Yesterday I had flagged mysql-select-query, question as "Not a Real Question", and my flag was declined. But when I checked the question today, it had been closed as "Not a Real Question". I don't exactly understand the reason behind this. Why is the question closed for exactly the same reason I flagged it, but my flag was declined?

No offense is meant. Just want to know how this ambiguity may have been caused, that's all.

  • 7
    Moderators aren't machines. Its all about human judgement with the occasional "Oh shnikeys I shouldn't have dismissed that flag" thrown in. update no offense taken. Frustration, yes; offense, no.
    – user1228
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 11:31
  • @Gilles: The question that this has been marked a duplicate of was asked on a later date. So shouldn't this be the original question and the other one the duplicate?
    – Balanivash
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 21:50
  • @animuson : Can you please confirm why this question has been marked as a duplicate ?
    – Balanivash
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 21:53
  • @Kate Gregory: This question has been marked as a duplicate of another question which was asked more than 1.5 years after this. Can you please tell me how is it possible?
    – Balanivash
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 17:57
  • 1
    Easily possible, because it was VTC as a dupe. Don't take that as an insult; you did nothing wrong and nobody is saying you did. They are dupes of each other, but the one this was closed as a duplicate of is faq-proposed. All questions similar to this one (once they are located by someone who knows about the other one) will get VTC as dupes. They will exist as a signpost to the "faq" version, where the SE team will maintain the "official" explanation.
    – user1228
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 18:03

6 Answers 6


It could have been a simple mistake. Perhaps someone meant to click 'valid' but ended up clicking 'invalid'. Though we're extremely careful, it is easy to make a mistake when doing a repetitive task. We don't have the ability to go back with flags, once dismissed they vanish from our tools. Any other action we take can be undone with just a few clicks.

Typically, a moderator will mark a flag as valid if they are able to see how or why you might have formed your opinion of the post in question, even if they don't take the action that you suggest. We much prefer the community to take action when it comes to borderline questions.

Additionally, we tend to take no action, even dismissing, if we're not familiar enough with the topic at hand to judge the technical merits of a post. While most flags we service require us to examine the quality of a post, NARQ requires us to know enough about the topic in order to decide if the question is answerable in many cases. Sometimes questions are just downright incoherent, but we come back to quality there - not evaluating if enough information has been provided in order for someone to answer.

With that being said, I'm pretty confident that this particular case was just a mistake that happened as a result of a human being doing repetitive work. I'm pretty sure I'm not the one that dealt with your flag, but I have made the exact mistake that I'm describing several times in the past.


The question was closed by 5 users who cast their vote to close. Your flag might have been deemed invalid by a whole different set of users or Moderators.

I'd assume the post might have been voted to close after your flag was marked invalid.

  • Actually it's one single moderator as far as I know. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:42
  • @ShadowWizard - I cannot view @Balanivash's flagging summary so I cannot say who deemed it invalid. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:44
  • 2
    It doesn't matter, you said "set of moderators" while I think it's one single moderator. By the way, ordinary members (even Jon Skeet) can't handle flags, only diamond moderators. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:47
  • 3
    @ShadowWizard (1) Multiple moderators can deem a flag invalid(tried it myself) (2) Yes, ordinary members with 10k+ rep can handle flags Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:50
  • Interesting.. correct about the new feature of 10K+ members handling flags but still think that once diamond mod deemed flag as either correct or invalid, it's gone from the queue. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:53
  • @ShadowWizard - No, deeming it as invalid from /tools doesn't dismiss the flag from the queue. I was of the same opinion as you till yesterday but I've confirmed that that's not true Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:55
  • I don't mean 10K+ member flagging from the /tools - I mean diamond moderator handling it from his own set of moderator tools. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:59
  • @ShadowWizard - To be clear: Diamond moderators have access to both - marking a flag as invalid from /tools doesn't dismiss it from queue, doing so from mod. tools does. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 7:02
  • @Sathya: That actually sounds like a bug with /tools to me... When a moderator handles the flag there, shouldn't it dismiss it from the queue just like it would if you handled it from the mod control panel? Sounds like that's the behavior you expected, and it's definitely what I'd expect too. You might consider opening a question about it. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 11:35
  • 1
    @CodyGray I've spoken about it yesterday, and GraceNote mentions it is the expected behaviour - although it left me befuddled. I think I will ask a question about it. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 11:43

Simple matter of different opinions: the moderator handling your flag either thought the question is real and valid, or preferred to let the community decide and not close the question himself.

Personally can't see why it's not real question but guess the five people closing it knew what they're doing.

Bottom line, I would flag question as "Not a real question" only if I'm 100% sure this is the case - border cases like this better be left for the 3K+ members to decide.

  • Pls check the edit of the question, The table structure was not there first when I flagged it. But the content was added by a moderator later on. So I was sure abt it when I flagged it :)
    – Balanivash
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:53
  • ypercube is not a moderator just ordinary 2K+ member so he just added the code posted by the OP to the question. Anyway, don't take it hard it's just one flag and it won't cause any real harm. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:58
  • the content was moved from comment to question, but not by a moderator. @Balanivash Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:59
  • Not taking it hard, just wanted to know why there was this ambiguity.
    – Balanivash
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 6:59

This happened to a question I flagged yesterday.

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I flagged the question and it was declined. Since the flag, the question continued to amass more and more down-votes until finally it was flagged again and closed.

I think users who initially flagged the question should be given their flag weight back in the case that a greater consensus is reached later that a flag is actually valid.

make sense?

  • A suggestion for the future... If you're going to flag for a moderator, leaving a comment on the question for the author is not only polite and potentially helpful for said author, but can also help the moderator and other readers/voters to understand the problem. In your example here, a moderator (possibly summoned by your flag) had to ask for a reason - this would tend to slow or stop any response to flags.
    – Shog9
    Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 4:41
  • @Shog9 Perhaps all flags should be comment only. Don't give the flagger options to choose from, just give them the opportunity to explain for themselves why it should be looked at. I get your point, whenever I write a comment, the chance of it being helpful increases exponentially.
    – demongolem
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 18:07
  • @demongolem: that was how it worked at one point. But for common problems, it ended up just making more work for moderators (some people don't leave very good write-in comments) and made it hard to sort flags according to type (which is extremely helpful in getting them processed quickly and accurately).
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 18:53
  • @Shog9 I realize this is an old discussion, but I've recently seen your suggestion about leaving a comment with the opposite argument: That you should only leave a comment if you are actually interested in entering into a possible dialog with the author. And while I will try to be better to comment when flagging, I will still refrain from doing so when the author obviously hasn't done the basics to begin with. And there's the pain when an author just doesn't get it stackoverflow.com/questions/15732687/…. (Not my comments, but excellent example)
    – user213634
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 9:35

I had a similar situation occur recently.

I flagged what was obviously a completely off-topic question as such, and had the flag declined as not being supported.

Within minutes of my flagging it, it had accumulated -7 votes and was closed and then deleted.

This isn't about the reputation - heck, I didn't even know I had flag reputation - but about feedback loops.

SO has a great set of feedback loops, which is what helps make it a great resource. But there doesn't seem a way to give feedback to or request review for the purpose of feedback to Moderators.

Is there a need for a feedback loop here? If so, how should it be constructed?

  • What flag exactly did you submit, do you remember? Worth to mention, the question was deleted by gaining six offensive flags. (spam or "not welcome in our community") Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 7:05
  • As for something you said, flagging does not give any reputation. You do have "flag weight" though that determines how many flags you have and the priority of your flags in the queue, and having declined flags will reduce that weight. Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 7:09
  • I flagged it as off-topic. I felt that was a better fit than spam. It was off topic, but it didn't fit my definition of spam...
    – Jordan
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 16:48
  • And you are correct. I should have been more precise and said, 'flag weight'. In any case, I don't care about that one. It is more about the feedback loop in this area.
    – Jordan
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 16:48

And another one. I don't care too much, if a flag is accepted or declined, but it is still a bit annoying, if one flags something 'opinion based', gets declined and shortly later the same question is on hold because...five members deemed it opinion based.

  • Just consider yourself a populist. Power to the people. And all that. Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 15:33

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