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I mentioned this in a comment once before and never made it into a full feature-request.

Having been a moderator for half a year now and handled quite a bit of comment flags, I often run across some... not-so-great comments that just make you think to yourself "Why in the world would you ever say that?" Of course they get deleted, but that doesn't really do anything other than removing the comment.

  1. Unlike with answers, deleted comments aren't visible to the person who posted them. There's no indication to the user that the comment was a bad comment, unless they happen to remember they posted it and realize it got deleted. There's no indication they did something wrong. It just vanishes.

  2. There's no real way for a moderator to easily see that the user is a consistent problem. Sure, they could go look through their comment history and look for the red backgrounds, but most of the time a moderator has no reason to actually do that. I'm not going to investigate every single user whose comment I delete for rudeness to see if it's a pattern - that's way too time-consuming.

While comments may be second-class citizens, they are often the very first replies that new users (or perhaps any user) encounters after posting a question. They're the first impression. That's not something that we should be taking lightly.

So, I suggest that some sort of automatic flag raised by Community, to indicate that the user has had x comments deleted by a moderator within the past y days (note, I don't think self-deleted comments should be counted). This would give moderators a quick flag that tells them this user has had a particularly bad run of rude or unuseful comments and perhaps needs a little message in their inbox.

It's not something that's particularly hard to investigate once we actually know about it, but the current system just allows users to continue on posting these comments because we never really know about it outside of the single instance.

  • You don't think that community-raised moderator flags (directed towards specific user abuse) adequately address the issue? – Robert Harvey Feb 3 '14 at 18:50
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    A member of the community is just as likely to recognize a string of abuse as a moderator, though. You'd have to remember a specific username and realize they keep posting crappy comments. How often would a report like that actually come in? – animuson Feb 3 '14 at 18:51
  • It does happen, though not very often. I guess the question would be: do we need to lower the threshold, since the community does seem to remember the most egregious offenders (a particular user in the PHP tag comes to mind). – Robert Harvey Feb 3 '14 at 18:53
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    Should maybe also exclude comments deleted as obsolete, so that if someone goes through on a mass-flagging spree to clear out obsolete comments, they don't cause this to trip. After all, a comment that's obsolete is probably one that was once useful. – Billy Mailman Feb 3 '14 at 18:58
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    You're also going to want to include system-deleted comments, such as those that are auto-deleted for being flagged by a single user after containing one of Carlin's Seven Words. People have gotten away with being real jerks to others for a while because the system effectively hides these flagged comments even from us. I'd also lump this in with a request to automatically raise a flag on a user that's had one or more questions or answers auto-deleted by community spam or offensive flags. – Brad Larson Feb 3 '14 at 19:00
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    @BradLarson I honestly think a better way to handle that case is to actually delete those comments using the Community user, rather than the user who flagged the comment. That still throws me off every time. – animuson Feb 3 '14 at 19:02
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    Since we're on the topic of deleted comments, I wish my deleted comments were still visible to me wherever I posted them. That way if I go back to a post/answer, I can logically follow the comment stack without being confused as to why people are referring to a comment that isn't there or times where I left a comment on a post, deleted it and came back later and don't remember that I commented on it in the past. This may open the door for us to gain the ability to undelete comments as well. Cheers. – Anil Natha Feb 3 '14 at 20:57
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    If you need to know if a user is a 'consistent problem' why not add an area to every user's profile that is only viewable by moderator's and the owner of said profile. This area would have information like, # of flagged comments, # of closed questions, # of on-hold questions, etc. These total number can be clicked and takes you to a report that lists each instance that contributed to that category? Voila, history of trouble documented and trackable. – Anil Natha Feb 3 '14 at 21:06
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    @SlyRaskal Most of this information is readily available. For example, we have a tool to look at all their comments, deleted or not. The problem is that if we don't have any reason to go look there, we wouldn't know about a troubling pattern of comments developing there. – animuson Feb 3 '14 at 21:11
  • Thank you for the insight. I think your idea is spot on. The more I think about this though, the more it sounds like a weighted 'bad person' value if you want to call it that. One bad comment every 5 months, probably nothing to worry about. One bad comment every 10 minutes, sound the alarm. That being said, wherever mods can view metrics, allow them to sort members by this weighted value so you can track who are the most offending individuals at any time, rather than waiting until the notification comes. Sometimes diffusing a situation is better than having to handle the mess later. – Anil Natha Feb 3 '14 at 21:23
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We (now, since this question was asked) have an auto-flag for too many comments recently deleted as rude or not constructive. (I know that "not constructive" has gone away as a flag type, but its legacy remains here in this Community flag.) Those are really the flags we care most about; I don't mind at all if somebody's been leaving helpful comments that are then deprecated by edits, after all. I care about disruptive comments.

That flag, combined with the ability to filter a user's comments to show just the flagged ones (or just the deleted ones), has been very helpful to me on a comment-heavy-and-not-always-nice site.

You might be able to tweak the thresholds for the auto-flag, too. You would know better than I would, having closer access to the developers and the database. (It's always fun answering a question from somebody who became an employee sometime after asking the question. :-) )

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