I'm honestly looking for some advice on flagging comments, my perspective may need a little refresher. I came across this question http://facebook.stackoverflow.com/questions/17152276/cant-change-my-username which was off-topic, so I left a comment stating that Stack Overflow is a site for programming questions, not end user support. Though a little while after I see these two comments

This is not dramabook tech support. – XXX 1 hour ago

Too bad downvoting the author does nothing. – YYY 1 hour ago

Is this really a welcoming behaviour for a user, even if the question itself is outright off-topic?

I can only assume that these were done through the review tool, because then a reasonable change to the first comment would be

This is not Facebook tech support. – XXX 1 hour ago

but then, I already explained that in the first comment

Stack Overflow is for programming questions. This site does not deal with end user support questions.

So it becomes redundant. What was a correct approach to take to this?

  • 6
    I'd flag as rude because it is.
    – juergen d
    Jun 17, 2013 at 17:56
  • 2
    <amused> dramabook.. </amused>... though comments about "downvoting the author" I would have flagged as well.
    – Mike
    Jun 17, 2013 at 17:58
  • 1
    @ʞunɥdɐpɐɥd pointing me to dictionary definitions doesn't really solve anything, it sounds like you are saying if the user takes offense instead of the commenter being offensive in which case why flag?
    – phwd
    Jun 17, 2013 at 18:00
  • note: as per your topic of this question, I'd say the body of the question (and most of the answers) apply to all questions, not just those that are "off-topic"
    – Mike
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:40
  • @Mike yes it applies to all I limited to scope to off-topic to show how differently users respond to the OP when they know the question is on its way out.
    – phwd
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:43
  • If you want this to apply to all comments regardless of the question, can you explain what's lacking in previous Meta guidance like How do comment voting and flagging work? and What are valid reasons for flagging comments?
    – jscs
    Jun 17, 2013 at 20:05
  • @JoshCaswell I said it applies to all but my intention was to scope it and ask for community opinion which I got already from the answers below. You already told me off in your answer and I gave you my response so I am not sure where you are going with this...
    – phwd
    Jun 17, 2013 at 20:09
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    If you're looking for general guidance on comment flagging, then my answer doesn't apply, your question is a duplicate, and you should edit your title. I don't really know why you think my answer was "telling you off"; I've re-read it several times and I believe it's neutral-toned.
    – jscs
    Jun 17, 2013 at 21:19

5 Answers 5


Comments don't have to be rude or even offensive to merit flagging and deletion. It's enough if they are off-topic or not constructive.

Anything that is not a constructive statement on what the user did wrong doesn't need to stay there. So while we can certainly debate how rude those comments are or not, they just don't provide any value and their tone is a liability that increases the chance that someone will react badly and escalate to unambiguously offensive comments or worse.

So I'd say flagging them is the correct approach.

  • 5
    I usually end up going with "not constructive" flag on comments like this. I reserve "rude / offensive" comment flags for stuff that's clearly offensive ("u suck send to facebook support"). Jun 17, 2013 at 18:25

The comments, in isolation, are not offensive.

However, posting low quality and/or snarky comments that essentially say the same (or less) as an already existing well phrased comment is rude, and pointless. I could, perhaps, assume good faith if there wasn't already a comment explaining how the question is off topic, but not when there is one. There might be a thousand different ways to tell someone they screwed up, but we only need one and preferably a polite one.

I'd flag them as "not constructive" or "too chatty".


When the question itself is highly inappropriate, "flag the whole page" approach seems to make most sense to me - especially if you take into account that letting the question hang in there leaves a wide open door for more inappropriate comments, even after removal of those that are there already.

With above in mind, I would consider flagging the question with message that would cover problem with comments, as well as with the question itself. Something like this:

please consider speedy deletion of this blatantly off-topic question, to avoid frustrating site regulars - note their complaints and resentment in comments over here <if you see an example of a particularly snarky comment, quote it here, to help moderator learn about the issue>

On somewhat personal note, have to admit I somehow don't worry much seeing snarky comments in blatantly inappropriate questions.

I would worry about stuff like that in reasonably (even remotely) appropriate posts - even downvoted, even low quality - for I would want site visitors to see these dealt with in a professional manner.

But outright, offensively off-topic questions are whole another game to me. These posts damage site image no matter if there are snarky comments there or not - "hey look it's okay to dump garbage over here". Such posts should be quickly deleted.

If one worries about snarky comments in posts like that, well the real solution is simply to delete these posts - the sooner the better. Whatever comments are there will be deleted along the way, making it not an issue.


Everyone will have a different interpretation of what is "rude" or "offensive". It's all a matter of perspective.

Your post reminds me of another I saw on Meta a few days ago, debating whether a word was considered a "swear word" or not. It's all a matter of regional differences, perspective, upbringing, etc.

You said this in the comments:

it sounds like you are saying if the user takes offense instead of the commenter being offensive

And in my opinion, that's exactly it: if the comment left can be taken as offensive in any way it probably shouldn't have been left in the first place.

For example,

This isn't Facebook support

could mean:

  • "You're an idiot for asking this" (rude)
  • "This is off topic per the FAQ" (correct - this is what should have been left for a constructive comment)

We don't know how the commenter meant it to be read: it's ambiguous and thus left open to interpretation; but that means it could be interpreted as rude and would be justified as being flagged as such.

Even if you don't want to say it's offensive, there are other options that probably apply, such as "too chatty" or "not constructive".

  • Yeah that sounds borderline, but the original comment was "This is not dramabook tech support" keyword "dramabook"
    – phwd
    Jun 17, 2013 at 18:21
  • @phwd - Yes, but was "dramabook" targeted at the original poster, or was it targeted at the fact that facebook is full of dramatic people making dramatic posts.. I tend to think of it as the latter and thus find it humorous (as that is true) not offensive. But of course, that's just my perspective ;)
    – Mike
    Jun 17, 2013 at 18:54
  • 1
    Yes, it's perspective, what one finds funny, one may not. By mocking Facebook as "dramabook" without knowing whether the OP appreciates the joke or not, just doesn't really feel right, so I agree chatty or not constructive might be better. In addition as you said dramabook is a perspective that is subjective, there is no hard evidence stating globally that all users are drama filled. It's a generalization
    – phwd
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:08

The question you're worried about was posted entirely by mistake; it has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter of the site. It was correctly and uncontroversially closed inside of twenty minutes, and it can be deleted at any time without impact. The user who posted it is never going to come back; he didn't even intend to come here in the first place. I have nothing against this fellow -- it's a simple mistake -- but he was looking for Facebook support, has probably found it by now, and has nothing to gain or lose from the post.

You're wasting your time fretting about the classification of comments on a question that so unambiguously doesn't fit on the site to begin with. You're polishing the silverware in the Titanic's secondary dining room. Spend your concern for the site's health on something that has lasting visibility and a real impact.

If you're going to flag something for removal in cases like this, flag the whole page -- the question itself.

  • 1
    "The user who posted it is never going to come back; he didn't even intend to come here in the first place." That's your assumption. for all you know... he can be a programmer or one day decide to program an application for his Facebook page.
    – phwd
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:04
  • 3
    That's your argument for getting worked up about blunt comments on a question that isn't going to last more than a day on the site? "This person might just possibly decide to write a Facebook application someday"? Now I'm wasting my time.
    – jscs
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:06
  • It is a perfectly reasonable stance to take, one off-topic question posted as a mistake doesn't define a user.
    – phwd
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:10
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    I would argue that while this particular question may be irrelevant, the topic of when to flag comments in general was worth broaching. Regardless of the intent of the user or the content of his question, is served as an example of questionable content in comments.
    – Mike
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:21
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    @Mike, the question that phwd has posed is about "comments on completely off-topic questions", and he provided an example as background. I intend my answer to apply as generally as his question: "comments on completely off-topic questions aren't worth worrying about"; I'm just starting from the example he's provided.
    – jscs
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:25
  • @Josh - good point, I missed phwd's topic line
    – Mike
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:29
  • You're still welcome to disagree with me, of course, @Mike.
    – jscs
    Jun 17, 2013 at 19:53

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