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Chat is an instant medium. What's past the first two screenfuls is water under the bridge, off to the transcript to collect dust and very very little google juice.

Chat flags are supposed to be an instant moderation solution to instant messaging problems: broadcast problem messages as fast as possible, to as many people as possible, to reach a solution as quickly as possible. Then instantly deal a swift 30 minutes ban if necessary.

Do you see a pattern here?

The point of the much maligned chat flags is to be swift. And, while you might be in a slow room, with days between each messages, none of that makes sense if the message you're flagging as offensive is five days old.

If you have to find a message in the transcript, chances are it's exhausted all of its potential offensiveness. It's too late. Too much water has passed down the bridge. I agree there should be a way to flag messages that are problematic, but those are exceptional cases looking for exception handlers, and luckily chat.SE has more than three hundred of those.

So here's the simple solution to this problem: replace "flag as offensive" with "flag for moderator attention" in the message menu that appears on the transcript.

Example

If the message is actually old and offensive (or you don't want to enter that room), a moderator can act on it for you.

  • Aside: in general, if you come up with a brilliant Turing machine-based solution to a problem, and the solution involves destructive action like deleting messages or thrashing the homepage, that's great: just post a feature-request and it might be implemented. DO NOT just go ahead and enforce it by hand, abusing mechanisms that are designed for humans who are exercising their humanly judgment. Because that makes you the problem and suspension the appropriate Turing machine to deal with it. – badp Oct 11 '14 at 9:32
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    Your screenshot with the profanity is highly offensive to me... I'm tempted to flag this as offensive. ;P – Taryn Oct 11 '14 at 10:46
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    @bluefeet poor sloths :( – badp Oct 11 '14 at 11:17
  • Flags should only be routed to moderators for the site to which the room is attached and context should be provided with the flag. – user147520 Oct 11 '14 at 11:40
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    @iain that's a different issue. (For the record I strongly disagree) – badp Oct 11 '14 at 11:41
  • Well if you're going to change the way flags work on the transcript you may as well do it right. – user147520 Oct 11 '14 at 11:43
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    I like this suggestion a lot, but I had to read the whole thing to understand that you can still flag in the transcript, but only for 'moderator' attention. You should make this more obvious (even in the title). – rolfl Oct 11 '14 at 12:15
  • 1) If I understand correctly, you just want to remove it from the transcript UI; the server would still accept the flag (because "load older messages" -> flag would still work according to your comment). So a user script that brings the option back could easily be written. 2) A time limit (like ThiefMaster suggests) already exists, though it's much higher at the moment (15 days). Of course a case could be made for lowering that. 3) Your first comment here sounds like this request stems from an actual incident; could you expand on that? Also see point 1, if your "turing machine" was a flag-bot. – balpha Oct 11 '14 at 12:24
  • @balpha Yes, a userscript could still result in flags being made, but at the same time userscripts have made it possible to know who starred what and who flagged what and that hasn't been a problem for years. At the same time, a userscript could be made to flag for mod attention. But neither userscript exists, and the interface IMHO should encourage users to do the right thing. – badp Oct 11 '14 at 12:39
  • As for the actual incident, some person has started flagging old messages containing the word "fuck." I don't know if this is still happening or if the incident has been dealt with otherwise, but this was most certainly an abuse of the feature. – badp Oct 11 '14 at 12:39
  • How is your proposed 'flag for moderator attention' different from 'flag as offensive'? I assume it is more than a simple text change, but I don't understand what exactly from your feature-request. – Simon Forsberg Oct 11 '14 at 14:51
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    @SimonAndréForsberg "Flag for moderator attention" is not a new feature. – badp Oct 11 '14 at 15:17
  • I generally agree with this, though a note of caution: chat may be an instant medium but the transcript is permanent and that is important here. Like everything else on SO, chat messages are clearly designed to stick around for ever. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 14 '14 at 23:17
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I would go one step further and not only remove it from the transcript but also apply a time limit. Maybe 15-60 minutes. Could even depend on the activity in that room (high activity: short limit, low activity: longer limit).

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    adding a time limit of 15-60 minutes is nothing is certain very slowpaced rooms. I can see how a time limit would help, but make it a couple hours for low activity rooms. – Arperum Oct 11 '14 at 10:53
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    I believe the friction of having to load an increasing amount of screenfuls with "load older messages" to load up messages from the past should be enough deterrent, plus it should scale acceptably with the amount of room activity. I wouldn't put the cap at 1 hour (think comment threads turned chatrooms or one-on-one chatrooms where either party is afk or asleep), but perhaps 2 days could make sense. – badp Oct 11 '14 at 11:15
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    Some people have been known to search back through the chat transcripts quite a long way so they can be offended. – user147520 Oct 11 '14 at 11:41

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