** This is in its preparation stage **

We have got literally thousands of comments that need deleting, these comments fall into one of the following categories:

  • Comments saying "thanks", "+1", "this worked for me", etc
  • Comments saying "please add X into your post"
  • Comments replying to the above saying "edited X into my post"
  • Comments saying "nice edit", "lol @ edit description", etc

These do not do anything to improve the quality of our content and are just noise. Lots of noise, especially in the cases of some of the older questions we've got.

This aspect of the site has been neglected long enough, and it's time for action!

The methodology

It becomes apparent after further investigation that it is possible to stack obsolete flags on comments and these will be removed automagically by the system, without moderator intervention. Over the coming week I am going to collate a list of obsolete comments that need killing, and this question is mission control.

To ensure that these do not trouble our moderators with large numbers of flags (since these will sit in the moderator queue until each comment gains enough flags), this will be a heavily coordinated effort, unlike some of the previous cleanup efforts, requiring multiple users to be present and active so that we can kill off each comment without leaving any behind in the moderator flag queue.

The first phase will be completely manual using the Stack Exchange data explorer - I will be starting at literally the first post available on the site and working forward through every single comment manually to collate a list. There will be no algorithms involved, I intend to do this completely oldschool.

After we've got a list, these will be broken down into usable chunks and ordered by the number of flags required to get rid of the comment before being passed on to the volunteers so that they can be actioned.

How it works

As stated by Grace Note - obsolete flagging actually does work the same way behind the scenes as spam/offensive flagging, which I'm sure is news to... well, everyone. This means that flagging these comments requires the following criteria to be met:

successful deletion requires a total of (3 + (comment score/3)) flags

This means that a comment with no upvotes requires 3 obsolete flags to make it vanish.

To those brave few willing to take part

Since we've all got different flag weights/daily flag limits, this will need some coordination to ensure we don't get half way through a batch of obsolete comments only to find that we only have 2 people available with enough flags remaining, so anybody interested in taking part, please leave a comment with the number of flags you have available for comments.

I'm intending that we do this during the weekends, unlike some of the other cleanups we've done this isn't going to effect the front page or bump anything up, and provided we have enough people with enough flags available the moderators shouldn't see any remaining flags from this effort by the time we're done.

It's time to burn...

  • Please keep track of where you're obliterating stuff. Our tracking tools for comment activity are not quite up to snuff for this sort of thing, so it would be extraordinarily helpful that if this does go forward, that y'all use this thread to track where you're acting on.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:13
  • @GraceNote I intend to reuse the flagging javascript from Charcoal and post it along with blocks of 25-50 comment IDs, distributed to users that have sufficient flags to handle them. These comment IDs and their associated posts will be deleted once completed but will remain on the question - you'll essentially have a full list of all IDs removed as part of this process.
    – kalina
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:15
  • 17
    Can we put the brakes on this for a little while? Please? I'm just not sure why you seem to be in such a hurry here. Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:23
  • 1
    @LessPop_MoreFizz I'm guessing you didn't read the post...? After investigation by Grace this is no different from a tag wiki cleanup or tag burning.
    – kalina
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:24
  • 5
    @kalina I read it. I'm not sure what about my post implies that I didn't. The fact that you won't (in theory) be making more work for mods doesn't make this suddenly a much better idea. Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:26
  • I'm not interested in starting a long winded discussion on the merits of cleaning up the site. We have many other posts for that. This is stuff that needs cleaning up and it will take me a week or two to collate all of the comment IDs that need action anyway. You aren't going to find anybody else willing to go through every single comment on the site to collate this list, I don't think...
    – kalina
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:28
  • 6
    And again, I'm not saying don't do this, I am saying slow down. I didn't say I don't understand your motivation, I said I don't understand your haste. Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:38
  • I tell you what - when you're ready, come find me.
    – kalina
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:41
  • Kalina, perhaps there is an easier way to handle the obsolete comment finding? I've read through the past couple of discussions here, and I do have an idea: Instead of doing all the work yourself on making the list, why not see if people volunteer to help search? Perhaps break it up a tag section at a time first, to lessen the strain, and give people an easier way to double check your own findings. Along with that, it makes it more organized and less of a rush. This will be a long-ongoing project. Don't rush it. Try to plan it more and organize more.
    – LLF
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 1:24
  • At least try going tag-by-tag, or taking so many posts at a time. It will make it easier if it's broken up, so comments aren't missed in the flagging, and the comments can be more easily organized and checked.
    – LLF
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 1:26
  • There is no point in commenting on this. I've already requested this get deleted since the community doesn't want to do it (see negative votes)
    – kalina
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 1:29
  • 1
    You've had it up less than a day. You're rushing a bit. But whatever you say. Also, it does appear that the community does want them flagged as obsolete (meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/8367/…), just probably not in the way you're wanting to do it. Give it some more discussion with people.
    – LLF
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 1:50
  • There is no rush. If people wanted this effort to get past planning it wouldn't be down voted. Why people think something that's going to take a massive portion of my time is being rushed based on the content in this post is beyond me. You're not me, you can't qualify a statement like that without being me. Sorry.
    – kalina
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 1:54
  • 2
    No, I think you're rushing because you're not trying to plan it with the community. FOr all I know, you've been planning this for months. All I'm saying is two downvotes doesn't show community diconsent. It just shows two downvotes. It's just something that takes more planning and coordination, even if it would mostly take up your time with this. And I meant rushing a bit with closing the question. 9 hours is hardly enough time to get discussion on it.
    – LLF
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 1:57
  • 1
    To quote Shog to add to what I'm trying to say and make my statement clearer: ...work with the rest of the community here to develop something useful. Which includes give us time to discuss it with you too.
    – LLF
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 2:05

1 Answer 1


I cannot stress this enough: do not rely on simple pattern matching to identify obsolete comments.

Yes, a good many of these comments can be removed without hurting anything. But not everything that starts with "+1" or contains the word "edited" is noise. If you're not willing and able to vet these comments before flagging them, then don't flag them - come up with a more nuanced criteria and let others review that before continuing.

If you can come up with something that has a very high accuracy rate, we can easily remove multiple comments in a short period of time. But if there are false positives, then each flag must be checked individually, reviewed in context, and potentially declined - this greatly increases the time and effort involved for anyone wishing to participate in this.

I'm happy to see you're finally taking this to meta... DON'T STOP WITH THIS POST! Share the criteria you're using, be responsive to input, and work with the rest of the community here to develop something useful.

  • 4
    Don't worry, I will be starting at post 0 and working through every single comment manually to collate a list. There will be no algorithms involved, I intend to do this completely oldschool.
    – kalina
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:34
  • 1
    That's acceptable.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 16:51
  • 1
    @kalina Old school is best school.
    – Sterno
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 17:36
  • 2
    kalina requested the question to be deleted; I don't think meta.arqade is the right place to tell people not to rely on scripts to blindly automate ALL the things. That said, the undelete button is right up there if you feel like this is important enough to remain.
    – badp
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 9:35
  • You know where the migrate function is if you think this belongs somewhere else.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 14:30
  • 1
    I'm sorry, but this answer doesn't seem to relate to the question all too much (anymore). It comes across as accusatory, rather than general advice. Undeleting the question just for this answer to remain seems rather out of place.
    – user98085
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:06
  • 1
    I'm sorry, @FEichinger, I wish I didn't have to keep writing this answer, and I wish I could've been a bit more diplomatic about it, but... Diplomacy got us nothing but drama. If folks - including yourself - are going to argue that we've been unclear in our guidance regarding these flag campaigns, then it is imperative that there is public, easy-to-find, easy-to-reference guidance. I would've thought most of what I wrote here was obvious, but since - per your own words - it was not, this must remain.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:22
  • @Shog9 And I don't disagree that it needs to be put clear and public - but as I said, this answer reads accusatory instead, and does not relate to the question all too much.
    – user98085
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:24
  • 2
    Stop splitting hairs, @FEichinger. The proper place for this was in chat, when the folks involved with it were discussing it and several of us told them what to be careful about, who to listen to, etc. Then I woke up yesterday and found a bunch of folks like yourself expressing some righteous indignation that this guidance wasn't public and explicit enough. Well, now it is. And it's going to stay that way. So far as I know, you weren't involved in any of this apart from all those uninformed accusations yesterday, but since you did ask for it... You're welcome.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:32
  • And I'll reiterate: I have no problem with this being public and explicit. I appreciate it. What I don't like is the tone and placement of it.
    – user98085
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:35
  • 4
    Yeah, well, if you can't tell, I don't always care for the tone certain people take on meta either, @FEichinger. Sometimes you just have to suck it up. This answer accomplished what it was intended to accomplish, after much, much more diplomatic guidance failed miserably. I'm not wasting any more time on subtlety when it just makes life harder for the moderators here and other members of my team.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:38

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