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Chat flags are handled fast. So fast they're often gone before I click the little flag notification. Comment flags are handled slow. Only mods can see them and they're quite low priority. Like chat flags they can be auto-handled if enough flags pile up...but that's not a common situation.

Solution? Show comment flags to 10k users and allow them to be acted on more like chat flags; users can add a flag to valid flags to help bring bad comments to their doom, and users can mark flags invalid just like Chat flags. "Other" flags would still show up for moderator-only intervention, but Spam/Offensive/Chatty/Obsolete comments could easily be handled by the community...if only they could see them.

Show context to allow users to see the Post that was commented on and all the other comments. This helps for when it's hard to tell if a post is irrelevant/ect or not. It could ideally be inline, just like Review.

Marking a flag down seems more risky, I don't think it's essential to this proposal but I think it could help. My idea is to require flags + 1 "disputed" flags on a comment flag to cancel flags. This would allow invalid flags to be cleared from the queue by non-mods, but would always require more people to agree against a flag, basically so just one user can never invalidate a flag. The chat system works well for clearing posts like this, and unlike chat flags there's less of an out-of-context problem with on-site comment flags.

Now, not everyone loves chat flags, but keep in mind all the negatives don't apply to on-site flags.

Unlike chat flags these flags:

  • Don't bug uninterested users; these are only for 10k users on the site who are looking at the mod queue. Chat flags are annoying because you can't escape them.
  • Don't accidentally suspend people. No grief about "why was I suspended" because the worst that happens is a comment is deleted. Comments are lightweight anyway.
  • Don't cause a "blue rush" or surge of moderators/users trying to find out the context of the flag. Viewing a chat room to see a flagged message can be disruptive. Viewing a comment flag is silent and invisible

This post indicates that comment flags for 10k users used to exist but the functionality was removed; I think the reason is bunk. Comment flags are easy to handle, and that's why the community should be able to handle them. Especially with Stack Overflow's ever-growing flag queue, offloading easy, non-sensitive work onto 10k users seems perfect. Mods have bigger things to worry about than 100 "Too Chatty" flags, frankly.

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I don't know much about the history, but I'm guessing that flagging of comments is now more or less reserved for the actual participants in the post, rather than the entire community. The worst comments wind up in the mod queue, and I can assure you these flags are quite mundane; the community is already bored with the edit queue, a far less mundane use of their time. :| –  Robert Harvey Jun 29 '12 at 15:27
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I rather like this idea, but... It's probably worth noting that the behavior of chat flags isn't exactly universally loved. –  Shog9 Jun 29 '12 at 15:28
    
@RobertHarvey but with the flag queue you can delete stuff! Deleting stuff is exciting! That's why I became a mod! –  Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 15:32
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@Shog9 I'm well aware, but these flags wouldn't annoy all users on the network and wouldn't result in accidental suspensions, and wouldn't result in a "blue rush" of mods entering whatever chatroom has a flag. I don't think any of the negatives of Chat Flags apply off the top of my head –  Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 15:32
    
If you would auto-suspend users on SE sites when a comment flag is validated and if you would show the comment flags prominently for every user of the whole SE network, not only the site, then the comparison would be valid. The problem with chat flags is not the basic mechanism described in this post here. –  Mad Scientist Jun 29 '12 at 15:33
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@Ben: you're quite right... We would have to make comment flags 100x more annoying for this to have any hope of working. Hmm... Maybe we could repurpose the "Case of the Mondays" gal as a comment flag notification... –  Shog9 Jun 29 '12 at 15:42
    
@Shog9 Debbie downer (meant as a response to that idea and your comment in general :P) –  Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 15:57
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@Shog9 Jon Skeet wanted more rep/day, so get him to act on 200 comment flags for increasing the rep threshold by 100 for that day (and so on in blocks of 200). –  Lorem Ipsum Jun 29 '12 at 15:58
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Skeet must be at a point where he could go days without logging in and still hit the rep cap every single day. That gives me an idea for a new badge: exceed the rep cap on a day you didn't log in. –  Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 16:00
    
The first paragraph of this is a little deluded. Chat flags aren't handled fast because 10k users can see them; they're handled fast because they're very rare and when they come up the ~50 network mods that are on chat at the time see them immediately –  Michael Mrozek Jun 29 '12 at 16:45
    
@MichaelMrozek network users can also act quite quickly when given the chance; I've seen The Bridge handle flags very quickly, and invalid flags can get slammed down very fast –  Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 18:49
    
Is there any point in removing to a storage area any comment tagged as offensive by more than one person or by a > n rep user? They need only be reviewed and restored if there is a protest. Guilty until proven innocent in other words. –  Remou Jun 29 '12 at 20:00
    
@Remou too easy to abuse IMO, and the flagging system is very much skewed toward allowing some invalid flags. It'd be easy to hide LOTS of comments for a short time...with almost no accountability, since comment flags don't show their owners. –  Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 21:29
    
If you're going to show context you'd need to show deleted comments too since it's possible the flags would come in bunches and some would get removed before others. If some got removed but not others the context would be totally lost. –  Flexo Jul 20 '12 at 21:43

3 Answers 3

There has been a recent MSO question from Undo that would have been helped by this question.

Could we have some consensus on how to flag bunches of obsolete comments?

I think having a 10k review queue for regular comment flags would be a great improvement. Having the ability to review comment flags would help share moderation responsibility with the rest of the site's community.


Some suggestions in order to make this workable:

  • Context needs to be provided around the comment, so the reviewer can understand the ramification (if any) of removing the comment. Context would be the original post, seeing the "last edited" notice on the post, and surrounding comments.

  • Tally the existing flags against the comment, and potentially indicate the number of additional flags required in order to remove the comment.

  • Allow reviewers to use all of their daily allowance with comment flags. If 10k+ userA can flag 100 comments in a day, then allow 10k+ reviewerB to have up to 100 concurring flags to support what userA flagged.

  • I don't know if a "disagree" response is really required at this point for comment flagging. It seems like extra, unnecessary overhead when the point is to help clear out the ephemeral aspects of the sites. Just let the reviewer skip that particular comment and move on to the next in the queue.

  • Likewise, I don't think we need the gamification aspects like we have with the main review queues. We don't need badges (gasp!); we don't need public rankings; we don't need public history of comment flag reviews. We just need to get rid of the garbage, ephemeral comments.

  • There would be bonus points for this review mechanism if it could push the "rude / offensive" comment flags to the front of the review queue so they are handled more urgently than the other flags.

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If comment flags are skipped not "disagree"ed then surely an incorrectly flagged comment would just hang around forever, being skipped by thousands of users –  Richard Tingle Dec 5 '13 at 16:39
    
@RichardTingle - Sorry, but I don't quite follow. A "skipped" comment could still be reviewed & removed by others. Alternately a mod could still clear the flag. I just see a skip as removing it from an individual reviewer's review queue. I didn't make a connection with longevity of the flag. My apologies for not understanding, but would you please clarify your comment? –  GlenH7 Dec 5 '13 at 16:43
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I mean that if "perfectly valid comment" is flagged all the 10K users currently reviewing will have to review and skip it until a mod eventually clears it (as a 10k could only agree or skip). Whereas if there was "disagree" it could leave the queue on its own without mod involvement –  Richard Tingle Dec 5 '13 at 16:50
    
Got it now, and that's more clear. I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other on having a disagree option. I think the best option would be to look over the statistics on comment flags. If there is a non-trivial number of flags that are dismissed then we should have a disagree button. Otherwise, if that doesn't happen all that often, then I wouldn't expend the effort to add in the functionality. So I would let past history dictate the need for that option. –  GlenH7 Dec 5 '13 at 16:55

Quick critique in response to Undo's plaintive bounty...

First, this isn't a bad idea... For some types of flags. The "chat" method works really well when it comes to handling bad stuff that's easily recognizable - in fact, we already use a broadly similar technique to handle VLQ flags!

But when it comes to "noise", "obsolete" or "too chatty" it would be a huge waste of time at best, and likely result in more frustration than benefit for the worst-case scenarios. Remember, these flags often require the flag-handler to:

  • Evaluate the context in which the flagged comments were posted: other comments, the age of the post on which they were posted, the age of the comments themselves, and even the content of the post in some cases.

  • Remove multiple comments - sometimes even all comments - in order to avoid leaving a broken conversation thread laying around, or appearing to show favoritism toward one author over another.

This would require a lot more flags and a lot more people handling them. And for what? A few noisy comments? To get rid of something that might waste a few readers' time, we're now guaranteeing that a large number of highly-active, highly-privileged users must spend time dealing with them. I don't think this is a very good trade-off.

Of course, it's not a great use of moderator time either.

I'm not declining this suggestion, because I think it would work really well for certain types of comment flags, in particular "rude or offensive" but possibly also "not constructive" if we can do a better job of defining what that actually means. But for the rest, I think we need a more automated system:

I propose we increase our information density by hiding comments that are not bad, but just trivial and likely obsolete.

(emphasis mine)

The goal of that proposal is to enlist readers in the process of determining which comments are shown; they're the ones that benefit / suffer as a consequence of them, after all. The proposed strategy builds on the system we already have in place for determining which comments are shown in very long threads (or on questions with many answers). It requires that a good amount of signal is generated by the readers as to which comments are important, however - right now, comment voting is fairly rare... possibly because it seems fairly useless. To that end, we'll be running a series of experiments over the next few months to see if we can increase reader engagement in "moderating" noisy comments.

Stay tuned...

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Thanks! I agree with just about everything there, except for the part about 'highly-active, highly-privileged users must spend time dealing with them.' As a decently privileged user on Meta and 4k on another beta site, there often isn't really anything to use those high privileges on, and I would gladly review a bunch of comments if it meant they go away. I'm sure that's different on SO(FU?), but it's just my two cents. –  Undo Nov 29 '13 at 15:58
    
There are almost always areas where you can burn time and privilege, if you look around. IMHO, just about any edit is a better use of time than reviewing obsolete comments - particularly if the edit obsoletes those comments. –  Shog9 Nov 29 '13 at 16:33
    
"few noisy comments" -- I used to think that way, comments don't matter much and so on. Upon a closer look at these I have changed my mind –  gnat Nov 29 '13 at 16:35
    
I don't think noisy comments don't matter, @gnat - but I think that the harm they do is most evident in aggregate. Giving folks another Augean Stables to clean when we could so easily redirect the river ourselves just seems like a waste. –  Shog9 Nov 29 '13 at 16:38
    
@Shog9 if you can somehow make this greatanswertotallyagree garbage go away / become hidden without my involvement, I would be more than happy to abstain. As long as it's not yet there though, I will probably have to stick with cumbersome but working methods of cleaning site content –  gnat Nov 29 '13 at 16:57
    
Not suggesting anyone stop cleaning stuff up, @gnat - just saying that if we're going to build a big shiny new cleanup system, it'd be nice to have one that didn't demand more effort than the existing one. And we are. Eventually. –  Shog9 Nov 29 '13 at 16:59
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@gnat: Relevant: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/199302/… –  Jim G. Nov 30 '13 at 4:21

There exists a system already for auto-deletion of comments with sufficient flags ( How do comment voting and flagging work? ).

These flags are currently only visible to mods. By (simply) making the flags visible to 10k users, it may be possible to gain enough flags on the comments that no additional mod intervention would be necessary with the existing system.

Just "yep, thats too chatty, here's my flag on it too..." and its auto-deleted.

No, this does not mean give 10k the ability to delete comments as a special power but rather have the ability to appropriately pile on comment flags and let the system take care of it. This will also aide in the identification and handling of comment spam and otherwise inappropriate comments.

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