I raised a flag on this question yesterday.

How small can the human eye distinguish given the distance?


The question has been closed and deleted. Yet my flag was declined. The question was an optics question which clearly should have been addressed on Physics SE.

Whether or not you agreed that the question should be migrated, you obviously agreed that it did not belong on Biology SE. In that case a valid flag should not be rejected.

It becomes really annoying and discourages community moderation.

  • $\begingroup$ Why do you say overuse when there is only one instance (that too perhaps not unjustified)? $\endgroup$
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 9:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG I only provided one example. That does not mean that it is the only instance. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ When you say that something is being overused then I think you must provide evidence for it. $\endgroup$
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ What type of flag did you raise? That makes a difference. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG I saw this first post in the review queue. The question, in my estimation, is far too broad, as it encompasses developmental biology, generally, without any specificity. I left a message, but is this a situation where it would be appropriate to raise a Close: Too Broad flag? I have only left a comment to the OP to narrow the question, but is this the type of thing that warrants flagging as well. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ @AMR I would VTC this question as broad. But any close vote or downvote should come with a comment on what is wrong with the post unless the post is blatantly off-topic. Comments would help users to improve their post. $\endgroup$
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 12:45

3 Answers 3


I am not a mod here so I don't have access to your flagging history. However, based on the public data from your profile, we can see that:

  1. You have raised a total of 91 helpful flags;

  2. You have cast a measly 14 downvotes.

Based on that and on the discussion we had about this in the chat room, you seem to feel that flags are the first line of defense for the site. They aren't. The first line of defense is voting. That's precisely why downvoting questions carries no rep penalty and why the first reason given for downvoting is lack of research:

downvote popup

In your case, since you don't have the rep to close vote directly, flagging for closure is perfectly OK. However, you should really try to avoid using the custom mod flag unless none of the other reasons apply.

So, of the 5 flags cited by WYSIWYG, I would also have rejected 1 and 3. In the case of 1, lack of research is no reason to flag, it's a reason to downvote. Raising flags on posts that don't actually need moderator intervention is just creating work for the moderators for no reason. Just downvote and move on. If you must, flag to close as homework but don't flag for mod attention. What was the mod supposed to do? We try to avoid unilaterally closing questions since mod votes are binding. It is far better to let the community decide unless the question is an egregious example, completely off topic or whatever.

Your 3rd flag was because, in your opinion, the question was from a creationist. That is no reason to flag at all! First off, we have not made creationism or ID explicitly off topic. It is not mentioned anywhere in the help center. There have been some meta discussions (1,2, 3) on the subject but none has had enough votes to reach a consensus and, in any case, it hasn't been made official, so it isn't a valid reason to close, let alone flag.

I should also point out that the golden rule for migrating questions is don't migrate crap. I don't have the rep to read the deleted question you mention but if it was both off topic here and a bad question, then it shouldn't be migrated and the mods were right to decline your flag. We can't use other sites as our dumping ground just like we wouldn't like to receive crap questions from elsewhere. Therefore, that the question was eventually deleted is no indication that your flag was valid.

In conclusion, please try and only flag what needs to be flagged. Your first choice for bad questions should always be a downvote and flagging should only be a last resort.

  • $\begingroup$ Of 110 flags raise, 9 were Mod attention flags. Two of the VLQ flags that I raised were declined as declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention, which makes no sense if what you are saying is that is not a Mod attention flag. Also the Optics question wasn't a crap question, it was just a physics question. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ @AMR as I said, I don't have access to the data. I am answering based on my experience as a mod on another site. My guess is that the mods didn't think that it was low quality enough to warrant the flag. The VLQ flag should only be used in those cases where editing the answer isn't enough to save it. Otherwise, don't flag it, fix it. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ And as I said in a comment above, I didn't necessarily disagree with the decision to reject the 4th flag brought up by WYSIWYG. Once raised, there is no option to take back. The only reason I went into detail about my rational was because others chose to make an issue of it. As you can check I didn't raise a meta post about that rejection flag. I raised it over what appeared to be inconsistencies in rejections, i.e. a question was deleted but my flag was declined. I didn't have a way of knowing that it was user deleted, and incorrectly assumed it had been mod deleted. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ One of the questions is on hold and the other was mod deleted... So how again do those not warrant the VLQ flag? $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ @AMR the closed one is indeed crap. I can't see the deleted one. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it wasn't mod deleted. I see the title as red and it is linked to that descriptive deleted page. The problem could be my assumption these were mod deleted and not delete by the OP, so I guess it is possible that the mods did not close. it. As I said before, I don't take flagging lightly, so they generally get accepted. Those two and the ones that Prompted this post are the main ones that led to the impression that the decline was being used somewhat indiscriminately. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 14:19
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AMR I know, I get it. My point here is basically that you are clearly overflagging and undervoting. Please take that into consideration. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 14:19

First, let me clarify that the post that is mentioned in the question was already deleted when I reviewed the flag. From the timeline:

Nov 18 at 5:54  flag        cleared     WYSIWYG♦     Declined: flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention
Nov 18 at 2:42  history     deleted     user3667089     via Vote
Nov 18 at 2:40  flag        PostOther   AMR          This question is off-topic because it is an optics question and is better addressed on Physics S.E.
Nov 18 at 2:38  comment     added       AMR          You are going to want to look up optics formulas and that would be Physics related. 

Moreover, you raised the flag almost immediately after posting the comment. I feel that scientifically this post also had a biological angle and therefore migration is not necessary. I still could have declined the flag for "not finding evidence in support of it". However, since the post was already deleted I used the abovementioned reason. You should understand that cases like this are not that common.

Since you think that many of your flags have been declined for unjust reasons I'll explain the cases of last four of your flags that have been declined as "flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention".

  1. Oct-25: Why to use transgenic mice in ALS models?
    Flagging reason: "While this technically isn't a homework question, it is clear that the OP has done none of their own research of the topic of Transgenic Mouse Models."
    Decline reason: For poor effort you should downvote or if the post is really bad you may vote to close as "homework". Else you can vote to close with a custom reason. Whether or not these kind of questions should be closed, has been extensively debated upon.
  2. Oct-30: https://biology.stackexchange.com/q/40072/3340
    Flagging reason: Very low quality
    Decline reason: VLQ flag should be raised when the content is so poor that it cannot be salvaged by editing (see https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/93606/272208). You did not even leave a comment to ask OP to improve their question. In any case this post does not need moderator intervention. Close/down- vote should have sufficed.
  3. Nov-4: Please explain this disrepancy about ageing
    Flagging reason: "... this is just an attempt by a creationist to poke holes in evolutionary theory by what they presume is an inconsistency without actually knowing the finer details of the molecular processes involved or how they relate to organismal survival. For that reason this post should be closed."
    Decline reason: I should have actually declined this for not finding an evidence in support of the flag. However, you claim that OP is basing their question on creationist beliefs. This you also commented to which OP has replied that they are not citing the Bible or any other religious book. This flag was unnecessary. Again, you should have voted to close or downvoted if you think background research is not done.
  4. Nov-16: https://biology.stackexchange.com/q/40671/3340
    Flagging reason: VLQ
    Decline reason: Same as in case 2

Some of the flags have not been declined by me (in case if you are assuming that I am the evil despot here.)

Regarding AliceD comment: It may be me, but you have been mod-closing many questions - you shouldn't bring up a (very valid) argument that you are not practicing. Further, AMR's argument goes beyond this specific case.

When I close questions, I close them for their content, after reading the posts. Most closures have been for duplicates or very broad. These are the times actually when I wish I do not have a binding vote. Anyway, I shall try to limit myself to just post comments when I feel a certain post deserves closure for scientific content. Flags, however, are a different matter. Moderator is not supposed to verify the scientific authenticity of the content. If AMR's argument goes beyond this specific case then it is expected that they explicitly point out at least a few instances when their flags have been unjustly declined.


I was unaware that you could not cast a close vote. However, when you think a question should be closed then you can flag the question for closure. These flags are dealt by the community. Moderator attention flags are to be used only in very specific situations. Yes, migration is a valid reason but it is good to wait for the community's verdict on whether the question is really off-topic. I would suggest that such questions be VTCed as off-topic with a custom reason saying that it belongs to another site. But as such there is no harm in calling for mod attention for migration when you are sure enough. The flag may be rejected, though. Better to comment first and ask OP for clarification in doubtful cases.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ 4) put on hold as off-topic by AliceD, fileunderwater, Good Gravy, Konrad Rudolph, Amory Nov 17 at 16:55 This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason: "Homework questions are off-topic on Biology unless you have shown your attempt at an answer. For more information see our homework policy." – AliceD, fileunderwater, Good Gravy, Konrad Rudolph, Amory. They used homework question because we under a regime where no one is willing to call out crap questions or answers. The OP didn't even know what Guanosine was and the rest was unintelligible. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 7:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 1) A "research" question not researched is not homework, but like homework shows absolutely no effort by the OP to do their own work first. The homework flag isn't appropriate, because it isn't, but the post should be put on hold or closed so that the OP gets their act together and actual does something other than type a question before going back to playing Halo. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 7:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 3) OP used a direct reference to a Psalm which gives the "traditional" length of live and was inappropriate for the site. The way the question was asked could have come right off of Answers in Genesis. it they wanted to ask a serious question then write it in a scientific manner, don't ask leading questions, and quote WHO life expectancy data, not the Judeo-Christian bible on a science site that is supposed to take itself seriously. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 7:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ And you keep talking about this magic close vote... Isn't that reputation based? I have a Quarter Rank of 3 and a Year Rank of 16, after only four months here. I am one of the more active members on the site, but I haven't garnered the 3000 Rep to cast Close votes, so I am trying to work within the framework that the site allows to maintain a high standard. I care about biology, otherwise I would have just dropped off long ago, based on what appears to be an imposition of your own take, which doesn't even appear to be the same as some of the other mods. You deleted Mad Scientists comment. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 7:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AMR Please understand that I am not saying that your rationale behind the flag is wrong. All I am saying is that these posts are not to be flagged for moderator attention. You can flag the posts for closure if you cant cast a vote. These are different from mod-attention flag. I didn't delete MadScientist's comment. I deleted the old answer and I have taken their comment into consideration. Whether "homework" reason is appropriate or not is a different debate altogether. You can cite custom reason. Your 5th post was declined by the Community bot. $\endgroup$
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 11:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AMR 5th one was not a mod-attention flag. Sorry for that. It was declined by the community. And Sorry, I didn't know that you could not VTC. However, you should flag for closure and not mod-attention. Those flags are dealt by community $\endgroup$
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @AMR More to the point, say the questioner is a firm believer in creationism and says so clearly in their question. So what? That is completely irrelevant. All we care about is the content of the question. Even if it is actually a thinly veiled attempt at attacking evolution, if it is a valid question, then it is welcome here. Being a creationist is not a reason to have your questions closed. And if our only response to creationism is to run away from it, we don't deserve to call ourselves scientists. It is trivial to debunk. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ @AMR When a mod is acting solely based on your flag, how then is that a "peer reviewed" process. As I had mentioned already mod attention should be called for only in very specific cases where community cannot act. And one good thing about this site is that we (as a community) generally don't let bad posts accumulate. $\endgroup$
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 13:31

Declining flags isn't an entirely objective process, the rules are pretty fuzzy and there are many differences in how moderators handle this. There are also some issues with the tools and the flagging process in general that lead to situations where reasonable flags are sometimes declined. Most users, including many moderators, are also not familiar with all the details of the whole flagging system. They are not documented well and have changed signficantly over time.

Declining flags is also not meant as negative as it is often perceived. The main purpose is to educate user on how to flag more effectively.

The big principle of flagging that was already mentioned is that you shouldn't use flags for issues that you can address yourself and that don't need moderator intervention. If a question should be closed, use a close flag or close vote as those are handled by the review queues.

Now, regarding the specific flags mentioned in your post and WYSIWYG's post:

The flag about migration to Physics is a reasonable flag in my opinion. Migration is something the community can't do, so involving a moderator makes sense. But I can see declining the flag if the moderator considers this question to be either too poor to migrate, or not off-topic at all on our site. I would probably have validated the flag, but not migrated this post if I had handled it. But I can easily see myself declining flags in rather similar circumstances. The question was self-deleted by the author minutes after your comment and flag, so this isn't any evidence that it was off-topic here.

Regarding flag 1, I would have declined this one as well. You should have downvoted and/or flagged to close the question, there is no need for a moderator flag in this case.

Regarding flag 2, this isn't really VLQ in my opinion. Closing it because of the vagueness of the question is probably justified, but again no reason for a moderator flag.

Regarding flag 3, there was no reason to act on that question in my opinion. Even if the user was a creationist, the question wasn't really problematic. And the comments were unnecessarily hostile, I removed them in the meantime.

Regarding flag 4, I can't argue that this isn't VLQ, it clearly is. I generally prefer using close flags on questions instead of VLQ, I don't think the VLQ flag should even be available on questions. But as my own opinion here differs from the guidance on the flagging dialog, I would not decline such flags in cases of truly VLQ posts.

  • $\begingroup$ Flag 4 was indeed low quality and I had downvoted it myself. I did not handle the flag. $\endgroup$
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 6:31

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