I've run into this situation a few times now and I'm a little unsure if it is appropriate to flag.

It usually starts when I see a particularly bad question from a user with enough rep to suggest that they aren't exactly a "new user", being curios I check their profile* and find that they are definitely not a new user, and they've been asking these sorts of questions for quite a while now.

Is it acceptable to flag one of the users posts and ask a mod to check out the user's most recent 5-10 posts, and request that they do something about a pattern of behavior, rather than voting to close and/or downvoting the offending posts on an individual basis?

*I'm aware that its seen by some as a bad practice to check a user's profile and look for a pattern of behavior, but it seems like a fair assumption that if a user has been around for a while and is posting poor content or exhibiting other bad habits that they've probably exhibited these bad habits before and it probably should be addressed as a pattern rather than as an isolated incident.

  • 1
    What do you expect a mod to do if they find a user asking a lot of low quality questions? That doesn't exactly sound like grounds for any mod actions. – Servy Feb 14 '14 at 16:47
  • 3
    It's never a bad practice to check a user's profile for negative patterns - as long as it's out of a professional concern for the site's welfare, and not out of a personal grudge or something. – Pekka Feb 14 '14 at 16:47
  • 1
    @Servy actually, I remember Jeff Atwood encouraging to flag even such cases. Not sure whether that advice is still current, though. (Edit: it no longer is, see Robert's response below.) – Pekka Feb 14 '14 at 16:47
  • @Servy I would guess that in some situations a message from a moderator would curb some bad habits. – apaul Feb 14 '14 at 16:48
  • 2
    Automated question quality checks and question bans have pretty much eliminated the need to suspend anyone for quality problems. – user102937 Feb 14 '14 at 16:48
  • @RobertHarvey I'm not necessarily thinking of manual bans, a simple "Hey you've been on the site for 3 years you should know better..." coming from a moderator would probably be enough in the cases I'm seeing. – apaul Feb 14 '14 at 16:56
  • @RobertHarvey So... Is that a don't use mod flags? If so, should I just be close voting and so on instead? – apaul Feb 14 '14 at 17:12
  • 3
    You can use mod flags for low quality questions if you like, but by the time I get to them, the problem has usually solved itself. – user102937 Feb 14 '14 at 17:25

That's perfectly fine. The reason why people have the ability to flag posts is so that the community can help to ensure the site contains the best content possible, and the least amount of crud.

Just flag a post of theirs, choose 'other' as the reason and then give some info about why you're concerned.

Just flag one post though, not loads of them. Mods will investigate to see if there is anything suspicious or whether they need to step in to do something about it.


Moderators are very busy individuals, and so choosing "other" and setting a moderator flag should only be raised when the reason for flagging is so egregious that it absolutely requires a moderator to take action.

In all other cases, simply flag the question, or vote to close if you are 3K+ rep user, using the already established close reasons so that the community can take appropriate action. Another thing you can do, that I try to do as often as I can, is comment on the post and state what the poster can do to improve their post, or the reason why their post is off-topic or low quality. The goal here in the end is to improve the quality of posts, so hopefully the poster will acknowledge what you stated and improve their post. That is the goal we should always be working towards.

  • Users described in the question, namely long time users with a vast history of asking very poor quality questions, are unlikely to stop asking poor questions just because you ask them to. They've learned that they can ask crap questions and get answers, so they'll only really stop if they cease getting answers. They'll freely ignore any comments saying that their questions are bad, downvotes they get, question closures after they have their answer, etc., making all of these mechanisms ineffective for such situations. – Servy Feb 14 '14 at 17:28
  • @Servy, I've come across that scenario many times as well; however, with the large number of low quality posts, and users, couldn't we improve the system so flags to moderators don't have to be raised? For example, I've seen 10K+ rep users answer low quality questions. Shouldn't we also be looking at why people are answering these low quality questions? If we can get people to stop answering low quality questions, it may reduce this behavior (ie. perhaps deducting reputation for answers to questions that are closed, this removes the incentive for people to answer low quality questions). – Anil Natha Feb 14 '14 at 17:34
  • That has been proposed and rejected many times before. – Servy Feb 14 '14 at 17:37
  • @Servy, It's unfortunate that it has been rejected so many times in the past, because in my opinion, if we continue to enable users to answer these low quality questions, people will continue to ask the low quality questions. Sounds like the problem will never cease unless we take a proactive approach. Flagging and telling some people to stop isn't going to solve the underlying issue. Flagging is just a band-aid I feel. Thank you for the insight as always though. Cheers. – Anil Natha Feb 14 '14 at 17:42
  • First off, I never advocated flagging here. I only discouraged it. Second, while I fully agree that there is a problem here, you solution would cause lots of additional problems in it's attempt at solving this one. It seems like a good idea at first, but when you really look at it in depth, and consider the implications of applying it to all of the other types of closed questions, you start to see some of the problems. – Servy Feb 14 '14 at 17:48
  • @Servy, My statement about flagging was more about how we would be continuing to handle low quality posts in the future and that wouldn't be helpful. My intention was not to imply that it was advocated by you, my apologies. – Anil Natha Feb 14 '14 at 17:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .