Here is the close queue:

Close Queue: 88.8k strong

Here is an active flag I have:

Active Flag from 4 Months Ago

I currently have 5 flags pending in the close queue. Some, like this one, are months old. This doesn't feel right and may discourage newer users from flagging things that need attention with the assumption that a flag may be ignored for 4 months, so why bother?

Here are some possibilities:

  1. Bump flags that have been languishing for more than 30 days to the front of the close queue (or weight questions with said flags a bit higher). Won't solve the issue, but will make it less egregious
  2. Punishing a misbehaving mod by forcing them to go through every sub-3000 user's flagged close votes in the queue and free them from flag limbo
  3. psubsee's suggestion, "a new 10K flag list for "stuck" flags, which would be any close flag that is unhandled within 30 days."

This question has been heavily edited under the assumption that flags didn't get refreshed every day. Apparently they do, thanks to Bill and Asheesh, so sorry about the misdirection. Languishing flags still an issue though!

  • 6
    I think (5) is the best, a new 10K flag list for "stuck" flags, which would be any close flag that is unhandled within 30 days. Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:05
  • 1
    @psubsee done and done. But what happens when there are 88.8k stuck flags in that review queue? Can we make a queue queue?
    – jmac
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:08
  • 1
    I would hope that not every post in that queue has a flag, but if they do, then we'll need something else, maybe even changing how the close queue is orders so more posts with old flags are put in the front (at least mixed in with the current ordering) Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:11
  • 1
    I think 6. After being active for a month, the flag will be automatically dismissed without any consequences. :) Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:14
  • 4
    "Jun 23 - active" -- flag hanging active for more than 4 months. Wow. Just wow
    – gnat
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:14
  • 4
    too bad we can't just go back to the question and retract the vote.
    – user221081
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:39
  • 4
    I think the root of the problem is (1) - the size of the close review queue is an issue that keeps disturbing SO and it does not seem to interest any of the mods. :(....
    – Shai
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:44
  • @gnat I have 101 flags waiting for review. Quite a few are from June/July.
    – user213634
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:46
  • @mehow Although the title is misleading, this seems to be the canonical post for discussions about retracting flags.
    – user213634
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 9:47
  • 3
    I thought flags were like votes and you got X flags daily, regardless of whether you used them or how many were left active. Can someone explain how this really works? Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 12:16
  • 1
    @Bill, they certainly aren't. I have 12 flags left. I have 17 flags total. I have 5 active. I have 17 helpful flags in the past (increasing the default 15 to 17, I assume). So those 5 flags are being held up in a close queue rather than being able to be used elsewhere if they're needed, and make me reluctant to issue more close flags even if appropriate.
    – jmac
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 12:36
  • 1
    Thanks, I didn't know it worked like that, and I'm not sure if it's intentional. I cleared a couple of your pending flags on posts that I knew what to do with, so at least you should have 14 to work with now. Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 12:45
  • 1
    Yeah, I know the issue is different - my response was specific to @mehow's too bad we can't ... retract the vote. I still think vote retraction would be a useful feature, but not for the problem outlined in this feature request.
    – user213634
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 12:56
  • 2
    @Bill, yeah, my bad. You were totally right. I didn't read the instruction manual properly. I probably also operated the SE network after consuming contra-indicated cold medication. Meta counts as heavy machinery, right?
    – jmac
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 14:12
  • 3
    soon I'll have a flag reaching it's first birthday ... I was thinking in bake a cake for the occasion ... But, now, seriously ... is there a way to end those flags? I have 11 flags for Dup on SO, that are unhanded. for the period of 1 year. (I didn't flag all they at the same time). Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 14:58

3 Answers 3


The way to deal with this would be to let flags to close expire, just like votes to close do.

Votes to close are known to expire, for the reasons explained eg in answers to this question: Why do close votes expire?

closing is supposed to be a (mostly) spontaneous action by the community to deal with closures on their own... community... didn't reach even a minor consensus as to whether the question should be closed

Nothing like this happen to flags to close cast by users lacking CV privileges.

Note how per recent changes flags like that are no longer targeted to moderators only, but instead, go to same review queue as votes to close. Given this change, one can argue that the reasoning for votes expiration can now be applied to flags.

Submitted this answer per advice from animuson here.

It is worth noting that this approach has been mentioned at September meeting of SE team:

more aggressive dismissal or aging of "recommend closure" flags...

  • I usually don't ask for the reason for downvotes, but in this case I'm rather puzzled about the reason. I propose uniform expiration "rules" for votes and flags. Expiration feature is already there for some kinds of close-flags (those for migration), and I posted this not as a mindless brainstorm shot, but per advice from a moderator. I'd appreciate if someone would explain why this would be a bad idea.
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 10:47
  • 3
    I'm not the downvoter but for myself I would rather the flags be handled rather than expire. That may just be because of my expectation that all of the other flags get handled in some way at some point. Of course the idea of using the built in expire function is a good one since it should require less development time and would make these flags consistent with the votes. Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 22:22
  • @MatthewGreen well if that idea would be unique, first of a kind, I would understand heightened reluctance. However, it's not like that, because some flags have already been changed to expire, as explained here and here: "After a period of time, flags that are not acted upon by mods or other community members will get cleaned up automatically by internal scheduled tasks. This prevents flags from accruing over time and allowing actions that the greater community in general doesn't want..."
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 22:30
  • 1
    That's very true. But I think you would agree that it would probably be better to find a way to handle that flag rather than just expire it. At this point, with so many questions in the close review queue it is probably just not getting any views and that's why it is still sitting out there. If people were just skipping it I could see a reason to expire it but at this point it's probably just not getting any attention. Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 22:41
  • 1
    You know the more I think about what I just typed it does sound a lot like how the close votes currently expire with views and all that... Commented Nov 13, 2013 at 22:48
  • @MatthewGreen it looks like you're getting closer to my idea. :) Though, it is also worth keeping an open mind here: as an example, Shog recently gave a compelling explanation of the difference between flagging and voting for low quality posts. I asked him to take a look to help us figure if there could be similar difference for close-flags or not
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 6:29

First off, close flags don't expire because they don't have to. There's no implicit action tied to close flags; no matter how many of them a post collects, they don't bring it any closer to being closed. There's no concern that a gradual accumulation of close flags will eventually cause reasonable questions to be closed.

That said, it is a problem if they go too long unhandled: a flag that everyone is ignoring is effectively useless.

Just aging them away doesn't fix this; that just converts an effectively useless flag into one bearing a great big system-applied "YOU WASTED YOUR TIME" stamp. There needs to be some way to determine an actual resolution for the flag, even if that resolution is "you're wrong, this doesn't need to be closed".

The simplest solution here would be to make a single Do Not Close review decline a flag, just as a single Close review marks it helpful. This could even be enhanced to increase the number of responses required to decline a flag according to the number of flags on the post - just as we do for the Low Quality queue. Given the disparity in privilege level here, we would probably want to cap the number of "do not close" reviews required however, to prevent edge cases wherein a post would stick around in /review long past the point where it would normally be dequeued today.

A somewhat more messy solution would be to create a new flag status to reflect flags that aren't being actively reviewed by anyone. This might be useful if we opted to deprioritize flags that haven't yet attracted enough signal to warrant further attention.

  • 2
    My only concern is for low-traffic tags without 5 people with close voting privileges. Flagging to close is the only option for active users to try to handle the queue, and there isn't the possibility of the community within that tag to handle it themselves. For a site that is supposed to be community managed, I'd love it if the community (even in unpopular tags) were actually able to do that effectively. While I appreciate the attention, I don't think any of these solutions will accomplish that goal at the moment.
    – jmac
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 23:40
  • @jmac: the problem here is that we're trying to generate attention for things that aren't getting enough, but so far we've not been entirely successful in generating enough attention. And there's no substitute for that. The bar for flagging is incredibly low - 50 points, and you can flag for closure on anything... So if we can't get more than one flag on a given item - no votes, no other flags - we've got nothing to work with. As I've said before, the only long-term solutions here are 1) more reviewers 2) less noise in the queue.
    – Shog9
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 0:19
  • Totally agreed -- once the queue issues get fixed, I think this will naturally resolve itself. The one suggestion I saw that could make this a bit less of an issue is automatically graduating the close flags to close votes when a user hits 3k rep (though I don't know how many of these flags that would clear).
    – jmac
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 0:21
  • What I'm seeing, is flagging a several years old question, makes flag never reviewed... Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 21:39

I had a pretty big change of heart here when re-reading the blog post that first announced these flags:

One thing we realized is that the mod flag dialog ends up being training wheels for closers. That is, users who do not yet have the right to cast a close vote (earned at 3k reputation), but do have strong feelings that a given question does not belong based on our standard set of close reasons.

Four years later, this is how many new users learn to use the site's moderation tools - and as such, it's important that they don't learn bad habits. Accurate flagging is a critical part of maintaining the quality of these sites; careless or unnecessary flagging bogs down the process for everyone.

So with that in mind, flags are no longer allowed to linger. The solution isn't as elegant as what I once hoped for, but it should suffice:

  1. Close flags age the same way that close votes age. That means there's a hard limit of 14 days after the last vote or flag that they can remain active. Both votes and flags can now be re-raised if they fall into this scenario, which I think provides a reasonable compromise between the ideal of automatically escalating ignored flags and the practicality of lots of these flags being not particularly urgent.

  2. Triage review (currently Stack Overflow only) instantly disputes flags if the consensus is not "unsalvageable". This provides nearly-instant feedback without requiring a lengthy close review.

  • Which mean the flagging reason for duplicates became useless for a large part. Because duplicates clean up often concern several years old posts with low view. Also you can’t retrigger the same flag reason. Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 22:14
  • Age of the post is mostly irrelevant here, @user2284570 - it's the age of the flag that matters. Closing old posts tends to be a little bit more difficult for other reasons, but that's not necessarily a bad thing either - one would expect the burden of proof to need to be somewhat higher in that case. Note that you're free to re-raise aged flags that are still valid now, which allows you to get attention for duplicates that've simply been overlooked - those were a serious problem before, IMHO, as they often just got lost in the noise.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 22:30
  • 1
    No, I am spending a lot of time cleaning old posts. On ~750 flags, 310 were aged away (I flagged ~150 recent questions with the data explorer) when this feature got implemented. The age of the post combined with the number of views and votes definitely do matter. In 68% of the case flagging an old post is useless know. but I agree this require a larger experiment. By the way did the aged away flags got implemented in DATA.SE? If yes I will create a query and post a question in July (which mean when I will get the time to do it). Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 22:38
  • Think about what that means, @user2284570: 310 of the questions you'd taken time to identify were being ignored, and there was nothing you could do about it. Was anyone ever going to see those flags? Probably not. Were they going to get close votes? Not unless someone else did the same spelunking you did, in which case the flags wouldn't really be helpful anyway. Now you know which of your flags were effective, and can do something about the rest... Flag data isn't public, but here's a graph of your close flags by the age of the question being flagged: i.sstatic.net/tb6k4.png
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 22:49
  • I am saying that the question should still be closed and that instead of removing them, we should work in finding a way to get them handled (sounds like removing the sign when nobody read it). I think you should re-draw the graph with the flags which got handled as helpful in more than three weeks removed or added to the Aged ones (because I think there is something like 110 flags which belong to that condition). What is the time unit on the graph (weeks/years)? Also you told yourself that post should be downvoted/edited when a flag aged. Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 23:13
  • Here you go, @user2284570. Still not seeing a clear connection between post age and flag result. Saying, "we should handle these" is cheap; finding a way to do that isn't. You've been here almost two years, and raised a lot of good flags - maybe it's time to take off the training wheels? Earn 3K reputation and help handle these flags...
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 23:20
  • Ok I just read the post and it finally looks normal : flags weren’t designed for cleaning up old posts. They were mainly designed for new post :There’s no way even the most avid community moderator could possibly keep tabs on 2,500+ questions and 7,500+ answers per day. And please tell the time unit. Also isn’t the 3k reputation for turning flags into close votes that age too?` (I guess the /tools is more interesting). But the problem is I have not the required time for answering currently. I can’t see the request on data.SE.com . Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 23:28

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