Discourse is designed to be self-managing, insofar as communities are empowered to…
- flag and auto-hide problematic / offensive / against ToS content
- flag and auto-hide spam
- flag and auto-block new problem users
- enough outstanding flags in a topic auto-close that topic (for 8 hours)
- users can reach trust level 3 so all titles and categories are editable, plus they gain additional flag weight on new users and spam
… such that someone could install Discourse, then walk away for 5 years, and nothing bad will happen. *
And for the most part this theory of self-managing communities, or at least communities assisting with their own management, works. We haven’t seen any communities degrade irreparably due to lack of admin / staff attention. If you are aware of any Discourse instances where this is a problem, please let us know so we can take a look!
However – flags, if never handled by staff, just keep piling up literally forever. If a staff member logged in 3 years later they would potentially arrive to see a rather daunting flag count, in the hundreds.
So, assuming the automatic community flag handling is working well enough to avoid any critical day to day problems, we think it’s safe to have all flags automatically defer themselves after 90 days by default on all Discourse instances. If no staff member has handled a flag by then, it’s likely to never be handled by staff, and whatever effect it had on the user / topic / post has already happened… so it can be deferred. This will of course be a site setting, so if you want flags to hang around for years, you can set that up.
Does this sound reasonable to you as a default? Remember the goal is to have super-safe defaults.
Are there any ways we can improve our automatic community based flag handling to be less reliant on staff being around long term?
As an example of #2, do remember trust level 3 flag perks. When flagging an item as spam, TL3 users immediately hide that content. Additionally, TL3 flags weigh heavily in auto-blocking TL0 users.
* Assuming someone is keeping Discourse patched and up to date, but that’s a different topic. Yes, we do need to eventually build completely automatic updates!