Actually when should we flag?

Seems to be a recurring question across threads. I didn’t want to derail another thread by talking about it there, but then it’s difficult to have a conversation about it anywhere so I’ve started one.

Essentially I would really like to see fewer posts being flagged where it isn’t clear why or what guideline has been broken, that then result in the poster being made to feel bad and not knowing why and also (somewhat inevitably) leading to thread derailing. I wonder what people’s general ideas of are about when something should be flagged?

I notice the board etiquette guidelines encourage flagging:

We avoid:

  • Replying in a confrontational manner when we see a post we think needs attention (use the flag feature to report it instead).

Looking at many flagged posts recently though, it is clear there are many who flag posts quite quickly, perhaps because of this guideline (?) or for some other reason.

But also I feel the flagging is a system that has a potential to be misused, as it anonymously hides someone posts it would be possible to use it to bully individual posters or simply hide things you disagree with. More than that I feel like because it often isn’t clear why something was flagged it gives the perception taht it is being misused. I notice this then causes further comments about ‘why was my post flagged’ (a fair question actually if it was your post) and can lead to the derailing of a thread quite quickly.

Personally I prefer to use the flags which are for things that are obviously malicious, spam or obviously personal attacks of some sort. If there’s just a post I don’t like because it’s offensive or something, but the poster seems like they didn’t intend to be malicious or to derail the thread, I DM the person.

[Note: I am trying very hard to have a discussion which might solve a problem I see and clarify the board guidelines about flagging so we can hit consistency and maybe end the constant derailing of several threads I enjoy posting on, without mentioning any specific posts or posters or being accusatory or disrespectful of anyone in particular anything like that. It’d be really neat if the discussion could be around that spirit.]


If a post is flagged, I am 100% going to unhide it to see what it says.

Anyone who posts “why was my post flagged?” should instantly be banned for a week. Just add a full stop and it will reappear.

Some threads, there’s people on a constant crusade to cause problems. You know who I mean and what threads. But sadly trolls will be trolls.


The purpose of flagging is to bring something to the attention of Alan for whatever reason.

It’s been quite clearly defined numerous times in the past.

I think the perception thing is interesting though I’ve never actually been convinced of any ‘I disagree’ flagging going on.


I disagree, I think if you have a post flagged and you don’t understand why it is reasonable to clarify why it might be flagged so that you can avoid repeating the error. It’s never a nice feeling when your post gets hidden after all (well it isn’t for me)


But very rarely does the person who flagged it actually say it was them or why.

It gains nothing and just causes more off topic posts.

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The right way to do that is to DM Alan. Otherwise it all goes off topic and there’s more flags


Which, given that ‘Off Topic’ is a valid flagging reason, should result in further flags. It’s just not an Avenue that’s worth pursuing.


I think it’s the ‘for whatever reason’ bit that maybe causes contention. Surely there should be some guidance or parameters about acceptable reasons? Or kinds of reasons? Because if the reason is ‘I don’t like this poster’ surely that’s a problem? Or is that absolutely fine?

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I don’t like discussing the theoretical since it’s impossible to know how close to reality the theory actually is. I also don’t think pseudo rules give us anything extra since there’s no way of policing them anyway. Guessing at motivation doesn’t add anything to what’s already on the screen.

I mean it’s not that theoretical, it’s come up in many threads recently. I have no idea what a ‘pseudo rule’ is but I’m only asking whether right now it is fine to flag things for any reason at all, including ‘I don’t like this poster’ or ‘I don’t agree with this post’ or whether that’s actually something people shouldn’t do, and it should only be used to, say, enforce the community guidelines or etiquette.

I guess I don’t understand what anyone would gain from telling Alan they don’t like someone or what they wrote. What would be the point? What’s he supposed to do about it?

To me, that idea is so far ‘out there’ it just doesn’t compute in my head.

And if it happens then Alan can take whatever action he sees fit.

Well, it hides the post for a bit. I think the recurring discussion over many threads I have seen is whether people are just flagging in order to hide posts they don’t like. I don’t know whether they are but I also don’t know whether that’s ‘a problem’ or ‘just a fine thing to do’.

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Unless Alan flagged it he won’t necessarily know why someone needlessly flagged a post. He could ask them I guess but I’m not sure there are enough hours in the day.

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Well, given that hiding a post only happens (as far as I know) for reasons of ‘off topic’, ‘spam’ and ‘inappropriate’ I think that unless the system is being misused then the reason is fairly obvious. If it is being misused then there’s nothing anyone can do to change how those people operate.

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He can see the reason given and read the post

It’s rare to see something flagged and not be able to figure out why so probably wouldn’t be too many messages


Anything talking about flags is, by definition, off topic in most threads so it’s generally not hard to work those out.

Anything having a go at a sector of society or the community or individual members is likely deemed inappropriate…because why would you do that and not mean it inappropriately?

And spam is quite infrequent because I suspect it gets caught in the automatic filters.

I really don’t see any wild ones out there.


I really don’t agree it’s obvious tbh. The community guidelines say you shouldn’t post low quality content - how on earth can one person distinguish what is and isn’t low quality content to another person? I think this kind of thing is the frequent reason we see discussions about ‘why was that flagged’ because what’s ‘obvious’ to one person may be completely obscure to another.

I often see things flagged and I don’t understand why tbh. Which is why I though a discussion about the reasons people flag might be helpful to understand why those people are flagging things and what people’s bar is, it’s hard to tell on an anonymous system

This is probably a useful time to make sure everyone has read the Code of Conduct:

It sets out guidelines for behaviour, then at the end of says:

Richard then goes on to explain how to flag a post. But it seems that that function is actually quite discoverable…

I have certainly read them!

I do like the way the code of conduct is written. But, the code of conduct is very broad. There’s a wide range in there from ‘this is explicitly offensive and malicious material’ to ‘this is a low quality post’ or ‘this repeats an earlier argument’.

Part of what I meant to say in the OP was that I question the merit of this broad use of flags. I think in cases like the former they are clearly justified, in cases where you think something is ‘low quality’ or you think it could offend an individual, maybe a DM would be much better and quicker at resolving that and actually foster a much better community. A personal and communicative approach vs an anonymous flag is also more consistent with other bits, like it says ‘when we are called out we ask for tips and help toward avoiding reoffending in the future’ - and yet with anonymous flagging that seems very difficult to do.

I DM’d someone last week to say basically “was that needed, it’s just going to start an argument” and they said it was.

If I’d just flagged it, maybe people would have just thought it was the trolling it obviously was and ignored it.

Alan came along and dealt with it in the end anyway.

Flagging isn’t fool proof, it ends up in a tit for tat, someone thinks you’ve flagged them, so they flag you etc.

It’s a bit of a pointless system and not much would change if it was completely removed. Alan did say he’s working on/looking at alternatives/improvements

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