When questions, answers, or comments are flagged, that goes to the relevant site's mods and other high rep users.

When things in chat are flagged, that goes out to the vast sea of chat and inevitably someone else grabs it before the site's mods even are aware of it.

This makes it difficult for a given site's mods and users to cultivate their site the way they want to as a community.

Some background. We've been having a recent discussion about rudeness on our site. Much of that happens in chat. In addition, we've seen some harmful effects from chat on the site - without the democratic process and checks-and-balances of meta, you have newer less sophisticated users bullied into certain activities by a chat user that wouldn't pass muster as a meta, for example.

Different sites have different "limits" regarding offensive behavior, cursing, etc. We, however, want to cultivate our community in a specific way. So when I get a user that tells me "flagging in chat doesn't work. The chat moderators see such awful stuff on other chats that what we find offensive is laughable to them. I was once called a 'wussy' by a mod from another site because I flagged a comment about beating up prostitutes," I am concerned because

  1. That is not appropriate behavior on our site, and other mods have no idea about the rules on our site, the usual "bad actors" on the site, what's going on right now on our site, etc. and so are unequipped to make decisions that are correct for our site
  2. Such activity happens and there is no way for the site mods to know it ever happened (short of fanatically reading all chat room transcripts). Other ubermods happen by our site and take mod activities from time to time, but that is all nicely recorded in the mod tab and it catches our attention when it happens.

Obviously chat moderation and management could benefit from bunches of additional features, but I think the simplest one that would help us out is to segment chat like the sites are segmented and notify the related site's mods/users, and not the whole chat-o-sphere, of flags so that they can be handled by people with knowledge of the site and so that those who guide the site are aware of what's going on in their site's chat.

  • Actually this would work from the other perspective too. I'm not active on many sites, yet I see flags on stuff I have no idea about. At the moment I simply ignore these flags, but not seeing them would be better.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Apr 29 '14 at 14:52
  • @ChrisF agreed, I ignore the other chat flags because I have no context there either.
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 29 '14 at 15:04
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/203346/…
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 29 '14 at 15:05
  • 1
    Not all moderators are even available, or check into chat with any degree of regularity. Hence, there is a need for some cross-moderation to prevent really bad stuff from staying up. I, personally, only acted on such flags if the site moderators (or other more experienced mods) were not around, and it seemed to be outright offensive/rude (somewhat subjective, no doubt).
    – asheeshr
    Apr 29 '14 at 17:22
  • Well, if there were a flag ideally it would show up with the other site flag notifications and thus pull us into chat. I definitely don't want to have to hang out in chat to see them.
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 29 '14 at 17:23

Unlike flags on the main sites, chat flags generally should be handled immediately, handling them a few hours later when a mod wakes up does not really work. Chat is real-time, flag handling needs to be fast as well. If only the moderators and 10k chat users in that room can handle flags, there is likely not sufficient coverage to handle all flags quickly. This is the main reason why I don't think this would work well.

There is some merit to biasing the selection of mods/users that are shown the flag towards moderators of the parent site, users that are currently in the room and users that have previously posted in the room. But if not enough users are available that are active in that room, flags should still go out to external users to be able to handle the immediate situation.

The other big problem is that the moderator tools for dealing with more complicated long-term misbehaviour or repeat offenders are practically non-existent. If you weren't there you can't easily look up if the user has misbehaved in the past.

I'd also add that while there are some differences in what is considered acceptable in different rooms, e.g. with regards to expletives, this doesn't mean that any room can invalidate the global SE rules on civility and offensive behaviour. Showing the flags to outside users is also a bit of a safeguard here against a room taking their house rules too far.

  • 1
    I'd rather handle them right than fast; I'm not sure why there's an order of magnitude difference in needed TTR for chat flags over comment flags. And I agree there's not good tools for repeat offenders, so doing this would at least leverage the memory of a more focused set of people as the mechanism.
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 29 '14 at 17:07
  • 1
    @mxyzplk If they're not handled immediately either the whole thing escalates and gets even uglier, or it doesn't and is buried in the transcript to be never seen again. Then it is too late and there is no benefit in acting on the flag. Apr 29 '14 at 17:09
  • 2
    I'm still a fan of your escalation proposal, @MadScientist. Unfortunately we don't really have the time to spend on chat mod tools (which could use some love pretty much across the board), but I haven't yet lost hope.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Apr 29 '14 at 18:17
  • @AnnaLear While the general idea still applies, I've changed my mind slightly since posting this idea 2.5 years ago. I think there needs to be an effective limiting of the number of users shown the flag, but also an obvious way to circumvent this for a flagger to avoid a room handling everthing by themselves. The only low-hanging fruit I see in chat mod tools would be annotations (though I really can't estimate the dev time necessary). Apr 29 '14 at 18:21

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