Something that has always bothered us about the new user experience was the amount of guidance we've got out there telling folks to flag rude or abusive comments, but not allowing new users to do it, because .. it's complicated.

Let's un-complicate it and let new users flag any comment on any post that they own. Or, essentially, if you're allowed to comment on a post, you're allowed to flag comments on that post, too.

There are some caveats to get around because:

  • We gate the feature for a reason, and that reason is it takes a little experience to know how flagging works. We're different, it's just a fact of life.
  • Duplicate close votes leave comments that shouldn't be flagged, which new users will probably want to dispute, and a 'flag' dialog seems like a reasonable place to start to most
  • We're not sure how big of a tide the current restrictions are holding back.

So, here's what we propose:

New users see a modified flag UI on comments they can flag:

Options:

  • Rude or abusive
  • This is not a duplicate (as-appropriate) (probably churns back through the close vote queue)
  • Other

But here's the thing, we'd let moderators actually see who flagged in these instances, so moderators could gain context and know what else to look for in the situation.

Theorized outcome (isn't theory great? everything works there!)

Any of the following would indicate success:

  • More rude comments surface faster
  • Engagement from new users (going past 1 - 2 questions) goes up
  • Frequency of people contacting us to report snark they could have easily flagged if they had a bit of rep goes down

Any of the following would indicate more work is needed, or possibly a general failing of the idea:

  • Moderators note an increase in noise they can't really act on from 'other' flags
  • Engagement goes down
  • Nothing really happens, at all

The third item in the second list is actually a distinct possibility, because the flag feature is (as it stands) a little difficult to find. We'll be making it more obvious in the future, as well as mentioning it when we launch our revised code of conduct for new users to accept, but there's a strong chance new users just won't notice the feature.

We're thinking about putting this out for testing soon and wanted to get any feedback folks might have. This isn't a permanent implementation (yet), but we really do need to let new users raise flags if they encounter snark / condescension / overt rudeness - we've found too many instances of it that just evaded other folks with privileges seeing and flagging it.

Thoughts? What we hadn't thought of yet are rate limits, and probably a few other things. Shog is working on some research and I suspect he'll post a pretty comprehensive reply, but we want your take early so we know much sooner than later if we're not seeing obvious problems.

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    I am not so sure about the This is not a duplicate flagging. As far I've experienced new users confuse duplicate being an exact duplicate of their question, and believe it is unique, without checking the available answers at the proposed duplicates. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jun 18 at 17:48
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    Indeed. About the only sensible behavior that I can see for that flag reason is to not actually cast a flag and instead just show the user the help center guidelines on what to do if they think their question isn't a duplicate, making it just a honeypot. – Servy Jun 18 at 17:50
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    @Servy That's actually not a bad idea. Shog and I worked this out on what essentially amounts to the back of a napkin, so that's definitely the kinda feedback we need. I just pinged him to let him know I posted. – Tim Post Jun 18 at 17:53
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    One more point about the dupes: I believe most of the new users don't like their questions marked as duplicates, because many people tend to downvote these (for lack of research efforts). Wouldn't it be better to lock such duplicates for downvoting (below zero score) instead? If these aren't upvoted, roomba can take care of them if there's no positive score. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jun 18 at 17:55
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    I'd be concerned about the number of rude/abusive flags we'd get; we might get some good feedback, but we might also get a lot of false flags because new users don't understand and think any criticism at all is rude. I'd be a lot happier if new users only get a single flag, with the modified UI. Then nobody would be deluged, and if they waste it on a rude/abusive that gets declined, they can't retaliate by flagging other comments. – fbueckert Jun 18 at 17:58
  • I'm curious about some info related to flagging comments as not a duplicate. This isn't a problem I've run into on the sites I moderate, so I'm interested in how common it is and what the expectation would be of such a flag (if anything). – Catija Jun 18 at 18:10
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    Another concern: How do you plan to make new users aware that they can do that, and what's flagging at all? A tooltip or such? If so, that tooltip should lead to a help center article, that shows definitions for rudeness and duplicating in depth. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jun 18 at 18:53
  • @fbueckert you make a very good point however it is worth keeping in mind that number of flags will be naturally limited by amount of own questions - I think this is very different than would be allowing them indiscriminately flag on any post. Compare that to allowing them comment on their own questions and answers to these - this has long proven to be harmless (as opposed to flood we'd get allowing them comment everywhere) – gnat Jun 19 at 7:15
  • @gnat We already have a bit of a rough learning curve for new users. I don't believe giving them full access to flags, even if only on their own questions, is a good idea. I think it's going to be abused more than it'd ever be properly used. That's my experience from being on the receiving end of a ton of offensive comments on Arqade. – fbueckert Jun 19 at 13:10
  • @fbueckert per my reading this proposal is not about giving them full access, no ("modified flag UI"). Granted, two of three options suggested here make little sense to me: "not a duplicate" looks very slippery as pointed in few answers already and "Other" seems superfluous because askers can use custom flag on their posts instead. That leaves only rude/abusive flag and providing it looks quite sensible, especially combined with known system feature to remove F-word comments by a single flag – gnat Jun 19 at 13:29
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    @gnat Even with the modified flag UI, I'm leery. Maybe refund their flag if it gets sustained, but my primary concern is inundating mods with additional work, and new users seeing flags as a direct line to support. One flag until 15 rep. If they squander it, it's on them. They can have it back if it wasn't misused. – fbueckert Jun 19 at 13:49
  • @fbueckert That all seems like something you should put in an answer rather than a comment. :) It will make it much easier for others to reply to your concerns if it's an answer. – Catija Jun 19 at 16:04
  • @Catija Good idea. I wasn't planning on making a debate of it, but I don't see my suggestion, so I'll throw it into the mix for people to discuss. – fbueckert Jun 19 at 16:29
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    Tim, any update on testing new users flags proposed by Shog? If I understand correctly, it's up to you and Joe to decide on it – gnat Jun 22 at 18:54
  • The "any criticism is rude" is one of the reasons I'm not happy with the proposed Code of Conduct update. On this topic, I think the ability for folks to flag comments on their own posts is good. – Draco18s Jul 4 at 23:39

12 Answers 12

up vote 21 down vote accepted

As of today - August 10th, 2018 - this is live everywhere, with the following behavior:

  1. If you're unregistered, you cannot flag comments regardless of your reputation (this is unchanged)
  2. If you have the flag posts privilege, you can flag comments anywhere (this is unchanged)
  3. If you can post a comment on a given post, you can also flag comments on that post (new behavior)
  4. If you can only flag comments because of #3, you'll get an abridged set of flag options: "harassment, bigotry, or abuse" and "in need of moderator intervention" (new behavior)

I pretty much went with your second suggestion ("if you're allowed to comment on a post, you're allowed to flag comments on that post, too"), because it was easy to implement and easy to explain... But it does have some effects that may be a bit unintuitive:

  • You can flag comments on answers to your own questions as well as those on the questions themselves
  • Since the "comment everywhere" privilege is 5 here on MSE and 1 in private betas and Stack Apps, that's effectively the threshold for being able to flag comments everywhere on those sites
  • The threshold for upvoting comments is still tied firmly to the flag posts privilege (yes, flag posts not vote up) - this is unchanged, but may look a bit odd since previously you'd always see the upvote and flag options together.

This was tested on Stack Overflow for about two weeks; it produced reasonably positive results:

Type                      Flags Helpful Deleted
------------------------- ----- ------- -------
Comment Rude Or Offensive 165   71      107
CommentUnwelcoming        42    30      23
Comment Other             67    38      31

I'm gonna take those with a small grain of salt since we kinda changed all of the flag options mid-way through the test - but I had pretty low expectations and this exceeded them, so good enough to build on.

Next step: adjust the wording of "something else" to try & discourage folks from using it as "reply"...

  • since you didn't mention it, I assume that flagging limits work the standard way, right? – gnat Jul 26 at 17:33
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    That's correct, @gnat – Shog9 Jul 26 at 18:02
  • yeh please see this meta.stackexchange.com/a/313760/310756 – Yvette Colomb Aug 7 at 19:09
  • Given that the new Code of Conduct and the changes to the flagging prompt are now live network-wide, can you confirm whether this privilege change has now been extended to the whole network? Or is this still SO-only, and if so, when will it roll out network-wide? The first two changes we can evaluate directly, but it's more work to test whether this is in effect or not. – E.P. Aug 8 at 12:00
  • When you say that new users can only flag as "rude or abusive", does that include "unfriendly or unkind" or is it only "harassment, bigotry, or abuse"? – Donald Duck Aug 8 at 22:19
  • It'll roll out network-wide as soon as I'm through this current pile of notifications and can verify that it is working properly (I've done some ad-hoc testing and scanned the data, but probably should spend more'n 5 minutes on it) @E.P. – Shog9 Aug 9 at 0:00
  • Both, @DonaldDuck – Shog9 Aug 9 at 0:00

With regard to the "This is not a duplicate flag", I'm intrigued. I can see the logic that the only visible sign of the duplicate closure process for a new user is the "Possible duplicate of [Question]" comment, and so having a way to dispute it next to the comment might be helpful.

But, I wonder if it's necessary given that we already let users dispute duplicate suggestions:

Dispute duplicate UI

I think it's a great idea to let new users learn the flag UI and our model. But having a flag to dispute duplicates seems duplicative of the current UI to dispute duplicates. It seems preferable to me to encourage users to edit rather than sweep duplicate suggestions under the rug with a flag.

Perhaps it'd be better to tell users that they shouldn't be using a flag, and point them to the dispute UI if an option really is needed? I'm not sure how many users try to flag duplicate comments (I'm sure the data could be pulled from the database), but it would be worth checking if this is really a common problem before adding the option.

Since we wouldn't accept flags from users with > 15 rep on comments like that, there seems to be a problem. Is this flag enabled for all users on their questions? Or do we take the option away after they pass the threshold. If the option is taken away, I suspect we'll get errant flags in the 'other' box instead.

The "Possible duplicate" comment is a little brusque, and I wonder if it would be better to improve how that's conveyed to new users. Perhaps rather than the comment, the current UI telling users that the question has an answer already would be best? Having your question "shut down as a duplicate" sounds terrible, but getting a link to an answer near instantly sounds like a good experience to me.

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    I think that having a link in that "No, my question is different" section to a help page that details how to differentiate a new question from a duplicate would be nice, too... that way we're actually helping them know how to improve their post. – Catija Jun 18 at 19:42
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    That dialogue is missing a possibility: it's a duplicate but my question has not been answered. (All I could do, however, was upvote the second answer in the linked post that raises this problem.) – Jason Bassford Jun 19 at 2:20

I've been thinking about this all week, and doing a bit of research... Here are my current thoughts:

  1. "if you're allowed to comment on a post, you're allowed to flag comments on that post, too." - this is subtly different from what's proposed in the title, but it's an important difference and I support it. To be specific: answer authors can comment on their answers regardless of reputation; question authors can comment on both their question and any answers - and it's important that they be able to flag in both of those contexts. A common occurrence is for askers and answerers to, uh, disagree over what makes for a good answer... Sometimes, that disagreement turns ugly. BOTH parties should be empowered to flag and walk away if that happens.

  2. Let's test this: run it for a couple of weeks on Stack Overflow & see what sort of volume (and accuracy...) we're dealing with. My suspicion is that we won't get much; comment flags just aren't very obvious. But Stack Overflow has enough volume that we should be able to gauge what's missing without devoting a lot of time to it.

  3. The duplicate option may be necessary at some point, but for the purpose of an initial test we should leave it out. My reasoning here is... Folks who already can flag don't flag duplicate comments. Over the past year, 963 dup comments have been flagged on Stack Overflow; that's out of 233 thousand duplicate comments that've been posted on Stack Overflow. To put that in perspective: that's less than 1 month worth of deleted comments on Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange. BUT WAIT! It gets better: only about half of those flagged comments - 0.2% - were flagged by the author of the question. Maybe new users would be more apt to flag? HA! Askers with between 15 and 100 reputation only flagged 191 comments out of the 152 thousand duplicate comments left on their questions - yep, that halves the percentage yet again, but more importantly that puts the raw volume at about 1 flag every 2 days... IOW, a drop in the ocean. Even if .4% of dup comments on new-user posts got flagged, that'd only be about another 1 flag per day; if that ends up being our biggest problem, then adding the option is probably worthwhile... but I kinda suspect we're gonna have bigger problems, and to that end...

  4. We desperately need that "in need of moderator intervention" option. One of the weird aspects of flagger behavior - human behavior - is the tendency to feel really hurt by something while at the same time resisting the urge to, well, call it hurtful. An awful lot of folks will put up with rude or abusive comments rather than call them rude or abusive - and this is where the free-form option comes into play: if we don't include it, we're gonna get even more folks who see something that bothers them and just don't flag. By including it, we get the chance to capture problems that new folks see but aren't able to identify in a reliable way - which lets us come back in a month or so and add options that match their expectations.

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    re: your 4th point. I think this is largely because "rude and abusive" is the same wording as the actual r/a flag on posts ... leading people to believe it carries similar weight and consequence. – Magisch Jun 21 at 6:15
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    is it technically doable to make the planned test a-b? So that half users get single "rude" flag option while other half gets two options as you suggest. This would help verify the assumption that "other" option helps those who hesitate to directly call it hurtful. – gnat Jun 21 at 6:38
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    So, my question with #4, is whether having r/a at all is useful... and that's what I talk about in my answer. There seems to be concern that having r/a will draw a lot of invalid usage, though your answer points out an important argument for not omitting the "other" option. Is there any data about misuse by lower-rep (15-150 or so) users of r/a flags on comments and how often they're helpful/declined? – Catija Jun 21 at 15:17
  • it would be helpful to tag this status-review when the experiment with new flags starts. Other way to find it out for regular users would be to create sock account and ask test question at SO which seems a bit inconvenient :) – gnat Jun 22 at 9:21
  • I feel like this is the wrong change to a-b test, @gnat. A/b testing would be useful for changing, say, the text of the options, as a way to gauge which wording encourages accuracy. – Shog9 Jun 22 at 16:01
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    I analyzed flags from new users with between 15 and 50 rep on Stack Overflow over the past year, @Catija. They correctly flagged about 40% of the rude comments on their own posts, with roughly an 18% decline rate for all rude/abusive flags on comments to their own posts. More striking is the fact that while many, many comments on these users' posts are flagged as "no longer needed" and later deleted, very few of these flags came from the authors themselves; among new flaggers, "no longer needed" sees only about 20% more use than "rude / abusive". – Shog9 Jun 22 at 16:04
  • 40% seems pretty low and does make me wonder if we're better off skipping it in favor of the custom reason... though, I know that people sometimes worry about what to say in a custom reason, so having only that option might also be a barrier. It's a complex issue. – Catija Jun 22 at 16:14
  • Ok, that was misleading, @Catija... When I say that they correctly flagged 40% of the rude comments, I don't mean that they incorrectly flagged 60% - I mean 60% were flagged by 3rd-parties. The use of "in need of moderator intervention" by new flaggers is maybe a fifth of that of rude/abusive, even less for comments on their own posts. – Shog9 Jun 22 at 16:18
  • I see, thanks. Maybe you're right and a-b testing won't be very useful in this case. Any update on when new flags test will begin? I am interested because I plan to ask for statistics and maybe final decision on go / no-go after test runs for a while – gnat Jun 22 at 16:31
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    Beats me; that's up to Joe / Tim. I wrote up a more complete (read: long, w/ test plan) spec last night, need to argue about that now. – Shog9 Jun 22 at 16:32
  • Re point 4: this may also be because of how they've been trained by other sites. E.g. on YouTube if you go to flag a comment as abusive you get (or, at least, I did the last time I did this) a message which implies that their threshold for considering something abusive is whether you'd report it to your local police. – Peter Taylor Jun 29 at 12:24
  • the tendency to feel really hurt by something while at the same time resisting the urge to call it hurtful I struggle with this regularly. The weirdest things will trigger a gut emotional response and I have to sit back, take a deep breath, and say to myself, "No, this is fine" because, really, I'm angry at myself. Can't think of a good example of the last time it happened at the moment though. – Draco18s Jul 4 at 23:58

I mentioned to Shog in the Tavern that knowing that it's the question asker who's flagging (or the answerer, in those cases) would be really helpful - particularly in cases of rude/abusive flags but also for custom flags. Since then I've thought about it a bit more and I think it might be helpful to make it more overtly obvious than just having the username there. While mods who don't use certain userscripts will only see the OP's name on a flag - so it's obvious - there are scripts that show them everywhere, so it'd be difficult to tell them apart from other users. Additionally, it may not be clear that the username is the OP for mods going through lots of comment flags quickly.

I think this could be ameliorated to some degree by actually noting "this is the OP" somehow. This could be done in a few ways:

  • For question askers, shade the background of the username the way it does elsewhere on the post.
    For the mods who are aware of this convention, it should be clear but won't work for <15 rep users writing answers and flagging those comments.
  • Instead of [username] just say "flagged by Asker/Answerer"
    This may actually be better than the username of the poster because I won't always notice that the name matches the poster's. Knowing that the OP flagged the comment may give me reason to investigate further - particularly in the case of r/a or custom flags.

The latter seems like the easier and clearer option to me but there may be others.


I am curious about the inclusion of the Rude/Abusive flag. If the only options in most cases are

  • Rude/Abusive
  • Other

I worry that the "r/a" may be overused and the "other" underused, particularly since r/a flags on comments do come with added issues, like the three r/a comment flags in a week raising a moderator flag (unless these low-rep user flags are exempt, though I would hope not). I see this happen regularly in the off-topic close reasons, for example. If the generic off topic reason is available, users rarely use the "other" option which makes it difficult to understand why the question is being closed, particularly when the site is trying to decide what custom close reasons should exist.

This question does not appear to be about [site subject], within the scope defined in the help center.

I think that the dialogue box could be simplified by only giving a field entry form that briefly helps the OP know when comment flags are appropriate and when they are not. A rough example of that might be something like:

Explain briefly why you're flagging this comment. We encourage flags in cases where comments have already been addressed in an edit to the post, when you feel that someone is being rude towards you or others, and when comments get argumentative or totally off topic from the post. Please avoid flagging comments you disagree with or feel are incorrect.


Additionally, for custom flags particularly, it might be nice to have the option in these cases to mark the flag as helpful without deleting the comment and maybe even give an option to respond either way, as you can on post flags. This has always been problematic to me. Yes, most of the time comment flags are valid and the comment should be deleted or invalid and the comment should not be deleted but, particularly when trying to help teach new users, giving them feedback about their flags and why they were declined would be really helpful.

  • Note: in the edit history, revisions by the post author show up in OP-blue whether it's an answer or a question, so the same convention can simply be further applied. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 19 at 0:57
  • Oh, I had never noticed that! That's cool. Thanks for the info. There is one (likely uncommon) potential problem with doing it that way - if the asker is low-rep and the answerer is, it may cause some confusion since the asker would be able to flag on answers in addition to the question... but, as I said, that's likely uncommon. – Catija Jun 19 at 1:16
  • "Please avoid flagging comments you disagree with or feel are incorrect." That wording needs tweaking, because a comment can be both rude and incorrect. Perhaps "Please don't flag comments solely because you think they are incorrect"? – Peter Taylor Jun 29 at 12:41

I think it's a good feature, and even have high hopes it will work.

However, for the life of me, I can't understand the second comment flag reason you mention:

This is not a duplicate

How exactly can this be a comment flag reason? I guess the intention is to let moderators know a question closed as duplicate isn't a duplicate, thus give them chance to quickly reopen it, but using comment flag for this looks really, really twisted. Please, remove this. We can find much better ways, and it's a totally separate thing. Comment flags should be about, well, the comment.

  • I'm also not so sure what the outcome of Other might be. Suspected they have to give an explanation, there might be all kind of reasons given, from It's my homework and it's due tomorrow, thus the question is very important for me. to This user stalks my questions all the time. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jun 18 at 19:05
  • @πάνταῥεῖ true, most flags should be "Rude or abusive", otherwise it's wide for abuse. But limiting the flagging to this reason alone feels wrong, so I do support the "Other" option, just not adding more random-ish reasons. :) – Shadow Wizard Jun 18 at 19:08
  • Actually, the dupe comment flag wouldn't be for cases where the question is closed. It'd only apply in that limbo between the first dupe vote (when the comment is posted) and when the question is closed (unless it's closed as something other than a duplicate) since the comment is removed when the question is closed as a duplicate. This means that the flag would (hopefully) be used when the OP has edited the question to improve it and it's clearly no longer a dupe... – Catija Jun 19 at 2:20
  • You're thinking in terms of information architecture (why should "not a dupe" be a comment flag?!), not in terms of UX (this comment saying my question is a duplicate is wrong!). – TRiG is Timothy Richard Green Aug 8 at 3:46

My biggest concern is the potential for new users to abuse this ability. I don't know how prevalent it currently is, but I've heard bits and pieces about how users misunderstand what flags are for, and use them to complain about downvotes, not getting answers, or even getting wrong answers.

And that's from those who've already earned the privilege. If we open it up to new users for their own posts, it's a virtual guarantee we're going to get those who treat us like a help desk to flag anything and everything that doesn't answer their question. Who'll flag comments asking for clarification or constructive criticism as rude or abusive. Who'll flag their own post because someone downvoted it and they think that's wrong.

So let's limit it. 15 rep is even lower than commenting. Give new users one flag to use on their own posts. They get the limited UI, so they have a very restricted set of options. If they abuse it, well, one flag minimizes the moderation burden.

And just like we give more flags to those who are helpful with them, we can give their one flag back if it's helpful and they still haven't hit flagging privileges. I don't see much of a use case for someone who can flag something helpfully, but still be stuck at under 15 rep. Either they're rare users of the site, and the one flag is all they need, or they stick around and easily pass the rep requirement to flag anything.

  • I could definitely see newer users flagging comments on their question as retaliation for down/close votes. though Shog's stats alleviate some of these concerns, I agree that there is the potential for abuse. – Dragonrage Jun 25 at 18:49

Because users can comment on answers to their own questions, "not an answer" flags could also be in play. If we're giving them a custom UI anyway then we can add some words about how this doesn't mean "wrong" but, rather, just that it doesn't answer the question. (Let's skip VLQ, though; even experienced users get confused by it, so new users don't have much of a chance there.)

As noted in another answer, authors already have a way to dispute a duplicate suggestion, so we should push them toward that (and, particularly, the editing part).

We're not sure how big of a tide the current restrictions are holding back.

I expect it not to be very big.

Let’s put ourselves in the position of a new user who is unhappy about a comment on their own post (or answers to their own question):

  • If we are not familiar with the concept of flagging individual posts, we either end up at the contact us interface or do not act at all – irrespective of the proposed change.

  • On the other hand, if we are familiar with flagging (from similar sites), we start looking for a flag/report/contact button anywhere in the part of the interface related to the specific post. In that case and with the current mechanics, we would with some likelihood cast a flag on the post or the answer in lack of better alternatives.

Thus, at least a substantial portion of users who would flag with the proposed change, would already flag something now. Going by my experience, the number of such flags – where somebody flagged a post to notify the moderators of a particular comment – is very low and thus there is nothing to worry about in this respect.

If fact, I just encountered such a flag for the first time. It struck me as odd that the user would flag the question instead of flagging the comment – fortunately, this post came at just the right time.

I don't think these are the right flags here. Practically it makes a ton of sense to give the exact same flag options as a higher rep user

Rude or abusive

Gets misused as a "This person disagrees with me" a fair bit. I suspect any current/future automatic penalties for these flags shouldn't count for new users.

Should be paired with "no longer needed" since this reinforces the point that comments are transient

This is not a duplicate (as-appropriate) (probably churns back through the close vote queue)

If this is a "possible duplicate of" comments, then it might be useful to go through and make it clear by edits or comments that it isn't. If its not a dupe, I think there's far more good done by the voter and user engaging, than a flag.

If its been closed as dupe, 5 more experienced users have decided its a duplicate. If its edited, it should/could go back through the reopen queue. That said, editing a duplicate into shape isn't really easy so I'm not sure how this helps a new user on its own.

Other

I guess, but this also assumes a new user knows how where a freeform flag is useful. Might be useful to give some guidence suggesting that standard flags be used where possible, and its only for when moderator intervention is needed when a new user who can't otherwise flag uses it.

  • It hasn't been closed at this point... remember once it's closed as a duplicate, the comment disappears, so there's no need to flag it. This would only apply to questions in limbo between the first close vote and it being closed as a duplicate. I'm not sure I'm on board with the flag in the first place (see Aurora's answer) but this specific note isn't what I think this focuses on. – Catija Jun 19 at 19:50

Of the flag options you listed only one looks really worth providing: rude or abusive.

Two other options just don't look important enough to complicate life of inexperienced newbies with powers to do sophisticated non-critical things, especially if as mentioned over here they already have an option to flag their own posts for stuff like that.

Granted, in the past I would hesitate to bother newcomers even by giving them rude/abusive comment flag but recent "welcoming" discussions made me change my mind. It seems to be important enough to justify both complicating new users life with this option and risk some increase in the moderation load that it may incur.

  • When I try to imagine how it would be like for a totally powerless newbie I feel like it would be most harming and frustrating to see comments offending me and be unable to do anything about it. Even if I knew that some higher rep "gods" may eventually come and maybe notice and possibly take care of it, no - I don't think this would make me feel much better.

An advantage of a single simple flag option is less moderator load, they won't be bothered evaluating anything else except for making simple binary yes/no decision on whether the flagged comment is rude or not.

If you take into account immediate automatic deletion by a single flag of certain abusive comments, this will make moderation burden even easier. Not to mention how much better it will feel when newcomers see how comments with f- and c- swearwords disappear by a single click.

Maybe quicker deletion will also help educate users who may currently get into habit of posting stuff like that due to their comments getting unnoticed or ignored or even upvoted by other higher rep users.


I am somewhat concerned about the risk of moderation load increase if we introduce this flag. To mitigate it I would prefer approach suggested in another answer here, that is giving new users small (rechargeable) flag limit. I somewhat doubt that proposed limit of only one flag is okay but this shouldn't be a big deal if the feature is implemented properly. Specifically, I mean making it a configurable parameter, so that we can start by setting it to 1 and after some time increase if we see that it works fine.

As mentioned in this answer to this question Updated comment flagging - Supporting the new Code of Conduct. We are having an increasing incidence of people replying to comments in their flags. This is an added overhead for mods (on Stack Overflow at least), as we cannot create a custom decline reason and it's time consuming to have to copy and paste the flag reason into a comment and then explain to all parties why the mod is making this comment.

Also, given that many new users confuse high rep users with moderators, it's not clear enough to have the UI/UX refer to it as a moderator flag for brand new users. I suggest disabling custom mod flags for these lower rep users. Let them get a hang of the site first.

OR

If you want mods to train/teach people how to flag properly, provide a custom flag decline reason. We drill deeper and deeper into UI changes.

One point I am missing from your proposal is, how the new users should be made aware of that feature, and what the purposes of flagging (and its consequences) are at all1.

I'm fully with you, that those users should be able to act about blatant rudeness themselves. Though that would require some clear definition as made in the Be nice policy, and distinguish that from factual criticism.
Given that some unexperienced users even feel offended by valid and constructive edits of their posts, this is a thing that can't be ignored.

The latter confusion might come up from cultural diversity, and there are in fact cultures that deny any kind of even constructive criticism, or making a person aware of a failure in the public would be considered being rude and offensive.

I have experienced such kind of achievement of comments several times (and no, these weren't the reasons for my current suspension at Stack Overflow), and some users having that privilege of flagging already, used that feature extensively, trying to make me simply shut up, and keeping their face in the public.
These cases are rare though, and usually handled by mods correctly already. But what @fbueckert mentioned in their comment

I'd be concerned about the number of rude/abusive flags we'd get; we might get some good feedback, but we might also get a lot of false flags because new users don't understand and think any criticism at all is rude.

already happens from time to time, and should be addressed in a way2.


Regarding that duplicate flagging, I'd like to propose another alternative:

I believe most of the new users don't like their questions marked as duplicates, because many people tend to downvote these (for lack of research efforts) in consequence.

It was always made clear that duplicates aren't a bad thing at all, but as far I've experienced new users confuse duplicate being an exact duplicate of their question, when they believe it is a unique one, without checking the available answers at the proposed duplicates, or being able to extrapolate these to their particular situation.

Wouldn't it be better to lock such duplicates for downvoting (below zero score) instead?
If these aren't upvoted, roomba can take care of them if there's no positive score after 30 days, and the overall noise generated with them is reduced automatically.


1)I could think of a link to an appropriate help center article, embedded into a tooltip popping up hovering over the flag link.

2)For CMs such a case can be investigated at this particular question, with those already deleted initial comments (that user seems to have been nuked, or requested for deletion themselves now).

  • I am not so sure why this was downvoted. I've even given evidence (for those mods who are able to see it) – πάντα ῥεῖ Jun 20 at 0:14
  • I downvoted for two reasons: some noise (e.g. the part you describe your SO experience, which isn't relevant enough IMO), and mainly because I strongly disagree with "lock such duplicates for downvoting". Dunno about the other downvoters. – Shadow Wizard Jun 20 at 12:21

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