When I see a bad question, I want to flag it. But sometimes, I'm not sure what flag reason to use. I can doubt between two reasons, or be not sure what the main reason of the flag is.

Does it really matter what flag reason I use? Is a flag still defined as 'helpful' if it's for the wrong reason? I'm guessing all moderators see all flags. Flags being used for the correct reason just makes the process quicker.

(In the examples I gave, I'll use one of the two reasons, or the 'moderator attention - other' option.)

  • 1
    For some other opinions, see this q on meta.gaming: meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/3418/… - I like this response "[A]s mods, you should always assume the flagger was trying to be helpful except in the case of compelling evidence to the contrary." – DHall Feb 27 '12 at 16:51

Different flags show up in different queues.

The "doesn't belong here" reason (and all sub-reasons) put the flag in a special queue that privileged (10k) users can see, not just moderators. Please do choose one of these reasons if you can.

Spam and offensive flags are also visible to privileged users and carry a time-limited count, so that the posts will automatically be removed if enough flags accumulate.

It's true that moderators can see them all, but we are also humans, and persistent misuse of of the flag reasons may bias us against your flags in the future; not to suggest that you or anyone else reading this has personally annoyed us, but it's been known to happen.

If more than one reason applies then you should choose the one with the most visibility, as described above. If you really need your flag to be private to moderators and/or none of the other reasons apply, then use the "Other" reason.

P.S. When flagging answers, please note that we all hate the "very low quality" flag reason because it's almost always misinterpreted and most low-quality content is handled just fine by downvotes. If something doesn't answer the question, choose "not an answer". If it's spam/offensive, choose those. Otherwise, don't bother with VLQ unless it's so unbelievably bad that leaving it up on our site would be like walking around in a plaid shirt and polyester pants with an open head wound.

  • I take offense to the plaid shirt and polyester pants comment :( – Jay Jan 30 '12 at 15:42

Does it really matter what flag reason I use?

It matters as when you choose a reason, you are reporting what is wrong with that post. If you are flagging a post as spam, it means the post is advertising something for which it is provided a link; you don't flag as spam an answer such as "I have this problem too; did you resolve it?"
Clearly, in the example I made, a moderator could notice it is not an answer, mark your flag as useful, and then delete the answer because it is not an answer. This would require the moderator to verify if there is any other issue with the flagged post, when the moderators are supposed to just verify the flag is valid, and take the necessary action when required; in fact one of the reasons for declining a flag is, "a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it." While in the example, it's quite clear the post was not an answer (and the flag was someway useful), it is not always possible for who review the flags to see there is another problem with that post. That is the reason why we select a flag reason; differently, if the flags served as "look, something is wrong with that post; discover what" purpose, there would not be any reason to choose between.

A moderator could decline a non correct flag, even when it helped to discover a post that needed to be deleted, when a user keeps selecting the wrong reason when flagging posts. In this case, the reason is avoiding the user keeps doing something that is undesirable, or to teach the user what should not be done.

In your case, if you have a doubt between two flagging reasons, first be sure to know exactly the purpose of those flagging reasons; if then you still have any doubt about which one to select (which should really happen only in few cases), then choose the one you think more appropriate.

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