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I flagged a question as off-topic but it was declined, with the comment:

declined - Please use the closing vote mechanism

Close votes require 500 reputation, correct? Why would this be declined if I can't do that? What is the purpose of being able to vote as off-topic if I am not supposed to...?

The question was: I and my advisor have a crush on the same woman, what should I do?

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I think the reason for declining the flag is inappropriate. My guess is it was just an oversight that you did not have the rep to actually use the closing mechanism. In general, flags about issues like off-topic questions are appreciated.

As for the specific question, I am not sure when you flagged it, but it has now been deleted. It took a slightly odd route to deletion in that it wasn't closed first.

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I can't speak on behalf of the other moderators, but I have declined several flags for this reason. One point that is quite important is that current moderators are not elected, but have been designated. In other words, we do not represent the community, but we are just here to speed up the process when the community would take too long to do so (at least, that's my own vision).

An interesting aspect of Stack Exchange is that reputation/voting mechanism, with the idea that the community should take care as much as possible of the site, and the reputation defines your involvement in the community. It's of course far from perfect, but the concept is nice.

In other words, I personally welcome flags related to bad/obsolete comments, to offensive/spam content that needs to be removed right away, or to old content that might not visible enough by the community. If I believe that some content should be taken care of by the community itself, then I might decline the flag.

As for the question you mention, there has been a moment of indecision, where it was not clear whether is was a serious question or not, which probably explains why your flag was declined and then the post deleted.

EDIT: After reading the post about moderator election on SO, I read some elements that I believe to be quite inline with my previous comments:

Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those (hopefully rare) exceptional conditions that should not normally happen, but when they do, they can bring your entire community to a screaming halt — if you don’t have human exception handling in place.

and then

[...] a lot of flags aren’t identifying things that are particularly exceptional: in particular, posts that need to be closed (duplicates, off-topic questions, etc) or are of extremely poor quality aren’t all that uncommon on a site that gets over 7000 new questions and 11K answers each day. While moderators are well-equipped to handle these quickly, they don’t actually require moderators when a sufficient number of experienced users are willing and able to help.

Of course, Ac.SE is far from reaching SO stats, but I think the notion of "quickly" is worth emphasising: if it needs to be treated urgently, by all means, flag it. There was a recent offensive answer to a question, and flags are completely justified. However, I also believe we start to have a community that can take care of the site, and I believe leaving the community taking responsibilities is a good way to make it grow, instead of waiting for mod intervention. But that's just my two cents.

  • In this particular case, I think quick action was justified. – Suresh Mar 10 '13 at 23:04
  • @Suresh: I disagree: at the moment of the flag, there was no downvote on the question, no closing vote, and no answer. The question is not offensive, and was asked right after academia.stackexchange.com/q/8194/102, which probably "inspired" that question. The IP didn't correspond to a know troller, the question was correctly written, so for all these reasons, I don't think there was a need for a quick action. – user102 Mar 10 '13 at 23:12
  • I guess the question seemed pretty offensive to me, but that's just my opinion. – Suresh Mar 11 '13 at 3:04
  • @Suresh: and yet, when you commented on it, you seemed to hesitate whether it was a real, but poorly worded question, or a fake. Also, when I declined the flag, which was after your first comment, I think there was no closing vote at all, but I might be wrong. – user102 Mar 11 '13 at 10:07
  • Right. I thought it was offensive, but wasn't sure if it was a troll (i.e fake) or not :) – Suresh Mar 11 '13 at 16:45

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