These days I come to the site in the morning and I usually see 10, 15, even 25 posts in the mod-queue with flags waiting to be handled. When I started (two+ years ago) it was usually more like 2 or 3 posts.
I wondered aloud how much of an uptick there'd been in flagging recently, and SE staff were kind enough to rip off a quick visualization:
That's count of flags per month on the vertical axis, month on the horizontal, and a legend of the stacked lines below. Even without clicking in you can see that flags are up quite a bit recently.
The huge spike toward the end is because of a spam wave we had at the time.
I don't think there's anything wrong here. But this uptick in flagging does lead to a commensurate increase in moderation activity, and most of that activity occurs in a behind-the-scenes way that you-all can't really see or know about. (Except inasmuch as it affects your posts or flags.) So I wanted to get it out there publicly.
Some unordered observations of my own:
- First, note that the number which caught my attention is actually posts with active flags, not just flags. So while commenters are almost certainly right that some increase in absolute number of flags (as graphed above) would be due to people flagging whole threads, there's also just more posts receiving flags.
- Off the top of my head I'd say ~90% of the flags I see are valid/helpful. So this is (in my opinion) good work the community's doing.
- We know the userbase is growing, basically any way you measure it. Some of this increase in flagging is to be expected, then.
- This increase, though, does seem to outpace userbase growth. We've something like tripled our flag-rate in the last year or two, whereas users and posts are up on the order of 10% year over year.
- That thick reddish bar that's ~half of the flags from 2013-mid2017, then disappears... remember they renamed some of the comment flagging options? Those red ones are "obsolete"; the teal bar at the very top these days is "no longer needed." I.e. they're the same flag: comments that can be cleaned up having served their purpose.
- The flag I most often decline is Not An Answer, generally because someone's flagging a poor answer as not an answer. My understanding (derived from this meta.SE post and from my early declined NAA flags being explained to me by mxy/SSD) is that NAA is used for posts that don't attempt to address the question: gibberish, new questions, riffs on a theme raised elsewhere, &c.
- The other flag I decline a lot is when some comments are flagged No Longer Needed (NLN) but they've only been around for ten or fifteen minutes. Sometimes even those are obviously trashable. But when there's good commentary that appears to be helping posters and readers I'm loath to trash it too quickly. After a few days of inactivity, definitely. After a few hours, often not.