It's well-known mods aren't almighty, and some problems require staff intervention. One of those cases is serial voting. Following a discussion here, could we have an indicator if a flag has been escalated, and the current status of it?
There's always going to be a backlog, but it'd still be nice to know the current status when it's been escalated, instead of hoping the flag resulted in escalation. As an example of when this is useful, I recently flagged some serial voting. The first reply said:
helpful - Same goes for upvotes. What can I do about getting a sudden flood of revenge downvotes?
But that doesn't tell me much. Was it escalated to Stack Exchange employees, or shrugged off as "the system will handle it"? Spoiler: It won't. Batches of three serial votes currently don't get reversed. That might be a separate problem on its own. I went ahead and flagged again for good measure, but I still don't know if it was escalated, and therefore if I need to flag again. I understand there's backlogs that need to be handled, but I personally want to know if it will be reviewed or not.
And just to be clear: I'm not asking about this specific flag. This is used as an example. With backlogs though, it would be nice to at least know if the flag has been escalated and will eventually be looked at, or if it'll take a few months and more votes before it gets reversed.
I'm not entirely sure what requires escalation, but I imagine there's other usage areas beyond serial voting. Not knowing the system, if there are such cases where the escalation status shouldn't be revealed, mods could be given an alternative to hide the escalation status, or alternatively, the status when the flag has been reviewed by an employee can be generic, with a simple
Reviewed by employee.
Anyway, the general idea is that if a flag is escalated, it throws an additional status on the flag. Something along the lines of:
User comment – Username Aug 8 at 22:37 helpful - Optional moderator reply - Pending employee review
User comment – Username Aug 8 at 22:37 helpful - Optional moderator reply - Escalation marked as helpful/declined by employee
Would at least make it possible to tell that there's something going on with the flag, and removes the confusion of a helpful flag with no action taken.
The escalation status should naturally not affect the user's flagging stats in any way, so that won't be a change compared to today as far as I know.
Edit: I failed to think about implementation difficulty. That's on me. If the system I initially proposed is not worth "tripling the complexity of the flag system is worth the tiny number of cases it would affect.", could we at least have an indicator that it has been escalated? Leaving it to moderators to manually type out that it has been escalated first of all takes space (I'm assuming the flag replies have some length restriction as well), and it assumes moderators are able to remember it. Being a moderator on 0 sites, I have no idea how flags are escalated, but if there's a button, throwing in a notice it's been escalated (again, in a style similar to the helpful/declined part of the flag) wouldn't change anything for mods, but let end users get this type of information.
Additionally, if employees would end up never typing anything, how can you expect mods to consistently remember to leave a message when a flag has been escalated? I don't doubt that mods could actually do that, but this could be automated. Linking any of the features I've proposed to (presumably) standard buttons just adds an output with little effect on the process for mods or employees
For the sake of completeness though, I'd also like to suggest adding escalation to the FAQ (something along the lines of "Why was my flag escalated, and what does it imply?"), either here on main meta or in the help center, and link to it from the flag status. This is, again, mainly to avoid confusion when it takes a while for anything to happen for stuff like serial voting, or anything similar.