The 10k tools area has a section for flags. In this section (and only this section) you can flag a post as having invalid flags.

invalid flag

As it stands we have special treatment for this flag as it relates to flag weight.

If a moderator dismisses all the flags on a post as invalid, the people who cast the "invalid flag" are given a flag weight "bonus" and the people who cast the "normal flags" are given a deduction.

Are we doing the right thing here?
Are there any big caveats with this approach?
Do we need to adjust the way we handle "invalid flags"?

  • 3
    Do those same people get a penalty if the moderator does act on the flags?
    – user149432
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:10
  • @Mark yes they do ... we reverse the effect
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:19
  • 5
    Doesn't quite make sense to me, since it seems like the moderators still have to make a decision either way. In other words, how does the "Invalid flag" flag help the moderators, and therefore why would it affect weight? (Not that I really object to it, just trying to understand.)
    – jscs
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:23

4 Answers 4


There are two issues here that I don't like

  1. This pits flaggers "against" each other, which is not at all in the spirit of the thing. In order for one flagger to "win" (gain flag weight), the other has to "lose" (lose flag weight). In my view everyone who flags, with extremely rare exceptions, is making the site better and I almost never reject a flag.

  2. It's not uncommon to have flags at two different points in the post lifecycle that are both correct. That is, an answer will be (correctly) flagged as "not an answer", then the OP will go back and edit in detail to make it a better answer. Now someone (correctly) flags it as "previous flags invalid". Both flags are correct!

So going forward, if flags are disputed, no flag weight -- positive or negative -- will accrue to anyone on that particular post.

We've considered a few alternatives (make mods dismiss each flag individually, add a third "indeterminate" outcome button) but they all seem worse than this simple solution.

  • 5
    +1 for the simple solution. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 7:13
  • 1
    Good solution. This prevents gaming as well - waiting till enough flags of one type are posted then jumping on and casting the same one (riding the critical mass wave). I feel this area could be automated if you use both the quantity of flags and the weighting of the people posting them as the yard stick.
    – slugster
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 11:30
  • @slugster, how would this change prevent that kind of gaming? Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 14:49
  • 1
    @Michael, it eliminates it for the invalid flag option. It won't eliminate it for the other options but will cut it down, if there is a dissenting flag then nobody gets awarded flag weight.
    – slugster
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 22:33
  • 1
    Also seems like an opportunity for a boost-denying troll. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 22:47

So you're effectively introducing short selling1 into the flag-weight arena? I think it's been well covered in financial markets that this implies a high volume of traffic.

I also think that this implies that you're going to be putting a lot more weight into/around flag-weight, and that you intend it to have a higher purpose, when we've been telling everyone to ignore flag-weights in general, because we want them to focus on flagging correctly, and not on gaming the system. Here you're asking us to play games with the system. It's not as though the moderators won't generally know on a glance if the flags are valid or not.

Granted, by opening up some of the flags to 10kers in the first place, you've already allowed them to know which questions are likely to give them a higher flag weight in the first place, indicating that they can already game the system to get as high a flag weight as they would like.

I get the feeling this is some sort of a hedge. I'm not sure what it's a hedge against, but I get that feeling.

I agree that 10k users should know better what's good and what's not on the system, so in that regard, do they really need the reward associated with the Nelson-like exclamation "ha-ha!"

Ok, that's my $0.05

Oh, my point!: How does this conflict or correlate with the previous instructions to people to ignore flag weight as a normal course of action? What is the end game here?

1 Ok, technically it's not short'ing, on account of they're not paying it back, but they are betting against the others, and that's what shorters do. They bet against the other participants in the market.

  • I agree it is similar to shorting, we could totally disregard flag weight for posts that have opposing flags... I am not against it ... just want to understand the logic for such a change.
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:46
  • 3
    "It's not as though the moderators won't generally know on a glance if the flags are valid or not." -- I think this is the critical point. Either the flag is obvious and the mod can act immediately, or it's not and they still need to check it out before making a decision; either way, multiple flags (and contradictory flags) don't really help Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:58
  • @Michael, I find that opposing flags help me handle things on SO, its not as though it makes the decision for me, but it helps, it provides more context.
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 3:20
  • 2
    @waffles how exactly would you say that conflicting flags generally help you make decisions on Stack Overflow? I think this is information that not all of us have, which might help.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 3:30
  • 1
    @Michael, @jcolebrand: I'd guess that opposing flags are helpful just because they tell there's something that needs a closer look than usual. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 7:13
  • 1
    @Hendrik I'll accept that if it's not going to gain the naysayers weight. But I imagine that there will be enough that will play the negatives just to game their score.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 13:46
  • @jcolebrand: Huh, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. But let me point out that I didn't want to say anything about flag weight in my previous comment, just about usefulness of flags. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 13:54
  • @hendrik ~ Ah, my apologies, I felt the two were connected as that is the purpose of this thread. I see what you are saying now. I was merely saying that if the "I disagree flag" is non-point earning that I want it for what you're offering as the explanatory reason.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 14:03

In my opinion this is a bit unnatural. If you look at the purpose of the flags, it's to notify a moderator because you think something is wrong. But if you see a wrong flag, you don't have to flag the moderator because they will see the flag and they are capable enough to determine if the flags are OK or not.

So if you see a wrongfully cast flag, who do you want to contact? The original flag caster. So I think setting this flag should notify the (all) flag caster(s). With a message to review the flag.

Besides, if you have cast a flag and you later think it's in error, maybe casting an invalid flag should remove your own flags.

The advantages of this are that the system becomes more symmetrical (you can cast and remove flags). You get to notify the users so that they can change their actions, and in the end, it reduces moderator effort.

  • It's not possible (at this time) for a user to un-raise a flag.
    – jscs
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 6:26
  • 2
    @Josh, I know, and thats why I suggest it as a new functionality. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 7:04
  • Gotcha; I just wasn't quite sure if you were suggesting using existing functionality or making a feature request.
    – jscs
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 16:45
  • Didn't search to see if it exists, but this sounds like it should be a separate feature request post. Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 11:52

Since it seems like the only way I'll get a flag weight increase, so I guess I like the way it is.

To be honest, it really highlights the problem of democracy. Those who hold the opinion of the majority win, everyone else loses. It's one thing to have someone make a decision, but it's another to penalize someone for having a different opinion. You could also say it isn't really democracy, since it used to be that if you had enough votes you could make something happen, but now the only thing that matters is that the mods agree with you.

In the end, flag weight is just a rating for how much you think like everyone else.

  • 2
    I think we should still be encouraging people to ignore their flag-weight. Also, is yours really that high? I think I'm in the 300's on most sites where I flag. I tend to go for editing or voting before I flag, leaving flagging to comments (spam anyone?) or egregiously bad posts.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:48
  • @jcolebrand, I also usually edit where I can. Just last week I flagged an offensive post because I didn't want to start an edit war, but I just lost flag weight, so I just went in and edited it anyway. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:50
  • 1
    For good measure, I've flagged this post as not an answer.
    – user7116
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:50
  • @jcolebrand, and no, I have a low flag weight on Meta, which explains the first sentence. The mods don't really like it so much when you flag their actions. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:52
  • I've got 600+ on SO, but I have no idea why 6 of mine were marked invalid. I do know, however, that they only were after the introduction of the "invalid flag" selection.
    – user7116
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:53
  • 1
    @LanceRoberts why must the two be mutually exclusive. Also, if you flag it because you think it's going to be an edit war ... YOU SHOULD JUST LEAVE. Seriously, flag it and then leave. I understand the desire to do the right thing with editing, but you sound like you're doing it wrong when you do that. "I see a hornets nest that is on the verge of being upset. I should throw rocks at it and stand underneath of it!" ... um no.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:54
  • 1
    @sixlettervariables, it's also be nice if they let you know which flags were marked valid or invalid, you can usually guess, but when I get a streak going it's not always easy to determine. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:54
  • @jcolebrand, because in regards to offensiveness, it's the right thing to do. I just want the mods to do it, so that it would lessen the chance of the edit war. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:55
  • @jcolebrand, no that wasn't my point, but I don't expect you to get it. It was an analysis. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:56
  • The reason to involve a mod is to lock it to prevent the edit war. It's not their job to do the editing. You should edit once, flag and then leave. Let them deal with the edit war or the poor rollbacks.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:57
  • @jcolebrand, that's kindof like saying because I would say 'property taxes need to be lowered' that I'm just whining because I own property. So no one can ever analyze anything their personally involved in? Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 2:57
  • 1
    @LanceRoberts I gave some arguments to say that we shouldn't do this. I backed it up with existing arguments on Meta. You said "well, this is all a popularity contest" and didn't back it up. If you were arguing about property taxes then you would have more to say, such as "here's the reasons why the property taxes are too high and unfair, and here's the payoff to lowering them"
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 3:02
  • Flag weight should not equal ego. I believe that your last point is the whole point of flag weight. It is a weighting system to ensure that people flag in a way that is similar to the way moderators would flag, and therefore those posts are most likely to be the ones mods should be paying attention to. This is similar to weighting nodes in a neural network. It seems to me you're trying to imply that "thinking like the group" is a bad thing. In some cases, that is correct. For the purpose I assume for the flag weight feature, it is exactly what you want. Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 11:57

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