Flagging update: new free-form text option, tweaking flag lists July 5, 2018 7:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm excited to announce we're rolling out a long-requested feature: free-form text flagging, a new flagging option that will allow you to, when necessary, leave a brief note when you flag a post or comment. We've also tweaked the list of predefined flagging reasons to reduce the length of the list a bit.

A QUICK REFRESHER ON FLAGGING

Lots of folks know this, but lots of folks might not, so: posts and comments on MetaFilter all have a flagging tool attached in the byline: it's the little [!] link, right next to the [+] used for favorites. If there's something on the site that needs moderator attention, flagging it using that tool is a quick way to put it on our radar. It's a one-way process, with no direct feedback, and users can't see any information about what anyone has flagged or how often a thing has been flagged; it's not intended as a direct social feedback mechanism, just a way to let the mod team know that something needs a look, is broken, is going off the rails, or...something!

Flagging is tremendously helpful for us on the mod team, because we can't read everything that happens on the site. It's also not an automated system: we review all flags directly and decide whether and what kind of action to take, if any. So when in doubt, it's okay to flag something just to let us take a look and figure out what needs doing.

There's also a "fantastic" flag option, for posts and comments; unlike the other options, this one doesn't tell us to look for trouble, it just says "this is really good"! We often use those to help us identify cool stuff to mention on Best Of. So if you love something, go ahead and flag it as fantastic!

There's some additional info about flagging in the FAQ (some of which we will need to update as we roll this out):
- What is flagging? How can I flag a post/comment for the moderators to look at?
- The reason I want to flag something isn't listed, what should I do?
- Are flags anonymous?

THE NEW FREE-FORM TEXT OPTION

Folks have asked for this for a while, and it's been in some state of progress for a couple years now. The test we did this last weekend went well; frimble's been able to fix all the major outstanding issues and it looks like we're in good shape to launch this without breaking the site for anyone. So, starting now, the new flagging option is available site-wide, on every comment and post.

How it works: if you need to flag something, and you think it won't be obvious why you're flagging it, you can select "flag with note..." from the list of reasons (it'll be the bottom option) and enter a brief note in the new box that appears and hit "Add Note". And that's it! We'll get the flag on the mod interface like normal, and there'll also be an indicator that a note is attached so we can review it.

If you start to flag with a text reason and then decide you don't need to add a note, just hit cancel and choose a different flag option. If you accidentally submit an empty note, that's fine; it'll show up as a plain "other" flag and we'll look at the flagged thing regardless.

Note you can also cancel the flagging process at any time by hitting the little [x] that pops up next to the drop down after you've clicked on the [!] initially. And if you flag something that's totally fine by accident, there's no mechanism to unflag it, but don't worry: the mod on duty if they see a flag that doesn't make sense will just shrug and say "that doesn't make sense" and leave it be.

Also, please keep in mind: this free-form note process, like all flagging, is one-way: you should not expect a response from the moderation team to whatever you write. You're just providing us context while we review the flagged item.

If you need to ask us a question, or if the explanation of what's going on with a post or comment or thread is more complicated than a short note will suffice for, please reach out instead to the contact form (you can find it at the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of the page) so we can respond via email with whatever followup is needed.

STREAMLINING THE EXISTING FLAGGING REASONS

We've reduced slightly the size of the overall list of flags on posts and comments, since it has grown a bit in fits and starts over the years even as mobile interfaces many people use to interact with MetaFilter have meant smaller screens. So to keep stuff viewable and reverse a bit of the creep of list length, we've removed and consolidated a few things. I'll sum it up and then give a little context:

1. We've combined "noise", "derail", and "other" into a single "noise/derail/other" flag for comment options.
2. We've removed "other" from the list of post options.
3. We've removed "double comment" from the comment options (but "double post" is still in the post options).

Reasoning for this:

1 & 2: We've found folks are using noise and derail for substantially overlapping kinds of comments, which is fine but the lack of any really clearcut distinction in overall use means we treat them essentially the same on our end. We also don't need an explicit standalone "other" option, now that we have the free-form text option. So we've combined noise, derail, and other into a single option for comments, and eliminated other entirely for posts.

3: Back when the "double comment" reason was put on the flag list, MeFi's server frequently hiccupped and created situations where folks were literally posting the same comment two or three times during moments of non-responsiveness. These days, that's not a common issue: the server is more stable, and we have code that checks periodically for the odd hiccup-related doubled comment that does get through.

The remaining cases of comments that could meaningfully be considered doubles by MeFi standards are (a) folks manually submitting a slightly revised version of a comment after hitting post the first time and thinking it had not gotten through, or (b) people in news-like threads bringing up a link that had been brought up earlier. That first issue is pretty obvious when it happens; you can flag it as "display error" and we'll figure out what's up. The second issue, repeating a link, would be better addressed with the free-form text option, especially by including a link to the previous comment, as in in particular long, fast-moving threads it creates a lot of mod work to just blindly denote that a comment is a double of...something, somewhere. So for those cases, giving us something to work with explicitly will be a lot more helpful basically 100% of the time and allow us to resolve the flag more quickly and confidently.

FUTURE FLAG STUFF

I have a few other things I want to revisit with flags, and we could tweak the details of these changes indefinitely, but we want to just get this out in a good-enough state so folks can start using it. So we're going to launch it now, and then we'll be looking at how this goes in wide use and thinking about future tweaks and revisions. I hope to come back and talk about flag stuff more in the next few months to see what else we can improve.

Thanks to everybody who has been patient with the long wait on this one, and thanks to everybody who helped test it out in the last few days. I hope this feature works well for folks and helps us on the mod team have a better overall picture of what's going on when something is Going On on the site.
posted by cortex to Feature Requests at 7:01 PM (73 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

THE PONY, SHE RIDES!
posted by deezil at 7:15 PM on July 5 [14 favorites]


Also: obviously please mention feedback about display/functionality issues etc in here so we can try and fix up edge-case stuff, but also I beseech you do not go nuts with the new feature just for the sake of going nuts with it because I still gotta moderate the site tonight. It's okay if you don't need to flag anything immediately, it'll still be there tomorrow and next week and etc. If you really really gotta kick the tires just to kick 'em, please keep it to this thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:16 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


what is the grace period for me personally abusing this feature to leave the mods humorous notes on every single comment in a thread, please say "there isn't one you monster" bc i have v little self control thank you im failing already
posted by poffin boffin at 7:29 PM on July 5 [20 favorites]


I like this pony! I just assume from the start that a mod looks at everything I do on the site, shrugs, and says "that doesn't make sense," so it's nice to know that applies to flagging too.

Can you confirm that flagging duplicate news links in politics threads (now with a more useful free-form explanation and ideally a link) is still behavior the mod team wants? I know that was encouraged at one point, and I've done it a bunch (not entirely infrequently to, er, my own comments).
posted by zachlipton at 7:31 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Wow! Just used this on the green and didn't realize it was all of 30 minutes old :D For one who hadn't used it before, it felt very intuitive, so good job on the usability!
posted by ipsative at 7:36 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: a lot more helpful basically 100% of the time
posted by crysflame at 7:37 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


Can you confirm that flagging duplicate news links in politics threads (now with a more useful free-form explanation and ideally a link) is still behavior the mod team wants?

Yep, that's still fine and with a note with the url of the previous comment will be more helpful than before. (There's larger questions of megathread culture and priorities etc. that aren't really in the scope of this announcement, so we can chat more about that some other time.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:51 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Hm, the way it immediately submits as soon as a reason is selected isn't so great on mobile (classic theme, at least, yes I am one of those evil luddites). If you miss the intended touch point and hit the flag button you're one spurious touch away from wasting a mod's time.

Sadly, I lack any good suggestion for how to make it better while leaving the basic flow the same.
posted by wierdo at 7:54 PM on July 5


Yeah, that's a tradeoff with the process; that said, that submit-on-selection approach is how flags have worked previously and one of the things we found when we did a first test on this idea a couple years back was that the alternate more-clicks/taps-to-submit processes we were playing with bugged folks too.

In the end, the occasional errant flag doesn't waste much mod time so I prioritize a quicker user flow over worrying too much about a misflag here or there. For anything really egregious there's the contact form to let us know what went super wrong; everything else is acceptable levels of background noise in the mod workday.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:57 PM on July 5


Thanks!
posted by lazuli at 7:59 PM on July 5


I beseech you do not go nuts with the new feature just for the sake of going nuts with it because I still gotta moderate the site tonight.

/backs reluctantly away from keyboard
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:23 PM on July 5 [12 favorites]


Suddenly the clouds part, the sun shines, and it occurs to me "cancel" or "never mind" could be a selection (possibly only on mobile if the theming engine supports it) so that it's immediately obvious how to not flag something. The current setup relies on the user to know to hit the back button if there is one, tap outside the overly large select UI despite the overall flow discouraging it, or whatever is appropriate on their specific device.

Of course, it's entirely possible misflags that would be avoided with such a change happen so infrequently this much discussion has already taken up more time than a month worth of misflags. ;)
posted by wierdo at 8:37 PM on July 5




Awesome possum!
posted by SLC Mom at 9:33 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Yay, thanks for shortening the menu. :)
posted by freethefeet at 11:25 PM on July 5


Oh I have wanted this pony for a long time. Thanks, I won’t ride it before I need it, but I am glad it’s there.
posted by nat at 2:10 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


/me feeds the pony carrots, brushes it and calls it George
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:31 AM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Is it too late to ask for something? I love this feature -- yay for free-form complaining like I'm doing now -- but:

Is there a strategy behind making the list relatively hard to read? Compared to the text in the post and the window for the Flag Reason box, the list text is small and gray (using defaults in Firefox and Chrome on a Windows 10 box, anyway).
posted by pracowity at 3:06 AM on July 6


🏁 hi mods! Just starting to use this “flagging” thing you ... put on my phone?

🇦🇶 Yeah, it’s really cool!

🇸🇴 You’re a star! Thanks for this.

🇸🇧 Oh wait I meant to say, you’re all “stars”.

🏳️ Sorry!

🇮🇲 Ok, gotta run - see ya!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:40 AM on July 6 [5 favorites]


Is there a strategy behind making the list relatively hard to read? Compared to the text in the post and the window for the Flag Reason box, the list text is small and gray (using defaults in Firefox and Chrome on a Windows 10 box, anyway).

Can you make a screenshot please? I’m actually not sure to what you’re referring.
posted by frimble (staff) at 4:23 AM on July 6


Yay! This is a feature I've wanted for a long time.

Frimble: I'm not the original commenter, but I read their comment and thought "yeah, you're right, it's hard to read". This is what it looks like for me, Firefox on OS X. I do think this is how it has always looked.
posted by hoyland at 4:28 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Can you clarify what "It breaks the guidelines" is for? I've never really understood that one.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:06 AM on July 6


Yeah! Time to let your free form freak flag fly!
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:26 AM on July 6


This is actually going to make me more willing to flag stuff, because often I wanted a flag for "commenter is being a dick" but I wasn't sure where it fit in the old categories. Now I can choose the "noise/derail/other," or even add the note "WHAT A DICK" when I see something.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:36 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


ITheCosmos: Can you clarify what "It breaks the guidelines" is for? I've never really understood that one.

If I may?

There are things which fall outside the site's official list of guidelines for posts/comments, or even outside community norms, which are worth flagging. For example, there is doxxing a person by publishing personal details, or unmasking an anonymous AskMe, or spam posts/comments.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:39 AM on July 6


I always thought "it breaks the guidelines" was a gentler way of saying "WHAT A DICK."
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:40 AM on July 6 [11 favorites]


HOORAY, now I can go on a spree of flagging Ask answers as "comment says 'have you tried Thing' when literally the first goddamn sentence below the fold is 'I have already tried Thing'"!
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:42 AM on July 6 [4 favorites]


No, no no. I asked for a SWAG button.

This is Fantastic. Thank you.
posted by zarq at 5:49 AM on July 6


Can you make a screenshot please?

Yes, Frimble, Hoyland's screenshot is what I'm talking about. Thanks, Hoyland.

Maybe it's not noticeable unless you have old or otherwise sub-optimal eyes. I have the zoom set to show me text that's big enough to read but small enough to fit lots of text on the screen. When someone's design suddenly slips smaller, lower-contrast text into things, it breaks the work flow for me. I have to squint or zoom or get my glasses or ask the cat to read it out to me. (Or I just skip that text because I figure it can't be essential.)
posted by pracowity at 6:55 AM on July 6


Flagged as "Fantastic! The release of this feature will one day be seen as a watershed moment for MetaFilter. Future generations of MeFites will look back on threads from the BFF (Before Freeform Flagging) era and wonder how we got our flags wedged into a fixed set of options, or why."
posted by tonycpsu at 7:04 AM on July 6


Love it.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:19 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


This pony is lovely and I shall pet it gently.

At some unspecified point in the future, if one of the mods feels like compiling a list of the funniest freeform flags they've received, I would also be extremely into that.
posted by Phire at 8:00 AM on July 6 [14 favorites]


While I will devote my weekend extensively trying out this feature, you may expect a few extra, oh?...um, ok, I won't.

But Hooray for the pony!
posted by Namlit at 8:08 AM on July 6


... you stripped out html tags from the flag notes, right?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:14 AM on July 6


Is there a strategy behind making the list relatively hard to read? Compared to the text in the post and the window for the Flag Reason box, the list text is small and gray (using defaults in Firefox and Chrome on a Windows 10 box, anyway).

So, it looks the way it does because that's the way it's looked for a long long time, is the short and unsatisfying answer. The slightly longer unsatisfying answer is that, specifically, it looks the way that browsers make it look when using built-in standard web UI elements and whatever (if any) additional styling instructions where thrown at it by Matt/pb however many long years ago.

The nice thing about just saying "hey, browser, give 'em a standard drop down list with these items on it" is that literally every browser has some way of doing that well, vs. trying to roll up our own little hack that might break on stuff or just fail outright in a mobile context, etc. The not so nice thing is styling stuff kinda goes out the window if we don't grab it and wrestle with it directly, and so e.g. a drop down list in a 10pt byline turns out to be pretty wee.

But, so, yes: revisiting some of the presentation stuff with flags is definitely on my list for the next pass of this stuff. Making the flagging target a bit easier to hit and the list easier to read is one of the things I want to look at then. But I didn't want to hold the rollout of this bit on that stuff when there's no reason we can't tackle it step-by-step, so for now we've left that UI stuff unchanged.

Folks who recall the previous shot we took at all this, in 2016, may remember that that rework was a lot more aggressive on the graphical front: we moved the flagging list itself to a new UI widget and changed the flag tool from [!] to one of a couple different graphical flag glyphs, and had the UI widget as a modal window. All in all that test taught us that trying to change too much in a go was setting us up for headaches (and that modals were a pain besides), so this minimalist set of changes felt like the better way to go to get this out the door without throwing people for a loop.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:20 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


This is what it looks like for me, Firefox on OS X. I do think this is how it has always looked.

it looks the way that browsers make it look when using built-in standard web UI elements and whatever (if any) additional styling instructions where thrown at it by Matt/pb however many long years ago.

The further thing here is that Firefox (now) actually uses the color: attribute, which we have set to medium grey there. No other browser seems to use it, styling a dropdown menu how they see fit and ignoring any CSS attributes, but I'm going to set the colours to black on white for the dropdown so that it looks the same in Firefox as in Chrome/Safari.

... you stripped out html tags from the flag notes, right?

Yes.
posted by frimble (staff) at 8:25 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


So, it looks the way it does because that's the way it's looked for a long long time, is the short and unsatisfying answer.

I read this as "have you seen how much resistance there is to change here?!?!? People still use the 'classic' theme and expect us to maintain it on their smart phones and dumb phones FFS!"
posted by terrapin at 8:28 AM on July 6


I've made the colour change and it'll take effect whenever AWS starts serving the new stylesheet.
posted by frimble (staff) at 8:36 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


That's better. Thanks. The font is still small but it's just contrasty enough to let me read it without zooming in a couple of levels.

And I'm sorry I just accidentally flagged your comment as "offensive/sexism/racism". I was only looking at that entry and thinking it's not parallel -- it should be "offensive/sexist/racist", right?
posted by pracowity at 8:54 AM on July 6


3. We've removed "double comment" from the comment options (but "double post" is still in the post options).

I'd like to petition its restoration, if only to highlight the problem of people posting the same link in the longer threads (hell, I've flagged my own such comments when I've tripped up). This typically leads to talking about/reacting to the same items over and over again instead of building on the discussion.

I just flagged a double comment in the POTUS45 megathread with "flag with note", but keeping "double comment" among the flagging options reminds MeFites to avoid this.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:13 AM on July 6


Double comments are very nearly a megathread-specific problem - if it occasionally happens elsewhere, it's not usually something we delete. We're trying not to do too much design around something we'd really like to see the back of as soon as it's feasible.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:16 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


If you take out html tags, how am I going to use html to break the flag form make sure you definitely see my flags?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:29 AM on July 6


So if I accidentally post the same comment twice due to an internet hiccup, should I just leave it and assume it'll get caught by The System? Or if I notice it, should I just flag it as a display error just to be safe? I'm probably overthinking this. It'll work out.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:45 AM on July 6


Yeah, if it's an internet hiccup we actually have an auto-delete function that catches most of those, but if you see one, display error (a note would be appreciated if non-obvious) will work perfectly.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:46 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


OK, makes sense, thanks.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:47 AM on July 6


At some unspecified point in the future, if one of the mods feels like compiling a list of the funniest freeform flags they've received, I would also be extremely into that.

I assume a high percentage will just be "S/he's doing it again".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:54 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I've already flagged something as 'mansplaining'
posted by fluttering hellfire at 11:30 AM on July 6 [7 favorites]


I've already flagged something as 'mansplaining'

Hoping you started it with, “Actually, this comment is mansplaining.”

Because that would be magic.

Basically, this: At some unspecified point in the future, if one of the mods feels like compiling a list of the funniest freeform flags they've received, I would also be extremely into that.
posted by Fizz at 11:39 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


I don't know if it would do anything, but just to blow off steam I may find myself using some variation of "unnecessarily mean" or "pointlessly shitty" -- I hate seeing people being mean.

And this is probably an old subject, but I'll ask anyway: could we get an anonymized report on comments people make on our stuff?
posted by pracowity at 11:50 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


could we get an anonymized report on comments people make on our stuff?

Hmm, we'll have to think over an actual report, but I definitely feel like I'd be happy to paraphrase notes if you ask why something was deleted or whatever.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:53 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


And this is probably an old subject, but I'll ask anyway: could we get an anonymized report on comments people make on our stuff?

If it turns out to be three "Christ, What an Asshole" flags, two "PLEASE BANHAMMER THIS IDIOT" flags and a single "This person suuuuuuucks" flag, the question becomes, do we change our ways or just slink off the site in shame?
posted by zarq at 1:13 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Flagged as neato.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:59 PM on July 6


could we get an anonymized report on comments people make on our stuff?

Not in reference to pracowity themself, but that idea feels like a gigantic amount of drama waiting to happen.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:10 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Yes, please do not do this.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:12 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Hmm, we'll have to think over an actual report

Following up on r_n's gentleness here to say in my capacity as the buck-stopper that, in fact, no, definitely not, christ, no. Her point stands that we're happy to talk more informally and person-to-person about commenting issues, but flag data, notes included, is by design for mod eyes only and it's not gonna come back out the other way in any kind of capacity.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:14 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Pssst, Jessamyn, unrelated to this Meta (flagged as "fantastic" new feature) why does your first comment mark you as "temp" but your second one is the usual & expected "retired"?
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:19 PM on July 6


Weird, I see them both as "temp." I filled in for cortex when he was camping for two days and it's always my funny joke with myself to have the "temp" indicator back when I am actually on the job. Sometimes it takes them a while to turn them off since they don't have a lot of temps.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:22 PM on July 6


I think we just yeah didn't turn it off correctly. For the purposes of this discussion Jessamyn is presumed to be a person who has a temperature, carry on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:23 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


Cool, thanks! I can't explain why but I really enjoy the tiny green badges so I also enjoyed the brief novelty of seeing something unexpected.

And thank you for the new freeform flag feature, I hope I don't need to use it frequently but as an overall anxious person I always wondered if my flags made any sense, this increases the likelihood they will! (Also as a totally unlikely-to-happen-and-not-totally-seriouos feature request, occasionally I'll forget I'm looking at something on the site from like 2009 and flag some dick comment someone made, I wish there was a way for an auto-message to pop up to point out what decade I'm in!)
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:37 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Hah! Sometimes I delete those without noticing and then I wish for the same pop-up.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:56 PM on July 6


I guess the days of trying to figure out if that comment was noise or a derail are over, which is good news as I had a really hard time distinguishing.
posted by Aranquis at 4:38 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I prefer to think of Jessamyn as temperate.

Love the upgrade to flags.
posted by arcticseal at 11:49 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


This is just absolutely the best thing ever and I'm so glad it's finally here. I really think this will make a significant, positive difference to the site.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:46 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


A technical issue: I'm still seeing the too-small [!] on Ask posts. Here's a screenshot. I'm logged in, and I'm on a Macbook Pro running macOS 10.13.5, using Chrome 67.0.3396.99.
posted by capricorn at 2:28 PM on July 7


Best change to MetaFilter over the last six years.
posted by Wordshore at 3:53 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


It's because Jessamyn can be tempestuous, even temperamental. A bit of temptress, she's been known to temporize her tempting tempuras.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:47 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


"Do you have a flaaaaaag?" - Eddie Izzard
posted by WCityMike at 10:38 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


A technical issue: I'm still seeing the too-small [!] on Ask posts. Here's a screenshot. I'm logged in, and I'm on a Macbook Pro running macOS 10.13.5, using Chrome 67.0.3396.99.

Should be fixed now, but let me know if you're still seeing it.
posted by frimble (staff) at 12:45 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Also, fixed Jessamyn's staff tag. Sadly, that's retroactive, so it makes a few comments in this thread make no sense any more.
posted by frimble (staff) at 5:58 PM on July 8


For the purpose of this thread, everyone who thought jessamyn had a temp tag should be considered to have been running a temperature.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:00 PM on July 8


😭
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:09 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


It was just swamp gas reflecting off of weather balloons.
posted by frimble (staff) at 6:57 PM on July 8


frimble: "Should be fixed now, but let me know if you're still seeing it."

It's gone!
posted by capricorn at 4:42 PM on July 10


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