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Premise

There should be an FAQ that addresses the consequences (if any) of a high "declined flag" count or a low helpful:declined ratio.

Analysis

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:

  1. A policy of "flag stuff, and let the moderators decide."
  2. 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:

  1. A high declined flag count is a Bad Thing.
  2. 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:

  1. Is a high declined flag count a Bad Thing?
  2. Is a low helpful:declined ratio a Bad Thing?
  3. If the count doesn't affect anything, why is it tracked?
  4. How will the count affect the user's experience within the Stack Overflow community?
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When you say "declined comment count", do you mean declined flags on comments? –  Anna Lear Jun 8 '12 at 13:38
    
Yes. The line that shows up under "x comments flagged" on the stackoverflow.com/users/flag-summary pages. –  CodeGnome Jun 8 '12 at 13:40
6  
I take it you weren't around for when they exposed the flag weight in your profile and people flipped out about their declined flags? It was supposed to be another helpful metric that got people to flag correctly, but people got too serious about it, as you can see in the myriad related Meta question from that time: meta.stackoverflow.com/search?q=flag+weight . It ended up being removed and replaced by what you see in that summary. –  Brad Larson Jun 8 '12 at 15:14

1 Answer 1

When you hit "flag weight zero" your flags are suppressed and don't show up in the flag queue (unless they're on the same post as another, non-suppressed flag).

You used to start with 100 flag weight and it went down 10 each declined flag; so, assuming the mechanics are the same (minus the visibility of flag weight) if you have more declined flags than helpful +10, your flags will be surpressed.

The threshold should be:

(helpful+10)-(declined)>=0

Note: Comment flags (declined or helpful) count as half of a "normal" flag and aren't reflected in the helpful(declined) profile count; you'll have to dig into the flagging summary for yourself and do the math.

So if I have 1 helpful flag and 11 declined flags (in that order) my flags will be suppressed. That's the only "bad thing" aside from flags appearing in lower priority in the Queue (irrelevant for non-SO sites).

share|improve this answer
2  
@CodeGnome it certainly runs counter to "flag indiscriminately" because we certainly don't want to do that. You should flag things that need attention, unless the flag is completely noise it's likely to be dismissed as Helpful. Helpful count + 10 declined flags is a lot –  Ben Brocka Jun 8 '12 at 14:32
    
I don't think anyone's promoting indiscriminate flagging. What we're talking about is the psychological impact of the policy and automated mechanisms in promoting (or discouraging) constructive noise flagging. My point is that I think the current system steers people away from well-meaning attempts to clean up noise. –  CodeGnome Jun 8 '12 at 14:36
2  
@CodeGnome I don't really see how...most declined flags are almost invisible (too invisible IMO) to users and 0 flag weight users are exceedingly rare. I don't see anything in the current system that doesn't encourage lots of flagging, really. –  Ben Brocka Jun 8 '12 at 14:44
    
Yeah I had that backwards; you start with points worth ten helpful questions –  Ben Brocka Jun 8 '12 at 16:18
    
@CodeGnome technically each flag is worth 10 points and they always were, except there was some logarithmic BS at the extreme high point of flag weight. But for the first couple hundred points it doesn't matter...and if your flag weight is that high you'd have to have dozens of rejected flags in a row to hit 0. The system was hidden to prevent over-thinking you know :P it really does work quite well and now the badge-related parts are very simple., –  Ben Brocka Jun 8 '12 at 19:51
    
FYI: comment flags work the same way, but the weight is +/-5 instead of 10. This makes trying to calculate flag weight from the n(n) on the profile page impossible. –  Shog9 Jun 8 '12 at 21:07
    
@Shog9 oh, that's fun. I shouldn't have assumed anything involving flagweight was simple. –  Ben Brocka Jun 8 '12 at 21:11

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