-16

I suggest that moderators be required to leave a comment when declining a custom flag.

When flag-setters took their time to explain the reasoning behind their actions, moderators should show their respect, and reciprocate by explaining the disagreement that caused them to decline the flag. This goes beyond a simple show of respect: by explaining their reasoning, or even by linking the corresponding FAQ/meta post, moderators reduce the number of incorrect flags that would otherwise be raised in the future. The user may also stop flagging, which would lead to more garbage content left around the site.

Edit 1: The comment does not need to be custom: an applicable "stock comment" would be perfectly sufficient.

Edit 2: For flags declined through community review a "stock comment" should be applied automatically, for example "Community reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it."

  • 1
    If you need any more explanation, ask on the child meta. – Catija Sep 26 '17 at 14:26
  • the edit made it status-already-exist – Optimus Prime Sep 26 '17 at 15:47
  • @redhand I got a decline of a custom flag today without any response, not even a stock comment, so if the feature exists, it must be broken. – dasblinkenlight Sep 26 '17 at 15:48
  • 1
    @dasblinkenlight a screenshot will be helpful. – Optimus Prime Sep 26 '17 at 15:51
  • @redhand Sure, here it is. I think Brad Larson provided an explanation of why there is no comment, though: he says mods are not even offered a choice to add a comment to a comment flag. – dasblinkenlight Sep 26 '17 at 16:02
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    ah they are comment flags. That is usuall – Optimus Prime Sep 26 '17 at 16:06
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    This was very puzzling to me until the clarification that this was about comment flags, not post flags. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Sep 26 '17 at 17:03
  • If we're going to require moderators to leave a comment, the next thing is mandatory comments on down votes ... – rene Sep 26 '17 at 18:34
  • @rene That is a textbook slippery slope fallacy. – dasblinkenlight Sep 26 '17 at 19:17
  • About Edit 2: some of the flags ends up as "disputed", I think it may mean some "rejected by community" or similar? – peterh Sep 27 '17 at 0:30
  • @peterh comment flags are not moderated by the community only community moderators. – Ramhound Sep 27 '17 at 0:46
7

Just because someone is using a custom flag doesn't mean that they are taking time to explain their reasons. For example, gaze upon this gist of custom flags that moderators on Stack Overflow had handled in a relatively short period of time. It is our experience that few of the people leaving those kinds of flags even bother to read decline reasons.

That gist came from this Meta question of mine, which also pointed out a few other common cases of incorrect custom flags. Many of the cases of incorrect flag use are handled by our template decline reasons:

  • declined: flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer
  • declined: a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it
  • declined: flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention
  • 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?

In particular the first and fourth categories are almost always used for custom flags and would be useless if we couldn't provide stock responses. The fourth reason was added by SE in response to moderator complaints about people using custom flags to jump the close votes queue. We got so many of those that they added an entire reason for it. Same deal with the technical inaccuracy response, because many people use custom flags to try to get us to delete answers they think are wrong.

These standard decline reasons were added to save us time, and if we couldn't use them we'd end up writing basically the same thing over and over again for no good reason. In fact, many moderators already have an even larger list of template decline reasons that we can copy-and-paste from for even less frequent cases.

I do regard flag decline reasons as having educational value, so if I'm going to decline a flag and the stock reasons wouldn't properly describe why or wouldn't apply, I do take the time for a custom message.

  • This makes perfect sense. However, I got multiple declines in the last few days without so much as a "template" reason, and I find this handling puzzling. – dasblinkenlight Sep 26 '17 at 15:46
  • @dasblinkenlight - There are two cases where you don't even get template responses: declined comment flags and flags declined due to community review. We currently have no means of providing a response to chat flags, and community review wouldn't be able to specify a reason due to the nature of review. – Brad Larson Sep 26 '17 at 15:51
  • That's a very helpful info, thank you very much! Since the decline flag came on a comment, not on a char, the decline I have in mind must be from a community review. In this case I think a comment should indicate that a flag has been declined through community review. – dasblinkenlight Sep 26 '17 at 15:54
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    @dasblinkenlight - Comment flags aren't handled through community review, if they are declined then a moderator declined them. However, we have no means to provide reasons for declining comment flags. We can either delete a comment or decline the flag. Some "very low quality", "not an answer" and close vote flags can be declined by community review, but not comment flags. – Brad Larson Sep 26 '17 at 15:58
  • mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm – Won't Sep 26 '17 at 16:17
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    @Won't - I don't know how to respond to that kind of language. – Brad Larson Sep 26 '17 at 16:24
  • @Won't so that's what the fox says, hey? – Jon Clements Sep 26 '17 at 16:43
  • 1
    w̴̸̜̻͔͇̼ͥ̄͗̐h̥̲̼͍͎̖̬̪ͮa̙͙͉̳̻͈͐̌t̷̘̗̲͚͔̂̽̾͛̎̕͜ ͎͚̦̘ͤ̆̅͊ͯͤ͝y̛͎̣͕̦̪͉͇͐̃͊̏̔̆ͬ͒͋͘o͎̹̻̜̊̾̓̕ǜ͛͗̃҉̦̯͉̞ ̬̺̹̄ͦ̾ͤ͋̿m͕̜̹̳̞̗͓̙̙̊͋ͤ̿̇e̴̡̫͓̘̥̲͇̤̅ͤ͡ͅa̗͉̦̪͕̹̒̔͌͂̉̄͛̀͞n͓͙̩̗̻͖̘̿̈ͨ̒ͅ ̶̧̻͔̤̤̼ͣ̃ͣͭ̚͟@̷̴̟̣̭̝̱̦̃ͥ̂̔͞w̧̻̜̯̥̼̠͕ͫ̀o̡̖̹̥̳̣͉̝̘̅̔̂̉̐͂͘n̓̔̎͏͍͓̬̪̞͎̱̠͜'̨̛̬͈̈ͅt̷͚͇ͦ̍͒̊͋̑͘ – Optimus Prime Sep 26 '17 at 18:03
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    @BradLarson respond to him like this ^^^ – Optimus Prime Sep 26 '17 at 18:03
2
  1. That will increase the time required by mods to review the mod flag queue.

In the recent SO election chat room, some mods said that there is around 2000+ items are pushed each day to the mod flag review queue. If the mods add comments while declining, it will take even more time to review the flags.

  1. There are already templates while declining a flag and you can see it.

example

declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention

or

declined - a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it

and so on. Still asking them to add a compulsory reason is just waste of time and effort.

  • "there is around 2000+ items are pushed each day to the mod flag review queue" Not all of them are flags, though, and only a small percentage should be custom flags. – dasblinkenlight Sep 26 '17 at 14:28
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    There's no difference in the queue between those. – Journeyman Geek Sep 26 '17 at 14:29
  • If I understood that message correctly, This is about custom flags. Other flags like NAA and VLQ go to LQPQ. The custom flag include post as well as comment flags – Optimus Prime Sep 26 '17 at 14:29
  • @redhand question is asking for a reason to be provided when a comment flag is declined (no other type of flags were harmed in the typing of this comment) – Ramhound Sep 26 '17 at 22:05
2

Amusingly the standard way of declining a flag actually has a set of preset reasons, including one that reads "Using standard flags helps us prioritize problems and resolve them faster. Please familiarize yourself with the list of standard flags: see What is Flagging?". Every dismissed flag will come with a reason the mod considers most appropriate already.

In addition, you have one flag. I could have 10 on a slightly busy day, 50 when someone goes a bit nuts... and were I a SO mod, have flags in the thousands.

As a moderator - I read through every single flag and I try to take the action I think the most appropriate. If you need a custom flag, and its clear and appropriate, we'll handle it.

If its just trying to use flags as a PM system of sorts with mods... Using standard flags helps us prioritize problems and resolve them faster ;p.

So, the action taken and whatever stock reply you get ought to be necessary and sufficient unless further investigation is needed. If you feel a flag refusal is completely unfair, a few folk have chosen to take it to meta - I do realise it goes away from the anonymity of flagging, but we're talking sitewide policy here.

2

Ah, I was expecting this post-mortem after seeing that second custom flag. I just expected it to be asked on Meta Stack Overflow, rather than here.

As stated already, although perhaps not quite clearly enough, moderators cannot provide an explanation for comment flags. We have only two options: "delete" (which automatically marks the flag as "helpful"), and "dismiss" (which automatically marks the flag as "declined"). So, we can either delete the flagged comment or not delete the flagged comment.

The reason it's set up this way is that none of us is suppose to agonize about comments. Our official guidance on processing comment flags is here; specifically:

Note: don't be too concerned if the occasional comment flag is declined; comment value is often subjective and moderators are encouraged to process flags quickly - in most cases, it's no big deal if comments persist a bit longer than needed.

That pretty much covers everything you need to know. It would be a massive waste of moderator time and resources if we had to write a custom message on every declined comment flag, and it would just lead to all comments being deleted by lazy moderators, which is a cure worse than the disease. The correct course of action is to flag comments you think should be removed, and then go on about your day. If the moderator agrees, and they're removed, then great. If the moderator disagrees, and they're kept, well then who cares? Always better to err on the side of caution, and keep comments that may add value to a post (assuming they're not rude or offensive), and this is precisely what I do.

If you desperately want a response from a moderator, then flag the post to which the comments are attached. We'll then be forced to attach a message with our decline, but it'll probably be snarky. My response certainly would have been; I interpreted your second flag message ("Why did you decline my flag without even leaving a comment? The guy asks a side question, I suggest to him that he should ask a real question, that's a classic "too chatty" flag, no?") as something akin to: WTF idiot? Why aren't you doing your job and deleting what I say obviously needs to be deleted?

For what it's worth, I, like Brad, consider flag decline reasons to serve an important pedagogical role. If one of the "canned" decline reasons doesn't perfectly fit the message I want to convey, I will take the time to type my own. It doesn't take me that long, because I'm a very fast typist; besides, I think it's worth it. We do get a lot of spurious and nonsense flags, like those in Brad's gist, but the only way people are going to learn to stop raising these flags is if we tell them why they are unwelcome. Comment flags don't get the same attention because they just don't matter as much.


Regarding the specific comments that you flagged, I declined both flags for two reasons:

  1. It's completely unreasonable to flag the other party's comments for deletion during an ongoing discussion. In this case, you were actively engaged in the discussion, and had just posted a comment reply of your own. If it's only been a few hours or a few days, and the other user hasn't yet seen your reply, then the initial comment should not be deleted.

    That is very unfair to the other user, and it just creates confusion. In fact, I consider this to be an abuse of the comment-flagging privilege, a way to get comments removed simply because you don't like them or disagree with them, not because they are actually causing any problems to the site or violating any of our rules.

  2. The question that was asked in the comment was completely reasonable and obviously applicable to the answer on which it was posted. One of the stated purposes of comments is to seek clarification on posts, and that's precisely what the user who left that comment was doing. It wasn't "too chatty".

    Yes, your reply was that you considered it to be unrelated, but I very much disagreed with that. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, and entitled to refuse to answer it, but since it was an ongoing discussion…see reason #1.

By the time the second, custom flag was raised, the conversation had proceeded further. The user responded, arguing that their question was relevant, and then you gave in and posted an answer. I deleted the intermediate comments, which had now become obsolete, but chose to keep the initial question and your response, because I felt they added value to the answer. Of course, you had flagged the comment containing the initial question, so since I wanted to keep that, I had little choice but to decline the flag.

You had previously flagged other comments on that same answer, and I had deleted those because I agreed they were obsolete or otherwise no longer needed. In the interest of full disclosure and context, this is the answer, including deleted comments:

The top two were the ones I deleted in response to a flag as obsolete. The third is the one you flagged twice, and the ones after that are as described in the text above.

  • I did not realize that moderators have no mechanism of leaving comments on declining comment flags, and thought that you choose not to leave a comment because you consider the reason for declining my flag self-evident. Thanks for the answer! – dasblinkenlight Sep 27 '17 at 11:35
-1

Don't worry on that. And don't abstain flagging.

The reason to not worry: the actual disadvantage what you get with declined flags, is that you can't flag for a time. You have to have a lot of declined flag even for that. (Assuming you are doing this in good faith!)

The reason to not abstain flagging:

If the mod handles the flag falsely, it will remain trackable by the SE until the eternity. No mod wants to leave such spots on his honor.

If the mod handles flags regularly falsely, it is a problem which will be handled by the SE - and they are on much shorter leash, as we are.

Flags are permanent, and not only for you, but also for the mods. As far I know, the lowest-ranking people in the pyramid capable to delete flags, are the CMs/developers with productive DB access. And they won't ever do this for such a pity problem.

Thus, if they handle flags falsely, he risks much more, as you risk by some declined flags. He won't do it.

Also to me happened already, with a particularly nasty, insulting comment on a meta site. Its primary meaning was an encouragement to commit a criminal offense. Its secondary meaning was an accusation that I committed it already. I flagged it twice, both were declined without a reason. The likely reason was that also the mods didn't very like me at the time. So, I contacted the SE on the contact form - with the polite asking to remove the comment. And the SE removed the comment.

Of course I have no way to know, how it affected the "reputation" of the declining mods in the eyes of the SE. But I am sure, that the mods can't do this too often. Rarely, yes.

Thus, also similar events don't happen to us too often - only rarely. This few cases we can tolerate.


About the general problem (unreasoned declined flags deter users from flagging): as far I know, mods get quite enough flags. As far I know, their work is in a quite large part handling flags. What I don't know, but think: most of them is probably not a very interesting case and the repetitive work of their handling may be not the most attractive part of the modship.

Making the reasons obligatory would deter the mods from this important work :-)

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