So, it's been a while since I returned to the MSE quarters, and I've taken up most of my old activities. Among those is the flagging of obsolete comments in the old threads I encounter while browsing unanswered questions.

Some statistics:

  • Before my sabbatical, I had a flag acceptance rate well over 90% -- something like 360 helpful versus 30 declined.
  • Since my sabbatical, the rate has dropped to about 60%, over about 30 comments.

At first, I assumed it was my flagging being rusty that caused this discrepancy. However, it persists and yesterday, when I checked some examples with robjohn, he confirmed that my flags were wrongfully declined -- and that it shouldn't happen again.

But then today, a similar pattern re-emerged when I flagged some responses to a deleted comment. I wouldn't mind so much if I felt that there was any ambiguity in my flags, but the wrongful declinations are worrying me.

Therefore I am bringing this up in public now: What is going on with these declined flags? How does it happen? Is there anything to be done about them?

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    $\begingroup$ You may want to read meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/19081/…. We are also discussing what decline and disputed are. $\endgroup$ – dustin Jan 3 '15 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ @dustin Thanks, I noticed :). $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Jan 3 '15 at 23:36
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    $\begingroup$ New moderators, takes a while for things to get moving smoothly again. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 4 '15 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf That's what I assume as well, but given the course of events, I would like the moderators to confirm this hypothesis. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Jan 4 '15 at 0:08
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, and I have posted a similar question not too long ago about flags as well. It seems to me that the flags can be tricky for new moderators to deal with, and perhaps it might be good to let new moderators spend a couple of days with read only access so they can watch the more experienced moderators clear out flags and deal with issues. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 4 '15 at 0:12

I'm afraid I am at least partly responsible for this. I had zero experience with the obsolete flag, and my instinct was that there is no harm in keeping two old comments in a short chain. When perusing old questions as a regular user I liked seeing some similar comments as they, while obviously no longer strictly necessary, helped me reconstruct the history of the question. On other occasions I recall being annoyed, when the exchange involved one of my own answers, and the other guy would insist that I delete my reply comments to his suggestions right away. I brought this attitude with me to the mod job. Yesterday I got friendly bits of advice from Mariano and Robjohn. Things should return back to normal soon enough.

TL;DR; I screwed up. Sorry.

Things learned:

  • It is possible for a mod candidate to compile a reasonable looking flagging record, given enough time, by only flagging "comments posted as answers", "spam", "defaced", "suggestions for migration" and other more special problems as opposed to these bread 'n butter flags.
  • Christmas may not be the best time to elect new mods. The old crew was largely on vacation (surprise!), and I am alone in my time zone. Not trying to dodge the responsibility at all, just saying that at any other time of the year the training would have been quicker, and the scale of the damage smaller.

Dangerous bends ahead:

  • It's still not clear to me how to best handle the flags on posts that spent some time in the Very Low Quality review queue, but got a mixed response from regular users there. The review summary is a gold mine of useful information, but I am worried about making a "unilateral" decision.
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    $\begingroup$ I would have learned this quicker, if it were possible to attach an explanation to a declined comment flag. I have spent quite a bit of time looking for that dialogue box, but it is only available when handling a flag on a post. It would then have been clear to the flagger, what went wrong. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Jan 4 '15 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Jyrki for your candid answer. I'll try to give some more weight to "historical considerations" in the case of major editing; I can be overzealous at times :). $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Jan 4 '15 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Lord_Farin: No need for you to change anything. This was just an aspect of the site that I had somehow managed to avoid contact with. Thus I was ignorant about it to the point that I was unaware of my ignorance. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Jan 4 '15 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ I'd actually be happier to see some historical records. I find them to be helpful at times. @Lord_Farin should be pinged too, methinks. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 4 '15 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf It is precisely the realisation of the existence of this preference that inspired my comment :). $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Jan 4 '15 at 16:50

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