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Whilst reviewing the VLQ queue, I came across a question which I thought should be closed:

VLQ question

In my view the VLQ flag was appropriate, so I would Recommend closure.

VLQ Options, with freehand circle because freehand circles

However, as I don't have the vote to close privilege, recommending closure instead opens a dialog to raise another flag:

VLQ reflag

From here, I am not 100% certain, since this queue is already dealing with a flag. Without more information from the poster of the original question (or re-framing as "I am having problem Y and have tried ABC to solve it, how can I proceed?") it doesn't seem to be a good fit for SU and as such should be closed.

As it happens I flagged as Unclear to clear the review item, which was apparently helpful.

Re-flagging a VLQ-flagged post seems like a cop out- won't this send to another queue, presumably with less people available to review?1

But if this is the desired workflow I am happy to keep doing this. As a side note, I'm not sure where that flag goes! Can anyone clarify?


1: Thanks to Ramhound for clarifying in comments that Close -> reasons are the same as Recommend Closure flags in this case. The question's scope is now about workflow and what de-mystifying what happens when a flag is raised

  • If this question should be anonymised to protect the original asker, please either edit or indicate as such and I will remove references to the question. Specific example was to illustrate the question but it can be easily genericised. – bertieb Sep 11 '15 at 10:32
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    You list all the "close reasons" so I am not exactly sure what your question is. Flag->"Should be Closed" -> lists the same reasons as Close-> – Ramhound Sep 11 '15 at 10:48
  • @Ramhound Ah, perhaps I am mistaken; I assumed there was a difference. I could swear I've seen questions put on hold / closed for reasons other than the flags above. – bertieb Sep 11 '15 at 11:05
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    Those reasons have changed over the years. I can provide a screenshot of the "Why the question should be closed?" window if you want. In either case the window has a title of "Why the question should be closed?" so doesn't make sense to do that – Ramhound Sep 11 '15 at 11:11
  • @Ramhound Fair enough. I appreciate your offer of a screenshot but I believe you when you say the reasons are the same! Since I was mistaken in my assumptions I should probably edit or close this. There are two distinct questions that I still see that I think I know the answers to; 1) is re-flagging already flagged questions in VLQ the right workflow (yes?) 2) are questions with one-word answers "unclear" (yes?) – bertieb Sep 11 '15 at 11:17
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    If you flag the question, a moderator will review the flaw, if they deem it helpful I presume they then vote to close the question. If they don't agree they deem it as unhelpful, no harm no foul done, and then decided if the question should be closed for a different reason and/or should be left open. In all cases the question is brought to the attention of a moderator. – Ramhound Sep 11 '15 at 11:19
  • @Ramhound By moderator, is that those >10k using mod tools, or ♦, or both? – bertieb Sep 11 '15 at 11:23
  • to my knowlege question flags are handled only by moderators – Ramhound Sep 11 '15 at 11:25
  • @Ramhound Thanks for the clarification. Seems that would create more work for mods than leaving to community in the case of VTCs; it's maybe worth me leaving question to clarify that part of the system. – bertieb Sep 11 '15 at 11:29
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    If the question should be closed you should flag it. – Ramhound Sep 11 '15 at 11:30
  • I'm pretty sure that custom flags ("In need of moderator intervention") are handled only by moderators, but I believe that "should be closed" flags just push the question into the Close review queue, where users with > 3000 rep get to vote on it.  Can somebody clarify this?  Is flag handling in general described anywhere? – Scott Sep 11 '15 at 21:45
  • @bertieb: can you clarify "2) are questions with one-word answers "unclear" (yes?)"? There must be some context you're considering. To me, if it can have a one word answer, it's not at all unclear, but probably not the kind of question we're looking for. – fixer1234 Sep 12 '15 at 2:45
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    Moderation activities are largely delegated. There are things done only by moderators, deletion can also be done by 20k+ and 10k+ users (depending on type of post and votes), closure can also be done by 3k+ users. There are various flows that identify problem posts, filter them, and get them into queues for disposition. I took a stab at summarizing the portion related to your question in an answer. – fixer1234 Sep 12 '15 at 2:58
  • @fixer1234 to clarify- that one-word answer bit was referring to the previous revision of my question, where I was wondering which flag to use when recommending closure of the example question above. Though it likely has a one-word answer, it needs more context to be sure (hence 'unclear'). I think I may ask a separate question about trivial questions. Edit: which I see you asked already! – bertieb Sep 12 '15 at 11:46
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    "I see," said the blind carpenter as he picked up his hammer and saw. Yeah, problems don't always fit nicely into the limited categories. It's not unusual to see questions where three or four close votes are each for a different reason, just like you described in the previous revision. You're thinking about it correctly, though; sometimes you just need to pick the closest fit. You're also right about downvotes and closure being independent alternatives. From the review queue, you can open the question normally in a second tab for access to the full context, answers, voting, etc. – fixer1234 Sep 12 '15 at 17:31
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Most of what you're calling flagging is actually something else. I'll describe a quick overview of the process. There are a number of paths to closure that start from different sources. I'll focus on just the paths that involve review queues.

Questions

  • Users with 3K+ rep can initiate action by voting to close. This puts the question into the Close Votes queue, where other 3K+ users can also vote to close. Closure can't be done for just any arbitrary reason. The post has to deviate from site requirements and the reason for closure must be specified. So voting to close includes selecting (or writing), a reason.

  • Users with less than 3K rep can flag a question for moderator attention (some of which is delegated). My understanding is that the "Should be closed..." sub-menu and "Duplicate" reasons get routed to the Close Votes queue (consistent with this post by slhck, which you linked to). Flagging requires selecting or writing the reason (a custom reason remains in the moderator's queue).

  • The Low Quality Post (LQP) queue gets populated by bots. Those questions (and answers), are identified by the system as potentially low quality and then get reviewed by humans for appropriate disposition. The cited post by slhck mentions the LQP queue also containing posts flagged by humans as Very Low Quality (VLQ) or Not an Answer (NAA).

    Users with 3K+ rep see the LQP questions in the same context as in the Close Votes queue and can directly vote for closure. Reviewers with less than 3K rep vote to "recommend" closure (or Looks OK). That voting separates the wheat from the chaff and "enriches" the queue (the bot and new users often don't get it right). Recommending closure similarly requires specifying the reason.

These paths aren't mutually exclusive. A question will sometimes be in several queues because a human and a bot independently identified it.

If you come across a question on the main page, there is really no way to know whether it has been flagged for moderator attention. You might be able to guess whether it is in one of the review queues from the comments; the review queue reasons have canned comments that are easy to recognize.

But even there, some people come across a marginal question or answer on the main page and want to give the poster a chance to improve it. So, they add a canned comment but don't flag or vote on the post immediately. If the post is utterly worthless and has a canned comment, it's a good bet that it is already in a review queue.

So to your question of what to do.

  • If you come across the question in the LQP review queue, it's already on a path to be handled. Just vote. No additional benefit will come from also flagging it for moderator attention, perhaps with one exception: if there is something about the post that you think warrants immediate action rather than letting it run its course (such as the content could lead to serious consequences).
  • If you come across the post on the main page or First Posts review queue (or a search), flag it. If it is already in a queue, the flag count will help to prioritize it.

Deletion

All of the above applies to questions and takes it as far as closure. Closure leaves the thread on the site but prevents posting new answers to it. After closure, there is a complicated set of rules dealing with deletion, which removes the thread from the site (actually just hides it). Depending on the question's votes and answers, users as low as 10K can vote to delete some closed questions.

Deletion is voted on in a secondary queue in the moderation tools tab that is visible to 10K+ users. For questions, deletion is a new process, separate from closure, that happens outside of the flagging and standard review queues described above.

Answers

Answers are a little different; they don't get closed, only deleted, and only 20K+ users can vote to delete answers. Deletion voting is done in the deletion queue described earlier. But unlike questions, answers in that queue are fed by the process described above.

The 20K+ users can vote to delete directly at the post rather than flagging, which also puts it into the deletion review queue. Flagging by <20K users (NAA and VLQ answers), feeds both the standard review queues and the deletion review queue. While flagged answers await voting in the deletion queue, voting in the standard review queues by <20K users culls that pool of answers. My understanding is that answers in the LQP queue flagged by bots get reviewed there, and only those recommended for deletion are fed to the deletion queue.

So in terms of when to flag, it is similar to questions. However, you can encounter answers in an additional place, the Late Answers review queue. That is not a deletion review queue, so if you encounter a problem answer there, flag it as you would an answer you find via the main page.

  • A very detailed explanation of the process, which is exactly what I'm looking for! If flagging VLQ'd questions (NB <3k VLQ answers get "Recommend deletion" without further flags) bumps them into/up the Close Votes queue that sounds like a good path. One thing though, I can still flag as "very low quality" manually- perhaps that was only removed from >3k? I also didn't realise the extent to which the VLQ queue was auto-populated, so I've learned much from this! – bertieb Sep 12 '15 at 11:42
  • @bertieb: The menus have a limited number of selections, so they are organized as broad categories with sub-menus to provide the granularity. (There's also ongoing refinement.) Most of what you're calling flagging is just selecting a reason. You're visualizing the process as your voting moves the post to another queue. It's really that the post is already in the queue, where users at different rep levels work on it in different ways. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Sep 12 '15 at 17:05
  • (cont'd) Think of it more as an assembly line, where qualified users decide which bucket identified posts should be in, and higher rep users do the finishing work on the closure bucket. Under 3K rep, using the moderator flag link is the only thing that puts a post into a queue. Everything else contributes to getting it out. – fixer1234 Sep 12 '15 at 17:05
  • Ah right, I am beginning to see what you are getting at! I guess that explains why the "Close Votes" queue usually numbers in the hundreds compared to the others. Thanks for going into the detail of behind the scenes! – bertieb Sep 17 '15 at 7:42
  • My previous comment was inaccurate (correctly described in the answer). >3K votes on a post put the post in a queue if it isn't already there. – fixer1234 Apr 16 '17 at 15:26
  • Fair enough! Now that the close queue doesn't number in the hundreds it's harder to tell, but I've not yet seen a close queue question without a close vote. Time will tell. Does the advice still stand for it not being worth flagging a not-answer "not an answer" ? (can ask/search for a separate Q on that) – bertieb Apr 16 '17 at 18:40
  • @bertieb, yeah, it isn't uncommon to see questions in the close vote queue with no close votes. Answers can't be closed, only deleted, and that takes votes by 20K users. It's been a while since I researched this, but my recollection is that "Not an answer" flags route answers to the low quality posts queue. <20K users enrich the queue by clearing answers that are OK. At 20K, you can directly vote to delete on the post rather than flagging. <20K, "Not an answer" flagging is fine from the main page or First Posts or Late Answers queues. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Apr 16 '17 at 19:15
  • If you encounter it in the LQP queue, it's already in a deletion review queue, so flagging there doesn't add anything. – fixer1234 Apr 16 '17 at 19:15
  • Ah! Didn't know about the 20k thing, thanks! – bertieb Apr 16 '17 at 19:32

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