I had flagged four comments as "not constructive" today. They were:

Much better answer than the accepted one

plus yours is the better answer.

Chuck Norris can parse HTML with regex.

You're right :)

All four got declined. So could anyone explain to me how these comments are constructive on any topic?

  • 1
    Really like to see the answer!! (Does it really need to be deleted? ;) ) – Mistu4u Sep 23 '13 at 16:57
  • @Mistu4u It should be, but doing so would defeat the purpose! ;) – Andrew Barber Sep 23 '13 at 16:59
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    @AndrewBarber, Exactly. As long as, the comment is really not harmful, let it stay as it is. You can't force everybody to stick to providing sack of knowledge in every comment. – Mistu4u Sep 23 '13 at 17:02
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    +1 this is the best question – user159834 Sep 23 '13 at 17:11
  • This question should be the accepted one – PeeHaa Sep 23 '13 at 20:51
  • 1
    (As an aside: to break out of a quote or code block, one could also abuse an HTML comment, <!-- --> to get separated blocks. Example and its source.) – Arjan Sep 23 '13 at 21:02
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    @PeeHaa's comment should be the accepted one – Doorknob Sep 23 '13 at 21:18
  • Slowly I feel kidded.... stop this spamming -.- – Zaibis Sep 23 '13 at 21:23

I agree that they are not especially constructive comments. However...

When a comment flag shows up in the moderator queue, the moderator has two choices: they can either delete the comment, or take no action by dismissing the flag. When a comment flag is dismissed, it shows up as "declined" in the user's flagging history. That's all.

Some moderators don't delete comments unless they are actively harmful. It takes less time to dismiss a comment flag than it does to delete it; some comments require opening the post to see the context of the comment before deleting it (especially the Obsolete ones).

Moderators' time is limited, so some mods prefer to use their precious mod time moderating actual posts, reserving their comment moderation for the actively harmful comments.

  • 4
    Good points, indeed. These comments tend not to really be harmful, and I can certainly see and understand a moderator skipping over them, if they aren't rude or something. – Andrew Barber Sep 23 '13 at 17:01
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    And whats the poitn of "harmfull comments" then? As absolutly wrong answers are also not allowed to be flagged as not constructive. Ofcourse i can udnerstand this point of view, but at all, specially theese "+1" comments don't even change anything if they were there or they were not, no one would notice. – Zaibis Sep 23 '13 at 17:04
  • @Zaibis: See my edit. – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 17:05
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    Ah, the irony... – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 17:09
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    Every time I read oh precious mod time I wonder what's stopping SE of getting more moderators – gnat Sep 23 '13 at 17:19
  • @gnat: We hold an election every year, and added four new mods in the last election. – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 17:20
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    My only problem with this mod behavior is that it encourage those unconstructive comments if they are left, as even if flagged, they are not deleted, new users will also leave those kind of comments. That will in turn make more of them flagged... and the wheel goes on and on. – Jonathan Drapeau Sep 23 '13 at 17:21
  • @RobertHarvey I know, I participated and voted in two recent elections – gnat Sep 23 '13 at 17:21
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    @Wesley +1 best comment here – Doorknob Sep 23 '13 at 17:23
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    What is the purpose of having "not constructive" and "obsolete" etc options in the flagging menu if those flags are actively ignored by the mods? – JJJ Sep 23 '13 at 17:25
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    I declined the comments. Really, they add a little bit extra information that's helpful (not just from votes). If you have under 1000 reputation, you can't really tell if an answer is 'better' because it's been around longer, or because it has more net positive votes than another answer (both of which can cause an answer to have more upvotes). So for the sub-1000 or anonymous user (which is the majority) the comment shows that people really think one answer is better, not just more popular. – George Stocker Sep 23 '13 at 19:23
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    I don't think Robert was trying to imply that mods actively ignore these flags, @Juhana - rather, they're not subject to the same sort of analysis that, say, flags on answers are. Comments are deleted pretty readily, but if there's a chance a comment is useful then it'll be left. – Shog9 Sep 23 '13 at 19:36
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    @BradLarson no matter how you twist the idea to have the community handle as much as it can, there's no point to decline the flag on best-answer comments. If mods are too busy, they would better just skip it and let other users kill the crappy comment with more flags. – gnat Sep 23 '13 at 21:22
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    @gnat - There have been some interesting suggestions about how the community could handle comment flags, like Kate's suggestion of a review queue: meta.stackexchange.com/a/180327/135615 – Brad Larson Sep 23 '13 at 21:34
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    @gnat I couldn't agree more. Best we can hope for is a decline with an animated gif, though. – George Stocker Sep 24 '13 at 17:15

My personal opinion is that those comments are almost always not constructive; they are what votes are for. Especially if the totality of the comments are what you've quoted here. I have declined such flags when the comments include some useful, brief information on why X post is better than Y, but I delete comments like the ones you quote above on sight.

That said, the moderator in question seems to disagree with me about that! See Robert Harvey's Answer for an excellent reason to disagree.

Finally, as a side note; don't worry too much about declined comment flags, especially if they aren't the massive bulk of your flags.

  • 14
    This answer is not much better than the accepted one. – Shog9 Sep 23 '13 at 17:08
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    @Shog9 +1 to your comment, much better than the ones on the other answer – user159834 Sep 23 '13 at 17:09
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    @Shog9 Well, I suppose that's why it's not the accepted one! (Comment flagged! ;) – Andrew Barber Sep 23 '13 at 17:13

I recently left a similar comment on another SE site. I posted an answer, it was accepted, and then the next day, somebody else posted a better answer. Because I think my answer is still useful, I don't think it should be deleted. However, the OP has moved on and will probably never change the accepted answer, so I commented to that effect on the (in my opinion) better answer.

For people who are inexperienced in the field (or just new to the site), that giant green check mark is like a flag saying "This is THE canonical answer." They may not be able to compare two answers and determine which is better just by looking at them. Voting helps, but once an answer has been accepted, no matter how many upvotes the other answers get, the accepted answer will always be at the top of the list. If the author of the accepted answer concedes that another answer is better than theirs, it is a strong indication to me that I can take that big green check mark with a grain of salt.

Obviously, this is not always the situation, but I don't think blanket-flagging all "this is the best answer" comments is a good idea.

  • 4
    so I commented to that effect on the (in my opinion) better answer. But this would be a better place for an edit note that every one who reads the answer gets a note like "But you can also see this[...]" – Zaibis Sep 23 '13 at 17:24
  • @Zaibis Excellent point. – ThisSuitIsBlackNot Sep 23 '13 at 17:27
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    This answer is far more useful than Robert Harvey's answer, now accepted, because it actually discusses the issues behind the types of comment presented by the question -- why they might be posted in the first place, and how they can be useful -- rather than the mundane, oft-repeated, and purely administrative points of flag-handling. – jscs Sep 23 '13 at 20:09
  • @JoshCaswell: This is really an argument for the community using their votes better, not for voting by proxy in comments. – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 21:20
  • The green checkmark only indicates what the OP found most useful, not which answer is canonical. – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 21:22
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    @RobertHarvey You know what the check mark means, and I know what the check mark means, but 99% of people landing on the page from a google search don't know. As George Stocker commented on your answer, "the comment shows that people really think one answer is better, not just more popular." Having said that, in the particular case I wrote about, it would probably be better to edit the accepted answer as Zaibis commented. – ThisSuitIsBlackNot Sep 23 '13 at 21:41
  • I still don't see how you can argue that posting "+1, would vote again" comments is better than actually voting. – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 21:46
  • @RobertHarvey Where did I ever say that a comment like "+1, would vote again" is better than voting? – ThisSuitIsBlackNot Sep 23 '13 at 21:50
  • So you assert that "This is THE canonical answer" is a materially better comment? You're making me reconsider my position about how these comments are not particularly harmful. – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 21:51
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    @RobertHarvey Please re-read my answer. I described a very specific situation, namely, the author of the accepted answer comments that another answer is better. And yes, I do think that such a comment, preferably with a reason included, is materially better than "+1, would vote again," because it tells users that even though the accepted answer was good enough to be accepted, the very person who wrote it thinks there is a better solution out there. Once more: Obviously, this is not always the situation, but I don't think blanket-flagging all "this is the best answer" comments is a good idea. – ThisSuitIsBlackNot Sep 23 '13 at 22:02
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    I read your answer. Comments have only two sanctioned purposes: to clarify or to ask for clarification. That's all. Trying to co-opt them for other purposes is pointless. – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 22:04
  • @RobertHarvey Point taken. As Zaibis commented (and as I acknowledged, twice), it would be better to edit the accepted answer to point out that another answer is better. – ThisSuitIsBlackNot Sep 23 '13 at 22:09
  • That still sounds like abuse. Edits are meant to fix problems with a post, not to insert editorial comments about a post's veracity. – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 22:51
  • @RobertHarvey What would you recommend, then? I certainly did not intend to abuse anything, and didn't realize that my action could be considered harmful. – ThisSuitIsBlackNot Sep 23 '13 at 23:10
  • Upvote and downvote. The voting system is not perfect, but subverting it doesn't help make it better. – user102937 Sep 23 '13 at 23:11

Much better answer than the accepted one

I don't see anything not constructive there. This is what are comments for. I can consider both answers worth upvoting, but I feel I should have right to express my opinion, which is better.

Chuck Norris can parse HTML with regex.

This is the opposite. Certainly not constructive and doesn't belong here. But the moderator could think, it's not as bad as for raising his attention - moderators are overloaded anyway.

For me the Chuck Norris comments are also a noise, but site moderators have tools to batch remove them, based on keyword, so it would be a good poing to start a meta request for this.

  • The point is: If you start writing a comment there is the note " Use comments to ask for clarification or add more information. Avoid comments like '+1' or 'thanks'. In my view "Much better answerthan the accpeted one", is also just a kind of "thanks" but ok thats just my opinion, but over all better and worse is just a opinion base. thats exactly what up and downvotes are made for. you can say "this is better" by upvoting or "this is worse" by downvoting. So in my view "Much better answer than the accepted one" is just "+1" in other words. And THATS explicitly not the behavior of comments. – Zaibis Sep 24 '13 at 9:33
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    @Zaibis no, you haven't got my point. I can upvote both answers, there's no other mechanism to show my opinion which is better. – Danubian Sailor Sep 24 '13 at 9:34
  • Nah, you just didn't got my point. If both answers are well enough to get upvoted in your eyes, they both should be that good that you don't need to clarify which is the better one. Even if one is better than the other, if the content of the answers is including all aspects, thats perfect. On the one hand the reader would get the OP question answered anyway, doesn't matter of an additional refference to the "better answer". On the other Hand if an answer is missing some informations of clearly answering the question then you just shouldn't upvote it. Thats my opinion so far. – Zaibis Sep 24 '13 at 9:38

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