This discussion came up here, by a comment from Oded:

We are discussing internally whether there is a good reason to hide this value from everyone. If not, it might do a comeback.

I know it is a duplicate of Showing number of helpful flags in user profile, but that one doesn't have an answer of one of the community managers, and the discussion seems to come up again.

So what do you think? Should helpful flags (or even number of declined flags) be public?

  • 4
    If not the actual numbers, maybe the percentage? ie. 75% helpful flags - and don't show the actual numbers - it gives other users a sense of how much to 'trust' the user, without giving out too much info... Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:02
  • Agree, but that number would be terrible if you have 1/5 declined (opposed to 1/100). Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:03
  • 5
    True... how about only showing the % after 50 flags? Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:03
  • It's show for mod candidates - not a reason to show it to everyone, but another inconsistency... Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 22:29
  • @benisuǝqbackwards: it is currently not shown for mod candidates; in its place is a new candidate score. Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 20:58

4 Answers 4


The helpful flags count is not private or sensitive information that users should need to hide from other users. Anyone can already tell if a specific user has hit the 80 or 500 mark by simply looking through their list of badges. The helpful flags count is really just like the votes count. The flags that have actually been cast are still private - users can't access that information. Both counts would be purely for statistical purposes as far as other users are concerned.

I believe the reason it was hidden previously was merely an act of reducing clutter. It was jumbled into a table of a bunch of other stuff and it wasn't vitally important for other users to see it, so it simply wasn't shown. With how it ties into the new profile layout being pushed, there is now a line specifically reserved for the helpful flags count which will otherwise always be empty when viewing another user's profile. So now hiding it has somewhat an opposite effect - we're making that statistic box look silly by not showing it, creating empty space that will never be filled.

If the helpful flags count really can't be shown to the public for some reason, then it should be moved somewhere else and a different statistic that can be shown to the public should be placed on that line.

  • I think this statistic is in the same league as the review stats, while there is no good or bad actually. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:10
  • 17
    I'm a bit worried about people starting flagging more just to get that number up, and then raising even more drama on the metas when their flags get declined in droves. (But apart from that, I don't think there is any "privacy" issue here. No objection to displaying it.)
    – Mat
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:13
  • 1
    @Mat: There's no motivation to bump up your helpful flag count aside from the already existing badges. The people who care will only care until they get the max badge, and then flagging more does nothing for them. Basically, the situation is the same with or without showing the number. Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 20:18

I just hope this doesn't lead to the same arguments that happened when flag weight was made public. People obsessed over individual declined flags in an effort to have a higher number than others. Moderators became afraid of handling classes of borderline flags because of the anger that they were presented with when flags were declined.

Flag weight was eventually removed as a public metric, replaced with privately-visible flag stats. The only time these are made public is during moderator elections, when stats like this are directly relevant. Even there, I have concerns about people gaming the numbers to make themselves look better using mass-flagging queries for comments or the like.

If these numbers are made public, and people take them as another kind of "score", will we see an increase in shotgunned flags on irrelevant content? At the very least, I'd like to see comment flags removed from the list of public helpful flags so that we don't get inundated with extremely-low-priority flags on these based on some query.

  • 18
    But this is just a number of helpful flags. Not a percentage. My number says 2017, but for all you know I have flagged over 4000 times, which would make for a rather skewed rate. But that's not public. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:13
  • 7
    The main problem with flag weight was that the number could decrease. And declined flags did make it drop very fast. I don't imagine users would be upset nearly as much if their count didn't increase by 1 versus suddenly dropped by 10.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:16
  • 2
    @MartijnPieters - That also has a downside. If you don't show the number of declined flags, someone can flag everything in sight and gradually increase that number by having even a small percentage of those accepted. Yes, they may hit rate limits and temporary bans, but inaccurate flagging is still ultimately rewarded. You're right, though, that the accepted / declined ratio behind flag weight was what caused the outrage over individual declined flags. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:17
  • @BradLarson The mods can flag-ban you if you truly mis-behave.
    – yo'
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 17:07
  • 10
    @yo' - No, we can't. The system will only apply a temporary ban from flagging under certain circumstances, requiring many and a high percentage of declined flags in a short period. Trust me, I'd love to be able to manually ban specific users from flagging. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 17:14
  • @BradLarson Ah ok. Now, this is bad.
    – yo'
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 17:15
  • @bluet - The thing is, as I pointed out in my linked answer, only recently were comment flags made to count toward a helpful flag count. They used to be broken out as a separate thing and not count as standard flags. I don't believe they should be treated at the same level as the other flags, since they tend to be of a much lower priority than others. Having us go around and delete hundreds of "Thanks" comments on four-year-old posts isn't really the best use of our time as long as there are much more pressing issues. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 18:02
  • 11
    @bluet They've been focusing on refining the existing moderator tools for handling flags. They've been making a lot of changes and there's a lot more changes to come in the near future. Once the moderators have proper tools to handle flags more efficiently, then they can focus more on giving tools to regular users to help them. I would love to see a comment flags review queue so the community can moderate them - moderators really don't need to be involved.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 18:35

As someone with over 25k helpful flags on one site, with 19k of them being comment flags, I would say that we shouldn't show this info.

Why? Because the system is clogged up as it is on some sites. Encouraging more people to increase that number would only clog it up more. Which would likely cause more posts like this.

So unless a comment review queue gets implemented and/or we get more moderators on some sites and/or stricter flag ban algorithms and/or a lot more word/phrase auto-nukes on 1 flag this should not be implemented.

We currently don't even show the number of close votes a user has cast. This number can be guestimated by looking at a user's close queue review count, SEDE queries, but even then it won't show nearly the correct amount in most cases.

  • 10
    I'm not so sure showing it to the public would cause that. Users already do that because they can see the number themselves, and that's apparently enough motivation for them to want it to increase. Showing it to the public seems to be an irrelevant factor.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 17:27

TL;DR: No.

Providing numbers and badges and reputation counts are all ways of gamifying the system. You gamify things to encourage certain behaviours, and I lean towards the side of not encouraging flagging. Flagging is something that should be done when necessary, but should not be actively encouraged.

On SE we want to encourage questions (especially good questions), answers (especially good answers) and comments. I would not want to encourage flags; what I would want is people to care enough about the system to flag when needed, when there is no direct reward for flagging.

(I might even back the removal of the badges associated with flagging under this argument, although that's not the topic under discussion.)

  • 6
    This is kind of like telling a child that they shouldn't worry about showering and cleaning their room, they should only worry about their school work and getting good grades.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 17:37
  • 2
    Really? I see it as the opposite - there are things that need doing even when there is no direct reward for them. Shower and clean your room, period, whether or not your allowance is contingent on it. Flag as necessary because you want to help the site, not because you get directly rewarded for it.
    – dcsohl
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 18:18
  • 4
    But we want people to feel rewarded for it. The entire goal of the flagging system here and what makes it unique is that we give feedback to the users. It's not just cast a flag and maybe someday something will happen without you ever knowing about it. We want users to have that confidence in what they're doing, a good pat on the back, and a "good job, keep up the good work!" Some people require encouragement in order to get them to do things, and without encouraging all those users whom have contributed to this community with flags, who knows what kind of sinkhole we'd be in now.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 18:31
  • 2
    @dcsohl: Specifically not rewarding someone for doing something good because it's more necessary (?) than something else you do reward seems the height of perverse incentive design. And skipping the reward just because it's never been rewarded before doesn't seem very sensible either. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 20:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .