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I propose that moderators should have a tool that allows us to move posts into review queues.

This could be useful, for example, when a borderline on/off topic post comes along and it's better to let the community decide whether it should be in scope or not.

Obviously, if a post is already in the queue, it should show that somehow and disable the button to move it - no point in adding it to the queue again if it's already in there.

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    I've never been a moderator on a Stack site (other places, but all different setups), but is it true it's "better to let the community decide whether is should be in scope or not"? I would have thought that as the moderator is already there and has to click some buttons for you idea ("move to review" etc), it's no different. And surely their competency is equally to a handful of 2k or 3k users? No offence to users at all here, but moderators tend to (or should) understand what is precisely on or off topic. We user multiple users in reviews to avoid option pollution etc (average outcome) – James Aug 12 '15 at 20:53
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    @James "but is it true it's "better to let the community decide whether is should be in scope or not"?" - Sure it is, for many kinds of questions where it might not be 100% clear-cut. When it's "precisely" known that something is downright on/off-topic the moderator can just decide. But there are enough cases where it would be more healthy for the whole community if mommy and daddy would not just close all their possibly off-topic questions for them. – Christian Rau Aug 12 '15 at 20:56
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    @James Interpreting scoping rules is inherently subjective. In some cases a mod may not feel like imposing their interpretation on a particular question is in the community's best interests. If they want to force more eyes on the question, the only real option right now is a full-blown meta thread, unless you've already got an active chat. – Air Aug 12 '15 at 20:56
  • Fair points :) ChristianRau; Air – James Aug 12 '15 at 20:57
  • That being said, I think such a thing has been proposed before on meta. – Christian Rau Aug 12 '15 at 20:58
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    This is a subset of How Do I Opt Out of Privileges? (Cc @ChristianRau) – Gilles Aug 12 '15 at 21:13
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    @bluefeet They're definitely related, but I see something unique about each :) – Zizouz212 Aug 12 '15 at 21:15
  • @Gilles Ah no, I think it was bluefeet's link that I had in mind. – Christian Rau Aug 12 '15 at 21:20
  • I was just thinking about this when I saw it in the recently active list... I've never been a mod but I know several mods who are shy about close hammering a question without at least 3-4 existing close votes from other users. I respect that the mods don't want to force their opinion onto the community but I also think it's unfair to remove their ability to cast normal close votes along with the other members of their community. We're granting them phenomenal power and then castrating them by not giving them the basic abilities that every 3K user has. – Catija Aug 12 '15 at 21:45
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    @Catija This isn't about non-binding votes, but the ability to deliberately send a post to a review queue – Zizouz212 Aug 12 '15 at 22:16
  • @Zizouz212 I'm aware of that... There is certainly discussion above about CVs, though, specifically in the very old 2010, status-declined question bluefeet posted. And, either way, whether talking about flagging or CVs, the point is still the same. We're taking away power that almost every other user has. – Catija Aug 12 '15 at 22:18
  • STATUS-DECLINED? OUTRAGEOUS! But still, @Shog9, do you think we can have a little guidance to the status-declined? – Zizouz212 Aug 17 '15 at 23:59
  • Status declined... Ah well, the sock puppets will rise again. – ArtOfCode Aug 18 '15 at 0:03
  • See my answer, @Zizouz212, ArtOfCode. – Shog9 Aug 18 '15 at 0:15
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This exists as an internal tool for use in testing review queues on the dev tier. It probably doesn't exist in production, and if it does it wouldn't be very useful: the current design of the review system would result in posts being removed from the queue as soon as the next synchronization task (runs every 5 minutes) realized they weren't eligible to be there.

So I'm declining this for the simple reason that it can't be implemented in a useful manner without some substantial re-working of the current review architecture, and "could be useful" isn't a sufficiently strong argument for such an undertaking.

But that's boring...

If this could exist, would it be useful then?

Gilles notes that you can accomplish this for certain review queues with the use of a sockpuppet. This isn't entirely true; not all reviews can be triggered by a flag, and all review queues have various qualifiers that prevent their use in situations where reviews would be impossible or unproductive...

But for the sake of discussion, let's ignore that and pretend there's a special "enqueue review" flag that will put a post in any queue the flagger chooses, overriding all other checks. You, the sockpuppet-wielding moderator, can now throw up any post for review whenever you feel like it. When would you use it?

Here are the scenarios that've been thrown out in this discussion so far:

  1. When a borderline on/off topic post comes along and it's better to let the community decide whether it should be in scope or not.

    This was ArtOfCode's rationale in the proposal itself.

  2. To avoid using sockpuppets and looking shady.

    Distilled from Gilles' answer and the resulting comment discussion.

  3. Allow moderators to find potential help fixing it.

    This was Wrzlprmft's rationale in his answer.

And here are the reasons they're wrong:

  1. If it's better to let the community decide whether something is in scope, then let the community decide - don't put your fingers on the scale and pretend justice is still blind. If you feel a given post should be discussed then bring it up on meta; otherwise, leave it be and see if anyone else cares enough to flag or vote on it.

  2. If you're doing something shady, then having an official tool to do it with doesn't make it any less shady. And I say this as someone with access to both lots of tools that are ripe for abuse and a dozen sockpuppets created for doing stupid, dodgy stuff. Sometimes, you gotta step over that line a little bit... And when you do, it's best if you remember that you're in dangerous territory and don't get too comfortable with it. If you find yourself having to sneak around trying to influence the community's decision without putting your name on it, then perhaps it's best the system doesn't give you a fig leaf.

  3. It would be really nice if there was a way of queuing things up so that folks could pitch in without stepping on each other's toes. Complicated retagging efforts, answers that haven't aged well, broken links... I'd personally love a tool like this. Of course, none of the existing review queues are suitable for such tasks, so a general purpose 'add to queue' tool wouldn't do anything here; what Wrzlprmft really wants is an entirely new type of review queue, one that can be turned on for a specific set of posts with specific goals and guidance.

So, even if this was technically feasible, it'd still be a bad idea and I'd still be declining it. But, there are the seeds of a more useful tool to be found in that W person's answer.

  • I don't understand why flagging a post is considered putting one's fingers on the scale; reviewers can't see who flagged it, so they're left to consider the flag on its own merits (or lack thereof). Maybe you could argue that the focused and slightly biased attention ("is this too broad, or did someone misflag it?") is an example of the meta effect, but if so, it's about the mildest and most well-countered form known, since reviewers have to get used to rejecting bogus flags anyway and there's no rhetoric to sway them. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 19 '15 at 1:56
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    There exists no "this post might be fine" flag, @nathan. Every flag is a charge against which the post must be defended. – Shog9 Aug 19 '15 at 2:56
  • Well... sure. But pointing out "this post looks like it has X predefined problem" is hardly the sort of prejudice that courts worry about. Put another way, that's the whole point: the mod is suspicious and is putting in a formal (if terse) request for community determination. "Charging" the post with being out-of-line is perfectly reasonable in a case like that. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 19 '15 at 3:04
  • This isn't actually a court, @Nathan; there is just a bit of an analogy here. And of course it's reasonable - but in this context it raises more questions than it answers: if you believe there's a problem with a post, why aren't you addressing that problem yourself? If you aren't sure, why aren't you asking others for input? Is this actually an attempt to garner opinions from others, or merely hide your own involvement? Which brings us to my #2 rebuttal, above. – Shog9 Aug 19 '15 at 17:18
  • My point remains that I don't understand why you consider a flag (or equivalent) to be some sort of shenanigan-laden undue influence, fraught with all manner of opportunities to push one's agenda. The point isn't "I'm trying to pretend I have nothing to do with this while still effectively exercising authority over it"; that wouldn't work anyway. Rather, the point is a lighter-weight interaction than meta posts in order to garner precedent for future policy, and to minimize the extent that diamonds are setting policy unilaterally... or by preloading the discussion with their own arguments. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 19 '15 at 17:36
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    I get it, @Nathan - mods want moderation to happen without actually moderating. But you're going to have to make hard decisions that might leave you rather unpopular in the eyes of some from time to time, and unfortunately there's no way to offload that as these are the kinds of exceptions you signed on to handle. If someone decides they don't want to handle exceptions any more, I'm more than willing to help put them in a position where they don't have to - they need only ask. Short of that, I recommend being honest: say you don't know & ask for advice - plenty of folks happy to help. – Shog9 Aug 19 '15 at 17:45
  • Adding a bit to what @Shog9 said, we're undertaking a very hard look at the tools moderators have, as well as what is sent to them for handling. The good news is, we hope to cut the minutiae considerably. The other good news is mods will hopefully be spending the majority of their time handling stuff that requires more leadership than simple analysis, which is what folks in a leadership role should be doing while in contact with their fellow mods. I'd rather mods spend an hour deciding if a single post should be closed than an hour smashing the delete button, that's where we're headed. – Tim Post Aug 19 '15 at 18:14
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There's already a way to do this:

  1. Create a sockpuppet account.
  2. Gain 15 reputation (50 for closure).
  3. Profit Flag the offending post as very low quality (or to close it).

That's an argument in favor of your request. When creating a sockpuppet is the most straightforward to solve a problem, something's wrong. If step 3 is “profit”, what's wrong is that you shouldn't do it. But here it's for the benefit of the site, so a better collective workflow is desirable.

  • I have to say though, what would the purpose of a sock puppet account have, aside from doing this? Putting flags into closure queues also requires 50 reputation, not 15. It's a considerable amount of work to get that when you have other responsibilities as well. – Zizouz212 Aug 12 '15 at 21:05
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    @Zizouz212 Getting 15 reputation or even 50 (ethically of course) shouldn't be hard for a moderator. Just post an answer or two, or make a few edits. As for “what would the purpose be”, that's the point. If you'd use a sockpuppet for the good of the site, it's something the site should let you do in a more straightforward way. – Gilles Aug 12 '15 at 21:09
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    I actually asked the moderators once if this was a valid way to handle such things, with the conclusion that it is highly frowned upon if not even downright abuse. But I'd agree that it is the greater good that counts here. And of course an official way to do it would solve that problem. – Christian Rau Aug 12 '15 at 21:10
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    @ChristianRau It's Complicated. Sockpuppets are not abuse in themselves, but most of what they let you do is abuse. Using a sockpuppet solely to flag things isn't abuse as long as you aren't the one acting on those flags, but it's difficult to verify, and if you use sockpuppets, you don't get the benefit of doubt. – Gilles Aug 12 '15 at 21:15
  • @Gilles - I have to say that I'm very very (very) dubious about using sockpuppet accounts for this purpose. It strikes me as the sort of thing that could end up with a user rebellion. – Richard Aug 12 '15 at 22:19
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    @Richard I think “user rebellion” is a gross exaggeration, but I certainly don't encourage using sockpuppets for anything other than privacy. That's my point: if you can do it with sockpuppets, there should be a better way. – Gilles Aug 12 '15 at 22:29
  • @Gilles - I can only speak for my own site, but I can only imagine the complete uproar that would be caused if they learned that I had multiple (secret) accounts, purely for the purposes of closing things I don't like. – Richard Aug 12 '15 at 22:31
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    @Richard If you're dubious, that is the point of the answer. It shouldn't require messing around with sockpuppets to do this. (Gilles, I think you might want to make that clear at the top of the answer, since even as short as it is, people might be already reacting before they finish reading your answer.) – SevenSidedDie Aug 12 '15 at 23:06
  • @Zizouz212 Note that only dupeflagging requires 50 rep, because only dupes autocomment on your behalf. (Flagging for any other close reason unlocks at 15 rep, just as you'd expect.) – Nathan Tuggy Aug 13 '15 at 0:55
  • @NathanTuggy Really? I'm really sure that it was 50 rep for closure flags: opensource.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/flag-posts Anything that has a star between it means that you need 50 rep to flag for that particular reason – Zizouz212 Aug 13 '15 at 0:59
  • @Zizouz212: Unless they changed that since I started flagging heavily late last year, that is dead wrong. Nor do I have any idea why that would be the case, since only dupes leave comments at all, so the cited reason clearly does not apply. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 13 '15 at 1:02
  • @NathanTuggy It may vary from site to site: On MSE, everything is 15. – Zizouz212 Aug 13 '15 at 1:04
  • @Zizouz212: Sure, but I started on SO. I can tell you with confidence that I flagged quite a few posts for closure before I got commenting privileges. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 13 '15 at 1:05
  • @NathanTuggy Interesting. I've kind of given up on SO, but on the other sites, it's been 50 for flagging (they're beta sites if that may be a factor) – Zizouz212 Aug 13 '15 at 1:05
  • @NathanTuggy I think it changed when custom close reasons were introduced: you need 50 to post a custom close reason. IIRC it wasn't the case at that point, and duplicate comments were not posted if you flagged as a duplicate with <50 rep. Now for some reason all close flags require 50 rep. – Gilles Aug 13 '15 at 7:06
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To add to the existing arguments for such a feature:

Review queues are not only about deciding about the fate of a post but also about fixing it if possible and finding people who may be able to do so. Thus sending a post to review queue allows moderators to find potential help fixing it.

Even if moderators should be able to decide everything, they may not have the time or capabilities to fix everything. For example what is unclear to the moderator, may be understandable to another user, who then may fix it. For example, if somebody posts a question that is infested with program-specific terminology that a moderator does not know – because they cannot be familiar with every single program that is on-topic on their site –, somebody with knowledge of that program may understand and clean up the mess and, as a side effect, teach the user how to better write such questions.

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    well said - I would add that when correction comes from the user base it can be far easier for the OP to take as opposed to a jack-booted-fascist-moderator that can close on a whim and also has the gall to edit the post as they see fit. Moderators can and should be there to help when two or more people need a hand balancing competing edits and not be the ones to try and fix everything. – bmike Aug 13 '15 at 18:15

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