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I noticed that the "no longer needed" flagging option for comments was changed to "not relevant". Okay, fine. This should affect all future flags.

But I noticed when looking in my flag history that all of my previous "no longer needed" flags had changed to "not relevant", including those I cast before the wording was changed.

Why was this done? I didn't flag those comments as "not relevant", I flagged them as "no longer needed".

I think (but am not sure) that this also affects currently active "no longer needed" flags cast before the change was made, and moderators reviewing those flags today would see "not relevant" instead. (Thankfully, the display of prior comment flags I made under the original system, such as "obsolete", hasn't changed.)

Is this intentional, or is this a bug?

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It is intentional, insofar as not retroactively changing the flag would've required adding a new flag type and that wasn't done. Note that a new flag type was added for a planned "Unwelcoming" comment flag type at roughly the same time "no longer needed" was renamed to "not relevant", so that could easily have been done - the decision not to was thus clearly intentional.

We did roughly the same thing back when "no longer needed" was introduced: the "rude or abusive" flag is just a rename of the old "rude or offensive", while the "in need of moderator intervention" flag was formerly called "other".

The advantage of renaming a flag instead of creating a new one is that it makes it a bit more obvious that it is intended to fulfill the same role as before: your flag history and pending flags all immediately take on the new name.

The advantage of replacing a flag with a new one is that it makes for a clean break in cases where the new flag is fundamentally different from the one(s) it replaces. It allows pending flags to continue to reflect the name visible to the flagger, and for both history and any analysis to easily identify which flags were used.

  • So in this case, it was not fundamentally different, so the benefits of renaming outweighed those of replacing? – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Aug 2 '18 at 22:38
  • Is it technically possible to flag comments as "unwelcoming" from the API? – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Aug 2 '18 at 22:39
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    Probably not, @sonic - the API generates flag option IDs at runtime based on available options for a given comment, and this option shouldn't be available right now. It is possible to flag a comment with the unwelcoming option by faking a request on-site if you know the ID... But that flag won't show up anywhere, so it's kinda pointless. – Shog9 Aug 2 '18 at 22:45
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Flags aren't stored in the system as strings but as numeric codes. (You can see some of them in the SEDE schema.) When they changed the name, they almost certainly just changed the value of the existing numeric code, so that flag type #6 (or whatever) went from "no longer needed" to "not relevant". That would be a less-risky change, in terms of breaking other things, than adding a new flag type, even if the new one would be cleaner. (Some flag types have special handling associated with them; I don't know if "obsolete", the original form of this flag, does.)

There are other parts of SE that show current state rather than the state at the time an action happened. It's a little weird and confusing sometimes, but it hasn't been important enough to fix. If they're not going to fix some of those other things when users change their names or someone's moderator status changes, I very much doubt that they're going to change historical flags that are only visible to the flagger and moderators.

  • I think (but am not sure) that this also affects currently active "no longer needed" flags cast before the change was made, and moderators reviewing those flags today would see "not relevant" instead. – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Aug 2 '18 at 22:09
  • Regarding your second paragraph, moderator candidate scores are another example of this. The scores are always current, and don't reflect the score at the time the election happened. – Sonic the Anonymous WizHog Aug 2 '18 at 22:12
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    FWIW, "no longer needed" was an original flag type - it didn't piggyback on either "obsolete" or "not constructive", thus allowing me to track the behavior of those flags independently (pending flags of all three types existed in the system for a while). In contrast, to track the effects of the "not relevant" change, I'll have to just look at how it was used before/after the code was built out. – Shog9 Aug 2 '18 at 22:28

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