It sure seems like the moderators here don't like to follow the rules for SE and this site in particular when it comes to marking flags as valid or invalid and closing questions. At the very least, there is absolutely no consistency in their decisions.

Questions are supposed to be single questions asking for single answers. Questions are supposed to be on topic for this site and not better suited to other SE sites. Critique requests are not valid here (UX.SE rule specifically in this case).

And when a flag is marked valid, then the item being flagged should be acted upon. Off-topic questions should be closed/migrated/deleted, duplicate questions should be merged, answers that aren't answers should be deleted or turned into comments (as appropriate), etc.

Oh, and flags shouldn't be marked invalid when they are 100% valid just because the moderator "likes" the question.

So why aren't these things being followed on this site?

EDIT: Per Jeff - questions that should be addressed:

Off topic questions:

Not a real question:

And those are just the questions that I've flagged recently that were marked as valid flags but nothing was done with the questions.

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    can you provide specific examples (URLs) of the above? I find it easier to process meta discussions when they are accompanied by specific, concrete examples of what the issue is. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 6:21
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    @Jeff - provided examples - I would appreciate your thoughts on these. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 15:19

3 Answers 3




Just as is the case with all written rules, there's "the letter of the law" and "the spirit of the law". The written form cannot account for all cases and always generalizes things, so there are countless gray areas. This is an inherent problem with the concept of written rules, which even professional judges deal with on a daily basis.

The site, above all, is supposed to be good. For a Q&A website, that means that it's supposed to be effective in providing people with answers to their questions. To that end, it should be active, focused and promote good answers and questions. All the mechanisms, principles, rules and recommendations are there to serve that single purpose, and they are secondary to it. So we (I believe that on this particular point I may speak for other mods too) feel that if a question contributes to this website even if it seems to contradict one of the answers in the FAQ, we should allow it. Note that the FAQ is phrased in very wide and cautious terms - "Questions that are extremely off topic, or of very low quality, may be removed at the discretion of the community and moderators." (emphasis mine).


You will, I hope, agree that UX in general is a very wide and multi-disciplinary field. So, often it can be very hard to decide whether a question is "really" off-topic. I don't think that SE websites are mutually exclusive. I see many questions that I personally would place on GD.SE, but I can see why they would also be relevant on UX. If the activity on such questions shows me that the community also recognizes it as relevant by upvoting and answering it, I don't see the benefit in removing it. I do see the harm in it (it's upsetting for the OP, and it takes down a question that the community is interested in). The best "objective" indication of a question's relevance to the website is the number of flags on it, and questions that are blatantly off-topic invariably produce 2-3 flags. I don't think you'll find many questions with multiple flags that weren't taken down or migrated. That's as opposed to questions which produce one flag and a couple of upvotes and answers. To me, that signals that one specific person perceives is as off-topic while other users don't see a problem with it.

Flag validity

And when a flag is marked valid, then the item being flagged should be acted upon

The answer to this one is going to be much shorter and less philosophic. When a mod handles a flag, there's the button of "no action required". Once pressed, it brings up the following dialog:

enter image description here

If you feel very strongly about the phrase I quoted, I believe Meta.SO is the place to bring this up.

Oh, and flags shouldn't be marked invalid when they are 100% valid just because the moderator "likes" the question.

I hope you'll agree that the question of "100% validity" is subjective, and your opinion on it isn't "more right" than anyone else's who's been around for any length of time. As to the mod liking the question - I, personally, do my best to judge by the community reaction as described above and to disregard my personal feelings about the question. I feel it's safe to assume that the other mods do the same.

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    Pretty much this. Especially the decision-making that goes on in my head around single flags. I always try to balance things out between the number of people showing appreciation and the people signalling that the question isn't appropriate. Just flagging something doesn't necessarily mean your flag will be treated with more weight than the 10 upvotes the question has already gotten.
    – Rahul
    Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 9:12
  • It makes absolutely no sense that you can mark a flag as valid and have it require no further action. If it is valid that the post is off-topic, then that post should be closed as off-topic. Exactly how can you logically say anything else? Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 12:34
  • This may be more for @Rahul - And while we're talking about the flag dismissal dialog, exactly how is my saying that "Good word for a group of intellectuals or a group of smart learners" was off topic and belongs on English.SE "unhelpful or noise". That is a completely accurate flag, even if you think the question should stay on the site. If you were following what was said here, then there's no way that you could have marked that flag as invalid. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 12:37
  • @Vitaly - In at least the case of the question I just mentioned, personal feelings are just about the only reason I can see that the question wasn't closed. It was flagged and several people commented that it belongs on English.SE. @Rahul was the only person I saw that said he thinks it belongs on UX. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 12:39
  • @CharlesBoyung That's why there's a "valid - the flags have merit but no further action is required" option for moderators. I use that one in case I tend to agree with the flag but don't think it has more weight than what has been established thusfar by the community, as I mentioned in my previous comment.
    – Rahul
    Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 13:06
  • @Rahul - how does that have anything to do with you marking my flag as invalid on that question? Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 13:14
  • @Rahul - and please, explain your reasoning on this question then: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/1111/… - It has 5 upvotes and yet you closed it with no one other than another moderator voting to close. To me it looks like the "community" felt the question was valuable yet you closed it. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 13:18
  • @Rahul - another one with 5 upvotes and the only vote to close was your own: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/5691/… Like I said, very inconsistent. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 13:18
  • @Rahul - and with that English question, the only person that seemed to think the question belongs on UX is you - there aren't a bunch of upvotes for the question, just a lot of comments that it belongs somewhere else. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 13:20
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    @CharlesBoyung Instead of talking about this in these comments, could you ask a separate meta question to discuss the issues you have with my votes? That way we can track your feedback on those separately.
    – Rahul
    Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 14:54
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    @Charles, concerning the "group of scholars" question, I'd appreciate it if you stuck to the facts. @Rahul wasn't "the only person" who thought that it belonged on UX - in fact, the question had 5 answers and 2 upvotes. Microcopy is an essential part of UX and I deal with similar questions daily. The "alternatives for Home" question is exactly the same, yet I don't see you or anyone else flagging it. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 16:29
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    @Charles Ah, yes, I've been meaning to write that but forgot. I personally think it's a brilliant feature and I remember how happy I was when I first saw it. I could rephrase the phrasing on that button to "I disagree that this question is an obvious off-topic, so I'm not closing it, but I do see what drove the user to flag it as such, so I don't want to decrease his flag weight by dismissing it as noise. Also, if it gets flagged by others too, then I'll probably remove the question, but I'd like to deal with the flag now, rather than wait around". Does this explain the logic? Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 17:04
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    @Charles The logic I've described (community interest vs. flags) is also not an algorithm, it's a rule of thumb. Sometimes it helps us, and sometimes other things take precedence. Since you’re probably going to ask “what things” – I’ll tell you upfront that it depends on the case. If we had an algorithm that covers all cases, there would be no need for mods. We can’t reverse-engineer each decision a mod has ever made on a flag. Ultimately it’s a question of whether you trust the mod to do a good job or not. If you don’t, you should bring this up on MSO. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 18:02
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    @Charles Sorry, but I'm not going to go there, for three main reasons: 1 - I could explain my own calls, but I won't presume to know what guided Rahul or Patrick in each case. 2 - the votes/flags balance has changed by now and we won't see the situation as the mod saw it at the time the decision was made. But most importantly, 3 - I don't see it ever ending, and I don't wish to develop this kind of debate for each of the 8 questions as well as for any others that will inevitably come up in the process. Sorry, but no. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 18:40
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    @Charles, the meta is not for indulging the whims of specific users who abuse the platform. I'm more than willing to explain to each OP why their question was closed, but I won't encourage you to dig up old questions and drag me into pointless discussions about them, the emphasis being on pointless. I believe I've done my modly duty to you with the current answer and discussion. But I want you to be happy, and you want us to stick to SE rules, so I'll stick to the one that says "most importantly, don't feed the trolls". Commented Jul 8, 2011 at 8:26

I'll repeat what I posted on your other question:

  1. Moderators don't have the time to go in to great detail when closing. The close reason links to the FAQ which should explain why the post was closed. The moderators are volunteers so can't always spend more than the minimum amount of time on a question.
  2. If you think a question should be closed vote for it to be closed and leave a comment as to why yourself. The moderators will see the close vote and comment and if they agree will add their vote to yours. I can't speak for the moderators here, but on the sites where I'm a moderator I give more weight to votes and comments than flags from users who have the ability to cast votes.
  3. If you think a question shouldn't have been closed vote for it to be reopened. As there aren't that many high reputation users here at the moment you might also flag it so the other moderators can review the decision.
  4. Moderators don't have the time to go looking for posts to close or reopen. They need your input, and the input of other high reputation users to be able to do their job.
  • And if we give them the help to identify questions that should be closed, then they should be closing them. Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 2:22
  • Oh, and if the volunteer moderators don't have the time to do their job well, then they shouldn't volunteer to do it. I don't volunteer to do things that I don't have the time to do, and I'm sure you don't either. Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 2:26
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    @Charles - That's why there's more than one. So there's someone around most of the time.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 14:13
  • doesn't change the fact that if any of the moderators when they are on the site don't have the time to do the job of a moderator, they shouldn't be moderators. Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 6:06

Off topic questions:

Not a real question:

There are 1 or 2 where I agree with you, they should be closed outright. But overall we're not doing too badly here (at least from my perspective).

Some of these questions are indeed borderline, but a trend I'm seeing here is that these questions can be whipped into shape by editing them to make them a bit more general.

So perhaps what you ought to consider doing in the future is contributing some edits -- as in the examples where I edited, above -- to help make the questions better for everyone!

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    Regarding the SunBurst Background question - Graphic Design is an integral part of UX, and while this question does belong more naturally on GD, I feel that it is by no means off-topic here. I'm a UX professional and I don't know anything about graphic design, so I was actually bothered by the same question recently, and I was glad when someone finally put it into words. I added a few examples to the question, hope it makes it more relevant. Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 18:00
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    The SunBurst question can be on topic if it wasn't so poorly written. I think a lot of the visual elements we use have different effects on the human psyche. That is part of UX. It's no different from certain word patterns that are popular these days in web copy. (think of product sign up screens, they all look very similar). I'd like to see it opened, but re-worded from a psychology angle.
    – Jin
    Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 23:31
  • @jin isn't that what I said? "these questions can be whipped into shape by editing them to make them a bit more general" feel free to edit away and make it happen :) Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 4:42
  • @Jeff Atwood, necessary update to the question is done via Vitaly Mijiritsky. Could it be opened now? I didn't think giving screenshots was so crucial enough for a question to prevent it from getting closed. Next time, I will pay attention to that. Now it is your turn(or that of whomever closed it).
    – Özgür
    Commented Jul 11, 2011 at 22:15
  • @comptrol you mean the sunburst question? done Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 1:19

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