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Of late (based on the 10k tools' flags tab), I have seen a lot of people being just nasty to each other in the comments. Sometimes it is the same people who don't seem to want to play nice.

I wonder if this will reduce if we have some sort of a rep penalty associated with flagged comment deletion. Perhaps we can increase the number of flags required (I believe it is currently 3) to say 5 and have a small rep penalty like 25.

I believe we do have a rep penalty for flagged answers. It is more likely a comment which is going to be offensive (and I suppose is more personal) and it seems to make more sense to have a rep penalty associated with offensive comments.

Note: I am talking about a rep penalty for offensive comments. Comments which are noise need not get the penalty (so the current UI might be inadequate).

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The number of flags required to delete a comment is in proportion to the number of upvotes that comment has received, so it is not a constant amount. – Grace Note Mar 24 '11 at 17:52
"Of late" -- believe me, it's not. Comment flags just didn't use to be shown on there. – balpha Mar 24 '11 at 17:53
You mean 25 penalty for flagging, or penalty to the member whose comment was flagged? – Shadow Wizard Mar 24 '11 at 18:02
@Shadow: penalty to the posted of the offensive comment. – Hendrik Vogt Mar 24 '11 at 18:11
if you idiots weren't so damned lazy this kind of problem wouldn't happen in the first place. Also, PHP sucks. – Won't Mar 24 '11 at 18:12
Ah crap I missed the "flag" button and accidentally upvoted Will and now I can't flag him. – Daniel DiPaolo Mar 24 '11 at 18:25
Shoot, I missed the upvote button and accidentally flagged Will and now can't unflag him. – Adam Davis Mar 24 '11 at 19:27
The commenting UI can be changed people... the discussion is about whether offensive comments need a rep penalty. Whether it is easily implementable etc should be left to StackOverflowValuedAssociates. – Aryabhatta Mar 24 '11 at 19:32

I would be against this under the current comment flagging system. Since flags are all grouped together, there is no difference between a comment flagged for being noise or a comment flagged for being offensive. I do not believe the former deserves a reputation penalty, while the latter might.

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It's also very easy to flag something by accident. I've done it a few times when attempting to upvote a comment and clicking the flag instead. – Adam Mar 24 '11 at 18:14
We could improve the flagging system to something like which is already implemented on questions. However, I think this goes a bit overboard. – BalusC Mar 24 '11 at 18:15
@Chichiray, agreed. Especially since Jeff has referred to comments as second class citizens (or something, I don't remember the exact words). – Brandon Mar 24 '11 at 18:18


"Noise" is a valid reason to flag a comment. Noise isn't necessarily abusive though - it might just be a comment that has served its purpose.

Comments aren't supposed to be held to the same standards as answers. There's no reputation given for good comments, why should reputation be subtracted for bad ones? We expect answers to have some real thought put into them, but comments can (and usually are) a place for quick-and-dirty, off-the-cuff exchanges. Comments are the paper cups to answers' fine crystal - cheap and disposable.

We actually do want to encourage constructive criticism via the comment system. But not all users handle criticism particularly well, nor are all users particularly... tactful. Handing out rep penalties when a flame war erupts isn't likely to calm anyone down.

Users who are persistently abusive in comments can be (and have been) suspended for it. That should suffice.

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-1: Suspension should suffice: No it does not. I myself have been guilty of losing it and making comments which I regret. I haven't been suspended yet. I pretty sure 99% (made up figure of course) of people making nasty comments have gone 'scot free'. This is more preventative than curative. The fact that the current state of commenting system clubs noise with offensive is mostly irrelevant (as that can be changed if needed). So what if there is no rep for upvoted comments? The problem with incorrect flagging also exists with answers. One of the reasons to suggest increased number of flags. – Aryabhatta Mar 24 '11 at 19:25
@Moron: why do you think you should be punished? You already recognize that you've made comments you shouldn't - what's a rep-penalty gonna prove, that you're right? – Shog9 Mar 24 '11 at 19:36
@Shog: My point was: there are many who won't regret and won't make enough comments to be suspended. Basically, of the people making offensive comments I am guessing only a handful get suspended and not all of them will stop that behaviour. The point is to try and prevent people making such comments in the first place. Once the comment has been made, the damage has already been done. It is of little consequence to the target of the comment whether the comment was deleted or not. – Aryabhatta Mar 24 '11 at 19:41
@Moron: ok, so you're targeting the folks who don't know they're leaving inappropriate comments... And don't do it very often... With a fairly large penalty. Doesn't that effectively send the message, "We don't value your positive contributions, and will slap you for anything negative"? Why would you comment at all if it only exposes you to risk... Unless you don't care about reputation, in which case the penalty accomplishes nothing unless severe enough to knock the user below the 50pts necessary to comment. – Shog9 Mar 24 '11 at 22:21
@Shog: Huh? There are folks who very well know they are being inappropriate and continue to do that. If they are clever enough, they can perhaps even avoid suspension for long periods of time. The rep penalty will only happen when there are enough community members who flag it. I don't see how people will get the 'we don't value your positive contributions..' message. If this discourages people from making irrelevant off-topic comments, then maybe it is a good thing. – Aryabhatta Mar 24 '11 at 22:32
@Moron: I want you to do something, right now if possible, but chances are it'll work just as well later: go on SO, and look at the comment flags showing up under the 10K tools. Think about how many of the comments are actually so utterly poisonous that their authors should be penalized. Granted, most won't be deleted... But those are your candidates. Right now, the first question you should ask when deciding to flag a comment is simply, "Does this add anything useful to the post its attached to?" With your suggested change, it would be, "Does the person who wrote this deserve a penalty?" – Shog9 Mar 24 '11 at 22:52
@Shog: You seem to be working under the assumption that we can only flag comments as noise OR offensive and that there will never be a separation of the two. Also, I did look at the flags and the innocuous ones I see have been languishing at 1 or 2 for the past few hours. Besides, we would increase the number of flags required... – Aryabhatta Mar 24 '11 at 22:56
@Moron: so you're suggesting we make it harder to get rid of offensive content, but when it happens make it hurt? That sounds like a recipe for more unpleasant comments... Those savvy users you talked about before need only figure out how to offend without being flagged for it. Oh - and I made that assumption because you didn't say anything about a multiple-choice flag option in your feature request... – Shog9 Mar 24 '11 at 23:01
@Shog: I am not suggesting you make the number of flags required be 100 or something. Pick a reasonable number. As to having unpleasant comments lying around, I would claim that that is not the problem. The unpleasant comment has already done the damage. What we have currently is like picking up the shells after the gun has been fired. We should try to prevent such comments instead of trying to cleanup after they are made. The point about savvy users, well, it is applicable in the current system too, so I don't see how that is relevant. – Aryabhatta Mar 24 '11 at 23:10
@Shog: It was not exactly a feature-request. It was more of a dicussion. If we decide we could use a rep penalty for offensive comments, then we consider what changes need to be made... I have edited the question. You are right, that was unclear. – Aryabhatta Mar 24 '11 at 23:14
@Moron: ah, see... I disagree completely. Yes, there's some damage done when one user attacks another. But the real damage is in developing a culture of abuse - and the more abusive comments we have lying around, the more it'll look... normal. Show up on a site for the first time and see the person asking the newbie question that brought you there rudely criticized? You've got a bad vibe before you ever even participate! Please also see my comments here:… – Shog9 Mar 24 '11 at 23:41
@Shog: I am not saying we don't do the cleanup... If your claim is that raising the threshold and penalizing would substantially increase the number of bad comments lying around, I disagree. By penalizing we aim to reduce the number of such comments being created in the first place. We could have the best of both worlds, for eg, after a time delay, we could still cleanup comments with say exactly 3 flags, but not penalize the author. The penalty would act as a deterrent... – Aryabhatta Mar 25 '11 at 0:51
@Moron: ok, so we're up to a new type of flag, with both a deletion threshold and penalty that vary based on the age of the comment. I haven't the foggiest idea what effect that would have. But you should probably update your suggestion again. – Shog9 Mar 25 '11 at 1:03
@Shog: No I am not suggesting anything yet! The above was just an example to show that we don't really have anything to lose over the current system. The main point of this thread was to see if we need a penalty for users making offensive comments and what the community thinks about it. What is offensive, what the feature exactly would be etc is upto the SO devs to implement. I didn't tag it as [feature-request]... – Aryabhatta Mar 25 '11 at 1:08
@Moron: you're discussing a feature (penalizing users for flagged comments). It's a very simple idea, which could be implemented in myriad ways. For every potential problem, you've suggested a solution... Each solution adds complexity to the idea, and restricts the implementation. That's fine - at least, that's one way to hash out a proper proposal. But you can't just say, "discuss this!" without discussing the details - it's the details that will make or break it! – Shog9 Mar 25 '11 at 1:21

I would be in favor of alternative punishments, but not for reputation loss.

Reputation is meant to be a direct measure of one's positive contributions to the site in terms of questions and answers. You can't gain rep on comments, so you shouldn't be able to lose rep on comments.

However, I'm very much in favor of using a measurable and objective assessment that determines whether a user is having difficulty making good comments.

Once such a metric is determined, then removing commenting privileges for a period of time, except on their own questions and answers, should fix the problem. I proposed a similar feature here:

Fine grained suspension

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