I plant this flag in the name of... June 19, 2012 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Can we please have a rundown on flagging etiquette? There seems to be a lot of "flag and move one" response from the mods as of late, and while that may be the best choice of action for a lot of the scenarios, 9 times out of 10 I'm stuck on the fence as to whether or not I should.

It seems like recently there's been a lot of "Did you see what this user did on the blue?!" MetaTalk posts, and usually at least one person chimes in with "flag and move on", or a mod goes "This is what flagging is for. Use it, it's helpful." And so I'm trying to be more proactive or whatever, but I always catch myself before I hit that button. I think I've only ever flagged maybe once. And it's especially hard when the comment/answer has a lot of favorites.
But in the past week, there's been at least 4 instances of me reading a comment/answer [I wouldn't dare call them out here], and I think "Wow. that was uncalled for/unnecessary/a waste of space".
And where do we draw the lines? If someone's being overly rude/snarky in AskMe, flag it? What about the comments that pretty much amount to "this subject is stupid/a waste of time."?
So, is it better to flag when it may not really be needed, or is it better to not flag when maybe you should have? Which side is the safe side to err on?



Sorry if this should have been a memail to a mod. I contemplated that route, but I thought it may be beneficial to metafilter as a whole to hear this discussion.
posted by FirstMateKate to Etiquette/Policy at 8:11 PM (97 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

There is nothing wrong with flagging. All flagging does is brings something to mod attention. We're fine at ignoring flags that don't seem to make sense and we rarely even look to see who flagged something. There are a small minority of people here who would prefer that MetaFilter was less moderated than it is who will denigrate flagging, but they are the distinct minority and include no one on the mod team.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:16 PM on June 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


I love flagging. It makes me so much less fighty. I think of it more as, "Here's a thing that I think a person who is well-versed in Metafilter conventions should look at and make a call on, even if that call is 'It's fine,'" and less as, "LOOKIT LOOKIT SOMEONE IS DOING SOMETHING BAD PUNISH THEMMMMMMM." (Although probably the second one is sometimes a somewhat-more-than secondary motivation.) So I guess I err on the side of flagging liberally and letting God the mods sort it out.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:33 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


flag: noise

and

flag: other

are your friends. The mods use them as guidelines, not 'must do' signals.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:34 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Which is the "must do" flag? Because that's definitely the one I want to use.
posted by ryanrs at 8:40 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's HTML/Display Error, isn't it?
posted by ryanrs at 8:40 PM on June 19, 2012


Here's a comment cortex made a while back talking a bit about how we deal with flags, in case it's useful.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:40 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've flagged posts with 200+ comments, when they looked like things were going to hell. I've also flagged my own posts and comments - nothing seems to happen with those especially.

has a lot of favourites

They are just bookmarks.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:43 PM on June 19, 2012


Which is the "must do" flag? Because that's definitely the one I want to use.

It's HTML/Display Error, isn't it?


It's right above "fantastic comment" in the drop down menu.

Wait, you don't... I think I've said too much.
posted by loquacious at 8:44 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


My impression has long been that the mods wish the userbase as a whole would do more flagging rather than less, and that if one is kind of on the fence about something then it's totally OK to flag it.

Worst case, you waste a minute of a mod's time. Best case, you alert the mods to a real problem that they would otherwise have missed, and they get there it time to clean up the mess before any real damage is done.

Hmm. Mods, would you like to see more flagging than you do now, or do you guys feel like the system is fine and a significant increase in flagging woould be more hassle than help? I've been assuming the former to be the case.
posted by Scientist at 8:49 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If more people would overcome their reluctance to flag, we'd have a better MeFi. Everybody needs to understand that flagging is not censorship, it's not an autodelete mechanism, and it's not downvoting. It is a non-gamable, completely invisible alert system designed specifically to bring potentially problematic stuff to the mods, who handle every situation on a case-by-case basis, in person, without prejudice or automation.
posted by Gator at 8:54 PM on June 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'd like to see more directed flagging. That is, flag specific things, don't just go on a tear in a thread and flag ten comments in a row. Once we've seen a few flags in a thread we'll go check it out. And then, importantly, MOVE ON and let us deal with it or come to MeTa if you still need to, don't tell people "I've flagged you!" in a thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:55 PM on June 19, 2012


i've said it before, but i love flagging. it's a great way to mark my issue and then move on. one of two things will happen, the post will go and i'll think "awesome!" or the post will stay and i'll think, "oh, i guess i'm just being sensitive - time to watch a video of a baby owl bathing itself!"

i do worry sometimes that i flag too much and i've considered asking the mods, but they do seem to err on the side of "flag more, argue less" and i try to do that.
posted by nadawi at 8:55 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just for the record, I personally have never to my knowledge flagged ten comments in a row or raised a stink about how I'd just flagged someone (unless I'd flagged their comment as fantastic).
posted by Scientist at 8:57 PM on June 19, 2012


We have already covered this.
posted by Eideteker at 8:59 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah honestly don't worry about etiquette or anything. Nothing bad happens if you flag something. The mods are all pretty reasonable human beings, so they see a flag on something and go take a look at it. That's it. If it turns out that you've flagged something that no one else cares about, they'll probably just ignore the flag, no bigs.
posted by kavasa at 9:03 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Flagging it gives the mods a heads up to check the comment out. They can then make the call. I've been flagging more since the last thread on this subject, if only to draw attention to something that's sidebar worthy. Flags are also for the good things in Metafilter.


Also, eponynautical?
posted by arcticseal at 9:19 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"We have already covered this."

Yeah, but I suppose it's worth it to re-confirm the expectations and norms. Because, speaking for myself, I have trouble with them. I'm very reluctant to flag and when I do, I almost always have a bit of remorse for it, like maybe it wasn't justified. I know that flags aren't, as Snarl Furillo put it, "LOOKIT LOOKIT SOMEONE IS DOING SOMETHING BAD PUNISH THEMMMMMMM", but somehow I still sort of feel like it is. It's just a quirk of my personality, but I think that I'm not alone in it.

I flagged a post yesterday, or the day before (I can't recall) because I thought it was a really trivial newsy post. I only convinced myself to do it because those kinds of posts bug me, it certainly didn't deserve a MeTa, and I knew that flagging only really matters in the aggregate and no one is expecting me, personally, to be reliable and authoritative and just in any flagging I do. So I flagged it. And then immediately felt like I'd done something wrong.

So, I dunno. I think that considering that I'm a heavy reader of MeTa and have been a member (in various guises) for many years and yet I still am very uncomfortable with flagging, well, that argues that probably more casual users could still use some reinforcement that flagging is okay, no one expects it to be like serving on a capital case jury or something.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:20 PM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just Flag It.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:25 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah honestly don't worry about etiquette or anything. Nothing bad happens if you flag something.

Haha. Nice try! I believe the cabal maintains a watch-list of users who flag a lot. Cross a line, and its banhammer time.

Yes, I believe in a lot of things. Why do you ask?
posted by vidur at 9:39 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


do you guys feel like the system is fine and a significant increase in flagging woould be more hassle than help?

For the most part the only flagging behavior (that I can think of) that is problematic for us is:

1) "I'm going to flag all the comments I disagree with" where the impetus is actually ideological difference, rather than actual problem commenting. Likewise, "I'm going to flag all the comments by my arch-enemy and nemesis, poopooheadposter."

2) "I'm going to flag all the comments that don't adhere to how I wish MeFi worked," so we might get 20 flags from one person in a mefi thread who wishes that everyone would stay strictly on topic, not joke around, etc. Sometimes this is just misunderstanding; people used to Ask Metafilter might be puzzled by different behavior in the blue, for example.

3) "I'm going to show the mods that they're hypocrites and bad people," where someone's been asked to stop a particular behavior and they go trawling through threads to find instances of what they think is similar behavior and go on a flagging rampage.

Almost no one does any of these things.

For the most part, if you find yourself wanting to flag a huge number of comments in a thread, at that point it's probably a much better idea to flag a couple and contact us to point out what is going on there. If you find yourself wanting to do this all the time (like several times a week), the problem is probably going to be a bigger site conversation that should happen in Metatalk.

Also I'd like to especially point out that sometimes you may flag something that seems obviously egregious and nothing happens, but this doesn't mean it was wrong to flag it. There are many reasons that something might stay, probably chief of which is that it gets baked in. So somebody calls someone an asshole or similar in a comment. This would normally be an autodelete (we don't even need to think about it)... But. It wasn't flagged right away, or we didn't get the chance to check the flag right away, and one or more people have responded to that comment with good comments since then, and the thread didn't get sidetracked with resulting flaming, and so we'll probably let it be just so that we don't also punish those who answered in good faith with thoughtful responses.

And, just an FYI: If you are flagging your own comment because you regret making it, that's absolutely fine, but you may want to contact us depending on your level of regret, because we don't necessarily check out who is flagging a comment unless it seems pretty odd. If I'm puzzled over a flag on a comment, I might check to see who flagged it (and if it's the poster, I'll fix it or delete it or whatever), but it's something that does take an extra step. So, let's say you make a somewhat snarky or offtopic comment and wish you hadn't: If I'm in a hurry I'll probably just take a look and think, "well, that's pretty snarky/whatever, but not really delete-worthy," without checking who flagged. So, it's no problem if you contact us to say, "ugh, please delete my comment here."
posted by taz (staff) at 9:42 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


9 times out of 10 I'm stuck on the fence as to whether or not I should.

Just keep flagging what you think ought to be flagged.

If you're the only one who flags a comment, maybe you're wrong and nothing will happen. No big deal.

If you're one of many who flag it, the mods will probably notice and something probably will happen. But also no big deal.

If you find yourself debating whether to flag or not, you're overthinking it.
posted by pracowity at 10:07 PM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to flag every newsfilter thread and it did no good at all.
posted by LarryC at 10:11 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here are some things which I personally flag and then move on.

Outrage-filter posts. - These are never best of the web, have usually been all over the web and already seen by most users, create huge work-loads for the mods, and are often accompanied by angry diatribes, time-outs, and closed accounts.

An example of this kind of post would be the Skepchick post, or the Trayvon Martin post.

"But wait" you say, "both those posts generated many hundreds of comments!" This is true, but that doesn't mean that they follow the guidelines. The skepchick post is a text-book example of the kind of post that actively diminishes the value of this site, and might have been nixed had enough users called it out. That the usual suspects get their jollies from waxing large in these fora is a bug, not a feature.

So and So has died
posts. - These are made by users who get some weird form of validation from seeing their comment online. In their rush to get the post up before someone else does they add no value to the user experience here, and just repeat what has been said elsewhere dozens of times online. This is a function better filled by Celebrity Death Beeper. If the poster can't be bothered to write a nuanced and thoughtful post about the person, leave it someone who cares enough to do so. This works about 1/2 the time.

Agenda posts. - These are ones with an obvious axe to grind. Get your own blog. This works about 75% of the time.

"Look what they're discussing on Reddit!" posts. - These are posts made by users who want to have a Reddit discussion, but operating under Metafilter norms. Reddit has much to offer, but it's user-base is over-flowing with racist, homophobic, misogynistic, juvenile, illiterate, morons and jerks. It has a horrible user-interface, anarchistic editing and deletion functions that are constantly gamed by users of bad-faith, and pathetic moderation, which is practically non-existent. That site's enabling of behaviours that would never be tolerated here make it a poor fit for this community; and the place is busy and massive enough that there really isn't much value in dragging the discussions from there over here. This works about 1/2 the time.

Comments that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or outright and unnecessarily rude.This is the most important and useful use of FIAMO; and if more users did this, the user experience here would be much more satisfying. These will invariably get nixed ... if other users don't respond to them. Once other users respond to these provocations however, it makes it far more problematic for the mods to deal with effectively. Time and again, the mods here encourage the use of the flagging tool in these cases, only to be met with reluctance. Seriously, they won't get annoyed with you if they disagree, nor is there some conspiracy to mock site users behind the scenes.

If you are unsure about something, there is no penalty in flagging something and also dropping the mods a note; via the contact form, or directly. I will use the contact form for something I think is urgent, such as gay-bashing or personal viciousness. I have never waited more than a few minutes for one of the mods to respond to such a message. If something is more borderline, and I see that a specific mod is already actively participating in a thread, I might drop them a lime directly. I will also do this at outlier times, when I know that coverage is limited, so restless nomad on weekends, or Taz in the late-night/early am hours.

Finally I flag anything that mentions Holden Karnofsky, because that guy completely sucks.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:21 PM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Here's a comment cortex made a while back talking a bit about how we deal with flags, in case it's useful.

Shit. I flagged that comment.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:49 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I have trouble telling what to flag, because I can see, right before my very eyes, a thread sliding suddenly off the rails into fightyland but it's not any one comment. The comment form alerts all six of you, which seems kind of excessive, but I also really don't know who's where and when, so I'm hesitant to MeMail.
posted by gingerest at 11:01 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that considering that I'm a heavy reader of MeTa and have been a member (in various guises) for many years and yet I still am very uncomfortable with flagging, well, that argues that probably more casual users could still use some reinforcement that flagging is okay

I wonder about this, actually. I have neither data nor any ability to parse the Infodump in any way that doesn't produce brilliant gibberish, but it seems to me that heavy MetaTalk readers are more likely to go to MeTa rather than flagging and air it out there, especially because then they get to say what's actually bothering them and not simply encapsulate their thoughts in a relatively generic flagging action. I think heavy MetaTalk readers are also more likely to engage in general in the thread rather than flagging, especially if the desired outcome isn't deletion but refutation. It wouldn't strike me as odd if casual/lurker/non-"power user" members are more comfortable flagging, although the most likely scenario is that they just shrug and move on.
posted by Errant at 11:15 PM on June 19, 2012


Sometimes I have trouble telling what to flag, because I can see, right before my very eyes, a thread sliding suddenly off the rails into fightyland but it's not any one comment.

This is a perfect example of a time to use the contact form. It is totally not excessive to alert all six of us, because while our schedules are sort of predictable, people swap out or shift things around regularly and there's no earthly way for you to know for sure who's on the clock at any given moment. Which is totally fine, and why the contact form goes to all of us - not only is whoever's on shift going to see it and respond, but the rest of us have a record of the request so we know the history when it's our turn to take over.

MeMail is the worst way to tell us about moderation issues - and it will actually tell you that if you try to memail a mod - because if the person you pick is not on shift, it might be hours or possibly days before they see it, or they have to jump in and work when they're not technically on the clock. (Which... we all do. What time is it? Damn. I need to go to bed.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:17 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Flagging is like calling in car trouble to the police. I do it routinely in real life. Hope those stranded folks have AAA and/or a cell, but just in case they are unable to call for help and no one else has noticed the problem yet, I try to get them assistance and clear the road.

Hope this clumsy metaphor helps you with the etiquette concerns. Are you more worried about making that one extra unnecessary 911 call or avoiding a nasty traffic snarling pileup? Me, I'd rather err on the side of helping to prevent the pileup.
posted by bearwife at 12:17 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I wonder about this, actually.

I think your speculation has merit, but it's not really what I was getting at. What I meant was just that I've been exposed to the message "flagging is a casual, subjective suggestion that has meaning mostly in the aggregate" for many years, repeatedly, because I'm a heavy MeTa reader. If I'm not "convinced", then maybe others who've heard this message much less frequently aren't convinced, either.

But, yeah, it's possible that being a heavy MeTa reader means I likely have a greater investment in participation and not flagging and so I'm more resistant than I otherwise would be to that message. I don't know. I do know that my reluctance to flag doesn't subjectively seem at all to be for the reasons you speculate about, but rather a very deep, visceral dislike of what feels like "snitching" and facilitating explicit censorship. Not that I think that flagging is those things, because I don't. But I sort of feel like it is and that creates a barrier for me that I have a lot of difficulty overcoming.

Well, okay, on writing the previous paragraph and thinking about it a bit, specifically the "censorship" bit, I think that I'm pretty strongly biased toward "discouraging behavior through community consensus-making and peer pressure" and not via authority, so I do have a preference for hashing things out here (though I don't think I've ever posted a MeTa callout, although perhaps I have once or twice, long ago) or in the thread and, in that context, appealing to an authority to do something about it seems like a more drastic action than it otherwise would. I'm not sure.

Bottom line, though: flagging feels like a private message to an authority that I "don't think this post/comment should exist" and an implicit suggestion that I expect it to be removed. I'm rarely willing to commit to that level of censure even when I know that my flag won't be received by the mods as that message. It just seems like that's the message I'm sending and I'm not comfortable with that unless I'm really, really sure that I'm right about it.

Ironically, I'm not among those who think that there's too much deletion these days and, instead, I think that MeFi is a better place for this level of moderation and I certainly don't want an end to deletions.

I sense that somewhere in here is a responsibility thing. Similarly (this may be obscure, but I think there's a relation), I'm generally very reluctant to take charge in social situations unless I reach a point of frustration that nothing will get done until someone takes charge. But, normally, I feel like it's inappropriate for me to just take charge and I tend to dislike it when other people are very gung-ho about taking charge, as if they have some God-given right to be in charge. But I also really dislike it when things don't get done, especially because people are dithering about who should be in charge, and I'll decisively take the reins then. I don't really resent authority, I'm fine with it when it's by consensus agreement and it's productive. Maybe I'm just a critic who doesn't want to take responsibility, though, honestly, my personal history is mixed on that, so maybe and maybe not. But, anyway, I like the idea that the flagging system works as a consensus guide to the mods and that it actually works (because it does), and that other people are pretty happy with it and have no problem flagging. I just can't seem to avoid giving my own flagging more importance than it deserves — and that's not intellectually, but emotionally (which is much harder to change).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:18 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


a very deep, visceral dislike of what feels like "snitching" and facilitating explicit censorship.

Oh, dear.

I look at it more like we're having a lot of public meetings (some serious, some fun) in a bunch of adjacent auditoriums, where everyone gets a chance to wander in and out and say something as long as we don't let a few people be dicks and turn an auditorium into a free-for-all. We have a handful of people to keep things in order in all these auditoriums, but they can't be everywhere, so the rest of us have to let them know (with flags) when someone is starting shit in one of the auditoriums. Then the moderators have a look and make a decision. In the end, you have to trust the moderators to make good decisions.
posted by pracowity at 1:03 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but if I were in that exact situation, I'd not seek out and inform those handful of people when someone was starting shit in one of the auditoriums. I just wouldn't. I'd either expect the people there to sort it out, or I'd step in myself. Something in me recoils against going to authority to sort out something that is happening right in front of me.

I'll call the police about a serious crime, certainly. But (as I think I mentioned in one of these thread long ago) when I've worked with someone who was stealing stuff or the like, I'll talk to them first before I will tell the boss. And maybe even then I wouldn't tell the boss. Depends upon how serious I thought the problem was. That is, my threshold is almost certainly higher than average.

If I'm really exceptional, then this isn't of much interest and I apologize for wasting peoples' time in expressing it. But I think that at least some minority of people feel similarly.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:14 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it ever appropriate to flag a mod??

I'm looking at you, cortex!

You know what you did.

Just kidding.

posted by Grither at 4:08 AM on June 20, 2012


No kittens are harmed when you flag a post or comment. I know, I checked.
posted by tommasz at 5:47 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I'm going to flag all the comments by my arch-enemy and nemesis, poopooheadposter."

I'd actually been wondering if that ever happened (however rarely), and now I know!
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:15 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the reluctance to flag. I love to flag! Love it!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:28 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Echoing PareidoliaticBoy's excellent comment, there are some posts and comments I think are in poor taste, badly written, incoherent, or just not right for MeFi. Instead of making a big stink about it, telling the OP on Ask that he's an idiot, or taking it to MeTa to vent, I just flag what I think is inappropriate and move on. It's very calming, actually, knowing that I don't have to think about the offending material, anymore, since I've done what I can do.
posted by deanc at 6:30 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't understand the reluctance to flag

Yeah and questions about whether one should flag always perplex me. Literally you're pushing a button that asks the mods to look at something. No one gets killed, hurt, tasered, yelled at or even banned. The mods don't come after you, demandingly asking "Why did you flag that?!"

It's an entirely low impact, no consequence action.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:34 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not the flagging that's the problem it's the moving on bit.
posted by adamvasco at 6:35 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just call 1-800-MOD-ALRT. The first few times you have to walk through the prompts, but after a while you learn to just hit 1-2-4-2-1-1-5 to get the MetaFilter complaint department.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:10 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


FTMFAMOA
posted by Splunge at 7:15 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ivan your position seems to be: "I acknowledge what everyone says but I can't make myself feel it." Which is ok! But if there's no argument that can be presented that would affect your view, then I'm not sure what to say. =o

I also see this attitude in multiplayer gaming. People are reluctant to report really off-the-rails behavior to GMs in an MMO or the server admins in a shooter or whatever, like they feel as if they're taking on a responsibility. The reality of course is that unless you're a mod/gm/admin, you don't have any responsibility or power. 100% of any individual decision lies with the person that can actually do something (although of course community norms that guide those persons are more collaborative).
posted by kavasa at 7:29 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I once flagged like sixteen comments or something in a single thread because they all constituted a huge derail and I thought 'I'm being helpful by pointing out which comments should be removed, now I saved the mods time and effort! GOLD STAR' and then jessamyn memailed me and was like 'Thanks for flagging but you really don't have to do that we have to clear each flag individually' and then I went and sat in the Dark Corner.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:35 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


If in doubt, don't flag. Actually, skip the "if in doubt" bit.
posted by Decani at 7:39 AM on June 20, 2012


FIASITT: Flag It And Shit In The Thread
posted by Scientist at 8:14 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The comment form alerts all six of you, which seems kind of excessive, but I also really don't know who's where and when, so I'm hesitant to MeMail.

Like restless_nomad said, it's totally fine to hit the contact form. It only "alerts" us by sending us email, and responding to email is a huge, normal part of our daily work. It's not like we get paged or receive an electric shock; again barring very outlier exception cases of really heavily over-using the contact form, it's never an issue. We've probably told like two or three people ever to throttle it back on that front, in the last however many years.

Mefimail is not so great because there's a lack of visibility there, it makes it harder for the team to stay in the loop since we're not getting copied, and no opportunity for another mod to pick up the ball if the one you tried contacting is asleep or distracted or on vacation. Sending mefimail to multiple mods isn't much better because then you've got potential cross-talk and duplication of effort.

That's not to say "never use mefimail", because if in context it makes sense to have/continue a conversation with a specific mod for some reason then it makes sense, but it's more the exception than the rule for mod contact stuff.

I wonder about this, actually. I have neither data nor any ability to parse the Infodump in any way that doesn't produce brilliant gibberish, but it seems to me that heavy MetaTalk readers are more likely to go to MeTa rather than flagging and air it out there

It's an interesting question. It'd be difficult to do well with just the Infodump because we don't provide any flagging data there, but I could take a peek at it from the back end if the right sort of rainy day comes along.

If I'm not "convinced", then maybe others who've heard this message much less frequently aren't convinced, either.

Well, I think there's a mix of opinions on it and you're not the only one ever to say they felt a little weird about flagging because their own assumption that it's "tattling" of some sort or that it was creating extra work. That said, I will say that based on your comments on this now and in the past you do seem to be kind of an outlier in how much of a thing it is for you. Maybe that's just word count bias, I dunno. It okay for you to feel that way, but there's not much more to say about it than "yes, you certainly do feel that way".

Is it ever appropriate to flag a mod?

"Appropriate" is a complicated thing to unpack. It is almost never useful to flag a mod because we go about what we do here with a lot of intentionality, if something seems weird we'll talk it out in public, and the only folks who will see a flag are us. So it's generally going to make more sense (display/HTML or double flags aside) to just drop us a line if you want to say "hey, that thing you said or did seemed weird/not cool to me".
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2012


I flag stuff. Usually display error, double, or "breaks guidelines."

I also move on. I think I've hit the contact form a few times on threads gone awry.

I would consider myself a heavy meta user and I seldom take any thing here.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, a question on flagging derails or flame wars.

If there's something like ten comments in a thread that are questionable, do you want us to:

1) Flag the first three.
2) Flag the most egregious three
3) Flag three of the ones no one has responded to yet?
posted by corb at 8:58 AM on June 20, 2012


Flag ALL the THINGS!

...that make you go "WTF" or "dude you are totally out of line."
posted by royalsong at 9:01 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it ever appropriate to flag a mod?

Since the mods are community members also, it would be appropriate, IMO, to flag some comment of a mod as "fantastic comment". There's probably a higher bar for such a comment to be sidebared, but say cortex happened to win the lottery and bought a flight to International Space Station. Later, a question about experiments on the ISS appears in Ask and cortex then chimed in about the secret back room on the station with the alien body parts, that would be a good candidate for sidebaring.

Presumably, if a new mod came aboard and whigged out or a current mod did the same then "Offensive,racist or sexist" or "noise" or "derail" would fit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:07 AM on June 20, 2012


FIASITT: Flag It And Shit In The Thread

Yeah, I'm a brown handkerchief, left pocket guy too.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am pretty sure I flagged a mod comment at least once for an html error. I distinctly recall feeling stupid immediately afterward.
posted by elizardbits at 9:22 AM on June 20, 2012


If there's something like ten comments in a thread that are questionable, do you want us to:

Mostly what we want folks to do is just flag as they go, which most of the time will just be a stray comment or two in any given thread and so no rubric is needed. But be self-aware about whether you're flagging a bunch of stuff in the same thread, and if you're starting down that road stop and consider just writing us.

So, if you've flagged three comments because you're reading a thread and flagging as you go, and then there's yet another comment that needs flagging, at that point it's seeming like a trend and it's probably time to give the thread a further quick skim without flagging to see if the problematic stuff is persisting or (if it's happening right then) is likely to persist.

If so, stop flagging and write us a note at the contact form saying "hey, I flagged a few things but there's situation x unfolding in thread y that you may want to check out".

If you're looking at a thread and seeing so many things that need flagging that you'd need a system to decide which three things to flag, skip directly to writing us a note instead. Maybe flag something if it's particularly egregious as well, but once you're writing us email the flag itself isn't really necessary to get our attention.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Worst case, you waste a minute of a mod's time.

Would you be so cavalier about this if the mod was jumping into a raging torrent to save a poor little kitten who was not only super-cute but knew how to cure cancer? Be careful about wasting mods' time; there may be kittens at stake!

More seriously, flagging seems to me a perfect way to ID things that are problems but which trying to fix in-thread is just going to make worse. It's the "blot, don't rub" of internet commenting.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


From personal experience about the only thing that cats seem to now how to solve is The Mystery Of There Not Being Pee On This Part of the Rug Yet.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:44 AM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Yeah and questions about whether one should flag always perplex me. Literally you're pushing a button that asks the mods to look at something. No one gets killed, hurt, tasered, yelled at or even banned. The mods don't come after you, demandingly asking "Why did you flag that?!"

It's too much of an appeal to higher authority and as such ruins the relative equality that exists here, mods and all.

That's what it feels like to flag, rather than to just say, duude, out of line there. Also, flagging to say that you think a certain post doesn't belong here, feels double like running to teacher to say Jimmy did a bad thing.

Interesting to read other people's perspectives on this; clear PareidoliaticBoy has quite a different idea of what makes Metafilter interesting than I have frex.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:53 AM on June 20, 2012


I totally just flagged cortex for "html/display error." I spend a lot of time flagging typos - especially when someone has immediately posted a correction. I have a tiny bit of hope that this will result in mods going and fixing the typo in question. But even if it doesn't result in that, I still feel pretty OK about flagging typos. It satisfies my need to go "AAAACK, TYPO!!!" without actually posting anything in the thread. Yay! Anyway, this proves that it's sometimes OK to flag a mod.

I sometimes do jump up and down and go "AAAACK, TYPO!!!" in the privacy of my own home, especially when it's my own freaking typo.
posted by SMPA at 10:07 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, but not changing it (a) saves me incremental effort and (b) presumably causes you incremental annoyance, which balances out somewhat my incremental annoyance and increment effort spent re-reading the comment a few times to try to figure out what the problem was.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:21 AM on June 20, 2012


I pledge allegiance to the flags
of the community weblog of MeFi,
and to the moving on for which they stand,
one website, under mods, indivisible,
with snark and kitties for all.
posted by phunniemee at 10:29 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


From personal experience about the only thing that cats seem to now how to solve is The Mystery Of There Not Being Pee On This Part of the Rug Yet.

Well, we now know which mod hasn't been rescuing exceptional kittens lately, don't we?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2012


I spend a lot of time flagging typos

Oh come on! It's completely silly to go around flogging gypos.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:50 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK - could someone correct that? Shit.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:51 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Racial epithets are not cool, even in jest. I hereby apologise and self-timeout.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:04 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I never flagged at first, and I still only flag pretty rarely, but now like 90% of the time I feel the urge to type, "You are crazy and/or an asshole," I flag it instead. I figure either the poster IS being crazy and/or an asshole, in which case it's better for a mod to say "cool it" or remove the post, OR I'm chock full of hormones and overreacting, in which case a mod will look at it and say, "hmmm, there does not seem to be anything wrong with this." In either case this is better than me posting, "HEY ASSHOLE! U R AN ASSHOLE!"

Probably 5% of the time I just close the thread because I know it's a topic that's full of crazy, and the other 5% of the time I manage to compose an actually useful reply, although (as with e-mail!) my policy is not to actually post/send anything that begins, "Look, crazypants ..." so usually I have to go back and edit.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:07 PM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


posted by PareidoliaticBoy I flag anything that mentions Holden Karnofsky, because that guy completely sucks.

You gotta know when it's Holden
Know when to flag 'em
Know when to email cortex
Know when to move on
posted by mattdidthat at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You never count your favorites
While you're checkin' on your profile
There'll be time enough for countin'
When your ac-count's gone.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:18 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Flag it. You see mods saying "yeah it was pretty borderline but only one person flagged it" about some really shit posts? That's because people don't flag nearly as often as they should.

It's not like the mods are going to delete is just because one person says so. Unless it's really early and it's seriously terrible.
posted by Talez at 12:20 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's too much of an appeal to higher authority and as such ruins the relative equality that exists here, mods and all.

But we're not equal, except possibly in the "some animals are more equal than others" sense. The mods have authority and responsibility that non-mod members don't. That's why there are mods. And that's why the people in the mod positions get paid to spend time on MeFi but non-mod members don't.

To my mind, being a member of MeFi includes agreeing to abide by the guidelines. Flagging something is a way of saying "I don't think this is within the guidelines — please take a look." It doesn't give the poster of the flagged comment an electric shock, it doesn't automatically delete the comment, and it doesn't magically append the tag "I AM A SNITCH" to one's username.

And I have no data to support this, but on a gut level I feel that flagging helps decrease the overall level of passive-aggressive irritability on the site. Without flagging, one's choices seem to be either fuming "there that idiot goes again, why do we have to put up with this, this is totally out of line", trying to discuss it in the thread (thereby breaking the guidelines), or opening up a MeTa (and quite possibly initiating another round-and-round argument full of hostility but little resolution).

With flagging, it's just flag and move on, possibly checking back later to see if the mods decided to take any action on the flagged item.
posted by Lexica at 12:34 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I often get the urge to flag anonymous questions that seem like they're just a train looking for a wreck... but then, a mod had to approve the post in the first place so it doesn't make any sense to bring mod attention to it and there's a whole matter/anti-matter thing going on in my head and I quietly implode.
posted by sonika at 1:44 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, train-wreck-y anon questions tend to get held until there's enough staff that we can camp out on them - we're very seldom surprised when one is bumpy. Jessamyn's been vetoing a lot more of the more contentious possibilities recently as the volume has gone up, too.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:54 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's too much of an appeal to higher authority and as such ruins the relative equality that exists here, mods and all. That's what it feels like to flag, rather than to just say, duude, out of line there.
posted by MartinWisse

I absolutely, categorically, don't grasp this. That action is precisely what users have been specifically asked not to do. This has been confirmed and reconfirmed by the mods many times; including right here, multiple times, in this very thread. How someone could read all these comments here, and then come up with such conclusion absolutely mystifies me ...

MOD TEAM : "We really don't want users responding to bad behavior, in-thread. Instead, flag it, OK? Please, don't respond in the thread, flag it, contact us, or bring it to Meta. Please? Can you do that? Because that would be so awesome. We really appreciate it when people FIAMO. Cripes, we even made an acronym up for it, and everything! Anything other than responding in the thread is great. Really! "

TOO MANY USERS ; "So, when I see someone being a jerk, I'm going to call them out for it in the thread, right? That's what you want me to do, right? "

aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrggggh!
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:59 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Flag it. You see mods saying "yeah it was pretty borderline but only one person flagged it" about some really shit posts? That's because people don't flag nearly as often as they should.

I totally agree with this sentiment -- absolutely 100%, without question -- but because the logic, when phrased that way, reminds me of those "If you see something, say something" campaigns, I can suddenly understand why some people in this thread might be anti-flagging (at least as a choice for them).

However, I am sad to hear people still have problems with poopooheadposter. That asshole has been on my killfile forever, and I sometimes wonder if he's still around, causing grief.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:03 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I absolutely, categorically, don't grasp this."

I think you can grasp this via the exact reason you posted that comment. Some of us have a combined strong preference for hashing things out via discussion and avoiding appeals to authority that creates a kind of visceral resistance to flagging, somewhat independently of what we know and hear repeatedly about flagging and even when we believe (in our heads, if not our hearts) that flagging is productive and grarring is unproductive.

People differ.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:00 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hashing out someone's bad behavior in-thread has a strong tendency to derail the thread and make it all about said bad behavior rather than about whatever ostensibly more interesting thing the thread was actually supposed to be about. If I spent all my time on Metafilter calling people out for saying ridiculous crap then I'd do nothing else.

People in general are really bad at engaging with bad behavior in a way that doesn't create more bad behavior. If we want to maintain a high level of discussion here then the thing to do is to politely ignore the odd boorish comment (while maybe quietly alerting the staff in the event that someone goes and ticks their dick in the mashed potatoes) and focus on the many more sparkling and interesting comments happening everywhere else. Unless your secret desire is to have the same tedious fights that happen everywhere else on the internet only with better spelling and grammar, this seems like the only reasonable strategy.
posted by Scientist at 7:29 PM on June 20, 2012


People differ.

Yes they do. Some get it, others don't. The attitude expressed brings to mind some people I see on the sea-wall bike path, pretty much every day. The bike path is marked and separated from the pedestrian path, and is clearly signed all along the route. At some points it is physically raised up from the pedestrian path, and the dividing stripe is painted bright red. There are upright signs at every path intersection, with Bicycles Only signage and symbols every few yards. It's narrow enough that it is one-way only.

On any given day there will dozens of cyclists tooling along this path in the same direction, and 3 times as many pedestrians ambling along in the path beside it. Yet still, every day, I encounter pedestrians wandering along in the bike path the wrong way; even as they keep encountering cyclists coming the other way every few yards, who are then forced to brake, and/or swerve around them. They leave a trail of annoyed riders and near accidents in their wake. All this, while there are dozens of pedestrians in clear view, right beside them, just a few feet away, happily walking along the designated path, without any encumbrance or conflict whatsoever.

I have a bear-bell on my bike that jingles continuously, a brass bell on my handle-bars that I will do a "ding ding" with as I approach others, and an Air Zound for the true nit-wits.

Last week, I was tooling along there when I came upon a group of about 8 pedestrians wandering along 8 abreast, going in the same direction as the bike path. 5 of them ( the adults) were in the pedestrian path, and 3 (the children) were walking along in the bike path; forcing the cyclists coming up behind them to swerve around them every few yards. The oldest of the kids was about 13 or so, and he was messing around with a basketball, dribbling it from side to side, around his back, tossing it and catching it, twirling it on his finger and letting it go, etc.

Coming up behind them, I rang my brass bell 2 or 3 times, a couple of times in a row. The two girls looked up, and started to move out of the way, but the older kid just went for an even more complex move, a slam-dunk type of thingy; so I laid on the air-horn, just as the ball squirted loose, bounced erratically, and still managed to get caught between the down tube and my front wheel. This caused the bike to come an immediate stop, and me to go flying over the bars, even though I was already fully off the path, and into the grass on the side.

So now, dad comes running up, and doesn't apologize, but ... wait for it ... starts yelling at me for ...quote ... "riding recklessly". He actually told me to "ease up" as I lay there bruised and bleeding.

Your statement reminds me of that dad.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:44 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I flag the hell out of you people. It's nearly as pleasing an activity as Angry Birds.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:11 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well I was going to ask for an I effed up the HTML tags again but it appears there already is one. Thank you, easter bunny!
posted by tilde at 7:44 AM on June 21, 2012


PareidoliaticBoy: I don't think IvanFyodorovich is unaware of the official policy on flagging vs. in-thread callouts. I think he just disagrees with it and has made a conscious decision to Be The World He Wants To Live In. Personally I think that's kind of annoying, but I think it's one of those things that's irritating but not really worth making a Thing out of except on a case-by-case basis when his actions (and those of people like him) actually cause problems.

Which, sometimes, they do. If you see that happening, just flag as derail. ;-)
posted by Scientist at 8:34 AM on June 21, 2012


PareidoliaticBoy, you need, like, not another bell for your bike but a Big Red Emergency Asshat Button, that, when you pressed it, would send a Giant Hand down from the sky in an eerie real-life version of PareidoliaticBoy: Bike Path Tycoon.

The Giant Hand would reach down, scoop up obnoxious pedestrians blocking the way, lift them high in the sky, tote them over to the water, their little legs kicking futilely as they attempted, in vain, to wriggle free, and then drop them into the sea.

And following the KERSPLASH! of the body hitting the water, a sputtering bi-plane would appear in the sky, stage left, putt-putting across the clear blue expanse to write ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: PATHWAY CLEARED! in puffy white cloud letters, and a deep voice from the heavens mejestically declare,"1,000,000 GOOD SAMARITAN POINTS AWARDED!"

Then the Giant Hand would disappear as suddenly as it had come, sputtering bi-plane exiting the sky stage right, and only the fluffy cloud letters, already fading into wispy remnants, would remain to attest to what had just gone down.

And you, PareidoliaticBoy, would ride merrily along, whistling a happy tune, enjoying the glorious sunny day, unencumbered.

*sigh*

At least, that's how the Basketball Kid scenario would play out in my perfect world.
posted by misha at 8:36 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Misha, what is up with all the bolding?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:41 AM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


From personal experience about the only thing that cats seem to now how to solve is The Mystery Of There Not Being Pee On This Part of the Rug Yet.

I've solved this mystery as well. Invite me over sometime.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:45 AM on June 21, 2012


I don't think IvanFyodorovich is unaware of the official policy on flagging vs. in-thread callouts. I think he just disagrees with it and has made a conscious decision to Be The World He Wants To Live In.

But the mods have repeatedly said "Please don't be That World". If somebody wants to Live In A World where people hash out the meta-discussion right in the thread, that's fine, but that world is not MeFi, and trying to do that on MeFi breaks the guidelines.

That's the part that makes me go "I seriously don't get this behavior." The mods have repeatedly said "Don't do this. Really, don't do this." But some people still want to have the "dude, not cool" conversation in-thread, despite the very clear "Do. Not. Do. This." message.
posted by Lexica at 11:09 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there a way to know if the comment or post you want to flag has been flagged already? Also, what is the appropriate flag to use for a big smelly thread shit?
posted by empatterson at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, you can't tell if something has been flagged previously. Feel free to use any of the "check this out quickly" flags and we'll see it, or just drop us an email.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:53 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"PareidoliaticBoy: I don't think IvanFyodorovich is unaware of the official policy on flagging vs. in-thread callouts. I think he just disagrees with it and has made a conscious decision to Be The World He Wants To Live In. Personally I think that's kind of annoying, but I think it's one of those things that's irritating but not really worth making a Thing out of except on a case-by-case basis when his actions (and those of people like him) actually cause problems."

You're misunderstanding me, too, but not as egregiously and insultingly as PareidoliaticBoy is.

What I'm saying is that I almost never flag. And I'm explaining why I almost never flag. And that I well understand that I should and that my feelings about why I don't like to mostly don't apply here (or that the flagging system is more beneficial than the alternative). In explaining why I don't flag, I mentioned that I have a preference for dealing with stuff personally and not appealing to authority. What I didn't say, but I suppose I can admit it's not entirely unreasonable for someone to wrongly infer, is that I also deal with stuff personally in the place of flagging here. But I don't. What my resistance to flagging means is mostly inaction.

It's true that five years ago, or so, this assumption about me might have been accurate. It took me a while to accommodate myself to this system. But I pretty much never respond to comments that I think I should flag but don't (because I don't like to). And I rarely respond to comments that it doesn't occur to me to possibly flag, but which arguably should be flagged. I want to. But I don't. And I never question a post itself in the comments. I used to. But then, so did a lot more people six years ago and earlier.

Anyway, I think it's interesting that you see this as Be the World He Wants To Live In because I wouldn't have associated this at all with that, but that is, in fact, one of my strongest ethics. Probably among my core three, or so.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:12 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


PareidoliaticBoy; it's not that I don't understand what flagging is for and why it's easier for the mods to deal with than having a potential derail in a thread; it's that I'm not comfortable with using it myself.

Unlike yourself, with pretty definite ideas about what should and should not be allowed on MeFi (so much so that I wouldn't be interested in your version of it), I'm not much bothered by seeing posts or comments that I don't find much of value in, so I feel no need to bother the mods about it. I may use it if there really is something dodgy going on in some obscure thread, but I feel flagging is very much a last resort for me.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:08 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, fair enough. As long as enough people are flagging that attention gets brought to things that need to be dealt with, I'm OK. If you personally feel like flagging makes your conscience cringe, then I personally am fine with you not doing it as long as you don't also start shit in the threads. Which you say you don't and which I've never really noticed you doing (though I steer clear of a lot of the most egregiously contentious threads to begin with) so I guess we're cool.

Sorry for assuming that you're an asshole. Buy you a drink?
posted by Scientist at 7:38 AM on June 22, 2012


Misha, what is up with all the bolding?
posted by Brandon Blatcher


Got a problem Blatcher with boldness because your wearing pasties to a party then ended in basement, yes.
posted by clavdivs at 9:16 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, that's the calvdivs I remember. Except maybe a tad too intelligible.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:22 AM on June 22, 2012


Misha, what is up with all the bolding?

Fortuna audaces iuvat
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:32 AM on June 22, 2012


<div class="clav"> Got a problem Blatcher with boldness because your wearing pasties to a party then ended in basement, yes. </div>
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:50 AM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Got a problem Blatcher with boldness because your wearing pasties to a party then ended in basement, yes.

It's like I'm home, but with worst lighting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:27 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's not that I don't understand what flagging is for and why it's easier for the mods to deal with than having a potential derail in a thread; it's that I'm not comfortable with using it myself.

Well, perhaps then you should have written something other than this ...

That's what it feels like to flag, rather than to just say, duude, out of line there

... because, based on that statement, it sounds like you do advocate remonstrating in-thread. Users aren't mind-readers, and can only respond to your statements. It's not really logical for observers to assume that you don't actually mean what you write.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:45 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It wouldn't really help in some cases.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:27 PM on June 22, 2012


But it will help in other cases!


Who wins?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:35 PM on June 22, 2012


PareidoliaticBoy, yoohoo! Over here! MartinWisse and I are different people. Both of us were explaining why we are reluctant to flag. Only one of us wrote something that justifies your assumption that our reluctance to flag is in conjunction with in-thread meta-conversation. And that was not the person you bitched about doing that sort of thing. So I don't know what you think your last comment proves, except that you're trying to score points or something. He explained how he viewed flagging, which is what you explicitly said you don't understand.

If you want to bitch in general about people not flagging and instead hashing it out in the threads, that's fine, this is the appropriate place to do so. But if you're going to engage directly with specific people, try to pay attention to what they actually write and engage them in good faith rather than haphazardly using them as mere opportunities to vent.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:55 PM on June 22, 2012


You can email the mods, individually or by using the contact form. They like to get mail, I'm sure.
posted by theora55 at 2:59 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like saying Tupolov.
posted by clavdivs at 7:13 AM on June 23, 2012


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