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I recently got into an argument in the comments with a high-rep user (see this question, if it matters) and late in the posts he started making ad hominim attacks. I flagged the last two, because I thought they went over the line.

I'm not sure if that's the right way to go about dealing with it. So here's my questions:

  • In general, is this an appropriate use of flagging comments?
  • Are these specific comments over the line? If not, what is the line?
  • Are there other (better) ways of dealing with this situation?
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I added my flag to yours. Basic violation of 'don't be a jerk'. – Rosinante Jul 2 '10 at 1:30
I flagged too. Doesn't seem like it helps anything to make comments like that. – Otaku Jul 2 '10 at 2:12
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Short answer: yes.

Slightly longer answer: it usually takes two to tango. Try to avoid these kind of situations, and when you see things are headed downhill, disengage before it turns ugly. It's rarely worth it. I know I've made this mistake before, too -- pretty much as waffles describes in his answer.

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I bet Hitler would have written a comment like this. – Mark Harrison Jul 2 '10 at 4:15

Stack Overflow Tip OTD

If you start your contribution to the conversation by saying

"If I saw something like this in production code, I'd fire the programmer responsible."

expect the conversation to go downhill from there.

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I like to start mine with "I bet Hitler would have written code like this." – Jeff Atwood Jul 2 '10 at 3:26
To be fair, I hadn't noticed his comment that "this is simple enough that I would consider allowing it in production code" when I wrote that. – Chris B. Jul 2 '10 at 3:40

Personally, my feeling is that these kind of massively long comment threads never come to any good.

I had one of them the other week, it also came to no good.

The thing is if User X and User Y hold contrary opinions really strongly, long comment threads will never be able to sort them, they are too intricate and our comment UI sucks at discussion. It was not designed for it.

Personal attacks are never acceptable and should be flagged, but please keep in mind that your dispute will most certainly not be resolved in a comment thread and will very often escalate. When people get emotional about stuff they sometimes slip.

To answer the questions.

In general, is this an appropriate use of flagging comments?

Yes, flag comments that are personal attacks.

Are these specific comments over the line? If not, what is the line?

The line I think is - is this discussion, does it belong in the upcoming 4th place?

Are there other (better) ways of dealing with this situation?

Yes you can not win all the battles, be mindful that long comment threads very often come to no good, just let it go early before it escalates.

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I've never seen long comment threads go anywhere productive, regardless of how conducive the website's comment interface is for it! – user140098 Jul 2 '10 at 4:39

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