There should be an FAQ that addresses the consequences (if any) of a high "declined flag" count or a low helpful:declined ratio.
There are a LOT of questions on meta surrounding flags--way too many to link meaningfully here. However, most of them boil down to a few things:
- A policy of "flag stuff, and let the moderators decide."
- Questions about why flags are accepted, declined, applied, or counted.
Assuming that #1 is the de facto policy, it seems to me that a lot of the reluctance of users to make constructive use of the flagging system for reducing comment noise has to do with the mystery surrounding the utility value of the "declined flag count."
This counter (whatever it's called internally; I don't know) gets incremented whenever a flag is declined. This counter outlives the comments and posts that feed it, so it never goes down. Perhaps that's all as-designed.
The real issue is that the utility of this metric is not formally defined anywhere. From a psychological standpoint, I--and probably many other people--tend to assume that:
- A high declined flag count is a Bad Thing.
- A low helpful:declined ratio is a Bad Thing.
Note that "Bad Thing" is deliberately undefined here. It may be one or more of:
- social standing
- perceived reputation
- flag weight
- moderator disapproval
- likelihood of penalty downvotes
- likelihood of future flags being declined without regard to merit
- fear of the unknown X-factor involved
Whatever the reason, I think the solution is really simple: an FAQ answer that explains what impact this counter has and why it's tracked, and takes the time to address the potential "Bad Things" as thoroughly as possible whenever they're raised as concerns.
Reformulation into Q&A Format
This is really a four-part question, but the issues are too interrelated to merit asking them as separate questions. The central question is:
What is the utility of the declined flag count?
The sub-questions are:
- Is a high declined flag count a Bad Thing?
- Is a low helpful:declined ratio a Bad Thing?
- If the count doesn't affect anything, why is it tracked?
- How will the count affect the user's experience within the Stack Overflow community?