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Are there specific guidelines for when it is appropriate to flag a question vs. voting to close?

Increasingly, voting to close a clearly off-topic or otherwise unworthy question and posting it in the "Vote to Close" chat room yields insufficient votes to finish it off, unless a moderator happens to be watching the VTC chat.

I find myself extremely hesitant to flag such questions unless there are special circumstances (e.g. belongs on a site with no migration path), because I presume that the very existence of the "vote to close" chat room is to discourage flagging of questions that can be voted closed.

This leads to cycles of voting to close a question, posting it to VTC, waiting at least 8 hours, and then flagging it with a note that I tried the other route first. This strikes me as a highly inefficient way to engage in crowdsourced moderation.

  • Is the vote-to-close chat room working better (or equally poorly) for others?
  • Is there a better way for me to approach questions that deserve to be closed?
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For what it's worth, people seem to flag old questions, and VTC newish questions.

Not saying that's right, but that's what seems to happen.

  • Makes sense. VTC seems to work well when a question is new enough to get a lot of attention, and poorly otherwise. – Skyhawk Jan 23 '12 at 9:05
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    @Miles, of course if someone goes on an unrestrained editing spree new questions get pushed down to the point where they don't get the needed attention. – John Gardeniers Jan 23 '12 at 11:24
  • @JohnGardeniers Touché. – Skyhawk Jan 23 '12 at 12:14
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I think it's ok to cast your own vote and then flag for a moderator.

I don't know why the VtC room was created, I assumed it was because it's considered better to have 5 normal users cast votes than for one moderator to hammer it. But if it's something that you (or anyone else) think is clearly in need of closing, then there's no reason not to ask a mod to close it right away. Worst case, whatever mod sees the flag disagrees and ignores it.

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    I created VTC for the purpose of increasing the visibility of questions that need attention. Today there are still only 217 people with the relevant privilege of them 50 used it in the last week and <20 used it regularly. – Iain Jan 23 '12 at 11:02
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As a mod, I try and let the community close questions where possible, particularly if they are border line, using the Mod Hammer is really something I want to reserve for questions that are blatantly off topic and need to go, spam etc. That said, if there's a question sat with 4 close votes I often will cast the last one.

So, in my opinion, if the question is so bad it needs to go immediately, or as Mark said, it's an old question, then flag away, but If there is a possibility the community will get to it then I would leave it for them. Obviously if you don't have close rights, and don't feel it will get the communitys attention enough to close it, then it may be worth a flag.

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I think it depends on the age of a question. If you see a bad one which is old and you think Serverfault would definitely be a better place having that question closed, flag it. If we agree we, will happily close it.

If it is a new question on the first pages I would rather wait for the community's decision. I guess many 10k users watch the close-vote list in the tools section of the site. So, there's a pretty good chance that the question will be closed if there are enough people who agree with you.

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