Here is the situation.

  1. A user posted two near identical questions within a few hours of each other.
  2. I came across the second one first and voted to close as off-topic as it was.
  3. I then later found the original question and voted to close it as off-topic as well.
  4. Discovering the duplicates I returned to the later question (which I VTC first) to flag it.
  5. As I had already used my close vote the only options I had to flag were: spam, rude or abusive or in need of moderator intervention. I therefore flagged as in need of intervention with the message:

    "This question is practically a duplicate of the user's previous question. Should be removed/closed."

  6. I received a response to my flag:

    declined - Using standard flags helps us prioritize problems and resolve them faster. Please familiarize yourself with the list of standard flags: see What is Flagging?

Now I am quite familiar with flagging and had the duplicate option been available I would have used it. Additionally the advice to use standard flags runs counter to the advice I was given in my previous meta about flagging, where I was told that custom flags make it easier for moderators.

What was I meant to do in this situation and why was my flag declined?

I feel that the moderator who handled this flag didn't sufficiently investigate to see that I had already used my close vote and could not flag as duplicate.

  • How visible are the close votes to the moderators when handling custom flags. I'm not sure they can even check if you had cast a VTC yet.
    – Summer
    Jun 14, 2019 at 2:25
  • @bruglesco TBH I'm not sure. I believe they can see them but maybe not. Either way I don't think my flag was incorrect so shouldn't have been declined.
    – linksassin Mod
    Jun 14, 2019 at 2:30
  • Out of curiosity: does it make a difference if the VTC is given for being off-topic rather than for being a duplicate?
    – NofP
    Jun 15, 2019 at 11:49
  • Also: why "disappointing"? Could it rather be "clarification on declined moderation flag"?
    – NofP
    Jun 15, 2019 at 11:51
  • 2
    @NofP it makes a difference because it was a duplicate should be closed as such. And "disappointing" because a correct flag was declined which is disappointing.
    – linksassin Mod
    Jun 15, 2019 at 12:54

1 Answer 1


First off, having a single (or even a few) declined flags on your account is generally no big deal. It just means that the moderator who handled the flag disagreed with the flag as raised. Nothing more; nothing less.

As for the flag response text, there's a handful of answer texts to choose from, or the moderator can choose to type up something custom. For me, if one of the prefabricated answers apply, I'll generally pick that, even if in principle a more detailed response could be written up. There's also very little room to actually elaborate on anything there; IIRC, the length is limited to a maximum of 200 characters.

With that out of the way...

I was the moderator who handled that flag.

The timeline, as I saw it when handling the flag, was something like:

  1. First question posted on July 12, 13:56 Z
  2. Second question posted on July 12, 15:55 Z
  3. First question put on hold on July 13, 01:28 Z
  4. Second question flagged by you on July 13, 01:29 Z
  5. Second question voted to be put on hold as duplicate on July 13, 02:45 Z
  6. I handled the flag on the second question July 13, 07:50 Z (and likely saw it soon before then, though that's not logged)
  7. Second question put on hold as duplicate July 13, 10:58 Z

There is no easy way to see before a question actually gets put on hold who voted to close (and correspondingly for voting to reopen) unless there's a corresponding specific comment, but note that by the time of #6, the question had already been voted on to be closed as a duplicate, as evidenced by the existence of a "possible duplicate of" comment at the time from a user with close privileges and a non-zero number of close votes at the time.

I therefore concluded that this was something the community could handle, and I know that low-quality closed questions are cleaned up after a while; in this case, unless net voted up (score above 0), after being closed it (except as a duplicate) would be a candidate for deleting as RemoveAbandonedClosed. If closed as a duplicate, it would likely remain, but closed.

Also, questions posted by the same user is one major exception where the community can close unanswered questions as duplicates; as per Why are some questions marked as duplicate?

The original question generally must have an answer; questions may only be marked as duplicates of unanswered questions on meta sites, when the questions share the same author, or when closed by a moderator.

(My boldface here.)

I therefore concluded that diamond moderator intervention was not required, at which point the situation should have been handled via a standard close a duplicate flag or vote, not a custom flag. Flags are not super-votes. I also, in general, personally try to avoid using diamond moderator powers except for really obvious (or at least potentially problematic) cases, when the community can handle (and is handling) the situation.

  • 1
    Ok I can see how you reached that decision but I still disagree with it. I believe you can mark a flag as helpful without actually acting on it (please correct me if I am wrong). By marking the flag as declined you are telling me not to bother flagging things in future. As I explain this wasn't something I could handle myself as I had already used my close vote. What was I meant to do in this situation? Nothing?
    – linksassin Mod
    Jun 14, 2019 at 10:09
  • 5
    @linksassin Ah, I think I see what you mean; that you had already voted to close as off-topic, then you realized it actually should be closed as a duplicate. In such a situation, your options indeed are somewhat limited, since you only get a single close and a single reopen vote on any one question. That should probably have been made more clear in your flag, then. If it had been explicitly mentioned in the flag "I already VTC'd this as off topic so can't VTC as duplicate", that would have made it far clearer why you were using a custom flag to point to that.
    – user
    Jun 14, 2019 at 11:02
  • 2
    Absent that, a clear comment to draw others' attention to what you'd found, or bringing it up in Writing Chat if there's someone there who can vote to close or even just flag, might be a reasonable approach.
    – user
    Jun 14, 2019 at 11:04
  • 2
    I did comment on the post as well. Perhaps I could have included that I had used my VTC but as you say 200 characters isn't a lot. My point was that my flag wasn't wrong so I didn't understand why it would be declined.
    – linksassin Mod
    Jun 14, 2019 at 11:13
  • Reading the question I thought I had raised the same mod-intervention flag on the same posts. I looked it up just now and it was a different pair of posts where the (different) OP started a new identical question after the first one was edited. My flag read: "Not just a duplicate of writing.stackexchange.com/questions/45945/… but that other question is her own question, still open." That flag was marked helpful. I felt it was important to bring the pattern to the mods' attention. Is this a case of different mods liking things done in different ways?
    – Cyn
    Jun 17, 2019 at 2:16
  • 2
    @Cyn That is an interesting point. I did notice the other pair but luckily saw the original before voting on the second. @ Mods it would be good to get some clarity about what we are meant to do with this kind of issue.
    – linksassin Mod
    Jun 17, 2019 at 4:06

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