4. Handling reports

When a report comes into Charcoal HQ, there are two major things we need to do with it: flag and feedback.


This you should be familiar with, since you have experience on Stack Exchange. Follow the link to look at the post, decide if it needs flagging, and flag it with the appropriate flag if so.


The point of feedback is to record whether the post was correctly detected or not. Feedback gets stored in metasmoke so that we can use it for analysis. We have three major types of feedback: true positives, false positives, and NAA. You should feed back as follows:

If that list doesn’t cover the post you’re looking at, you can assume it’s a false positive unless someone says otherwise. The canonical covers-all guide to feedback is in the wiki.


While persistent, undisclosed self-promotion is classed as spam, it’s a less clear-cut issue than regular advertising spam. Some sites are more lenient on the issue than others. You should exercise judgment while dealing with self-promotion.

Comments on reported posts

You should not leave comments under a post reported by SmokeDetector, unless you are otherwise familiar with that Stack Exchange site. In general, that means you participate on the site for more than responding to SmokeDetector reports and/or viewing a few Hot Network Questions. Unfortunately, we’ve had a case or two where comments left by people responding to a SmokeDetector report were taken negatively by the post’s author and moderators of the site.

When you’re not otherwise familiar with the Stack Exchange site (i.e., you don’t participate in the site regularly enough to know how the site culture differs from other SE sites), then instead of leaving a comment, it is recommended that you raise an “in need of moderator intervention” flag describing the issue and allow a site moderator to deal with it as they see fit.

This rule was established in 2018 after a multi-hour conversation in Charcoal HQ with a moderator on a site where a comment was posted by a Charcoal member on a reported post. While the comment was describing general network policy, it ended up causing considerable distuption and was of great concern to the moderator. Overall, it’s better to be more conservative and just bring the issue to the local moderators’ attention by flagging, unless you already actively participate on the site.

Note: This isn’t a restriction on leaving comments on metasmoke on post reports, just on the actual posts on Stack Exchange sites.


While responding to SmokeDetector in chat is the original way of feeding back, over time we’ve streamlined the process. Most Charcoal members now use FIRE, a userscript that simplifies the process of viewing the post, flagging, and feeding back, down to two clicks. You can find it, and all our other userscripts, on the userscripts page.

Next: Autoflagging

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