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I'm going through trying to clean up comments on UX.SE. There are a ton of them that simply don't need to be there. They are either too chatty in that people are trying to be funny or make witty remarks or they simply aren't constructive.

However, I've been getting declined a lot recently when I flag comments.

I'm obviously missing something. Is there a guideline to follow that will keep me from flagging comments that are just going to get marked as declined? I'm trying to helpful, not waste my or the moderators' time.

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Comment flags, much like comments themselves, are pretty subjective. When a comment is flagged the mods see this in the flag dashboard with the question it belongs to, but not in-situ with other comments - just the comment itself and the flag reason along side it (it doesn't even show who flagged it - comment flagging is mostly* anonymous, even to mods).

Because comments are second-class citizens compared to the real posts that's how they're treated as far as moderation goes too. If it's a blatantly offensive / spammy post, or if it cites a link that is since dead then it'll just get deleted as that's usually a no-brainer.

In order to judge whether it's a chatty / obsolete / not constructive we have to go into the question itself, read through all the comments and see if it fits in context with everything in there or not. If we just act on the flag itself then it could leave the rest of the comments making no sense depending on whether the deleted comment related to any other comments, or if other comments are responses to the flagged one.

As far as how I personally handle comment flags; if I don't see a big need to delete it then I'd probably just leave it as-is. They're usually not doing any harm to the site and they give the site a bit more of a community feel, and deleting the odd comment in a post might break up the flow of the rest of the comments, thereby making them all nonsensical. I even tend to leave comments alone that criticize the OP of the question (those sort of comments get flagged quite a bit) as if it's a valid criticism then I see it as a valid comment (even if they can be a bit sharp sometimes).

My advice for comment flagging - save it for the really obviously useless comments (like the "+1 great post!" variety, or anything that is just blatantly offensive) and just leave the rest of them there.

Finally; if you're getting comment flags declined then don't take it personally - we don't know who it is that flagged them (that's not the case for Question / Answer flags though).

* I say 'mostly', but we can see in a users profile what their flagging stats among other things (so we can check if people are misusing the privilege, standard mod stuff) but when a comment is flagged itself it doesn't say who flagged it. That only shows for questions/answers that get flagged.

  • Ok that really helps my understanding of how that all works. I didn't' know they were anonymous or that you didn't see them inline with other comments. I appreciate it. – Code Maverick Feb 18 '14 at 14:08
  • @CodeMaverick: Yeah, even if we visit the post itself we just get an alert saying 'one of these comments has a flag against it' and we have to try to figure out which one it is! Lots of cross-referencing for handling comment flags, unfortunately. – JonW Feb 18 '14 at 14:12
  • Comments referencing previous edits of the post (eg "there's a typo in X!" "thanks fixed!") are generally deleted if they're flagged too, as "obsolete" – Ben Brocka Feb 18 '14 at 14:28
  • ".. not doing any harm" - I kind of disagree with this. If a comment wastes someone's time then it does cause harm. It's junk that should be removed. The community feel which you mention could help this site grow faster, but at a cost of more junk (in comments). E.g. sites like SO, programmersSE , physicsSE always remove such kind of comments. – Fermi paradox Aug 25 '15 at 8:57

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