8

In the past, I'd always assumed that comment flags worked more or less like normal post flags. In particular, I assumed that choosing the "other..." option would always queue the comment for moderator attention, and would have no other effect until and unless a moderator acted on it.

However, in this comment from 2012, Shog9 writes that:

"so far as I'm aware, a sufficient number of flags on a comment will always result in its deletion - regardless of flag-type. The end-goal for flagging a comment is always deletion, unlike flags on posts which may request other actions. The only purpose to having reasons for comment flags at all was that before they were added, folks just used them as down-votes"

Based on that, and a careful reading of the FAQ post on comment flagging, it appears that, in fact, all comment flags, including those marked as "other...", effectively act as delete votes.

Thus, it would seem that, if sufficiently many users flag a comment to, say, ask a moderator to fix broken formatting in it, the comment may instead end up being automatically deleted (especially if it happens to contain one of the semi-secret trigger words).

I'm not really complaining about this behavior, although I do feel that the user interface could perhaps communicate it better. Basically, I'd just like to get a clear and explicit statement from an SE employee confirming that, yes, all comment flags (currently) do get counted as delete votes, so that I can link to it if and when the issue comes up again.

  • Why not test for ourselves? Please, flag this as "other" write "test, please ignore" and see if and when it gets auto deleted. Anyone flagging please acknowledge by a comment. – Shadow Wizard Jul 30 '14 at 22:15
  • such a reference would be helpful, I recall few of my "other" comments flags declined for this reason (not that I complain, mod explained this to me in chat and I told them it's okay). @ShadowWizard ack: I just submitted a test flag - gotta be funny if a moderator declines it by mistake :) – gnat Jul 30 '14 at 22:17
  • 1
    Thanks everyone and sorry team for all the flags! Guess it's now clear "other" flags are not causing auto deletion. – Shadow Wizard Jul 31 '14 at 5:47
  • @ShadowWizard yet another step to complete the test is for moderator to dismiss these flags as helpful (we know that mod decline keeps comment, as for dismissing as helpful I haven't seen that happen before) - to verify how full sequence of events would work – gnat Jul 31 '14 at 11:53
  • @ShadowWizard: I gave you one more flag, just in case (although I guess the earlier flags may have been dismissed by now). Do we actually know how many flags it takes for a (normal) comment to get auto-deleted? Anyway, thanks for taking the scientific approach! – Ilmari Karonen Jul 31 '14 at 11:54
  • Anyway, just for more science, let's see what happens if the comment contains something likely to trigger one-click deletion. In the name of science, could someone please flag the following "What have you tried?" comment as "other..." (and let me know that you did so)? – Ilmari Karonen Jul 31 '14 at 12:02
  • 1
    Flagged as "other" nothing happened. – Shadow Wizard Jul 31 '14 at 12:09
  • 2
    @gnat It's not that simple. Moderators can do one of three things when working with comment flags: 1) delete, 2) edit, and 3) dismiss (decline). To mark them as helpful without deleting you would have to delete/undelete, or make a tiny edit. – hichris123 Jul 31 '14 at 15:27
5

"Stand back, I'm going to try science!"

Based on experimental results, it seems that the claim made in the question above (namely, that all comment flag types effectively count as delete votes) is only partially correct. Let me try to summarize the results below:

Summary:

  • Confirmed for one-flag instant deletion: Comments containing certain keywords (one confirmed example being "accept rate") are immediately deleted when any flag, including "other...", is raised on them.

  • Disproved for normal auto-deletion: Four to six "other..." flags on a comment containing no instant deletion keywords do not seem to have been sufficient to delete it. In a follow-up experiment, three "too chatty" flags were sufficient to auto-delete a comment, while the same number of "other..." flags were not.


Details:

Here are the details of the specific experiments carried out. I have made this post community wiki, so feel free to add your own results:


Experiment #1:

Procedure: The following comment, posted to the question above:

Why not test for ourselves? Please, flag this as "other" write "test, please ignore" and see if and when it gets auto deleted. Anyone flagging please acknowledge by a comment. – Shadow Wizard

was flagged as "other..." by at least four users within a span of slightly over two hours, and by two further users within approximately 14 hours.

Result: As of this writing, the comment remains visible.

Conclusion: It is possible that "other..." flags may not contribute to normal comment auto-deletion. However, depending on the number of flags actually needed for auto-deletion, and the unknown variable of moderator activity, an alternative explanation for the result that the number of active flags on the comment may never have reached the auto-deletion threshold. Further research is needed to rule out this possibility.

Further research: To eliminate the unknown variables in this experiment, it would be desirable to repeat it with two consecutive comments, one asking to be flagged as "other...", and the other asking to be flagged as, say, "too chatty". It would also be desirable to coordinate the flagging, say, on chat, so that at least half a dozen flags could be reliably cast on each comment within a short timespan. Finally, we should include a note in each comment asking moderators not to dismiss (or accept) any flags on these comments within a certain timespan.


Experiment #2:

Procedure: This experiment consisted of several phases:

  1. Based on rumors that comments mentioning the words "accept rate" may be deleted with a single flag, a number of such comments were located on SO with a Google search. Among these, a few were flagged as "obsolete", and were observed to disappear instantly.

  2. Having confirmed that "obsolete" flags on comments containing the keyword "accept rate" did trigger instant deletion, the same procedure was repeated with "other..." flags. Again, the flagged comments were observed to disappear instantly.

  3. Finally, to confirm that this behavior is not limited to SO, a comment (since deleted) containing the words "accept rate" was posted to the question above here on meta.SE. A single "other..." flag was cast on this comment, which was observed to disappear instantly.

Result: All flagged comments containing the keywords "accept rate" were immediately deleted, regardless of the flag type.

Conclusion: At least for comments containing instant deletion keywords like "accept rate", flagging as "other..." appears to trigger immediate deletion.


Experiment #3:

Procedure: The following two comments were posted on this answer:

Test comment A: Please flag this comment as "other...", with the text "test, please ignore". Mods, please do not dismiss, accept or otherwise act on any flags on this comment before 15:00 UTC (approx. 1 hour 40 minutes after it has been posted). Thank you for contributing to science!

Test comment B: After flagging the previous comment, please flag this comment as "too chatty". Mods, please do not dismiss, accept or otherwise act on any flags on this comment before 15:00 UTC (approx. 1 hour 40 minutes after it has been posted). Thank you for contributing to science!

Users on meta.SE chat were requested to flag both comments as described in the comment text.

Result: After three flags on each comment, comment B (flagged as "too chatty") was deleted, while comment A (flagged as "other...") still remains.

Conclusion: It appears that, indeed, "other..." flags do not count for normal (non-instant) comment deletion, or at least that, if they do, the threshold must be higher than for normal comment flags.

  • Test comment A: Please flag this comment as "other...", with the text "test, please ignore". Mods, please do not dismiss, accept or otherwise act on any flags on this comment before 15:00 UTC (approx. 1 hour 40 minutes after it has been posted). Thank you for contributing to science! – Ilmari Karonen Jul 31 '14 at 13:24
  • After flagging the two test comments above, please post on chat that you've done so. Thanks! – Ilmari Karonen Jul 31 '14 at 13:27
  • Huh, test comment B is gone after only three "too chatty" votes. I hope the word "accept" in it didn't skew the results, but the fact that test comment A is still there says something, at least. – Ilmari Karonen Jul 31 '14 at 13:46
  • related: What is the SE version of Seven Dirty Words? "Some words, when present in a comment, make it eligible for instant, automatic one-flag deletion..." – gnat Oct 1 '14 at 7:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .