Two of my recent flags were marked as invalid, but I have no idea why. The first one was a duplicate post, only 4 questions below, and was not only closed, but deleted. I flagged it as "Dual post, probably better on another site." Apparently, they agreed, but still invalid?

The newer one was clearly a shopping question, and was subsequently closed. I flagged it as "Shopping question".

Are we NOT allowed to flag. Is there some mysterious line between voting to close and flagging? If you guys close it, it should not be invalid because we were clearly right. It is very arbitrary.

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Yeah the downvotes really help you mask the foolishness of the arguments below. –  KCotreau Jul 19 '11 at 4:43
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Uhm, you know that there's a button that allows one to downvote on Stack Exchange sites, so I exercise my right to do so if I don't agree with the OP. –  slhck Jul 19 '11 at 5:53
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@slhck It does not change flawed logic and the sheep, who follow them. –  KCotreau Jul 19 '11 at 6:41
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Downvoting because you don't agree is kind of lame. Downvoting is a form of positive punishment. You are trying to decrease the frequency of a behavior by adding an adverse stimulus. Considering the votes are about improving the medium of communication and not the topic of the communication, downvoting because you don't agree turns this into a political forum. –  surfasb Jul 19 '11 at 7:58
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@surfasb downvotes on all meta sites are generally accepted to mean "I don't agree with this" or "I don't want this feature implimented", etc as well as the usual reasons. They do not have the same negative connotations with respect to quality. I realise the tool-tip doesn't reflect this, but that's an ongoing problem. –  DMA57361 Jul 19 '11 at 8:02
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The Meta FAQ even covers this, see the section on What does voting here mean?. –  nhinkle Jul 19 '11 at 23:50
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Why do you use flags when you have more than enough rep to vote to close other people's questions? –  random Jul 20 '11 at 0:35
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Your flags are invalid because you are trying to bypass the built-in vote to close system. There is no flawed logic, you are just not using the voting to close system for when questions should be closed; we are a community and we thus should vote to close questions together rather than to let such actions be decided by single users. Closing questions is in most cases not an unusual action in our community, and there thus is really no need to explicitly flag them. Of course your specific examples might be valid, but your repetitive close flagging gave the mods the incentive to deny flags... –  Tom Wijsman Aug 6 '11 at 16:27

3 Answers 3

First of all, just take a moment to step back and remember: flags are here to inform moderators of what's going on so that we can take special action if necessary. Moderators are for unusual conditions - things that are beyond what regular users can handle on their own. Flag weight is not a big deal. Yours is high enough that one or two invalid flags won't be a problem. Our flag quee is usually pretty short, so your flags will get seen in a timely fashion. Yes, flag validity is arbitrary and subjective. Don't worry about it.

To address these specific flags:

  • What enclosure should I get for Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB hard drive?

    You flagged this with the message "shopping question". Why? You have well over the 3000 rep required to vote to close the question, and it appears that you did not exercise that privilege. Shopping questions are off-topic, so vote to close as off-topic. Unless a question needs to be closed urgently, a flag is really not necessary if the question is merely off topic and you have the ability to vote to close the question. It wastes moderator time when there are flags that should close votes; this is probably why your flag was rejected, even though the question was closed. Yes, the question was off-topic, and your flag was invalid because you should have just voted to close.

  • how to change PATH vars on my iPhone console

    "Dual post"... where? In this case, dismissing the flag is a borderline decision. If you had included a link to where the double post was, then it might have been useful, but it was probably rejected for that reason. In this case, the question was closed as off topic, because iPhone questions are not permitted on Super User. You mentioned "probably better on another site", so you must have understood that it's off topic. Once again, you could have just voted to close, instead of flagging.

The line between voting to close and flagging is hardly mysterious. If you think a question should be closed, vote to close it. Only flag a question if it has problems that can't be handled by the standard vote to close system.

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What he said. Also, remember what team@ declared: Moderators are human exception handlers. The only time you should care about your flag weight is when it rapidly approaches 1. At that point, you'll probably have had some words with a moderator already, and you'll be aiming for 1. Otherwise, even knowing what your flag weight is is a privilege. Most users will never know, and that's fine. That's what we want. Consider it a private badge of honor. Otherwise, I shall be forced to slap you with a limp trout (humor, it's good for the sole) –  jcolebrand Jul 19 '11 at 2:24
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Based on your answer, you never need to flag anything. Why does it even exist? Nothing personal, your rational is flawed. Also, I did nothing I have not done before. If you don't want to handle flagging, then do away with the deputy badge since that is why most people probably do it. You guys are very inconsistent as a lot so if you close it, you should not mark it as invalid. –  KCotreau Jul 19 '11 at 3:25
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You're right, you never need to flag anything. Eventually those things will be found. By flagging you'll help everyone. You also don't need to upvote, edit, ask or answer. –  jcolebrand Jul 19 '11 at 3:33
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The deputy badge says, and I quote: "Achieved a flag weight of 500 by reviewing and flagging appropriately". You flagged inappropriately, so it was marked invalid. Flagging is for issues which are more serious than a question just being off topic. That's how it is. –  nhinkle Jul 19 '11 at 3:41
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@nhinkle♦ The second one, which you are trying to defend. The duplicate was easy to find. It was either right below or a three more below, I no longer remember. You guys aren't smart enough to figure that out? You can't click on the user to see? They certainly had no problem finding it to totally delete it, so how is your "where?" a valid answer to the question. This is also not even a case where your comment about closing is valid. Give it up. You will make an excuse to rationalize anything you and the good old boys do. –  KCotreau Jul 19 '11 at 4:09
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Then what specifically meets this criteria: "Only flag a question if it has problems that can't be handled by the standard vote to close system"? Because there are none other than who the moderator is who handles it. You have not really answered the question, but have given great excuses for the inconsistencies. –  KCotreau Jul 19 '11 at 4:10
    
So what do you reckon "could not be handled by the system" in that case? If you feel your targeted question doesn't accumulate enough close votes or attention, there's also a special chat to drop the question in ("Vote to close/delete"). –  slhck Jul 19 '11 at 5:51
    
It's big government v small government! :) –  surfasb Jul 19 '11 at 8:00

Let's look at flagging on a more hedonistic level.

Flags should be used (and are often marked valid) when:

  • you spot disruptive user behaviour (sock puppets, cussing, reposting, etc.).
  • a post needs shifting to a site not in the default migration paths.
  • a post is undergoing an edit war (a moderator will lock if/when necessary).
  • someone posts an answer that is really a comment or a new question but they failed to see where the upper right corner of the screen is.
  • comments on the post need clearing out (you can usually just flag one comment and explain the nuke request).
  • you are under the rep threshold of whatever action you want to carry, be it close or protect.
  • a user needs merging.

Flags should not be used (and are often marked invalid) to:

  • say a post needs editing. Everyone can do that now. Be bold.
  • downvote a post. Just downvote it already.
  • have conversations. Try chat instead.
  • leave cryptic and/or vague messages about what to do with the post. Flags like how something may be a duplicate, but you just can't put your finger on it don't help.
  • vote to close by proxy when you don't want your name to appear on the close list.

Borderline dismissal usually hangs on when a post is flagged for migration when it is either:

  • fine to stay on the site as is.
  • doesn't meet quality control standards. As in, it's not junk waiting to flush back up the septic tank. We try not to send other sites crap questions just because the content may suggest it fit better. If it's a mess, we spike it here and be done with it.

How the flag falls in the last section depends on how the moderator at the time wishes to handle the flag. Could go up, could go down.

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I appreciate that you at least tried to answer the question. To be honest though, all the invalids, yours included, did was REALLY turn me off. You ultimately closed it, so you REALLY needed to mark it as invalid? I love the concept of many things here, but in other ways, this crap makes me want to achieve my personal goals and just leave. I wonder how many other really good members have felt the same because a bunch of kids (moderators) with too much power for their own good, don't think about their inconsistent actions. –  KCotreau Jul 19 '11 at 4:37
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If you are going to make it a badge, expect people to flag, and when you guys approve the same ones 27 times, and then the same stuff is marked invalid 3, expect people to question your judgment. Simple rule: If you close it, it was clearly valid. Logical, and won't turn people off with your moods. –  KCotreau Jul 19 '11 at 4:39
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What is the difference between flagging something closed (private) and voting to close (public)? Why does a user with over 3k choose the former when they have the reputation to do the latter? That seems rather inconsistent. It's like telling people not to flag or close questions while doing so behind their back. @kco –  random Jul 19 '11 at 12:47
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@kco tbh I find it rather strange that getting two invalid flags is something that'd make you leave the site. I have three invalid flags too, two of which are also disputable cases, but so what? Does that really hurt someone's feelings? Does it matter now? Not at all. I know that you're not agreeing with all of the concepts of this community (daily rep cap, the concept of downvoting, the issue here), but after all we're just humans. I do have to agree that the flagging system isn't perfect and far from being transparent, but that's another issue. –  slhck Jul 19 '11 at 20:17
    
@slhck No, it is not a few downvotes that would make me leave, but the attitude here. You guys seem like a high school clique to me. It really comes off that anytime anyone questions ANYTHING here, you guys band together like mean little kids at school. I above all in life, I hate unfairness, so when I see these guys flag as invalid something that they themselves do (close the question), it strikes me as unfair...and then they defend an IDIOTIC position to the death en masse. Also, how do you explain that I made the same exact flag of a duplicate question yesterday, and it was upheld? –  KCotreau Jul 20 '11 at 15:33
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@KContreau: I think you're missing the point. You've cast 10 votes to close in the last month... You're allowed to cast more than that each day! The moderators are supposed to act when the community is unable or unwilling; continually asking them to act when you have the ability but are not willing to use it is... at best, rude, and at worst actively wasting their time. Users with > 10K reputation points are able to see questions with outstanding close votes so that they can review and collaborate or dispute them - by failing to vote, you prevent this collaboration and oversight. –  Shog9 Jul 20 '11 at 16:55
    
@kco "you guys"? "high school clique"? Let's be grown-up here and not accuse each other with things like this. See, as others have mentioned, it's not about the logical point of *I flag this as XY, and ♦ closes it as XY later, so it can't be invalid". I completely agree with you that it sounds inconsistent. I really do. But as Shog9 said, that's not the point here. –  slhck Jul 20 '11 at 19:43
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@Kcotreau - I try to bother the mods as little as possible (now!), Sorry if I missed a bit, I have skim-read as there is a lot here... I go by this rule... If I can do something myself e.g. vote to close/move/whatever, I do. However, in addition, if a post is VERY bad and bad for the community (e.g. discussing piracy, hacking etc.) then I will also flag for mods just in case it escapes 5 votes... Mod's volunteer - I don't want to overload them with stuff that we can do on our own! You earn the ability to close/delete yourself - have fun using it! –  William Hilsum Aug 6 '11 at 16:32
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@KCotreau: "You guys seem like a high school clique to me": Read my comment on the meta question itself. We're not forming any clique against you, we are trying to behave like a community and your repeated close flagging works against that. Never take discussions like these personal, we are here to help you but we can't do this if you're trying to stand above other users. In the Stack Exchange system, this is unwanted behavior and thus should be marked invalid. It's not that the moderators are trying to be mean by denying your flags, they just want you to vote to close instead... –  Tom Wijsman Aug 6 '11 at 16:37
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@KCotreau I will first say, I am not that familiar with flagging but I guess I understand it sufficiently for the comment.. Flagging aside. When people downvote, for example, it's not a personal thing. The thing is, I saw from your description and your love of people saying "thank you", and your desire to help people, but that's actually not the most helpful philosophy. You see, the idea is, the site is for techies, rather than idiot end users, and the most helpful thing to have, is a good database, and an efficient system. biscuit. –  barlop Aug 10 '11 at 17:06
    
@Kcontreau If a question or answer is upvoted, somebody may take it like a biscuit, encouraging, but the -real- purpose of it, is so the question comes up higher or lower on the page, and so others using the database are drawn to it. Similarly, why people don't say "thank you". It's inefficient and that's annoying for many technically minded people. Thanks can be assumed, or not even bothered about because a question/answer that isn't bad is by definition helpful since it helps the database. –  barlop Aug 10 '11 at 17:11
    
@KContreau No need to state the obvious by saying "thank you".I wouldn't want to be notified(interrupted) for something so mundane and unnecessary. Similarly perhaps with flags, maybe repeated flagging made for mundane and unnecessary notifications. It boils down to efficiency. Perhaps random should have added in the invalid flag rules "repeated flagging because xyz inefficient"! it's not personal like votes aren't, the philosophy is to ensure a smooth efficiently run quality database. I won't try >3 comments in a row incase it's considered not suitable to write all that in comment! –  barlop Aug 10 '11 at 17:16

I agree that these flags were not, technically speaking, invalid.

However:

  1. Moderators have to handle a lot of flags, and sometimes they make mistakes.

  2. I would not sweat the details of one or two flags if you have a history of excellent flagging. It depends who looks at it, what time of day it is, and the phase of the moon. No batter bats 100%.

When clearing flags on SO (which gets 500+ flags per day.. just sayin'..) I generally try to err on the side of clearing as valid since the user was trying to be genuinely helpful, even if I don't agree with the flag.

I only clear as INVALID when the flag is egregiously wrong, rude, or just plain dumb.

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Please read my comment to slhck above. I really think that you guys need to be more consistent. I will freely admit to being somewhat sensitive to injustice. –  KCotreau Jul 20 '11 at 15:35
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Jeff, I see that you are one of the owners. As a business owner since 1989, I can say that I don't know that I would want to project any negative aspects on my business. I read comments from people on the site, and I am far from the only one, who are not fans of the downvotes. People like me, who answer, and the people, who ask the questions are your customers, and I know that I would never consider treating my customers in any negative way. I am constantly hit with "it preserves the quality of the site", but there is no proof of that, but there is WAY too much negativity here, –  KCotreau Jul 20 '11 at 16:10
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and doesn't that take away from the quality? You, yourself, admit they were not invalid. Your moderators should base it on fact, not their subjective opinion how flags should be applied. If not, do away with flagging and open closing to a lesser reputation. I see you are 40: I don't know if you have changed with age, but the older I get, the less tolerant I am of such inequity. When I was younger, naiveté let me believe the world was more fair. –  KCotreau Jul 20 '11 at 16:13
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@KCotreau: Read again the part where it says "err on the side of clearing as valid since the user was trying to be genuinely helpful". The point random and nhinkle are making is that you are not being genuinely helpful. You're bringing moderators in on things that you could handle yourself just by clicking a different button. –  mmyers Jul 20 '11 at 16:33
    
Is this still valid, in the post-flag-weight days? –  Sklivvz Dec 25 '12 at 23:20
    
@sklivvz probably not, but the philosophy is. –  Jeff Atwood Dec 26 '12 at 7:39

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