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I recently flagged a question with a custom flag reason, explaining in detail why I thought it should be closed (I don't have close privileges on the site in question). My flag was rejected with the reason:

declined - Using standard flags helps us prioritize problems and resolve them faster. Please familiarize yourself with the list of standard flags: see What is Flagging?"

Wait, what? Moderators can decline flags just because they wanted you to use a canned flag? How does that even work? That's not a genuine justification for declining a flag, is it?

The link provided in the reject reason doesn't discuss "Standard Flags" at all. Well, it does, but not in the context of "this is when you should use a Standard Flag, this is when you should use a Custom Flag."

So what's the deal? Can a flag really be declined solely on the basis that a canned one wasn't used? Why? If I went to the trouble to type out a cogent explanation for my reasons for casting the flag (especially if those reasons don't neatly fit into one of the "Standard Flag" categories), shouldn't a decline be accompanied by an explanation that addresses the actual complaint?

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    Related: This was added in July 2016. – Taryn Jan 31 '17 at 21:25
  • Thanks for pointing to that. I did look for it, but couldn't readily find it. – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 21:27
  • Was your detailed suggested custom close reason similar to any of the options available in the off topic flag dialog? – Cascabel Jan 31 '17 at 21:59
  • @robert I have a little trouble splitting the one-time flag decline and the "should those flags in general be declined". For the last I would say there is a case, but that depends on what exactly was written down. – Patrick Hofman Jan 31 '17 at 22:04
  • @Jefromi: Not really. It was a very popular post. My complaint was along the lines of "this is just political bikeshedding fodder, and has nothing to do with the subject matter of this site." – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 22:06
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    @PatrickHofman - That decline reason was put in place to deal with the several custom flags a day that we get stating "this is too broad", "he should have done his research", "close this, it's bad", etc. The weirder off topic cases, or ones where any moderator intervention could help, tend to get accepted. The point is to direct people to the proper flags that feed things into community review. – Brad Larson Jan 31 '17 at 22:07
  • I know @Brad, but I was just curious how it went down exactly because the question has too little to go on. – Patrick Hofman Jan 31 '17 at 22:09
  • @PatrickHofman: I'd rather not call out the specific question or the specific site, unless I have to. – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 22:10
  • I understand, but you are asking us to form an opinion on something that bothers you, but where we have nothing but your word the message was really meant for the moderator. – Patrick Hofman Jan 31 '17 at 22:12
  • @PatrickHofman: Here's the exact text in the flag: "Too localized; based on a news event that is rapidly changing. Any answers posted here are likely to be irrelevant weeks or even days from now." – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 22:13
  • Okay, that bothers you because you see the bigger picture of the SE network I guess, but does the site there think of it the same? Do they want such questions or not? It is an official stance on their meta to allow or disallow such questions? And if you disagreed, couldn't you just flag to close and leave a comment? – Patrick Hofman Jan 31 '17 at 22:15
  • @PatrickHofman: Since they didn't bother to explain their reasoning (other than to ask for a canned flag instead) I guess we'll never know. – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 22:17
  • So why not post on their meta to find out? That is what you would advice users on SO if the question falls in a grey area. – Patrick Hofman Jan 31 '17 at 22:18
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    @PatrickHofman: meta.academia.stackexchange.com/questions/3659/… – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 22:19
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    One of the off-topic flag close reasons is "Blatantly off-topic (this question has nothing to do with {site topic})" - if you genuinely think it has nothing to do with the subject matter of the site, seems like that's the standard flag you're supposed to use. – Cascabel Jan 31 '17 at 22:29
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Well, as I see it custom moderator flags shouldn't be used to just close a question, except in extreme cases e.g. bounty preventing standard close votes, user who post tons of crappy questions, etc.

Using a custom flag to close a question is bypassing the standard procedure that requires five users.

When a question is off topic, but the canned reasons are not addressing the reason, we can choose "Other" and explain there with detail why it's off topic:

So bottom line, I believe the custom flag asking to close a question was most likely declined rightfully.

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    And if you don't have close privileges, you get flag > should be closed > off topic because > blatantly off-topic (has nothing to do with {site topic}), which seems to apply if the OP believes it needs flagging. – Cascabel Jan 31 '17 at 22:30
  • i.stack.imgur.com/ufjbz.png – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 22:31
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    @Robert so looks like the community simply don't really want to close the question. Better post on their per-site meta and discuss it there, if you want such a question closed. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jan 31 '17 at 22:48
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    Cheers @Robert and good luck with closing it. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jan 31 '17 at 22:54
  • This doesn't help at all. I don't have a text box to provide a custom close reason! – I say Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '17 at 13:31
  • @Twisty the text box appear only if you choose "in need of moderator intervention", not trying to close as off topic. That is what the question (and answer) is about. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Mar 22 '17 at 13:38
  • @ShadowWizard I realize flagging for mod intervention brings up the free-text box. I'm pointing out that (at least on Server Fault) without Close privileges I can't specify a custom close reason. I can do this on Super User due to having enough rep. Therefore, on SF when flagging to close, I must either use a canned reason, or flag for a mod. IMHO, sometimes this doesn't cut it. – I say Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '17 at 13:44
  • @Twisty still, this is not relevant to my answer. Not having a way to specify a custom reason for closing as off topic is a different matter, and it's by design as Shog explains in his answer. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Mar 22 '17 at 13:47
  • @ShadowWizard Thanks for the link; I will review it. I still feel the OP's question is relevant to my concern. – I say Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '17 at 13:51
  • @Twisty question might be, somewhat, but my answer (which says vote/flag to close instead of flagging as "Other") is not, as you can still flag as off topic, just without custom reason. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Mar 22 '17 at 13:53
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A custom moderator flag and a close flag are different things.

  • A close flag pushes a question to the review queue, where reviewers (i.e. the community — not moderators) handle the flag.

  • A custom moderator flag is exactly that, a flag directly to moderators. It doesn't push the question to the review queue and requires direct action from a moderator to do something about it.

If a question is off-topic and should be closed then use a close flag. Flagging for moderator attention is passing the post to moderators unnecessarily and not pushing the question to the review queue; where you really want it to be.

If you specifically want the flag to go to a moderator then of course use a custom moderator flag, but you're then bound to the decision of the moderator reviewing your flag. If you don't give good reason why this can't be handled by a normal close flag then it'll rightly be declined; and even with an explanation the moderator can still disagree. The canned response is probably lazy but not completely irrelevant.

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    I wanted this one to go directly to the mods. It was clearly apparent that the community wasn't going to close the question. – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 22:07
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    Did you explain that in the flag? If not then they're probably right to decline; if you did then I guess they disagreed with your flag and were too lazy to explain so and instead picked a canned response – Cai Jan 31 '17 at 22:10
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    If you don't give good reason why this can't be handled by a normal close flag then it'll rightly be declined -- If users are expected to include such an explanation, then that needs to be prominently included as guidance for using a custom moderator flag. – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 22:20
  • Maybe, the mod flag dialog does say "A problem not listed above that requires action by a moderator." though, and closing is listed above. The canned response you got just reinforces that. – Cai Jan 31 '17 at 22:26
  • i.stack.imgur.com/ufjbz.png – Robert Harvey Jan 31 '17 at 22:31
  • The canned response is probably lazy ... lazy's one thing. What if none of the canned responses are even close to explaining why the question should be closed? Isn't that situation worthy of flagging a mod? – I say Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '17 at 13:34

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