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Comments on Stack Exchange sites have always been a second class citizen as far as the overall goal of getting people the information that they want quickly. They are useful for asking for additional information, gently nudging someone into asking a better question or perhaps even a twist of humor.

We have the Pundit badge that attempts to reward people for leaving awesome comments. However, after seeing a moderation queue full of flags for the last month I've concluded that people take more liberty with comments than they do with answers because there are no real consequences otherwise.

A paraphrased case in point:

[member of the opposite sex] is so [starred out explicative] [sic] attractive!!

I'm guilty of this as well (Bobince isn't the only one who just got back from a pub, that comment is now quite old).

I'd like to propose the Conduct badge for the following criteria:

  • User posted nn comments on posts with nn views within 14 days of the post appearing over a period of one year, while collecting less than nn flags on comments left.

That keeps people from digging through old questions and posting comments, but still leaves a lot of blanks.

I've been mulling this over while thinking of a way to encourage people to not leave antagonistic or inflammatory comments. If you would not post it as an answer due to fearing down votes, you should not post it as a comment. Yes, I see the irony of my last name and making an example of myself.

This is not a fully baked badge proposal. I really hope to narrow down the nn variables and define a scope for a gold badge that rewards people for not taking excessive liberties in comments, while not suggesting a criteria that awards the badge wholesale.

The new flagging system is dredging up all kinds of stuff, some of it from the very first days of Stack Overflow. Our community has matured, as have we and I'd love to find a way to reward people for being professional in all posts, not just questions and answers.

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+1 for the goal, not sure about the finer details. thinks –  Benjol Mar 3 '11 at 9:57
    
@Benjol - I was hoping to present this as a fully baked idea, but I can't quite get there. –  Tim Post Mar 3 '11 at 9:58
    
Please, don't. Don't expel Paris Hilton comments from SO. –  Nikita Rybak Mar 3 '11 at 10:08
    
@Nikita - How was that comment actually helpful ? Granted, in the context of the entire question it was funny, but if I can't make an example out of myself first ... I fully expect to see some flags on that as a consequence to this post. –  Tim Post Mar 3 '11 at 10:13
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+1 for If you would not post it as an answer due to fearing down votes, you should not post it as a comment –  Linus Kleen Mar 3 '11 at 10:38
    
Another thing to consider is losing a handful of reputation points (say -1, -2, -5, or so) for comments that gather enough flags to be deleted as spam. I don't see anything wrong with posting comments instead of answers when they fear the answers might be downvoted. The problem is antagonistic, offensive, or spammy comments. We already allow the community to police that. –  Cody Gray Mar 3 '11 at 13:02
    
@Tim BTW, If you really have nothing to do, please suggest something about this. –  Nikita Rybak Mar 5 '11 at 10:03
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

However, after seeing a moderation queue full of flags for the last month I've concluded that people take more liberty with comments than they do with answers because there are no real consequences otherwise.

I... actually kinda like that about comments. I mean, sure they're disposable, but on the bright side they're disposable!

And besides, people flag comments for all sorts of stupid reasons.

But mostly, I'm against such a badge because it's a permanent indicator of something that may only have been true for a (relatively) brief period of time. You could be posting the most offensive crap for the majority of your time on the site, but take a break for a few weeks, post only decent comments, collect this badge, and go right back to melting eyeballs.

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Indeed, after seeing this and Polly's post earlier today, I'm beginning to think we should have automatic, scheduled comment cleanup. That would kind of destroy Pundit, though. –  Pops Mar 3 '11 at 17:49
    
@pop: I think that would be overkill... They're already deemphasized, they could be emphasized less if necessary... –  Shog9 Mar 3 '11 at 17:56
    
The badge would be awarded after a year. If you left 10 comments with a score of 3 or more on a post that subsequently received over 1k views. The stipulation is, you have to leave them within 2 weeks of the original post being written. –  Tim Post Mar 3 '11 at 21:01
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However, after seeing a moderation queue full of flags for the last month...
I'd like to clarify this part. Did you actually see the quality of comments drop or is it just that amount of flags increased?

I see no difference in the overall tone of the comments lately, but like you I see a lot of them flagged. Right now 'flagged' page in mod tools is filled with flags on absolutely normal comments.

Some examples I see right this moment

  • This is a nit, but [1, 2, 3, 4] is not how a 2D array would be printed.
  • CrystalDecisions.CrystalReports.Engine namespace.
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C_preprocessor
  • You need to addreference, it is located in my case in folder C:\Program Files (x86)\Business Objects\Common\2.8\managed\CrystalDecisions.CrystalReports.Engine.dll if you dont have it alredy in GAC
  • Really? This sounds like a horrible idea to me -- in so many ways.

If some user thinks that pointing to his mistake or arguing with him is insensitive and cruel, it's his problem. Or so I used to think.
It just looks like you're punishing the wrong side here.

PS Regarding Paris Hilton... I really see no problem with having little bit of her in comments, if post owner doesn't object and nobody's hurt.
Didn't Jeff himself once said that it's ok to have Paris Hilton occasionally?

edit
Found Jeff's post:
it’s OK to err on the side of Paris Hilton every now and then.

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What is going on with the 10k mod tools since the redesign? The only flagged non-shrapnel comments I see are ones I want to up-vote. Are they being filtered? I just don't bother with it any more btw. –  Uphill Luge Mar 3 '11 at 17:42
    
Comment flagging has increased, but I think mostly as an artifact of new incentives to flag things. –  Tim Post Mar 3 '11 at 20:57
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I think the thing that feels a bit - weird - about this badge is that you're rewarding people for not doing something. Is there a precedent for that?

I'd be more in favour of something more punitive - like docking rep for upheld flags.

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I'm not entirely convinced that we should punish people instead of rewarding them, when the goal is and always has been to set long term goals for users to encourage the participation and behavior that we want. At the least, I'd like to try and implement this first. –  Tim Post Mar 3 '11 at 10:04
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@TimPost, but I'm a bit meh about this badge, because lots of people (including me) are going to get it just for... being normal. You're not giving a badge for some exceptional behaviour, you're just withholding it from hooligans.. –  Benjol Mar 3 '11 at 10:18
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