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These types of comment discussions are pretty common:

  • @AuthorX: In your post, I think you meant "you're", not "your". - user1234 35 mins ago
  • Oh, thanks. It's fixed now. - AuthorX 30 minutes ago

Once resolved, those comments are useless and noise.

As a user, I was always wary about deleting my own part in those conversations because it would leave the other user's comment looking orphaned or silly. But as a moderator, I have delete-access to both ends of the conversation.

Do you think users will take offense if these no-longer-relevant comment threads are summarily deleted as a matter of general policy?

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I think you mean "user" not "users" and "user's" not "users's". –  Al E. Feb 1 '11 at 15:54
@al - we see what you did there :) –  The Anti-Santa Feb 1 '11 at 15:56
@Al Everett: Ha! I will never make this conversation obsolete. Corrections rejected! –  Robert Cartaino Feb 1 '11 at 15:56
Well, I tried to edit it, but the edit wasn't big enough. –  Al E. Feb 1 '11 at 16:02
Shouldn't the real question be whether such comments are appropriate in the first place any more, seeing as there is now the editing facility that allows everyone to suggest corrections? –  Pëkka Feb 1 '11 at 16:26
However this is resolved, please make it official with a [status-completed] tag or a blog post or something, so we have a reference to point to in the future! –  Pops Feb 1 '11 at 16:30
@Pekka If you'll note, Al Everett provides a very clear reason why these comments will still turn up. –  Grace Note Feb 1 '11 at 16:33
@Grace yeah. That minimum length on edits really sucks. –  Pëkka Feb 1 '11 at 16:36
@Pekka: Suggested edits doesn't negate all commentary. Sometimes a user is asking for clarification or added detail. This discussion is about establishing a general blanket policy about summarily removing comment threads that have been resolved and rendered no longer relevant. –  Robert Cartaino Feb 1 '11 at 16:36
@Robert I see. Added answer –  Pëkka Feb 1 '11 at 16:53
I posted an alternative suggestion. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/77384/… –  Pëkka Feb 1 '11 at 16:59
Back when I could delete comments, I deleted these regularly. Not sure if that's an argument for or against... –  Shogging through the snow Feb 1 '11 at 17:26
I'd prefer @What's solution. –  Benjol Mar 17 '11 at 14:45

4 Answers 4

up vote 31 down vote accepted

I don't think anyone will take great umbrage at having these types of comments deleted. Like yourself I've always been wary of deleting my half of a comment exchange for fear of making the remaining comments look silly.

They don't add anything other than a distraction. I am often filled with disappointment when I see what looks like an interesting comment thread only to find it's mainly bunch of correction please and thank you's. I wouldn't mind seeing mine disappear.

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Indeed. They aren't any kind of offensive problem, but you can still polish the post by cleaning them off. It's pretty much the same as clearing all of those "belongs on" comments post-migration. –  Grace Note Feb 1 '11 at 15:53
@grace Yes those "belongs on" comments need stripped as well. –  The Anti-Santa Feb 1 '11 at 15:55
@Grace and Kev, I think we somehow need to fight those annoying "Belongs on" comments, not just silently remove them? Like maybe Show comment when voting to migrate will implicitly teach folks what to do. (Or, more complicated: If many comments are deleted by flagging, then show them as deleted for some time?) –  Arjan Feb 1 '11 at 16:10
@Arjan I have responses to both of those already. And ultimately, neither will actually solve the problem of those comments being migrated. I'm actually using "belongs on" as an umbrella term not just to cover the unhelpfully blunt ones, but also the expansive ones that fully explain the reason for migration. Ultimately, both are equally useless once the author has acknowledged and understood - just like these correction comments that Robert is bringing up. –  Grace Note Feb 1 '11 at 16:12

This discussion is about establishing a general blanket policy about summarily removing comment threads that have been resolved and rendered no longer relevant.

I agree something needs to be done here, but I'm not comfortable with this if it goes beyond such clear cases like "please fix this typo".

It is too easy to misjudge the relevance of a comment thread, even if it seems resolved. Sometimes, to understand a question's edit history I need to see the comments as well. In other instances, a comment expresses a common misconception that then gets cleared up by the OP but is important for future generations so they don't repeat the same mistake.

Comment deletion is completely intransparent. There is no way to keep track of deleted comments, or protest their deletion. As long as this is the way it is, I don't think there should be a culture of deleting comments among mods, except for the generally accepted exceptions where it takes place already: When comments are rude, or a conversation gets completely derailed and off-topic.

Don't get me wrong: I think all our mods are highly competent individuals. But telling noise or obsolete comments from legitimate ones is tough, sometimes even for the people who actually participate in it! This should not be a moderator task.

I would be more comfortable with a system that enables the participants of a conversation to clean up whole threads in an easy way (I posted a suggestion here; I'm not saying it's perfect but something in this direction might work). People are aware of comments being noise, especially the more frequent users. But there is no good tool to remove noise at the moment - to me, looking into this would be the much preferable way.

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Was just about to leave an answer with a similar sentiment. Rarely is a comment just "fix X": it's usually, "I don't understand X, what do you mean?" which prompts an edit to fix a problem or clarify something. If someone was confused enough to write a comment about a problem with the answer, it's likely that someone else has the same confusion too. Additionally (and perhaps more importantly), commenters aren't notified when an answer is edited to address their comment, so the follow-up comment is useful. –  user149432 Feb 1 '11 at 16:43

If moderators are reluctant to delete on their own, should we flag more?

In April 2009, the blog stated (note the yet at that time):

If a comment is flagged by enough users it will be auto-soft-deleted. There is no penalty for this.. yet. Flagged comments will be surfaced to moderators, so if you have a problem with a comment, flag it.

And in August 2009 Jeff wrote:

[...] I'm actually ok with flagging meaningless comments like this, since

  • there's no actual penalty to the user when a flagged comment is removed
  • the flagging comment process is basically 100% automated and doesn't require any mod intervention

[...] added "noise" as reason for comment flagging. Please use it on egregious non-value add comments that are noise and not signal.

Meanwhile I know that both 10k's and moderators do see such flags. I wonder if that changes the above statement? (As, for example, if the number of flags increases, the 10k's and moderators wil see that list grow? I'm really holding back on flagging because of that.)

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Ironically, the noise from all the comment flags drowning out post flags in the flag list is way more annoying than the "noise" those comments caused in the first place. But I guess Jeff says it's a legitimate use of comment flags –  Michael Mrozek Feb 1 '11 at 16:37
We do see flagged comments in the moderator queue, but they seem to have a lower priority score so they end up at the bottom of the list. Flag away. –  Bill the Lizard Feb 1 '11 at 16:38
@Michael (and all) please note that the above are old quotes. Maybe if there's indeed too much noise in the tools, folks should actually flag less? (Or the flag lists should be organized differently?) (Ah, okay Bill.) –  Arjan Feb 1 '11 at 16:39

Now people can suggest edits to all posts on all sites (except for per-site metas, it seems), so those comments have become simply noise.

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That's a good point actually; those sorts of comments are essentially obsolete, they should just die out. The only ones that are useful anymore are "did you mean X?" "yes, edited", where the commenter doesn't know if they should make the edit directly –  Michael Mrozek Feb 1 '11 at 16:41
Except that suggested edits currently force bigger changes, so you couldn't fix a single typo without changing something else. If that restriction is lifted, then this is the solution to the problem. –  Jon Seigel Feb 1 '11 at 17:43

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