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As a moderator I occasionally encounter a custom flag "in need of moderator intervention" with a request to re-open a closed question. I am generally reluctant to unilaterally override the decision of the close voters and re-open the question. However, the practice of flagging for a moderator to re-open a question is recommended in the help center (H/T @Monica Cellio) and here on Meta. The help center on every site says:

  1. Flag the question for moderator attention. Again, explain why it should be reopened. There is more than one moderator, and moderators do reconsider their decisions.

What if I disagree with the closure of a question? How can I reopen it?

And here are some example posts on Meta recommending the practice:

Once you've [edited and fixed the question], then you should flag the post for moderator attention to get it re-opened or bring the issue here to Meta, hoping to elicit the votes of 4 more community members.

source


Closed questions can and should be edited to improve them and address the reasons why they were closed in the first place. Once this is done you might need to either flag the question for moderator attention or raise a meta question to bring it to everyone's attention so it can get the necessary views that might translate into reopen votes.

source


You could flag the post with a custom reason to get a moderator to look at but this is not the preferred method to gain attention to your post.

source

I think the use of custom flags for this reason is a bad practice, though (which the last quote above hints at). For one, it doesn't put the question in the re-open review queue where it belongs. Furthermore, if I'm unfamiliar with the subject matter of the question then the close voters are probably better suited than me to judge whether the question should be open or closed. It's possible that none of the site moderators are familiar with the subject so waiting for another moderator to handle the flag doesn't always work.

How should I handle such flags in the case where I'm not sure whether to leave the question closed or re-open it?

  • Should I mark the flag helpful or decline it?
  • Should I actually re-open the question if I think the question should be re-opened, even if I'm not sure?
  • What, if any, moderator feedback should I provide the flagger? Tell the flagger to ask for re-open votes on the meta site? Should I discourage the flagger from raising such flags in the future?

My instinct is to mark the flag as helpful (because it is a recommended practice) but decline to re-open the question unless I'm sure the question was wrongly closed. I usually instruct the flagger to petition for re-opening the question on the meta site. Is this the recommended practice for moderators?

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    I was not aware of this practice, and I'm a little surprised that a Meta.SE recommendation for such flagging would exist. It seems to me the sort of thing that might have varying validity from one SE Community to another. At Math.SE we do have a Meta.MSE thread where solicitations to Reopen can be posted, and of course the casting of one Reopen vote will put a Question into the Reopen Review Queue. – hardmath Sep 19 '16 at 21:15
  • Note that the first linked source dates back to before Meta.SO was separately created from Meta.SE. In that sense it should be considered as a Community-specific practice recommendation. – hardmath Sep 19 '16 at 21:20
  • @hardmath Some of the linked sources are indeed quite old and may reflect a limitation of the system at the time. Still, the last one was posted well after the reopen review queue was introduced so that can't be it entirely. Also, I doubt the SO community would recommend this practice today; the reopen review queue helps shift the work away from the moderators yet the SO reopen review queue often has a non-zero number of posts in the queue. This despite the fact that there are many more users who can vote to reopen than there are moderators. – Null Sep 20 '16 at 6:24
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    @MonicaCellio Thanks, I didn't realize it was in the help center, too! I've edited that into my question and upvoted yours. – Null Sep 20 '16 at 14:01
  • Would it be possible for the mod to add it to the reopen queue without endorsing it for reopen themselves, and explain to the OP that they "don't have specific understanding of the topic" and will rely upon the wisdom of the crowd, marking the flag as helpful in this case? – Mark Hurd Sep 23 '16 at 1:42
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    @MarkHurd In general, not that I'm aware of, though that would be a great course of action if the moderator thought the question might be reopen-able and just wasn't sure. The easiest way to put the question into the reopen queue would be to cast a reopen vote...except that moderators' reopen votes are binding. If the question hasn't already been sent to the reopen queue by an edit then a moderator could theoretically edit the question to kick it into the queue. But that's not always the case and the OP would be better suited to editing anyway. – Null Sep 23 '16 at 1:51
  • As I was starting to (gasp!) draft an answer, it occurred to me you don't mention marking such a custom request as disputed. Is that even a possibility? – hardmath Sep 27 '16 at 17:06
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    @hardmath I don't think so. This is a custom flag, which is not in the list of scenarios that could result in "disputed". I have to mark the flag as either "helpful" or "declined", although I can dismiss the flag as "helpful". The last time I handled such a flag I chose "no action needed" (dismissed it), wrote a custom reply telling the user to ask on meta (because I wasn't sure), and marked it "helpful". That flag has a "helpful" result on the user's flags page. – Null Sep 27 '16 at 17:22

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