Yesterday I noticed what I thought was a suspicious voting pattern on a question. I flagged the question for moderator attention and noticed that most of the set of downvotes on the question (all but one had been downvoted) disappeared. Presumably this is because a moderator intervened, but it could also be because a strategic downvoter was simply successful and got their vote changed for most questions just under the wire.

In cases such as this -- where a moderator takes an action in response to a flag or declines to take such an action in response to a flag -- it would be nice to get some feedback to that effect. If I sent an email to the SO team, I get a response. It would be nice if a moderator could add a one sentence notification a la the badge/new response notifications that I would see at some point when navigating the site.

Note: it need not be a custom message. A simple: "A moderator has reviewed and accepted/declined your request" would be sufficient though more info would be appreciated.

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    I always had a problem with flags. A question I had answered would be migrated. I would flag my answer saying it was mine and to this day nothing happened.
    – John
    Oct 26, 2010 at 15:20

7 Answers 7


I'd definitely like to see a mod-accessable API to creating one of those single-line top-of-screen popup notifications (just as tvanfosson suggested). Many messages can be distilled down to one line and don't need to be as heavy-weight as an email. Besides, sending an email invites the recipient to respond, possibly leading to a long back-and-forth thread that the moderator likely doesn't want to encourage.

There could even be a list of templated boilerplate messages to choose from, e.g.:

  • Your flagged post at <URL> has been addressed, thank you
  • Rep recalc performed as requested
  • Accounts merged as requested
  • Vote at <URL> rescinded as requested
  • two mysterious downvotes in one day after 10 months??
    – Ether
    Oct 28, 2010 at 0:02
  • This was flagged as spam, @Ether, so I guess there are some jokers around. Or they really do not like your suggestion :) Oct 28, 2010 at 8:49
  • @Lady: or perhaps someone really doesn't want me to collect the bounty?
    – Ether
    Oct 29, 2010 at 16:46
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    Oh, you're a bounty hunter. Maybe I should downvote you ;) Oct 29, 2010 at 19:12

If there is something complex / significant going on, then we might send an e-mail (assuming you have one registered), but in the majority of flags it is a simple tweak. Personally I wouldn't want to add any overhead to that process.

In the case of suspicious voting; we don't actually have the ability to change people's votes. I suspect that what happened is that the automated script spotted the votes and cancelled them, and then the moderator went in, saw nothing amiss, and dismissed the flag.

Alternatively, maybe it was Jeff/the team who actioned that one (they have godlike unlimited power over all of, er, SOFU).

The ability to provide on-site feedback is certainly an interesting option, but it has been raised (and dismissed) previously.

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    Not knowing the process it's hard to suggest how it could work, but what if it was automated and all you had to do was choose which button "dismiss" or "accept" -- both of which cancelled the flag, but result in different generic notifications. It's always bothered me that what is essentially a "help desk ticket" for SO is a fire and forget action. Note I'm only talking about flag for moderator attention which requires a message.
    – tvanfosson
    Jan 13, 2010 at 14:42
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    You'd need a "dismiss without notification" or "dismiss with custom message" type thing, but in principal that could work without causing too much trouble. But figuring out when feedback is desirable is a little trickier (and I genuinely don't think that "always" is the answer here; in particular, I don't want to cause a positive feeback loop on some of the flags we get). Jan 13, 2010 at 15:01
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    I think we need to remember that mods are volunteers -- anything which adds overhead (particularly on SO, where there are probably a bazillion flags a day) is taking time away from their personal life. Not cool. :) It might only be one extra click, but if they're working 45 flags, it adds up. I think in extraordinary cases, the mods already do e-mail users (when an e-mail's available) when appropriate.
    – John Rudy
    Jan 13, 2010 at 15:05
  • @Termifish - I'm sensitive to that, but if they're clicking a button anyway why not have that action generate some feedback. I'm also sensitive to the feedback loop as well, but from my perspective it's worth the risk to get an acknowledgement that someone is listening.
    – tvanfosson
    Jan 13, 2010 at 15:09
  • Just give me offline.meta.stackoverflow.com back @Marc!!!
    – Ivo Flipse
    Jul 10, 2010 at 20:14
  • @Ivo - I'll enquire... Jul 10, 2010 at 22:58

I definitely don't like this. Whether we deal with 10 or 100 a flags is irrelevant. By adding this feature the expectation is going to be created that moderators need to provide feedback, or even worse, get jumped on for not doing anything with a flag, which also happens sometimes.

I am with Mark on this one, I will e-mail a user if he has an e-mail available if required, and to be honest, very rarely do I see replies coming back.

This will open a can of worms, because once we can respond to flags, the next complaint and feature request will be be the ability to have a messaging system because users can't respond to moderator messages.

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    Clearly I'm talking about an automated message as the conversation has developed. I'd say that in becoming a mod you accept the possibility that someone might be unhappy with a choice you make. Also, I don't see the message via the notification banner as increasing the likelihood for people to want to communicate with mods in response. In fact, I can see it reducing the need since you need not wonder whether your issue has been seen.
    – tvanfosson
    Jan 13, 2010 at 18:18
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    "I don't see the message via the notification banner as increasing the likelihood for people to want to communicate with mods in response." Obviously you weren't around when closing questions was first introduced...
    – Pollyanna
    Jan 13, 2010 at 19:01
  • @Pollyanna -- I think I was and I'm still not sure what you mean. I'm talking about getting a "A moderator has viewed and acted on/declined your flag feedback" banner at the top of the page. I suppose that knowing your feedback request was declined might increase the odds of you sending off an email or reflagging, but I suspect that it's only slightly higher than if you simply think that your request was ignored. On the other hand, knowing it one way or the other would definitely stave off any new flags/emails.
    – tvanfosson
    Jan 13, 2010 at 20:06


On Gaming, we sometimes get questions as flags for mod attention, and it feels 'wrong' to have to e-mail the user from outside the system.

Some way to message him/her and have that message appear in the envelope screen would be great.


Now that chat is live, you can post a message in a "regulator" room (I've seen several named Regulator Headquarters) or a new room if you can't find an appropriate room. Detail your problem, even if no one is in the room, then flag the question/answer with a link to the room — or even a link directly to your message in the room ("permalink" in the message dropdown). A moderator can @reply to you in the room, and you'll see it in your global inbox.

Of course, if there's people in the room and they can help, you might not even need the flag.

I see a [feature-request] in someone else's future to ask for email notification on chat messages you haven't "seen" (as recorded by the global inbox) in X days...

  • Sometimes a moderator flag covers very simple things that don't really hurt anyone to explain the answer in public, but ensuring that the actual flagger learns of this means announcing their name. And I feel that this public naming would betray a very core trust in moderator flags, which is that they are private communication.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Oct 27, 2010 at 14:46
  • @Grace: This is more a workaround using current accepted tools, though you could certainly create a sock puppet account to do the chat part, if it's worth the effort to get the 20 rep required.
    – Gnome
    Oct 29, 2010 at 9:37

I can see the moderator's points about this be only occasionally useful, and a pain to install and test, and rarely have cause to desire it myself, so low priority. But...

I can suggest a mechanism that is not to intrusive: treat moderator comments as formal comments for the purpose of listing in the recent activity pages.

That way:

  • no one but the intended recipient can see them
  • the recipient gets the colored envelope notification that they have a message
  • after a while they are not accessible any more, allowing the database to be cleaned if this is desired.
  • +1 I just wanted to suggest that as well Oct 29, 2010 at 8:22

If you need that level of feedback, you should send an email to the address at the bottom of every web page.

It just depends what you want.

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    As a provider you make a distinction between what you get via flagging and via email and thus it make sense that in one case you provide feedback and in another you don't. As a user, I see both as a way to provide a message to the SO "team" (including mods) and am frustrated that the most convenient mechanism for some types of feedback is a fire-and-forget mechanism that leaves me wondering whether anyone got my message and/or has done anything about it. Expecting me know that I need to do (a) rather than (b) to get some feedback that message is received seems rather customer-unfriendly.
    – tvanfosson
    Jan 13, 2010 at 18:12
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    @tvanfosson do you want a refund? :) Oct 26, 2010 at 22:18
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    just because I'm not paying for it, doesn't mean that I don't deserve good customer service from you. I hope you'd agree that I have a fair amount invested in making it successful. You might want to step back and think about the site from the perspective of someone who doesn't know how everything is implemented. No matter what you may think, I really am trying to be helpful.
    – tvanfosson
    Oct 27, 2010 at 12:18

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