Citizen Patrol has this description:

First flagged post.

In other words, anyone who flags anything for any reason gets this badge.

Pekka says:

Making people familiar with the flagging function is probably the main point of the badge

This seems a little off to me. The flagging function is no more visible due to the existence of the badge, and I would much rather see users being encouraged to flag well instead of just flagging. I just noticed a user who got the badge after flagging his own post to spout nonsense, and the fact that it was a bad flag and got declined was obviously not taken into account.

I propose a new mechanism for Citizen Patrol to encourage good flags, made clear through a description like the following:

First helpful flag.

I don't think this would decrease the likelihood that someone who sees the badge will try to get it, and if it did it would only eliminate the people who raise a worthless flag. Win-win?

  • 5
    This is definitely a good idea. Just doing a BS flag for the purpose of getting the badge shouldn't get you the badge.
    – Pekka
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 21:40
  • 1
    I tried to flag this post as a duplicate of itself to get the Citizen Patrol badge, but MSO is too smart for me. I cower before the moderators too much to flag it for any other nefarious reason. :) Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 21:43
  • The fuction is much more visible because of the badge; a lot of us when first learning the site browse through the badge list and try to earn them. That's what they're for. In addition a new user might not know what a "helpful flag" is
    – Zelda
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 22:34
  • 1
    @BenBrocka If they can figure out what a flag is, they can certainly apply the normal English definition of "helpful" to it. If it turns out their version of "helpful" was wrong, they have a decline reason to guide them.
    – user154510
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 22:37
  • In the context of the site, "helpful" is a technical term with an explicit definition. Finding out your first flag wasn't "helpful" and thus not earning the shiny badge you wanted is a great way to confuse or frustrate people just learning the site.
    – Zelda
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 22:39
  • @BenBrocka I don't see how letting them think making crap flags are good is worse than telling them why their flag was declined, both for the site generally and for teaching them.
    – user154510
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 22:42
  • 1
    Someone on my site recently got this badge for the most unhelpful flag ever. Frustrating.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 3, 2013 at 17:52

2 Answers 2


I wrote these Data.SE queries Avg Behavior before earning Citizen Patrol and Median Behavior before earning Citizen Patrol

Which had these results

 Avg # Days Before Earning CP  |  313
 Avg # Badges Before EarningCP |  10
 Avg # Posts Before Earning CP |  57

 Med # Days Before Earning CP  |  246
 Med # Badges Before EarningCP |  8
 Med # Posts Before Earning CP |  28

I think its reasonable to say that the average user that earns CP isn't new and isn't flagging randomly just to get a badge. I think they either actively looked for something to flag or waited until they something to flag.

I suspect that those who do earn it with a crap flag wouldn't be incentivized in any case.

What would be interesting would be to find out what percentage of CP earning flags were useful. And how many CPs would be taken away if the rule was changed.

  • 1
    313 days? Wow. That seems to indicate the incentive isn't working at all.
    – user154510
    Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 1:15
  • Not to be pedantic, but I think a median might be more meaningful here. Ok, so I guess that was pedantic.
    – joran
    Commented Dec 10, 2011 at 6:41
  • 1
    @Joran I'll have to take your word for it since you seem to know a lot more about statistical analysis than I do (seriously a gold r badge???). So I've updated my answer to include the Median. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 15:57
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    Ha! Thanks for updating; I only mentioned it cause Matthew expressed some surprise at how long the time periods seemed, and it seemed likely to me that the average was being pulled up by a relatively small number of people. And they were, but 246 is still quite a long time, so I think you're point still holds.
    – joran
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 16:11

The problem is, we are encouraged to dismiss flags as "helpful" when in fact they are pretty much useless. Its the way the flag system is designed, which is no accident as the management wants to encourage flagging.citation needed

I'd say change it to twenty consecutive helpful flags. That would make you have to work for it, and would blow all the badge-seekers out of the water.

  • 10
    Sounds like a nice idea for a second bronze badge, and an absolutely terrible way to introduce a feature to people. Badges like this are super easy just to show people how to do things, like the first edit.
    – Zelda
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 22:36
  • Citation. I agree with Ben here though, this shouldn't be the entry-level version.
    – user154510
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 22:40

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