Based on a number of experiences, but namely related to the following question:

Windows service created to shut down computer is not working when computer is locked

Yesterday the comments of this question got really messy, really quickly — I was keeping up with adding 'question content' that the OP was posting in comments. I asked the OP to stop doing this and to delete comments, but I also flagged for moderator attention (elaborating in the 'other' field, which I almost always do) to delete any irrelevant elements (or do as they seen fit) — almost instantaneously all irrelevant comments started disappearing and this little corner of SO was nice and tidy again.

It was clear, quite crystal actually, that this was messy and ought to be tidied; and so it was.

Earlier today I was checking up on my activity to check on progress of users, as I always do. What I saw was an identical situation — the guy was asked for more info and promptly posted an abundance of code in comments (an abundance relative to the size of the comment area, that is) — I continued by updating the original question yet again with the new information and flagged again, only this time it seems we don't like to clean our mess. Flag declined and no tidy-up.

If I could do this myself then I would have done so in the first place. Had the first been declined then I probably wouldn't have flagged the second and figure we aren't too concerned with such 'trivial' things.

I'm not crying over my flag weight, that gets reduced enough just by the declining my requested migrations to CodeReview, but rather I'm concerned:

  • Surely a flag is either right or wrong? At least for the most part, unless it's not such a cut and dry case. i.e: we either allow a user to populate comments with code, or we don't.
  • Aren't the people actioning these singing from the same hymn sheet?
  • Why would something so obviously valid to one be dismissed by another?

Either way, what about the impression the OP gets of double standards of content — inasmuch that really, is just depends on who sees the content. I picture a kid learning how to play their parents, where they'll always know which one to go to for what, so that they'll get away with it. Hardly an easy game to play here, but my point is the impression it might give.

Then, swinging back around to flag weight: it has no point whatsoever if it holds no bearing on the quality of your flags and the suggestions just be whimmed at depending on the mood of the approver at that time.

  • That's a risky post/comments to flag according to my dictionary. Even some spam posts got rejected sometimes.
    – YOU
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:33
  • Where is the second post? Apr 21, 2011 at 15:58
  • @Bill: It was the same 'thread' - first flag was on the question and second was on an answer (since it related to comments attached to this one this time). Maybe it would have been wise to flag the actual question again, which would have given context, had I known my actions wouldn't. Apr 21, 2011 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


When you've got a site as large as Stack Overflow, moderators need to act a lot faster. They have some points to deliberate, but a lot of times there will be cases that they just need to take action immediately so as not to lose time to handle the remaining flags. This may indeed lead to some inconsistencies, because while a lot of our handling is off of the same principle we still will have our own thoughts on the actual severity of the issue. Time becomes of the essence to convey what are important issues, while individually handling smaller issues. This consequently also affects whether or not a mod will report to others to indicate any particular incident, as they may not have figured it was significant enough or that it would repeat.

Smaller sites do also run into the same things of small items being handled without discourse, but there tends to be a lot more discourse proportionally. That is, we probably talk about the same number of flags per day, but the total flags per day on Gaming is usually less than 10% of the total flags per day on Stack Overflow as an example. As such, we can afford the time to discuss them over time.

We do get to see when something is flagged a second time, and will see how the old one was handled. In this scenario, though, it's a different post (considering you were able to flag both), which means that the second moderator doesn't necessarily see or know of the history of the other one. I can't see your flag messages so I can't really specify how exact your writing was, but I can picture a scenario of reading the flag, seeing the comments, and thinking that the particular comments weren't too deep or complex, and that it could've been handled in that exchange. Thus, no action is taken.

  1. Our dismissal may be black and white, but the process that leads to it can certainly be grey. In this scenario, it might not have been seen as "post code in comments" (we have code formatting in the first place, after all) so much as "correspondence in comments", and that latter one has degrees of acceptability and unacceptability.

  2. We have the same guidelines, but we all have our own levels of strictness and preference. We follow the same policies, but we don't necessarily interpret all of the same scenarios as the same problem.

  3. As perspective changes, so too does the resolution. It is not impossible that two moderators would have come to the same conclusion about a flag, had they seen the flag in the same perspective. But if one sees it from a different initial perspective, it may result in the opposite resolution. And I imagine that is probably what happened here.

  • @Grace: Just to note, my first flag comment went like this: 'Commentitis: the unfavourable disease of thinking comments are for question content. I don't think the user will do as asked and delete the comments even though I have updated the question. Please delete comments, or do as you see fit, it all started as a very bad question...' Apr 21, 2011 at 15:43
  • @Grace: And the second: 'Chris has been very patient, but Rohit has proceeded to flood the comments with code - I have added relevant data to the original question in an update. Please tidy up the comments if/as you see fit.' Apr 21, 2011 at 15:43
  • 1
    @MrDisappointment Ahha, see, you've got two completely different flag messages. One says "Comments with question content", the other boils down to "Comments have code". They don't seem like such a clear case of identical behavior when they're described so differently. Especially considering Chris suggested to the OP to provide the results of ok from the GetLastError(). Had I been two separate people with the same mindset and duties, I might've made two different resolutions as well.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:45
  • @Grace: I see, to be honest I don't keep generic flag messages on hand to cut-n-paste, and maybe, in hindsight and your remarks, I could have either A) made it easier for the flag reviewer, or B) just not bothered anyway. Also, I have always tried to be a little 'human' in my messages, so as to not appear like a machine with no manners. Furthermore, I wasn't aware that flag history wouldn't be applied to the whole Q, answers etc. Apr 21, 2011 at 15:48
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    @MrDisappointment I personally much prefer hand-written messages specific to the issue over copy-paste. The number of generic, unexplained "not an answer" and "low quality" flags on Gaming is truly a bother. Yet, I think the issue is that you simply picked such different aspects of the issue to describe, such that it came out as a different problem. Something to learn for the future, perhaps. ♪ Just to clarify for you on your last note: flag history applies on the post level and on the user level, but we view incoming flags only on the post level. User level is primarily for research.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:50
  • @Grace but still, talking about time being of the essence, but then looking into specific lines of an answer to extract a line to justify this is a little contradictory to me. Apr 21, 2011 at 15:51
  • @MrDisappointment Hm? Time is of the essence that prevents moderators from having to review everything with each other, not to prevent them from studying the flagged post. We of course spend time reviewing the post ourselves so that we make an intelligent decision and not a rash one. Time just affects whether we leave the flag for others to review or not - on Gaming it's not unlikely for flags to last for multiple hours. Less so on Stack Overflow. Unless it is some other contradiction you're referring to, that is.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:53
  • @Grace: You're correct, both were about 'relevant question content in comments', and I should have constructed my sentences both so similarly that this was evident maybe without having to actually read/look into my suggestion. Also, I'm not concerned with the time it takes to get actioned, just that valid suggestions do get actioned. Apr 21, 2011 at 15:53
  • @Grace: Then if time is spent reviewing the post, surely the similarities of my comments come together? Apr 21, 2011 at 15:54
  • @MrDisappointment Two different posts were flagged. The second moderator only sees the second post's flags. Since I can see both of these together, for example, I can tell that they were the same case. That's why I specified in my comment that I would have to be two separate people, and thus see two different experiences, to so easily come to a different conclusion.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:55
  • @Grace: Oh ya. I'm stupid - we already touched that subject, forgive me. Just a bit of an instinctive feeling to think that all posts on a site element (question + its answers etc) are related even in terms of moderation. Apr 21, 2011 at 15:56
  • @MrDisappointment No worries, it's an easy conclusion to come to. A lot of things that apply on the question level do get applied to all the answers. But it just so happens that flags are on a per-post basis. Though! You now know this for the future. ♪
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Apr 21, 2011 at 16:00
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    @Grace: Thanks for your input; ultimately I'm just trying to help SO (and myself, I enjoy and respect the place and would like to keep it in a tidy condition, at least as much as I can), I wouldn't have flagged it if it wasn't quite obvious that, even if not in explicit terms that I can cite and reference, this is one of the kinds of things we try to minimise - I just feel a little demoralised by something I'd consider 'textbook', which I don't want at all! The discrepancies do comes out on analysis, though, I guess. Thanks for your input by the way, and tolerance. Apr 21, 2011 at 17:15

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