quality" directly.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Oct 21 '13 at 3:23
  • @animuson Should I change this to a bug report, or should I file a new report about this?
    – user215114
    Oct 21 '13 at 5:19
  • @animuson Another question: If you flag a question with a custom reason that corresponds to a real close reason (e.g. "primarily opinion-based"), does it push the question into the close vote queue instead of the flag queue?
    – user215114
    Oct 21 '13 at 5:21
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Once I got home, I tried just going to an answer and typed in "not an answer" in the custom flag box. Viewing it directly from the question and in the flags queue, it shows up as a normal not an answer flag rather than a custom flag. Oddly, though, typing in "very low quality" does not exhibit the same behavior.

Likely the system just looks for flags which have the text "not an answer" as the flag reason and doesn't pay attention to anything else about the flag. You could consider this a bug, I guess. But I honestly don't think it makes any difference. Whether or not other users see your basic "not an answer" flag, custom or not, does not really change the end result. A moderator still has to see it in order for it to be declined, and sending it to 10k users still allows them to vote to delete it if it's negatively scored.

Bottom line - the way you flagged it, it was still a "not an answer" flag even if you typed it manually in the custom flag box, so there's not any problem with the system treating it as such. I'd much rather the system check the text you entered against previous flags and reject it if it's the same, but then again, people can just as easily find a way around that by flagging it as "not an answer!"

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  • Does the system remove any extra spacing after the flag text?
    – user215114
    Oct 21 '13 at 5:26
  • Yes, excess white-space gets stripped. If your custom reason isn't long enough after it gets stripped, you'll get an error message and the flag won't be submitted.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Oct 21 '13 at 5:28
  • Did you see my last comment on the question?
    – user215114
    Oct 21 '13 at 5:30
  • Those would still go to moderators. Recommend closure flags are treated completely differently than normal flags, kind of like comment flags. They're just not the same thing.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Oct 21 '13 at 5:32
  • Though, from a user standpoint, they're the same, right?
    – user215114
    Oct 21 '13 at 5:36
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I don't think the system should let you do this, although I understand it may be hard to fix.

I believe converting a custom flag with "not an answer" in the text field is actually a feature. Custom flags should be used to explain more than a regular NAA flag can, not just repeat something another flag is for. If your first flag got declined then use a custom flag to explain why you still think it's not an answer, but don't just say "not an answer" again, that's pointless and you shouldn't do it.

Basically, it's useful that the system converts a custom flag with the text "not an answer" into a regular NAA flag, but it isn't useful that it allows you to bypass the flagging system like that.

If your first NAA flag got disputed/declined you shouldn't be allowed to post another. If you feel that strongly use a custom and explain.

This might just be not worth fixing however. It would be hard to implement IMO.

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