# Moderators should drop a comment when invalidating a flag

Downvoters have no obligation to comment but Moderators, being in a somewhat more responsible position than an average user, should atleast try to leave a comment on the action they take on user's flags.

I flagged a (plagiarized) answer recently and it was deemed invalid. Aren't there ethics of ensuring that proper sources are cited, specially when the answer in full (including the prefunctory wisecrack) is a ctrl c ctrl v of an existing thread on the internet.

I am sorry but Meta-contributions to this website are beginning to seem impossibly unwieldy for a new user such as me. "Invalidations" left without comment by the deciding moderator dont help the cause. I have benefited a lot from this website, and I try to contribute by upvoting good questions\answers; today I tried raising the flag when an obviously copied answer had been posted. Such reaction on the behalf of the moderators is really a slap in the face of even a meager attempt on my part.

• Firstly, I think that downvoters should mention why they downvoted, unless (perhaps) others have already stated that reason. Then you should probably 'great comment' that comment or something. Secondly, prior to any flagging, I would comment on such infractions. Each user should be given the opportunity to rectify their errors and learn from their mistakes. Besides, I absolutely do not believe in zero-tolerance for such things. To end, though, I want to thank you for upvoting and flagging. I also vote and flag, and each SE site requires a dedicate set of users to function. – davidlowryduda Jul 30 '11 at 7:16
• What exactly did you expect the moderators to do about this? I don't think I see that explained in your post. Deleting the answer would seem exaggerating a bit (not to mention a suspension) and leaving a comment seems rather superfluous, as you already left one. If this user continues copy-pasting without citing the source in the near future, then I'm sure the moderators will remember this thread and take it into account. What else could or should they do now? – t.b. Jul 30 '11 at 8:29
• It seems to me that if you have a problem with some action of a moderator then you write to the moderators to explain what you think has been done badly, and only if you get no satisfactory explanation from the moderators do you come to meta to bring the matter before the wider community. – Gerry Myerson Jul 30 '11 at 13:13
• @Gerry Write to the moderators where? In this previous question I was told that flagging was the only way to summon these genies. Asking about action on a flag would have been another and even more invalid flag. – kuch nahi Jul 30 '11 at 15:33
• @Gerry I happened to use that link recently on a different site . I received the required response from Jeff Atwood, but the moderators had no clue when I referred the mail. – kuch nahi Aug 23 '11 at 21:19

There are many flags. Leaving comments for each of them would result in an enormous amount of irrelevant noise. I, for one, only leave comments in some cases (when I turn an answer into a comment, and so on (and in fact I started leaving them recently when the software was changed so that those comments became viewable by the author of the answer-turned-comment) and I have never left a comment when I decided not to act on a flag.

In the particular situation at hand: this is, as far as I can tell, a case of someone copying a formula from somewhere else. While it is of course desirable that sources be acknowledged, unless this becomes a pattern of behavior from the user (we have had that happen in the past, in fact), I don't think there is anything to be done by moderators or by anyone else apart from adding a comment like the one you added suggesting that a reference be added.

I honestly do not know what you have in mind when you write "Meta-contributions to this website are beginning to seem impossibly unwieldy for a new user such as me". I think it was me who handled your flag: and it was most certainly not a slap in the face of anyone. As I write above, your comment to that answer was the way in which such a problem should be handled.

• Now I am not sure; I thought I had handled that flag. I did remember looking at it and thinking it was invalid. – Willie Wong Jul 30 '11 at 14:53
• @Willie: I think there were a couple of flags? – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Jul 30 '11 at 15:20
• What I had in mind was that the rotundity of reasoning you mentioned in another thread was not so rotund after all. It might not be true, but I think I understand where it came from. I had an opinion and I felt I must express it, despite the negative feedback this question was bound to receive. To be clear I have removed the comment given the views the original question has right now (when I posted, it carried negative votes). – kuch nahi Jul 31 '11 at 1:20
• @kuch: you are saying that you have removed the comment which was the embodiement itself of "the community enforcing its own rules"? Regarding your indirectly calling the moderators a clique: I cannot overemphasize how absurd that view is: I don't know any of the other moderators, I do not agree with a lot of the things they think, and as far as I can tell we have not acted in a clique-y way ever: in fact, my biggest complain with respect to the moderating part of the software that runs this website is that it makes it very annoying to interact with other moderators regarding specific – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Jul 31 '11 at 1:40
• issues (say, flags) that come up. I have interchanged the whole lot of three email messages with other moderators, regarding a user that has spent considerable energy spamming the site. &c. In all, I would appreciate you do not include me in any macabre cliques: I do not belong to any, and, to be honest, I find it slightly insulting. – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Jul 31 '11 at 1:40
• @Mariano Please accept my apologies if you found it insulting. In some isolated incidents I had found certain responses "slightly insulting" as well, and the image I had was of locker room jocks high-fiving themselves. I wrote that I was probably wrong, but it was the way it appeared to me. I fully appreciate the pro bono work done by you, as well as a wonderful answer of yours on the 24 symmetries of the cube. – kuch nahi Jul 31 '11 at 3:48
• Regarding the deletion, the whole affair left a bad taste, primarily as a result of my own lack of etiquette in handling the issue. I would have liked to remove this question as well as another meta question, but as they already have answers I'll just generate two more flags. – kuch nahi Jul 31 '11 at 4:00
• And now I can't even see my flags on meta-profile. – kuch nahi Jul 31 '11 at 5:05
• @kuch nahi: try this link (not sure if it works) – t.b. Aug 1 '11 at 5:00

This is just an announcement that a change in the Stack Exchange software now allows the Moderators to give a feedback comment when they decide not to act on a flag. You should be able to see it now when you go to view your own history of flags.

• At long last. (filler words bla bla bla... oh wow, spacing filling words are cool! Can we prove that the cardinality of the word equals to the cardinality of the space of a comment? Well, of course! "I see it, but I do not believe!". La di da... :-)) – Asaf Karagila Sep 18 '11 at 12:48

In light of an oversight on my part that Theo pointed out in a comment: my original answer to this question is unnecessarily harsh, and your flag was somewhat borderline, and not as invalid as I had originally believed.

Let me just summarise:

I deemed your flag invalid because I didn't see how your flag for plagiarism is justified. In previous cases of plagiarism issues, the user(s) copied from established sources (printed books/papers/etc.) In this case it is not so clear cut: the transcription of a formula displayed in a photograph to a computer algebra system is hardly original or inventive, and there are only so many ways one can do it. Furthermore there is the possibility that you are making a claim of self-plagiarism, which while is a big deal in academia, is not so much a big deal in Math.SE.

In addition, in academic circles, plagiarism is a heavy accusation. Unless the situation is clear, I prefer not to comment making a defence of the plagiarism claim until such a claim has been publicly lobbed (which I note you didn't in your comment). I did not want to raise a stink with the P word if you are being circumspect yourself in your comment requesting the OP to state his references.

• Minor question/quibble (knowing nothing about the particular case): Is it possible for a flag to be valid but for the moderator to decide to take no action? Surely it is better to flag potential problems for the moderators (with their greater oversight) to then decide upon. Even for those that are decided against, the flag itself was valid in that it was right to bring it to your attention. – Loop Space Sep 18 '11 at 20:52
• @Andrew: If action is taken, the software will automatically mark the flag as valid. It is only in the case where no action is necessary that a moderator needs to decide whether a flag is "valid" (I think the current version's adjective is "helpful" now) or not. – Willie Wong Sep 18 '11 at 21:45
• (Hmm, didn't get notified of your reply, odd.) Right, so marking a flag "invalid" (or "unhelpful") means: "This should not have been flagged, there is no hint of a cause for concern here. We do not want to see such flags again.". – Loop Space Sep 20 '11 at 8:16