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I now consistently have the small orange button next to "review" (which both link to the same page) pointing out "3" or "4" but no actual items waiting for me when I click on it.

The tooltip ("~4 items to review remaining") gives a hint that the algorithm behind it cannot exactly detect how many items are present - but why? Has anybody seen this same behaviour on other SE websites?

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  • $\begingroup$ I've been bothered by this here in the past, up to the point where I kind of ignore it now (which is likely the opposite of its intent). The majority of the rest of my time on the StackExchange network is spent nowadays at StackOverflow, and it seems like at least when I click on the number there, there seem to be approximately that many review jobs waiting in the queue, +/- a few just because of the sheer number of visitors to that site vs. this one. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    May 18 '14 at 3:28
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This is my own answer on Skeptics to the same issue, heavily edited by Shog to add some details:

It's the number of reviews available to anyone. As of a couple weeks ago, anyone who has earned the moderator tools privilege is shown the total count of pending reviews in all queues rather than just the number of edits they can review.

You might be confused as you don't see any open reviews, the big issue is that the count is not personalized and ignores that you might have already reviewed all of the available stuff. It is also cached for several minutes between updates, although it will drop to reflect tasks completed during this time.

While this does reduce the usefulness of the number as a simple indicator of what is new, it does serve as an indication of when the site is in trouble: if you've reviewed all available items and the tasks remain in review for an extended period of time, then there's a problem: your reviews are effectively wasted until someone else (other users or moderators) go through and review the pending tasks as well.

There are some discussions on Meta Stack Exchange on whether this could be made less annoying.

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