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Here's a situation I run across quite often:

  1. Joe posts an answer that contains an error.
  2. Jane posts a comment, pointing out the error.
  3. Joe is nowhere to be seen for quite some time. Jane's comment gains a dozen upvotes.
  4. Eventually Joe returns and fixes the error.
  5. Jane's comment stays there for all eternity.

At best, Jane's comment is now pure noise. At worst, it is noise that is extremely confusing, especially to unexperienced users. ("I have no idea what she's talking about... but so many people upvoted her... am I drunk or what?")

Obviously, we can't expect moderators to constantly sift through all comments. Obviously, normal users hesitate to flag highly-upvoted comments as noise (this is more of a problem on beta SE sites, where many users don't really understand flagging, or are scared off by the stern question "Really flag this as noise, offensive, or spam?"). Obviously, Jane could delete the comment herself, but she is probably aiming for the "Pundit" badge.

Suggestion: in order to reduce noise and counterbalance the "Pundit" badge, we could introduce a badge for deleting X own comments with at least Y upvotes each, in a spirit similar to that of the "Disciplined" badge.

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Did you mean the Pundit badge instead of the Populist badge? – gnostradamus Sep 11 '10 at 2:01
Should I upvote gnostradamus, or be confused, or what? – Jim L Sep 11 '10 at 2:56
@Jim: Be confused. Be very confused. That's all part of my master plan. And now my comment will stay there for all eternity! Victory is mine! – gnostradamus Sep 11 '10 at 4:40

More of an amplification than an answer: the other fun and confusing tendency is for comment deletion to leave behind an incomplete and thus incomprehensible set of messages. I keep thinking that the problem is reordering, but several messages here have stated as a fact that no reordering happens, so I think it's just deleting. One pattern is that an obnoxious message sets off a cascade of arguments and complaints. It gets flagged and deleted -- but all the responses remain, incomprehensibly. Perhaps mods should mop up more enthusiastically?

share|improve this answer
An indication of comment deletion (perhaps without even listing who left it?) would be a better solution. It can be elided in the case of the last comment, and perhaps only apply to flag-deleted comments. – Gnome Sep 11 '10 at 20:12
Sometimes the problem is reordering. If an answer to a comment is upvoted, but the comment it is answering is not, then the response can be shown first in cases where there are lots of comments. – Peter Ajtai Sep 12 '10 at 2:55

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