I flagged the following post as off-topic. Which was declined. But I find now that the post is "closed as unclear what you're asking". Am I to understand that by picking the wrong flag I get penalized because I picked the wrong one to flag it as?

Your last flag was declined - please review it before flagging this post!

A flag is a flag it should still be closed regardless of what I flagged it as. I'm asking because I want to be sure I understand how to flag things. As it stands I think, in the future if I am unsure what to flag it as I will refrain from flagging it at all. Even if it should be flagged as something.

Note: My flag was made at: off-topic – DaImTo Mar 6 at 14:01
which was before his edited Mar 6 at 14:06 Which may or may not have added more information to the question. As it is now I would not have flagged it as Off-Topic.

Display PHP multidimenisional array in html table

  • What probably happened here is that the moderator who reviewed your flag disagreed the question should be closed. Then, the community closed the question (notice that it was closed by five regular users). I don't think the flag type you used had any relevance whatsoever. That said, not all flags are equal, and you should always try to pick the one that - in your opinion - fits the situation best. Spam and offensive flags, for example, can potentially inflict a reputation penalty (to the poster), so please be careful when choosing them.
    – yannis
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:07
  • 1
    The flag on the question you link to is a close flag, which is never seen by moderators (and indeed, was declined by review, not a moderator). If it's being considered for flag warnings/bans, it shouldn't be. Mar 28, 2014 at 12:09
  • I agree with you with regard to flagging things but. "off-topic" and "unclear what you're asking" are quite close in there meaning (IMO).
    – DaImTo
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:09
  • @DaImTo Hm, what BoltClock says it's true, I forgot that normal close flags are no longer visible to moderators, so a mod was probably not involved here. As for "off-topic" and "unclear" being close enough, I agree.
    – yannis
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:11
  • Can you tell me how to avoid this problem in the future?
    – DaImTo
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:12
  • @DaImTo you don't worry about it. It is a single declined flag and really doesn't mean much. Mar 28, 2014 at 12:14
  • 1
    All flags are certainly not created equal. And "off topic" and "unclear what you are asking" are certainly not one and the same. Basically, the first is "this question doesn't belong here", the second is "I can't tell what the question is". It's very rare in my experience that a post is a candidate for both of those. ("Unclear" and "too broad" is another matter.)
    – user
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:14
  • IIRC, the specific close reason used does not impact whether or not the flag is marked as helpful or declined. So the whole off-topic/unclear debate is a moot point. The helpful/decline mark is dictated by how many users clicked "Leave Open" in the close process. So enough people probably clicked "Leave Open" to decline your flag, but the post still gained enough close votes to close it. Mar 28, 2014 at 12:16
  • @MichaelKjörling It appears he edited the question after I flagged it as off topic. This may have changed it to an "unclear what you are asking"
    – DaImTo
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:20
  • 1
    My comment meta.stackexchange.com/questions/227088/… was in response to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/227088/…
    – user
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:24
  • 2
    I'm stunned that 5 users voted to close this question - they need to get in line with the community. The first revision may be a bit unclear, but rev. 2 is IMO obviously on topic for SO. Mar 28, 2014 at 12:32
  • 1
    @SteinarLima The question was closed after rev 2, but we can't know how many of the close votes came in after rev 2. It could be all five, or just the last one.
    – yannis
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:34
  • 1
    @Yannis 4 of the 5 close votes came after the post had been improved. In some cases, long after. This is one of those situations where the post should never have been closed. Mar 28, 2014 at 12:37
  • 3
    @Yannis Well - after reviewing the first revision one more time, I strongly disagree that the first revison were a candidate for closing as well. Anyone with a minimal understanding of HTML/PHP (those who haven't should skip the question anyway) wouldn't need the extra info provided in rev 2. Mar 28, 2014 at 12:40
  • 1
    @Yannis The Q should't be closed if there is no suitable closing reason. Consider downvoting it, and remove the downvote if the OP edit the Q to your satisfaction. Mar 28, 2014 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


You were the victim of the system working like it should.

Let me explain.

The question was put in the close vote review queue, and by a 3-2 score, was marked as "Leave Open". At this point, all is as it should be.

Because you flagged this question either before or during this timeframe, the Community user automatically declined your flag because the community decided to leave it open.

Again, all is as it should be.

Then, 5 3K users decided to close it as "unclear what you're asking". To you, it looked like your view was validated, but what you didn't see was the work in the review queue.

This question is not "unclear what you're asking, nor is it "off topic" (including our many forms of off-topicness, including "asking for an offsite resource", "too broad", or "opinion based").

I've since re-opened the question.

I get the feeling it was closed because the user did not really try much of this on his own. That's not a reason to close the question, that's a reason to downvote the question.

This is a very well written question (Considering what we receive day in and day out), and while it shows little research effort, the user did meet our minimum standards:

  • Show what they want (the expected outputs)
  • What they have (the existing code)
  • And what they tried (what didn't work).

Most of the time, the third bullet point is required, but there are times it isn't.

Don't worry that you have one flag declined. I've been here since nearly the beginning, and 5% of my flags have been declined. It happens.

In this case, the system worked exactly as it should, the only thing that bugs me is that this question was closed even though it met our standards.

  • Thank you for your answer. I can live with "You were the victim of the system working like it should." I value my participation on stack overflow and always feel bad when I think I may have something wrong, if I try to prevent it from ever happening again.
    – DaImTo
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:24
  • 4
    @DalmTo You won't be able to prevent it from happening again, so don't hold yourself to that high of a standard. Just do your best to act within the guidelines of our help center, and you'll be fine. Mar 28, 2014 at 12:25

You must log in to answer this question.

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