There seems to be a distinct overlap between using down-votes vs. using the flag reason "Unclear what you are asking".

Down-vote Reason:

This question does not show any research effort, it is unclear or not useful

Flag Reason:

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

Other than the "not useful" bit, they say pretty much the same thing. How do we select between one or the other? Are there any canonical guidelines?

  • I thought that people who can vote to close wouldn't see that flag reason, but apparently I was wrong. Strange!
    – Arjan
    Jul 25, 2014 at 6:24
  • @Arjan I cannot cast close-votes yet, so I wouldn't know about that scenario. It might indicate even more redundancy.
    – metacubed
    Jul 25, 2014 at 6:31
  • Ah, I thought this question was about closing to vote vs flagging. (My bad; it's quite clear.) It's just a weird flag; I'd say no need to bother moderators with something that we can vote on. But let's await an answer from the crew or a moderator.
    – Arjan
    Jul 25, 2014 at 7:15
  • Flagging as unclear just feeds it into the Close Vote queue doesn't it? I don't think any diamond mods are required to close them, just 5 3k rep users
    – JonK
    Jul 25, 2014 at 8:20
  • Why can't you do both?
    – yannis
    Jul 25, 2014 at 9:18
  • @Yannis When faced with a choice, people may do both, or they may pick one randomly. This splits the effectiveness and the report-out metrics. It is also unnecessary work for the admins, if not for the mods.
    – metacubed
    Jul 25, 2014 at 9:32

1 Answer 1


Although there is overlap in the wording (as you point out), I think the two can be, and are, used in quite distinct ways:

  • The downvote adversely affects reputation but leaves the question open. I use it to send a message to its asker that I think it is a very poor question, and that similar questions with little effort put into phrasing them should not be asked. I am less inclined to spend time commenting on why I have downvoted to be commensurate with the effort that was put into the question asking.
  • Using the close button to flag a question as being unclear does not affect the users reputation but puts it at risk of being closed. I use it to send a message to its asker that I can see they have put in effort but that there are ways their question could be made clearer. In this case I usually try to provide a comment to help them improve their question so that it can be re-opened.

If I downvote I will usually also flag for closing because I think the question is one best deleted from the site.

However, if I think a question is OK but needs improvement then I only flag for closing.

  • Thank you. Do you have any sources on whether this is the "official" workflow? I see you are a mod on Genealogy, so I'll lean towards believing you. :)
    – metacubed
    Jul 25, 2014 at 10:09
  • @metacubed This one is just my own "policy" - your question got me thinking about how I use each - I'm interested to see how it is received alongside any other answers that are posted.
    – PolyGeo
    Jul 25, 2014 at 10:36

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