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Today I was handling a post with a messy pile of comments, many flagged. Some flags were valid, some weren't, and some comments weren't flagged but needed to be deleted anyway. I wanted to run through the comments once, acting as I went. (Comments are supposed to be second-class citizens and I understand that moderators aren't supposed to be spending lots of time on them.)

If I delete a comment through the "regular" interface it stays with different styling until page reload. If I delete a comment through the flag interface it goes away immediately (rather than staying with that styling). And, of course, the only way to dismiss a flag is through the flag interface.

By trying to manage the flag interface alongside the full set of comments, I accidentally mis-handled some of the flags (because of the insta-delete, with insta-move-things-on-the-page as consequence). Comments are something of a hassle to moderate; can we improve this aspect of it, or should I as a moderator be approaching the problem differently?

Possibilities that occur to me include:

  • When deleting a comment from a flag, treat the comment the same way as if I'd deleted it directly (stays but with different styling). Mistaken deletions are corrected the same way no matter which path led there.

  • (Somehow) put the flag controls (delete/dismiss) right next to the flagged comments. That sounds hard to do well, but UI design isn't my focus so maybe it's doable.

  • Use a different workflow: on visiting the page immediately banish the flag information entirely, work through the comments directly, and then at the end remember to reload the page and dismiss any remaining flags. I guess this is what I'll do next time this happens, as it's the only option under my control.

Are there better ways to clean up messy comment threads with imperfect flagging? Is some improvement in the interface possible? How do we make this easier for moderators?

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