Unwarranted Flaggings

The discourse forum software seems to be based around a concept, I’d describe as: Users invest time and efforts to build a public personality. I conclude that, from the number of awards users here receive. This reminds me of marketing strategies, commonly used to make users stay with the platform.

Recently, in a topic I started, a new user, with not much public record, flagged several posts as “inappropriate: the community feels it is offensive, abusive, or a violation of our community guidelines” (Un-Translated from otherwise local language PM). Among others, a post of mine was affected, that is how I learned about it. The user did argue, that the way the topic went does not meet his expectations that he wanted to see. A moderator posted, that the user might look to other topics, that might be more comforting. The same, or another, moderator the next day restored the flagged posts.

As much as I think, the more eyes, the more thorough the review. Leaving me with no countermeasure to protect the goodwill that I earned (see above) against obviously uninformed actions of people just doing havoc by chance in a topic that I started, is a bit disheartening, don’t you think?

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So given that you apparently don’t like how this situation played out, how do you think it could have been handled better?

How would you have liked the original flagging of the posts in question to be handled?

You suggest that the action was “obviously uninformed” but I imagine that is a matter of opinion and in any case it’s a conclusion that can’t be reached automatically and it appears that in this case once a human moderator reviewed the flag it was indeed cancelled which to me sounds like the system worked as intended?


Na ja, as we say here, I chose to wait, me and others got lucky, So I do like, how this one situation played out. But, I think happenings like this burden moderators quite a bit: They will have to argus eye their categories much more than before. Still, I was struck, that there is so much talk about moderation, but there is no means of appeal so called “community” decisions.

you can appeal to the board I was told

That’s not needed at all… Moderators will immediately see a notification that a post has been flagged by a user and can take appropriate action right away. As we don’t have an established moderator team yet, current behavior may appear to be somewhat “random” to a user.


We have a topic where we are discussing about how to improve around moderation and flags


Is that the reason for three as a minimum? So moderators can work eight-hour-shifts?

Irony off: I was concerned more about the user side, than the moderator side, even though I mentioned moderators and their burdens.

I suspect, that the system keeps an eye on the number of flagged postings, and that this may be used against users, even when a moderator later cancelled the flagging.

Pondering now, if the contributions to this topic here make it a solved one?

In this very case though, being accused of being abusive, together with another highly valued member of the community, made me wish to flag the flagging as just the same. I chose to wait though, and while waiting, came up with the idea of “appeal”.

PS: Consequently, flags should be verbally explained, and appeals do not make sense without such.

PPS: This brings up the idea of arbiter, rather than moderator.

A timely response is indeed one of the main benefits of having multiple moderators.

Until a moderator has gotten involved, the system can:

  • A – Do nothing. That’s good if the flag is unwarranted, but will leave genuinely problematic posts fully visible. This often leads to other users firing back and the thread going off the rails.
  • B – Remove or hide the post. That tends to prevent escalation, but of course opens the potential for abusive flags.

The old forum always used strategy A. Discourse uses strategy B if the users flagging the post are sufficiently trusted.

Because of the risk of escalating conflicts, I feel Discourse’s default is pretty reasonable. When the standard process fails, it is always possible to send messages to the moderators to appeal any decision. I think we should take inspiration from the proposed mailing list moderation process and make that possibility more easily accessible. And Discourse allows reducing a user’s trust level if they consistently abuse their flagging privileges.

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Currently, that’s a user with trust level “Basic”, which is one level above “New user”. If for whatever reason that turns out to be unsuitable, those settings can be changed at any time.

A good approach … start trusting on a relatively low level and increase the requirements only if that does not work. +1 !

The user in this case certainly was “New”. I did not bother to look if anything got hidden when I received the system message.

I’d like to repeat: Flagging should, if not require, at least provide a short text input to give a reason, shouldn’it?

To elaborate: I flagged off-topic twice: Once people started to talk about data-imports in the Netherlands in a topic on language support in discourse. Then in a topic, about the usefulness of a “Deutsch” category, when people started to talk about the one and only true meaning of the word “Flag” (pun not intended.) First topic got moved to a separate topic by a moderator and lived on there. Second topic was not moved and did get even more off-topic talk. This ruined the thread completely.

Sending a message also might come out more friendly to the user, whose post got flagged, if it was not just canned text but maybe something specific, like “Please start a new topic on […]”?

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I think there should be a “Redundant” flag. Unlike the old forum, there is no need to send “+1” messages and flood all inboxes with a repetition of what has been said already.

Unlike the other Flags, this would not require the attention of a moderator Nor would it need to hide the post, even if god herself showed the flag :slight_smile:

I don’t know how you came to this conclusion, that’s not the case. The user was awarded trust level “Basic” 6 days ago, and flagged your post 5 days ago.

I’m not exactly sure if it makes sense to discuss any out of the box Discourse features in this topic, in particular if there’s no way to customize them like in this case. Please see What are Flags and how do they work? - faq - Discourse Meta

As I see it, for community.osm.org, this kind of discussion is probably a bit of out of scope, as we don’t do any coding on this platform, and consume it “as is”.

So maybe propose an enhanced “flagging posts” UI directly to the Discourse folks, which would then include a short description when flagging an issue. If they find it useful, someone might eventually implement it.


A discussion usually is made up from different elements. Every idea or opinion thrown in may find others to oppose or support it. The opposition as well as the support (including an explanation or reason for such) is an essential part of any discussion. Supressing such posts by flagging them as “redundant” or “nonsense” or “waste of time” or the like will not do any good to any forum for sure.