A question I had about the "helpful flags"-field in the ongoing elections:

Would it be an idea to not only list the number of flags deemed helpful, but also the total number of flags (or the number of flags declined)?

To illustrate: If someone flags a total of 200 posts and 105 were deemed helpful, I'd say that would be a worse statistic than having 95 out of 100 flags deemed useful. But right now, voters only see the numbers 105 against 95, leading them to "prefer" the user with 105 helpful flags.

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    $\begingroup$ Related: discussion of invalid flags. $\endgroup$ – 75064 May 17 '13 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ In particular, the comments made on that answer. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin May 17 '13 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ @75064 and Lord_Farin: Thanks, I was not aware of the comments on that answer. I understand that some flags may be rejected for wrong reasons due to problems with the system, but getting an idea of the percentage of approved flags would be nice. Unless the system is biased against a particular user, the percentages should still be about the same. $\endgroup$ – TMM May 17 '13 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also, in comments here Noah Snyder observed that about half of his flags were declined; apparently during a dispute with a former moderator. So there's that as well, a different kind of "problem with the system". $\endgroup$ – 75064 May 17 '13 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ @75064: That does sound like an exception though, and those few users could always explain their "bad statistics" during the elections. But as I was typing this comment (in the primary phase) the only field that was shown was "helpful flags", which suggests this is the most important field of all. If it really is, then I would like to see this number in a proper context, with a percentage attached to it. $\endgroup$ – TMM May 17 '13 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ There seem to be some weird cases in the status of some flags: I recently flagged an answer that was not an answer, it was removed by a moderator, and still my flag's status is disputed. I don't flag much, so I don't know how often this really happens. But it happens. $\endgroup$ – Julien May 17 '13 at 20:27
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    $\begingroup$ Of relevance here is the announced complete overhaul of the flagging system, e.g. in this MSO thread. This will hopefully turn the accept/decline/disputed ratio into a more accurate statistic. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin May 17 '13 at 20:43

I don't think the number of declined flags is useful enough without additional context. There are too many different reasons why flags are declined, the guidance to mods on when to validate and when to decline has changed a lot over time, and the already mentioned problems with multiple flags on a post make the number rather hard to interpret.

As long as the number of declined flags is much smaller than the number of valid flags, any comparison is pretty much meaningless. The difference in a user with 1/200 valid flags and a user with 5/200 flags could be just which moderator handled a bunch of flags. My fear would be that voters attach more meaning to small differences there than warranted. The voters can't see the full flag record, and I don't think the number of declined flags alone gives a good impression of the flagging quality of a specific user.

  • $\begingroup$ I guess under the circumstances, only showing the number of helpful flags may indeed be the best option. It still seems a bit odd to me why so much importance is given to the amount of helpful flags, if the flagging system is so messed up... Anyway, it is clear to me now (thanks to you and others in the comments) that including these extra statistics about flagging may have several downsides too. $\endgroup$ – TMM May 19 '13 at 18:20

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