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Flags are a great system for addressing issues in content, however sometimes the solution to a flag is not cut and dry. They may require discussion with other moderators or time to gather input from the community before a proper decision can be reached on the flag.

Currently, chat is available for discussing issues with other moderators, but there is no way to make notations on a flag itself about its state. Adding an ability to annotate a flag would aid moderators in coordinating when either discussion is needed or other steps that don't resolve the flag directly need to be taken. It would also offer a better audit record of the reasoning behind moderator actions for any situations where a user is upset about an action.

As a specific example of where this would be useful, one of the communities I moderate recently had a flag for a post that was labeled as "off topic". The question itself is certainly highly borderline, but not quite enough for me to close outright without giving the community a chance to take action. We decided to wait and see what the community does and close if it only receives negative attention for a certain period (since the community itself is too small to reliably close borderline questions some of the time). It would be great to be able to make note of this so we remember what is going on with that flag, but currently we just have to rely on all of our memories to keep track.

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    Well, there are already post notices in the system, so a compromise can be adding "hidden" post notices, showing only for moderators. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Jun 21 '16 at 14:23
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    @ShadowWizard - something along those lines was actually my first idea, but figured that tying them to the decision being made would probably work better than general post annotation. Either would work though if that was an easier approach. – AJ Henderson Jun 21 '16 at 14:32
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Another solution in your case is to flag the post yourself with a summary of your plan and a link to relevant chatroom discussion. Mark it helpful at the end. When you look back at the post's flag history, you'll see all the relevant info right there.

A flag is basically already a private mod post annotation.

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    That's a very good point. I do think something like this is useful for when something needs discussion directly, but it certainly could be used as a work around for now, especially since it can refer to the chat. The one situation it won't cover is where it is unclear if the flag is helpful or not and you want to make sure the discussion is seen before someone else deals with the original flag, but that's a fairly minor use case. – AJ Henderson Jun 21 '16 at 20:28
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    @AJHenderson You can always flag and say "I think this flag is borderline. Please come discuss with me in the mod chat room before acting on this" (or some variation thereof) – Double AA Jun 21 '16 at 22:19
  • The problem is that depending on the screen used for flag review, it's possible that the second flag might not be seen before the first one is acted on. – AJ Henderson Jun 22 '16 at 5:53
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There are already ways for site mods to share notes together in private. The easiest option is by leaving a note in the moderator chatroom associated to the site, but another thing some mods do is to have something like a shared Google document or some other kind of file which is editable by all of them.

  • In a case such as the one you describe, what I would do is mark the flag helpful (since evidently the question is something you want to look at) and make a note in the mod chatroom along the lines of:

    We're leaving this question for the time being to see what the community thinks before deciding whether or not to close it. Note to selves: come back to it in a few days.

    If your mod chatroom is busy enough that you're worried about this message getting lost among fluff, pin it to make sure it won't disappear and be forgotten about.

  • I also have a text file where I keep notes of issues currently being dealt with and things on my mod to-do list. If I were better organised and knew how Google documents worked, this would be shared with the rest of the mod team, but as it is, I just raise issues from there in the mod chatroom for discussion when necessary and when I get round to it. I've heard that mods from other sites do have shared documents of this kind, e.g. a spreadsheet to keep track of borderline off-topic questions for possible closure.

Adding an ability to annotate a flag sounds like it would mean a fairly major change to the underlying way the flag system works. While I'd certainly support this and other changes to the flag system, it doesn't look like it's something SE will be willing to implement in the near future.

waits for Oded to post an answer and a tag to prove me completely wrong :-P

  • There are other system generated annotations on flags for when actions are taken on them. This could potentially be implemented as an extension on that, so I don't think it would be a totally new feature, but there may be limitations on what can go in to that system. It depends on how it was implemented. – AJ Henderson Jun 21 '16 at 15:15
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    The shortcoming of this approach is that the flag is immediately visible whenever a mod goes to the post page, whereas the same can't be said for chat messages or external documents. It's not a big deal, but it is something. – David Z Jun 21 '16 at 20:41

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