So, the death of WSOIN (What Stack Overflow is Not) was intended to help reduce the snarky comment level. I don't see any diminution of the volume of sarcastic comments added to weak questions. I don't write this to reopen the debate.

Let me be a little more precise about what I mean by snark. To me, the issue is not a bit of humor or a slight poke, but the comments that very clearly call out the OP as some sort of idiot. As discussed elsewhere, these are particularly squirm-inducing when (one of) the OP's problem(s) is English language proficiency.

I used to be a fairly aggressive flagger of snark, but I got the sense (impossible to determine for sure) that the preponderance of my declined flags were cases where I flagged some snark as rude or offensive. I don't drop that many flags, and I couldn't explain the declined ones any other way. This led me to believe that the mods were setting a high bar of rudeness, so I stopped.

If you really want to reduce this behavior, you have to create a negative feedback loop, and it can't involve mod involvement for every single instance.

One option would be to add another flag option, 'snark'. This would make it clear that you don't have to insult someone's genetic heritage to qualify. Further, you could set a low bar for comment auto-deletion on these.

If this doesn't work, you could consider a rep penalty for comments that get flushed this way.

I see this as one of those consistency issues: if flushing WSOIN was important, then the job is really not done.

A little more in response to Shog9:

So, here's the interaction on my mind. A new person shows up and posts a crappy question. Fine. I stipulate. It's crappy. Further, I'm as pessimistic as the next person as to the chances that this person will pay attention to any responses and improve their question, let alone post a better one next time.

However, when the question is decorated with one, or often several, comments of sarcasm and insult, it gives a poor impression to other readers and supports a culture of jerkiness.

WSOIN at least was never personally insulting. It didn't accuse anyone of being a vampire, or stupid, or expecting other people to do the OP's job for the OP. Brusque, yes. If I were the team, and choosing between WSOIN and 'Only an idiot would ask that,' well, I'd choose the former.

Shog9's ideas about making comments go away at least limit the time window in which this is all visible.

I would point out that I've already seen comments today which are just like WSOIN only without the link to the more or less friendly explanatory paragraph.

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    A negative feedback loop is something I think is missing in many parts of the SE system. Whilst some have them (declined flags) others don't (deleted posts, comments, suggested edit suggestions/ reviews, etc). – Matt Jun 29 '12 at 12:47
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    With respect to ...but I got the sense (impossible to determine for sure) that the preponderance of my declined flags were cases where I flagged some snark as rude or offensive. - are you aware you can access your full flag history, with outcomes, from your user profile page? Then you can see exactly which were declined. Yours on SO should be at stackoverflow.com/users/flag-summary/131433 (only you and moderators can see it). – DMA57361 Jun 29 '12 at 12:57
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    @DMA57361: The question is referring to comments. We can't see any details about comment flags there, just how many were raised and how many were helpful/declined. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 29 '12 at 12:58
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    @DMA57361 if only I could down-vote them! – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 13:02
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    Yeah, get rid of snark. That's real helpful. – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 13:11
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    Wouldn't people go for the (unofficial) snark badge? I would be tempted. – Henk Holterman Jun 29 '12 at 13:40
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    <s>six</s> 3 + score / 3 flags from regular users on a comment will delete it. Usually I don't see more than 1 or 2. I'd say the community needs to be more aggressive about flagging snark and rudeness before mods even get to it. – Adam Lear Jun 29 '12 at 14:07
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    Totally agree that reducing the moderator-bottleneck is part of the solution here - asking 15 moderators to handle thousands of comments is kinda insane; either they start deleting anything that gets flagged (in which case we should just reduce the threshold for deletion) or they decline all but the most extreme, or - the most likely case - it's a crap-shoot depending on who the moderator is and how they're feeling that day. – Shog9 Jun 29 '12 at 15:08
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    My counter-suggestion is to make community handling flagging better – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 15:24
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    Erm... Don't we already have a "snark" flag? (Rude/Offensive) If the problem is such flags getting declined, I don't think adding a new flag with a different name fixes things; it just (theoretically) lowers the bar. If the bar needs to be lowered, let's discuss that, but I'm not sure we need different flags for varying degrees of rudeness/snark. – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 16:32
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    I personally think that if people can't handle WSOiN, then there's no hope for providing any sort of constructive feedback without insulting someone. – user102937 Jun 29 '12 at 16:36
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    Since nobody else has explained it, WSOIN is "What Stack Overflow Is Not". – Keith Thompson Jun 29 '12 at 17:59
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    I'll reduce your snark level, buddy. – Josh Darnell Jun 29 '12 at 18:16
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    @Shog9, I see new ones every time I scan the delete queue. And often with a lot of upvotes. You've got a lot of cultural engineering to do. – Rosinante Jun 30 '12 at 21:46
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    @ShaWizDowArd Any flag except possibly the custom one. – Adam Lear Jan 10 '13 at 15:50

So, the death of WSOIN was intended to help reduce the snarky comment level.

No, not really. It's intended to slow its increase.

Listen... I'm actually not extremely worried about the people who are setting out to be rude, at least on Stack Overflow. The bit that worries me about WSOIN, whathaveyoutried.com, and a few others is that in many cases they're being posted by folks who are actually trying to be helpful.

But it's like when I can tell that my dog is thirsty and so I pour her a bowl of water and then... She doesn't drink. So I drag her over to the bowl, point at it in a meaningful way, and yell DRINK, YOU STUPID ANIMAL, IT'S 110°F HERE IF YOU DON'T DRINK YOU WILL DIE!!! And she gives me an annoyed look and lies down.

You can't force people to learn by repeatedly shoving information in their faces, any more than you can force them to be nice by deleting rudeness. All you can do is make that information available, and try to lead by example. Which we're gonna work on doing a better job of here.

Fortunately, you're all a hell of a lot smarter than my dog.

Towards the more efficient removal of unhelpful comments

So yeah, on to the rest of your suggestion. As I said in my comment, expecting moderators to be the gatekeepers here isn't really workable. Neither is expecting anyone else to though. The really nasty comments already get deleted; making casually rude or simply unhelpful comments easier to remove just increases the opportunity for drama in lengthy or heated discussion, but probably won't do much to solve the actual problem. Comments are boring, and plentiful. Who wants to spend time flagging anything but the most offensive?

Talking to a few other people, I'm getting the impression that the real problem is simply that even though we say comments are these disposable post-it notes that can and will disappear, most of them don't. They stick around, for months or years, no matter how useless they've become.

And it hit me: remember when comment thread collapsing was introduced? The intention was to highlight only the best of the bunch. But the algorithm chosen to do this was... Fairly simplistic. And hasn't changed that much since.

On most posts, you don't get five exceptionally useful comments that float to the top of the rest; heck, you probably don't get five comments period. So when someone leaves a stupid, snarky, or simply quickly-obsolete comment, it's probably gonna remain visible.

Why not just... Collapse all comments older than a week, provided they haven't been up-voted in the last, say, month? Comments on questions with more than 30 answers already collapse all non-up-voted comments, simply to save space... Well, this would save space everywhere. By default, only the most recent, and most recently-useful comments would be shown. Everything else is squirreled away, visible only to those bored enough to look for it.

Rather than making the reduction of pointless comments more effort, this makes them no effort.

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    Auto-hiding 0 scored comments (especially old ones) from anonymous viewers could also unclutter posts shown in Google hits – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 19:18
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    Auto-hiding 0 scored comments is a great idea, but it's kind of buried in here. – David Fullerton Jun 29 '12 at 19:56
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    @David: I'll probably post a proper feature-request next week, after I've had a bit of time to think this through a bit more. – Shog9 Jun 30 '12 at 5:25
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    @Shog9: Did you ever manage to get around to making a feature request on this? – Nicol Bolas Jul 20 '12 at 20:27
  • @Nicol: I haven't yet, no. Still on my list though. Sketched it out here mostly so I wouldn't forget! – Shog9 Jul 20 '12 at 22:21
  • I just wake up from cold sleep... what happened? – Braiam Oct 14 '16 at 0:34
  • Got shot down, repeatedly. Search. – Shog9 Oct 14 '16 at 0:49

Personally I think this will gain very little for anyone.

There are a lot of cases where a genuine comment is misinterpreted as snark, or when an intentionally sarcastic or humorous comment is meant precisely for humor or irony - and that was the point. There's always going to be someone that will be offended by even the most tame remark. Snark is like beauty - the beholder decides whether it is offensive or not.

If the user has really crossed a line, flag it for a mod. If you find someone's comment offensive (but not to the point of enlisting help), then say so, and why... that's going to hold a lot more weight in the long run for that user than clicking some anonymous down-vote flag. We don't need an anonymous down-voting system for comments. We already have that for answers and it is not exactly the feature that frequent answerers like best about SO.

I think the best this will do is to discourage folks from posting comments at all - which will net us with less useful feedback on questions / answers and even more anonymous voting.

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    I can see a lot of "this isn't a good what to do this" ect comments being flagged as "snark/meanie meanie butt pants". My impression is that comment flags are overused anyway and tend to be the unwanted part of the flag queue, except for the offensive flags – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 13:17
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    I totally agree with you re the eye of the beholder, and "when you see rudeness, call it out" is definitely good advice. But there is a very rude athmosphere in some corners of SO, and many of those making snarky comments don't care about negative feedback in the form of comments... I don't think we will be able to deal with this without an actual tool to clean stuff up I'm afraid. – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 13:19
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    @DiscountGucciHandbags a lot of our best users are snarky. A lot of the people they're being snarky too are one-shot visitors who put no effort into those questions. I don't like making a rude atmosphere for anyone, but if there's one of those two groups we want to discourage, we're targeting the wrong one here. – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 13:21
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    @Ben hey, I know - I'm in that group and I love making snarky comments. But in my experience, excessive snark is one of the reason for the downfall of online communities. I used to be active in a PHP forum that eventually started to get very snarky (myself included). I left for other reasons - it wasn't well maintained, and SO came up. But whenever I check back there, now as an outsider, I'm shocked by how rude and arrogant the users there sound when a newb asks a dumb question. It's pages and pages of "what have you tried" and "rtfm". – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 13:24
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    I can totally see where they're coming from and why they are doing this, but it really looks terrible and makes the community look really bad. (In fact I think I'll add this anecdote to my answer) – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 13:25
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    Also, as far as making the community look bad...people come here for answers. If we force everyone to be welcoming (thus no longer discouraging terrible questions) and it reduces the amount of quality answerers, we've killed the site. Lots of forums are very welcoming. They're still total crap at getting questions answered. – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 13:41
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    @Ben there's no need to be welcoming. It's perfectly possible to politely and professionally tell someone that we're not here to write their code for them, or that they should f██ing Google first... and for those whose strength is coding and not talking, a list of canned comments would be great – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 13:52
  • @DiscountGucciHandbags but isn't that kind of comment wide open for snark down-votes, if such a thing existed? – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 13:53
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    @Aaron in my experience, they are very well received by the community except for very few exceptions... If snark-voting becomes a tool of the bleeding heart "we need to help everyone" faction to root out any criticism of the question, I'll be the first one to call for getting rid of the feature again. But I'm not convinced the danger is that big. It would be worth a try IMO – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 13:54
  • Disagree. Please read : meta.stackexchange.com/questions/137795/stack-overflow-is – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 13:57
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    Flagged for snark. – swasheck Jun 29 '12 at 14:14
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    In all honesty, there needs to be a bit of chastening. It's how people learn. We have this idealized perspective of learning, but the reality is that most growth happens in the ZPD (that area between what you can do without help and that which you cannot do without help). You need someone to educate and coach you through it. That works great in a classroom setting, but in an online format that is must more difficult to assess. There are some users who barrage the site with laziness and inanity. At that point in time, the prevailing culture of the community in question will take over. – swasheck Jun 29 '12 at 14:21
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    This is a good thing, since it informs users as to the shared culture of the community that they are engaging. It may sting (believe me, I've taken my share of lumps and I'd really like to know who DV my Neo4j SO question from so many years ago) but the reality is that learning isn't always easy. It is work. It is why we clear schedules to go to school. You have to press through the barrier in order to break through and achieve something. "Show me the code" is equally, if not more, offensive as snark. Show a desire and willingness to learn, and you'll get less snark. It's a feedback loop. – swasheck Jun 29 '12 at 14:24
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    @swasheck we have a lot of drive-by users and what happens is this: 1. lazy user who can't be bothered says "plz give code" 2. snarky comment follows 3. lazy user is never seen again (either with, or without, his solution). But: the snark stays and contributes to the general athmosphere on the site and sets an example for how people communicate on these sites. I totally agree that learning isn't easy, but we must not be rude when conveying that because it poisons the general athmosphere. – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 14:30
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    What have you tried is a legitimate response, especially when there's no clue. Why in the world would a fleet of volunteers want to dedicate their time to reproducing the exact same things the OP has already tried? – swasheck Jun 29 '12 at 14:36

Users already abuse the "not constructive" and "rude or offensive" flags to mean "Hey, I don't like this comment". I'm not an SO mod, but it's certainly been my impression that handling the comment flags is one of the most annoying tasks already because of the low value of most of them. I have seen similar, useless flags on the sites I moderate as well. I'm glad people have the option, but I don't want to create yet another subjective, easy to abuse reason to flag.

Let's not forget that most of our snarky users are higher rep, helpful users with good posts that are getting ticked off any low quality drive-by users. Yes, they shouldn't be rude, but at the end of the day, driving away our regular contributors is much more destructive than driving away those drive-bys that put in no effort; most of them never come back anyway.

Nudge people to be polite, act politely yourself, but punishing people for using the slightest bit of humor or having the audacity to ask someone to add more information to their question is a brutish way to do it.

If the post is actually significantly rude or offensive, use the rude or offensive flag. You don't need a new flag for that.

What you're really doing here is trying to bake in the idea that snark is unwelcome; snark can also be polite or teasing among friends or equal. Systematically banning snark is a terrible way to go about fixing any rudeness problem; it's banning pointing fingers at the playground because you're scared of guns.


Even though I fear a lot of fine humour will be unfairly removed this way because of a small number of stuck-up users, this suggeston might be worth a try. The average level of snark on SO (and, yeah, on Meta but that's a different story) is a considerable problem - and it doesn't matter that it's often just self-defense against dozens of crappy questions. Stack Overflow started as a friendly community, and it needs to stay that way. If you can't deal with the flood of bad questions without being rude, just abstain from looking at them. There's other things one can do in life.

I think an explicit "flag as snarky" option (with the usual 3-user requirement or maybe even higher) might be worth a try - with the limitation that if the feature becomes a tool of the bleeding heart "we need to help everyone" faction to root out any criticism of the question, we need to get rid of it again.

Alternatively, the possibility of downvoting comments and greying them out at say a -3 might also be a very attractive one. While nothing gets removed on account of a small group's activity, it clearly says "the community doesn't agree with this comment" and from experience, most users will adjust their behaviour to avoid downvotes.

Let me back this up with some anecdotal evidence. I used to be active in a forum that, due to everybody and their dog asking for free code-writing and debugging help, eventually started to get very snarky (myself included). I left (for other reasons - necessary maintenance work wasn't done by the owners, and SO came up.) and now I have an outsider's view. Whenever I check back there, I'm shocked by how rude and arrogant the users there sound when a newb asks a dumb question. It's pages and pages of "what have you tried" and "rtfm" and "we're not here to write your code for you". I can totally see why those veteran users do that, I did the same thing and sometimes still do! But it's the most terrible advertising for an online community that you can have. While bad questions are the problem, being rude is not the solution.

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    Perhaps it's a per-tag thing. I don't see this as a "considerable problem" in the SQL Server family of tags. But, maybe my snark bar is way too high. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 13:13
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    @Aaron I think it's definitely more dominant in some tags - especially those with a lot of bad questions. PHP, jQuery, Android.... – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 13:14
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    Well that's the nature of those beasts I guess. :-) – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 13:16
  • +1 from me, if only for the bit in bold (I agree with the rest too, though!) =) – Rob Jun 29 '12 at 13:39
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    A dissenting opinion: While being rude is not the solution, it is also not the Problem – John Dibling Jun 29 '12 at 13:57
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    @John I think it creates a new problem. – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 13:58
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    ...and, yeah, on Meta but that's a different story... I thought it's supposed to be that way...you're also not stumbling into the Linux-Kernel-Mailinglist and ask why they don't include a Vista-like-interface, or how to write a USB-Driver, or tell them that they should totally drop that and use jQuery, or that the performance of x sucks...given that, I think we're much friendlier then most other communities out there. Also, I can't find something rude in that linked question. – Time Traveling Bobby Jun 29 '12 at 14:05
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    @DiscountGucciHandbags: Let me rephrase that. One-line comments with a link to WSOIN is not rude. Terse, yes. Warm-fuzzy, no. But it gets the point accross in a professional way that is economical for the often very busy users who are actually interested in improving this site. New users who get linked will do one of two things. They will either read the link, learn better how SO works and become a productive member, or go away thinking "what a bunch of jerks. I just wanted a simple program!" We don't want the latter anyway, because their motivation is to take, not give. – John Dibling Jun 29 '12 at 14:33
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    @John again - this is not about being nice to the lazy user. I couldn't care less about the lazy user. Lazy users need to be shown the door. But still politely. Otherwise, those conversations set a bad example for the rest of the site. (whether linking to WSOIN is rude or not, is a different discussion. I felt it was somewhat rude, but could have been fixed by changing the way the items were worded. I absolutely think WSOIN needs to be reinstated in some form) – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 14:36
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    @DiscountGucciHandbags again - Posting a bare link entitled "StackOverflow is not a language tutorial" is not rude. – John Dibling Jun 29 '12 at 14:38
  • @John but that is not the subject of this discussion, is it? I wasn't thinking about WSOIN comments at all when writing this. It's the general rudeness visible in many SO question – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 14:39
  • @DiscountGucciHandbags: The title of this question is "If you really want to reduce the snark level". WSOIN was deleted because terse use of it it was viewed as snarky by some. In my view, that is all this conversation is about. – John Dibling Jun 29 '12 at 14:42
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    @John hmm, I didn't read it that way. I think what Rosinante is saying that removing WSOIN didn't reduce the general snark level at all. But I get what you mean - it's true, WSOIN links might get flagged under this "snark-flag" thing. As said, I tend to think posting just a link is somewhat rude - all the really cool examples of WSOIN links had some custom edited message in them, as well. – Pekka Jun 29 '12 at 14:46

Something I often miss isn't a new flag option but a way to privately tell someone that his comment might be perceived as rude.

I don't want to involve other people, I just want to help someone realize, sometimes by pointing towards a specific debate in meta, that his comment wasn't totally appropriate.

And I don't want to be rude towards this commenter, nor to make a scene or expose him.

In my opinion what is needed isn't a new flag, but a kind of private warning regarding a comment. I'm not sure this is a solution but maybe something intermediate, like high-rep visible comments, or "localized meta comments"...

A precise case : https://stackoverflow.com/questions/11257288/how-to-implement-sort-command-using-c-programming#comment14796843_11257288

I felt this morning that some user was a little rude with his "Is that homework ?". He wasn't really but maybe I was a little sensitive after a few questions I saw demolished by an insistence to prove they're were homework. So I tried to point the risk to the commenter. And by doing so I feel I was rude. Sigh...

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    +1 this, I can agree with. I don't think it's the mod's job to deal with my perception of what's offensive or snarky, and I don't think it's the commenter's responsibility to pay for that with rep or other punishment. But while I do agree that it would be worthwhile to let users know - quietly - that you thought their comment was offensive, it could also backfire. – Aaron Bertrand Jun 29 '12 at 13:07
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    Check out this, um, colorful post regarding private messaging between users. – Josh Darnell Jun 29 '12 at 13:20
  • Yes... I know there are problems with private messaging too. That's why I (vaguely) proposed those messages to be visible to high rep users, as a kind of in question meta discussion... But my "answer" was more to expose part of the problem than to affirm I have a solution. – Denys Séguret Jun 29 '12 at 13:23
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    @jadarnel27 snark is being used to beautiful effect in that post btw. I guess I should flag it – Ben Brocka Jun 29 '12 at 13:45
  • Hmmm, publicly stating that a particular comment is unnecessarily rude is normally completely ignored. Why would a ordinary user being able to do this privately make any difference? – ben is uǝq backwards Jul 20 '12 at 21:23

It's interesting - this question and the responses in light of the "Summer of Love" initiative. SO seems to actively not foster community through various means (the zealous laundering of any salutations and expressions of appreciation, the admonitions against discussion, the increasingly narrow focus of allowed topics (e.g.requests for experienced developers' opinions get closed, requests for book suggestions (so that people can learn) get closed, etc. No doubt I am in the minority with this observation and that's fine.

As to comment snark, why not offer users another option and manner of expressing those snarky feelings and opinions through a more positive structure. Since SO is all about badges and chasing reputation, why not provide a menu of "flags/badges which can be presented in lieu of snark but which which express the same thing in a neutral or encouraging way. And most importantly, have these flags sent to the person posting the question as comments are now, along with displaying the flags on the question.

This would make clear to both the person posting the question and those who view it how a question is being received by the "community". You could have the "scant information" or "inverse/bizarro TMI" flag or badge, the "do you want me to chew your food" badge (I'm joking), the "break down the task" flag, and so forth. When the person posting the question edits their question, perhaps people who have flagged it get notified so they can remove the flag.

Obviously this idea is half-baked but the gist is to provide a way for commentators to provide constructive feedback that does not come across as a personal attack, and for persons receiving that feedback to understand what is meant, and thereby learn how to help themselves.

As an aside, I taught programming to beginners for a number of years and one of the key difficulties people had was how to accurately and succinctly represent (in their own minds and in their articulations) exactly what they were trying to accomplish. (Of course there were other common issues, like trying to use found code that they didn't understand, etc.)

So what I am saying is that asking a question, however badly formed, is often the beginning of a process and rather than simply reducing the number of whathaveyoutried.com comments, SO might provide a way to provide constructive feedback, one which doesn't take lots of effort to provide. (maybe a"Search is your friend" badge with an SO search query string using the tags or keywords gleaned from the title (as is done in the Question UI).

[edited out] Cheers [edited out]


I think this is veering a bit too much towards social engineering (the political kind).

Don't you think the snarkiness is a sort of auto-corrective mechanism (in addition to downvotes) to force posters to improve the quality of their posts?

I agree with Ben Brocka - the flagging system already has "rude/offensive", I don't think you need a new flag.

You could enforce suspensions or a rep penalty for being rude (at discretion of moderator).

enter image description here

This is a bit extreme though.

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    I hope the black freehand cloud becomes a new Meta meme. – jscs Jun 29 '12 at 19:56
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    @JoshCaswell It doesn't look very freehand to me. -100 rep! – Adam Lear Jun 29 '12 at 20:35

A perfect case of really low-level snark that can be seen on the network is the following comment:

What has this got to do with c#? C# files are just text files with a .cs extension.

On the following question:

How to hide info in a file c#

I'm wondering if it's possible to hide somewhere in a file some info. For example I need to save for each file a GUID to make it unique. Thanks in advance.

Now don't get me wrong, the question is far from the best question I've seen on stackoverflow. That said, it's far from the worst!

The commenter has c. 2.5k reputation, mostly from answers, so on that basis I'm going to suggest they're fairly "switched on" and thus their comment is not them misinterpreting the question/tag combination, but a "dig"/"snark" against the OP.

If a question is tagged , then it's almost a given that the qustion is being asked in the context of writing some code in c# not in the context of working with files which contain c# code.

Therefore - a comment like this deserves a "snark" flag.

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    In my opinion this commenter just misread the question and didn't yet had his coffee. This could be me if I knew the first thing about C#. Sometimes I come back to the question after the coffee and delete the stupid comment... – Denys Séguret Jun 29 '12 at 13:28
  • @dystroy - the commenters most highly voted tag, nearly double that of the next one, is c#. I, personally, highly doubt that it's a misread. – Rob Jun 29 '12 at 13:31
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    Don't need a new flag type for that comment - 'not constructive' already exists... – AakashM Jun 29 '12 at 13:59
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    How exactly is that snarky? I misread the question in the first moment, too. I mean, please excuse me, I had to look up what snark exactly means, but that's far from my definition. A response from the OP clarifying what it meant, and everyone is happy again... – Time Traveling Bobby Jun 29 '12 at 14:20
  • Please provide a link to the Q so that we can have some more context. – John Dibling Jun 29 '12 at 14:43
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    The tagging on the actual question makes me want to murder something. Or retag it. No, wait, definitely murder. – Charles Jun 29 '12 at 16:49
  • @Charles, snark detected. Flags away! – Oleg V. Volkov Jun 29 '12 at 18:56
  • Following the comment of @UristMcBobby, I also had to look up the exact meaning of snarky: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/snarky – Rob W Jul 21 '12 at 9:10

I was going to suggest much the same thing after reading Joel's declaration Kicking Off the Summer of Love -- a 'snark' flag for comments. The OP here has, I think, expressed the idea better than I would have, so I'll just offer a refinement:

The impact of the snark flag should depend in part on the newness of the author of the thing being commented on.

That is, if a comment attached to a question (or answer) is flagged as snarky by two people, that might be enough to trigger an action if the author of the question (or answer) only joined SO last Thursday. If the author has been on SO for a year and a half, though, it might take eight or ten snarky flags to trigger the same action. A sliding scale would have the following benefits:

  • encourage people to take an author's SO experience into account when commenting and hopefully be nicer to newbies

  • allow some good-natured ribbing between old SO hands

  • limit whatever additional moderation work might be required to deal with the snark flag to those questions where very new users are affected or where the situation is egregious

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    The significant complexity of this suggestion seems to expose the fact that it is, in most cases, a bad idea. – Ben Brocka Jul 20 '12 at 20:15
  • @BenBrocka Don't confuse complexity of implementation with the idea itself, which is simple: encourage people to be nicer to new users. And the implementation doesn't have to be much more than y=mx+b. If a bunch of expert programmers can't grok that, then they have no right to be snarky in the first place. – Caleb Jul 20 '12 at 20:21
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    As I say in my answer, we already have flags for that. Adding a new flag is already adding complexity, let alone weighting algorithms and the added potential of abuse for something that's "snarky" but couldn't remotely be considered "rude/offensive". – Ben Brocka Jul 20 '12 at 20:25

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