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Other than off topic flags, there are several different types of flags that one can cast on a question, answer, or comment. What are each of these flags for?

Question and answer flags:

  • spam
  • offensive/abusive/hate speech
  • not an answer
  • very low quality
  • other

Comment flags:

  • rude or abusive
  • no longer needed
  • in need of moderator intervention

It often happens that the same post will be flagged with 2 or 3 or more different reasons. This suggests that people are not clear about what some of the flags are meant for. I'm making this post to help people understand what the intended uses of the different flags are; this will cover only the types of answers that should clearly be flagged for one particular reason, not the borderline cases.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why can't there be more than one reason to flag a particular post or comment? This would easily explain the multiplicity of different flags. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Jul 14 '17 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeroTheHero Sure, there can be. Perhaps I should have said that posts are not uncommonly flagged with reasons that don't apply to them. Though now that I think about it, I have a feeling this doesn't happen quite as much these days as it did back in 2014. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jul 14 '17 at 22:32
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Question and answer flags

Spam

The "spam" flag is for content which is both promotional and irrelevant to the post, such as

  • links to commercial websites unrelated to physics

Do not use this flag for anything which is not promotional, or which constitutes an answer, such as

  • answers relevant to the question which reference a relevant physics paper or publication (including blog posts), even if the poster is the author of the publication
  • offensive content (see below)
  • wrong answers
  • answers based on non-mainstream physics

Examples of posts that should be flagged as spam:

  • online poker sign up free! win money in your spare time! Top players use our site for quick money

  • International Symposium on Imaginary Physics Call For Papers We invite you and your colleagues to submit papers to a new symposium for experts in the field of Imaginary Physics. Click here to access the signup form.

Rude or abusive

The "rude or abusive" flag is for content that does not constitute an answer and which a reasonable person would consider egregiously offensive, such as

  • hate speech directed against a race, gender, etc.
  • direct threats of violence against a specific person
  • exposing sensitive personal information (real name, location, mailing address, email address, phone number, age, gender, etc.) against the owner's wishes - what other sites often call "doxxing"
  • content which could reasonably be considered abuse of the system like nonsensical gibberish (though you can also use "very low quality" or "not an answer" for this sort of thing)

Do not use this flag for

  • wrong answers
  • answers based on non-mainstream physics
  • mild insults
  • isolated instances of swear words
  • legitimate answers which can be edited to not be offensive while preserving the meaning

I'm hiding the examples in spoiler tags in case anyone would rather not read them. Hover over the quote boxes to see sample offensive answers.

  • all these shitty answers you get when you let chinese on the site, you asked for this

  • If you do not accept this answer I will come to your house at 333 Quantum Road, Hilbertsville and murder a member of your family within one year

Very Low Quality

The "very low quality" flag is for answers which are complete nonsense, such as

  • incoherent gibberish
  • anything not parseable as English text
  • answers posted in another language (although if you can edit in a translation, you're encouraged to do so instead of flagging)

Do not use this flag for

  • wrong answers
  • answers based on non-mainstream physics
  • followup questions
  • comments

Examples:

  • jaafjajrefaseoifjaeijfoaisnsdoj ajfauenwofjasndifnaowjnefoaijw3oeiosafaw3efnaso aksdj vaosjdfoa dfoajw efjas

Not An Answer

The "not an answer" flag is for anything posted as an answer which does not constitute so much as an attempt to answer that question, such as

  • answers to completely different questions
  • followup questions, including requests for clarification

Do not use this flag for anything that answers the question or represents a good-faith attempt to answer the question, such as

  • wrong answers
  • answers based on non-mainstream physics
  • answers which just barely fail to address the question due to an honest misunderstanding
  • anything the poster honestly thinks is a legitimate answer

Examples:

  • If gravity is $+9.8$, does that mean the train goes up in the air? I thought up was positive. Can you explain what happens?

  • @Bohr's answer is good but it doesn't explain why only these certain orbits are allowed. What if you hit an electron slightly, just enough to push it out of its orbit but not into the next one?

Other

The "other" flag, or the "flag for moderator attention", is for anything that does not fit into one of the above categories.

Comment flags

A general note: if you find yourself wanting to flag many comments on the same post, it's enough to just flag one or two. When handling a comment flag, we normally look at all other comments on the post and delete them all.

Rude or abusive

Use this flag for anything that violates the "be nice" rule, including anything that a reasonable person would consider egregiously offensive (much like the "offensive" flag for answers). In particular, valid uses of this flag include:

  • hate speech directed against a race, gender, etc.
  • direct threats of violence against a specific person
  • exposing sensitive personal information (real name, location, mailing address, email address, phone number, age, gender, etc.) against the owner's wishes (a.k.a. "doxxing")
  • content which could reasonably be considered abuse of the system like nonsensical gibberish (though you can also use "no longer needed" for this sort of thing)

Do not use this flag for

  • isolated instances of swear words
  • comments you simply disagree with

Examples:

  • I can't believe you consider yourself competent to post about string theory.

  • The examples from the "offensive" question/answer flag (see above) would also apply here.

No longer needed

The "no longer needed" flag is for any comments which do not help clarify or improve their parent post. It combines what used to be "obsolete", "not constructive", and "too chatty" (which were always kind of hard to distinguish anyway).

Despite the name, this flag should be used both for comments that used to be useful, but are not anymore, and for comments that were never useful in the first place. Here is a nonexhaustive list of comment types you should use this flag for:

  • "+1 great post!" or "-1 this is wrong" or anything along those lines given without further explanation
  • greetings, thanks, and pleasantries
  • anecdotes, stories, jokes, links to XKCD comics
  • suggestions for changes which have been incorporated into the post
  • suggestions which the poster has explicitly declined to make
  • requests for clarification which have been answered
  • clarifications given in response to such requests
  • back-and-forth discussions which are no longer active
  • responses to any comments which have been deleted
  • pretty much any comment older than a week or so (which is an implicit indication that the poster has declined to act on the comment)
  • followup questions which should be asked independently

Do not use this flag for

  • links to related resources or potential duplicate questions where the comments are less than a week old
  • suggestions for improving the post which are less than a week old and which the poster has not yet responded to
  • active discussions which are expected to result in a suggestion for improving the post
  • anything where the only reason for flagging is that you disagree with it

Examples:

  • This is the only correct answer.

  • You're not a physicist, why should I believe anything you write?

  • I joined this site just to upvote your post. Great job!

  • Thanks for the upvote!

Moderator intervention

The "in need of moderator intervention" flag is for any comment that needs flagging and does not fit into one of the above categories. These will be rare. Spam is the main example I can think of.

Do not use this flag for

  • any comments simply because you disagree with them

What if I misuse a flag?

Your flag gets declined. This is not a big deal. It just reflects a difference of opinion between the flagger and the handling moderator. (Plus the mods do accidentally click the wrong button from time to time.) Everybody gets flags declined from time to time, and there are no lasting consequences.

...unless you are warned that you're flagging incorrectly, and you continue to do it repeatedly, frequently, and intentionally (as far as the mods can tell). Then you'd be subject to the same disciplinary measures we use against anyone else who seriously abuses their privileges.


The examples in this post are not real, but are meant to be representative of actual contributed content that would be a valid use of the respective flags.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Nat When I say "...you are warned that you're flagging incorrectly", that warning would take the form of a direct message from the moderators. It might say something like "We've noticed you continue to cast [type of flag] for [type of situation] despite having these flags declined many times. [...] Please use the appropriate flag in the future." Or it could be a chat message to that effect, or something like that. Just having a flag declined doesn't count as a warning, in case that's what you're wondering. To ask about that specific flag, I'd suggest bringing it up in Physics Chat. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 8 '18 at 20:34

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