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As per this discussion, our moderation team's current stance on flagging minor comments (such as "Thanks!" or "I've edited this now.") is as follows:

Please don't bother flagging all comments that thank somebody for editing. Please don't bother flagging all comments that notify that something have been edited. [...]

(I have stripped the last two sentences, as they seem out of place for the purposes of this discussion.)

So, let's ask this: Do we, as a community, think such comments should remain, or are they indeed clutter that should be removed instead ?

And, by extension, are there any compelling arguments against this flagging? - since, clearly, this appears to be a big deal.

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    Personally I say burn them, unless its the OP's comment saying it worked and they didn't mark the answer as accepted. We have enough drive by questions left hanging by one-time users, leaving their comment in place would help us 'close it off' to a point – Robotnik Feb 4 '14 at 13:23
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    In the thread that you have linked, I wrote that I believe these sorts of comments need to be flagged and removed - so saying "our moderation team's current stance" is not true. Also I think it's obvious from the context badp (who you have quoted) is referring to bulk-flagging these which is the problem. – Oak Feb 4 '14 at 14:28
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Let's ignore the amount of flags in question - bulk flagging is bothersome and that bother is certainly indicative of how things went by in the other discussion but it's also tangential - the actual reasoning that the mods went with, and that I agreed with, is about the comments themselves.


If you see a comment like that which is completely worthless and doesn't contribute to the post, then that is entirely appropriate to flag. But what makes it not worthless? This isn't always inherent. It depends a lot on what we define as signal.

In this case, I'd like to purport that some requests for clarification are themselves signal. There are questions where if I post an answer, and someone pokes in a comment "Did you talk about X?", the thought behind needing to ask about X is valuable. X may be a critical component of the solution that is useful.

In turn, the author sees that X is missing and so he edits it in, and then says in response "Thanks, I edited X in". Now, that comment doesn't do much on its own. But without that comment, the initial signal is unanswered - no one has a direct answer to whether or not X is spoken of. As such, this meager edit comment actually turns into a kind of co-signal, one that symbiotically exists with the existing comment to say "Hey, X is a thing I should've talked about, so I did!".

But that then says, "should we delete the exchange as a whole afterwards? If the edit's done, the question needn't be asked," I says, this isn't always the case. Sometimes the exchange is still helpful signal to have on the situation. In some cases, it speaks to the importance of X, it almost serves as an extra highlight to the presence of X. In fact, like right here in this very answer, FEichinger asks me about this very passage I am writing now, I think it's actually something really important and should've been included in the first revision, but it passed my mind. I think it's valuable signal to keep that FEichinger had to ask me this. There are incidents on the site that will mirror this, probably with less grand gestures but in the spirit of "X is actually that important to point out" or "X is something to be aware of" and that sort of jazz.

That is a kind of signal we may or may not like. I like it, though. Not every request for clarification is actually useful to keep, but some are. I think the ones that are shouldn't be flagged or otherwise taken care of. But if it's pretty clear that we don't really need it, then we can flag them.

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    That raises the next question - if the "I've edited this in." appears, doesn't that render both the question-comment and its answer obsolete? – user98085 Feb 4 '14 at 13:27
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    @FEichinger ...criminy these days are just filled with things between the lines that I need to be clearer about. Let me edit that in. And, to wit, don't consider this exchange obsolete afterwards. ♪ – Grace Note Feb 4 '14 at 13:31
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I think that obsolete and too chatty comments should be flagged and deleted, because they are just as bad as non-answers. When I search for an answer and find a relatively old one, I read through the comments to ensure the answer is still correct. But if the comments are just a bunch of "thanks" or "edited", or even a full discussion barely related to the post, I'll have wasted a bunch of my time on content that should be short and informative, not chit-chat or thanking.

That said, comments should not be mass-flagged without discussing it with a moderator first to alert them and make sure there's time to handle a lot of them. Few is fine.

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Well, like MSO is showing, casual flagging of comments should be the way to go. The question also specifically says that, as Grace remarked it, the given "signal" has been treated before flagging.

Also, the MSO FAQ, states that :

Comments that are flagged by multiple users are deleted automatically. The number of flags needed is based on the comment's score. It currently takes "3 + (Score / 3)" flags to delete a comment.

So if enough people are performing the tidying task, these should be removed even before a mod would act on it.

Also, Bill the Lizard gave information on how to flag comments "en masse" in this answer: i.e. using one flag to flag multiple/all comments.

Another helpful MSO question got answered by Marc, saying that flags are basically made for this.

One argument that could be raised against "flagging all the things" would be the work required to treat them. From my point of view, I do have a handful of 15 comment flags. Given the fact that not that many people bother to flag comments for tidying purpose, I doubt this is gonna overwhelming the whole moderator team. If that many people were to flag too, the more people flags comments, the more likely there are to disappear by themselves.

To conclude, I do agree with the flagging of such comments. Trimming the useless comments on questions makes the site more readable, and offer a better place to real useful ones. Flagging "once for all" should also be used whenever possible.

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    I'm pretty sure - and that's the way we've always been aware of it - the auto-deletion for comments only applies for spam and offensive, like any other flag. Also, this meta question is very specifically not about bulk flagging, but whether or not to flag these comments at all - as clearly, a moderator disagrees. – user98085 Feb 4 '14 at 14:16
  • Just to note, yeah, only offensive and spam auto-delete. – Grace Note Feb 4 '14 at 14:27
  • @FEichinger yeah I have read that indeed. However, the efficiency of our moderator team is relevant to the community well being. So despite this being out of the question, it is still important to me, regardless of them agreeing or not. – M'vy Feb 4 '14 at 14:27
  • @GraceNote well, FAQ might be a bit unclear then. Might also be a future feature-request if it's not already. – M'vy Feb 4 '14 at 14:29
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    Hm, after checking with this internally, it turns out that every not-custom flag on a comment actually counts for that algorithm. So actually, obsolete and chatty do lead to automatic action if stacked appropriately. – Grace Note Feb 4 '14 at 14:56
  • @Grace, so, the best course of action is for everyone to mass-flag things so the mods don't even need to deal with them? – Billy Mailman Feb 4 '14 at 14:59
  • @BillyMailman If an organized effort is being done, the better approach would be to organize a more concrete effort - look at what the group is trying to do and discuss on Meta a plan of attack to handle them. This can be useful because there's no strong history for comment activities (it is, indeed, quite weaksauce), so having that meta post as a reference in case things go south is extremely helpful. If there isn't an organized effort, then flagging as normal is still appropriate, I'd say. – Grace Note Feb 4 '14 at 15:02
  • @Grace Does this stacking follow the same 3 + (score/3) requirement, even for obsolete flags? – kalina Feb 4 '14 at 15:46
  • @kalina Yes. All non-custom comment flags follow the same formula. – Grace Note Feb 4 '14 at 16:03

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