Quick question but can someone provide a bit of clarity in regards to how the flagging review works? I recently flagged a question as off-topic, it was closed by community vote as off topic, but then the flag was declined as "a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it"

Right now I'm assuming that it was closed before it was reviewed, but still the phrasing rubs the wrong way a bit.

The decline message is just one of the canned responses... –  Yannis Rizos Feb 21 '12 at 15:58
Is this the question? programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/136082/… –  Yannis Rizos Feb 21 '12 at 16:01
@YannisRizos - Yes, that is the question. –  rob Feb 21 '12 at 17:49
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3 Answers

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I reviewed the flag, and this was my thought process:

  1. Is this question actually off-topic? I determined that no, in my opinion, it was not off-topic. Business concerns1 are listed as something that is acceptable to ask about. Interviewing techniques are absolutely a business concern. In addition, I have participated in screens and interviews as an engineer, as have my colleagues. Since it was about a technical interview, and not general interviewing, I decided that it would best be answered by technical people.

  2. Is it constructive? Absolutely. There's not a narrow scope of answers, but I believe that there might be some common threads across answers as to what constitutes a "9" or a "10" for a Java developer, and some expert Java developers or those who frequently interview Java developers would know what ideas of topics should be included. Of course, one of the things that I would have asked in a clarifying question would be more about the toolchains and environments used, the external libraries used, the domain of the system, what kinds of applications were being built, and so on.

  3. Is it a question that makes sense? From the perspective of a technical interviewer, yes, it does. First, in interviewing, there is the concept of illusory superiority that any interviewer must deal with. Asking an individual to rate themselves and then basing the interview on that is a valid technique. In addition, the most proficient Java developers and those who have hired other Java developers would be able to share their expertise as to what makes a "1", a "5", and a "10" and so on.

  4. Who flagged the question? I saw that the community was expressing their opinion on the question through votes to close and downvotes. I also saw that the flagger had voted to close the question. I felt that it was inappropriate to flag a moderator for a new, still active, question that the community was dealing with. There was still opportunities to enhance the question, ask for more detail, or provide feedback as to how to make it better. I'm not going to step on the community when the community is handling it just fine.

Was it a perfect question? Absolutely not. If I had more time when I was reviewing flags, I would have edited the question or asked clarifying questions in comments. If it was a low reputation user flagging, I would have dismissed it as helpful, but taken no action to let the community respond through voting (up/down and closure). I just saw no need to support the community's efforts to police themselves and was not about to step in with a binding vote for a moderator. If things were slow or it was a question that I was sure couldn't be salvaged, I'd have stepped in, but that was not the case in this instance.

1: Business concerns is vague. My rule of thumb to determine if a business question should remain open is two fold. First, is it something that would be discussed in a business course or known by people with a background in some kind of business (management, finances, accounting, human resources, etc). Second, is the education and experiences of a software development professional pertinent to the question. If both are yes, it's on-topic.

when reviewing a flag, did you have an option to skip/postpone acting on it? As for topicality, your reasoning makes pretty good sense to me (as usual:) –  gnat Feb 23 '12 at 4:46
@gnat We can leave flags for other moderators to weigh in on them, or dismiss a flag as "helpful", but otherwise there is no "postpone" option for flags. –  user8 Feb 23 '12 at 6:12
@gnat You can not handle it, which I do for borderline posts. Depending on why it was flagged, I usually give the community a chance to clean it up. If it's a post that's something like a link-only answer or a brief answer that needs more details, I'll leave a comment and even leave it in the queue and check on it later in the day (assuming it's an active user of the site) before I delete. –  Thomas Owens Feb 23 '12 at 7:54
@MarkTrapp leave flags for other moderators I see - that's about what I had in mind when I mentioned skip/postpone. Basically, I meant anything that does not involve immediate action –  gnat Feb 24 '12 at 5:51
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It could be that a moderator reviewed your flag before the post was closed by other members of the community. If you flag and then the community effectively agrees with you by voting to close regardless of whether they saw the flag or not, then it should be resolved has "helpful".

Can you link to the question in question?

Question was linked in the comments above after you posted this, here's the link to the question at hand - programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/136082/… –  rob Feb 21 '12 at 17:50
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As far as I can tell moderator who declined your flag made two mistakes.

First mistake was not catching that question is off-topic indeed. I believe it's minor because topicality at Programmers is quite slippery.

Second mistake per my understanding is being too easy at casting decline to your flag.

  • Clarifications for declining flags given in September 2011 Newsletter of SE Community Moderator Blog look pretty straightforward:

    Flags Too Often Marked [declined]

    Marking a flag [declined] was designed to deter serial abusers of the flagging system, but we find that this “slap on the wrist” is being used more often than is beneficial.
    Flags should be closed as [helpful] under most circumstances. If you feel strongly that a question was flagged in bad faith, it is okay to mark it [declined]. But try to err on the side of clearing as [helpful] whenever the user is trying to be genuinely helpful, even if you do not necessarily act on the flag...

For the sake of completeness - given that you both cast a close vote and flagged, I can imagine that moderator considered this as abuse but I've yet to see from credible sources if this indeed qualifies as such.


Generally I've voted to close and flagged for the vast majority of my flags and haven't had an issue with it before in the past. If it is considered abuse than it is news to me as normally it seems like the best way to expedite getting a bad question closed. –  rob Feb 22 '12 at 12:25
@RobZ well per what has been posted so far at follow-up SO Meta discussion, this doesn't look like abuse to me too –  gnat Feb 22 '12 at 12:40
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