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I was thinking about "Disputed" flag status in the past few weeks, I'd like to share these thoughts and maybe someone could clarify something about that.


It occurs to me that the "helpful" flag status means that you have helped the moderators spot a problem that needs fixing (e.g. comments that were posted as answers, spam, accounts that need merging, etc.).

On the other hand, "declined" status implies that while your action was trying to help (often, I'm excluding the case of "revenge" on someone) your judgement was not correct - in the eyes of the moderator.

Disputed flags make a strange beast. To my best understanding a flag is disputed when you flag it and a 10k+ user claimed it to be invalid for some reason. After accumulating several invalidations the flag gets disputed and clears off; or it is possible that a moderator will clear the flag and again it gets disputed.

However the invalidators also see the flag in their flagging history and it also ends up being "disputed". This is the part I am having trouble with.

Suppose the system auto-flagged a very good, but awfully short and LaTeX-y answer as low-quality (which happens more often then one should hope for). When I invalidates the flag, I actually signal the moderator "Hey, this flag is just wrong!". While I don't know what data on the people who flagged is available, the fact that someone point this is an invalid flag should signal that there is a good possibility that it is in fact invalid.

Yet, I do not get credit for that. In fact, no one does. Slowly in the past few weeks my "disputed" flags count rose quickly, and I feel that especially when countering automatic flags there is no reason for dispute.

If the flag got invalidated (either by a group of users, or by a moderator) then my contribution was ultimately helpful. If it was not helpful (e.g. I invalidated the flag, but a moderator did accept it as helpful) then my contribution was declined.


Seeing how this is not the current view of disputed flags, I was wondering what in my train of thoughts went off the tracks of the SE overlords who designed this; and if nothing went off, could we somehow revise the philosophy behind the flag status?

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The first important point is that it doesn't matter whether an automatic community flag is declared valid or not. It is cast by a bot which is completely unaffected by flag weight, it makes absolutely no difference whether you validate its flags or not.

Disputing a flag is a message to the moderators and 10k users acting on flags. You tell them that you think the flag was cast in error, that you disagree with it and think it should not be acted on.

The mechanics behind it are a bit strange in some cases, I agree. If a flag is disputed, it's not counted as helpful no matter what the mods do. This is not an ideal way of dealing with it, but it makes some sense. It means that there was some disagreement over the flag, completely ignoring that flag then for counting helpful flags/flag weight is the easiest way to deal with that disagreement. Doing anything else will quickly get very complicated, and it's probably not worth it to increase the complexity of flag handling that way.

The part that you get the wrong message when you dispute the flag (= the same message the user casting the flag does) is a plain bug that hasn't been fixed yet. It's just completely confusing to get the decline message if you disputed the flag that was declined.

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