To flag or not to flag?

April 20, 2011 by . 0 comments

That’s a question you might want to ask yhw42. Meet yhw42, unknown to most, yet loved by every mod. Why?

718! That is one seriously awesome flag weight. As far as I can tell, that’s the highest on Super User. Because of the volume of questions on SO he isn’t the only user to have maxed out his flag weight over there, but its certainly admirable.

In his own words: “Not reaching 750.0000 on SU is not for lack of trying, though. Stack Overflow, by its sheer volume of posts, has a much larger number of non-answer posts that seep in around the edges. Plenty of targets for the mods’ unification guns. ”

If a flag of Bobby means your spam will disappear, getting flagged by yhw42 probably means your post will get killed with FIRE!

So yhw42, tell us about yourself, who are you and how did you grow up to become a Super User?

Mom bought an Apple IIgs in the mid eighties. I used it for school projects, tried my hand at BASIC, and even copied a Laser Chess game program by hand from a magazine… in hex! In college I became something of a tech savvy Luddite while working on my math degree. Eventually I made my way to my current software engineering position where I get to make computers do my bidding every day. Some of my favorite tools these days are AutoHotKey, TrueCrypt, and having two external monitors connected to my laptop. ;)

What’s the secret behind your flag weight? Can you help us explain how to find stuff to flag? For instance, how do you find most of the posts?

At least 99% of my flags on Super User have been “Not an answer.” I went after the low hanging fruit with a vengeance. When the /review process first came out, I started out looking at all the “low quality posts” sorted worst first. I started on page 1 and read through them until I was out of flags. Often that was only a page or two of results and 10 minutes of reading through crappy posts. The next day, I’d do the query again and start at the page in the results where I left off, burn through my flags in 10 minutes, and move on.

After the /review query became randomized for large sets, I had to get creative. I used the Super Secret Ninja Search option isaccepted:0 to limit the search to only answer posts and +body:”search text" to search for terms that I’d noticed were common in posts I’d flagged. I created a spreadsheet to keep track of what I’d tried. “i too”, “anyone”, “same question”, “also need”, and “help me” are some of the ones that had the most results to burn.

It seems like most of the easy-to-find non-answers have been sent to the bit-bucket already, so my flag weight has been going up much more slowly recently. I still flip through pages on /review, but I’m having to work harder to find something to flag.

While judging by your flag weight we know you’re very active, how come your rep isn’t so high as well?

Actually, its because most of my questions have already been asked and answered. I also don’t often find a question where I know the answer which doesn’t already have a decent answer to upvote. So I see my flagging posts as a way to pay Super User back for all the amazing answers I’ve found. Cleaning out the noise makes it better for the next person who’s looking for something. A good portion of my rep (and my Struck & White badge) has come from the new suggested edits feature. As I’ve looked for things to flag, I can now edit things that need fixing.

You’re not really into answering, but you come back to the site nonetheless? Why’s that?

The high signal to noise ratio. I’ve wound up in forums and message boards while looking for answers and it’s become painful to sift through them to get to the useful parts. Keeping that ratio high on Super User is part of the reason I flag. And I do post answers when I’ve got something I can add.

Do you have any favorite question or answer that shows what you find so awesome about the site?

Out of the questions I’ve answered, the most interesting to me was the one where I found an AutoHotKey script for the poster that adds RegEx matching to AutoHotKey’s hotstring replacement functionality. It lets the hotstring parse out info from the trigger string and update the replacement text dynamically. It worked for the OP and I learned something new and interesting from that exchange.

Are you this active on other SE-sites as well, like on RPG?

I’ve had an account on SO for two years because I kept finding it when I had questions for work, but it wasn’t until I got involved in the RPG private beta that I really understood the power of the Stack Exchange model. I’m definitely most active on RPG, both answering questions and trying to make the site successful. I’ve branched out to a few other sites, though, SU and MSO are where I have the highest scores.

Based on your user number there (8), I reckon you must be quite the RPG-fan. What is it about Dungeons & Dragons you like so much?

For me, it’s a few things: 1) the social group I play with is tons of fun, which is why I continue to play. I’ve got a group of fantastic friends from college who still get together once or twice a month for an afternoon session. It is what we do instead of going out to eat or partying or watching movies. 2) I find the mathematics and game mechanics fascinating. 3) In my (other) spare time, I do amature improv acting, so I also enjoy creating a shared story as the group discovers it together.

Are there any other SE-sites you like to use or wished they existed?

I love stopping by over at English/SE to see what weird words they’re discussing. Last weekend, I bottled my first batch of beer and homebrew/SE came in handy. If I’m in the kitchen, I’ll check Seasoned Advice. Seems like new, interesting sites keep cropping up before I know I have a question to ask on the topic!

Is there a user that you’re dying to read the next interview with?

I’d vote for nhinkle. I’ve seen that name on a number of posts and comments I come across and (I think) a recent blog post referenced a Greasemonkey script that sounded interesting. That could have been someone else, though. I can’t find the post right now.

Do you have any questions you want to answer, but we were afraid to ask?

On RPG, people asked my how I pronounced my moniker. :) Usually I say it spelled out like y-h-w-4-2, but to pronounce it I read the “4″ as an “A” with a silent “2″: “yaeh-wah”

Hopefully now, I’ll be able to remember your name! I can’t emphasize enough how important users flags are for helping the moderators keep the site clean! If you have any other questions for ywh42, feel free to ask them in the comments and we’ll add them to the post!

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