I have this habit, of making snide remarks on questions of poor quality. In the vast majority of cases the question ends up being closed anyway, and I only add my comment after the question has started receiving the close votes, so its fate is more or less known. But still, there appears to be a problem.

For example, there is this question asking how to learn microcoding, to which I added a comment saying "you begin by finding a micromonitor and a microkeyboard". The question already had one close vote and two downvotes at the time I added that comment, and @gnat had already added the standard comment saying "career and education advice is explicitly off-topic per help center. See meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/6488/40980".

I know comments of this type are not a good idea, and I should refrain from posting them. Usually they point to some of the issues of the question, instead of being purely joking, as the above example is, but I agree, they are nothing but a habit that I should kick. But please read on, I have something to ask which has to do with how this web site works.

So, it appears that some moderator has actually gone into the trouble of removing that comment of mine.

Which is fine, I am not complaining about it, as I said I know I should not have made that remark in the first place. My issue is of an entirely different nature.

Here is the rub: I did not receive any notification about the fact that my comment was removed.

This is not a one-off kind of event, the other day I had done a similar thing, and it was the first time I begun to realize that there must be moderators on stackexchange who go around removing inappropriate comments. And then it downed upon me that these snide remarks of mine may have been axed by moderators for years, and I would not know, because I have not been receiving any notifications, nor do I remember every single post on which I once left a snide remark to go see if it is still there.

So, I would have probably realized that these comments are not welcome on stackexchange a lot sooner if I had been receiving notifications about such instances of moderation events, and many of these comments would have never been posted in the first place if I had received notifications the first few times I wrote comments of this kind.

So, shouldn't there be some kind of notification sent when comments are removed for reasons of inappropriateness?

Amendment 1

If someone like me is finding out that comments are ephemeral after a couple of years of using the site, then clearly, some kind of information is missing somewhere. Generally, you cannot force people to read walls of text of "terms of use" before using a site, so when you have an opportunity to send additional information by means of notifications about actions taken by the user, that's an opportunity worth pursuing. In other words, notifications about things are good.

Amendment 2

So, this is worse than I thought. If it is possible that a comment containing useful information may be deleted, then I believe that a notification should really be sent, and it should contain the original text of the comment, in case the OP has a use for it.

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    My knee-jerk reaction is that if you notify someone their comment got deleted, some people are going to go back and repost it, or start arguing the deletion with even more off-topic comments. – Latty Jun 8 '15 at 11:26
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    Also, if you are trying to add useful information, it should either be in a new answer, or (if it's not enough to make a full answer), edited into an existing one. If neither of those is appropriate, it's probably not on-topic. Not to mention, if it's useful, it's unlikely it's going to get deleted. – Latty Jun 8 '15 at 11:28
  • @benisuǝqbackwards I swear it did not appear in the list of suggestions when I was typing the title. Funny how that question got 23 upvotes and mine got 5 downvotes. – Mike Nakis Jun 8 '15 at 12:02
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    I would support something with same goal, but different direction. After enough comments of yours get deleted as "rude or offensive", when you click the "add comment" link, a small banner will pop telling "Some of your recent comments have been detected as rude or offensive, and removed. Please think twice before posting your next comment, thanks." – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Jun 8 '15 at 12:03
  • Don't worry, I used Google to find it Mike. It's got 23 upvotes 'cause it's been around for 3 years; it also has 10 downvotes... – ben is uǝq backwards Jun 8 '15 at 12:03
  • 11 downvotes, @ben - Meta effect is magic ;) – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Jun 8 '15 at 12:04
  • sigh, can't even let me be correct for 60 seconds @Shadow :-)? – ben is uǝq backwards Jun 8 '15 at 12:08

How would the notification have changed anything, though? What would you have done differently?

We send people notifications when there's something actionable for them, or when an event occurs that would reinforce their motivation to participate. Telling people that something they wrote that is by nature not designed to be permanent was removed isn't .. either of those things.

For stuff that isn't fun-poking, it should be part of the question if it's going to last. There are some exceptions like "Buyer beware - this answer will produce code that works, but it's dangerous" as a compromise to a disagreement that didn't reach editorial consensus. These, however, are rare enough that they can be treated as exceptions.

The amount of belly-aching this would cause alone makes it a very expensive thing to implement. People get very attached to even their most tiny creations. In the case of comments on an extremely high signal-to-noise platform, those creations are unfortunately not likely to last very long. I see your point about how this could help to teach in a just-in-time way, but I'm pretty confident that would be in an underwhelming minority of cases.

Most people would just start screaming at the wall, or, worse, each other.

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  • Within my question, near the end, I very clearly stated that if I had received a couple of notifications the first couple of times I made such remarks, then I would not have continued making these remarks for years. The notifications would have served as a hint that what I am doing might not be a good idea. Essentially, what I am saying is that I only begun to realize that it is not a good idea after I started suspecting that these comments are being removed. My suggestion boils down to the fact that this is perhaps not one of those things that you would want to be leaving to chance. – Mike Nakis Jun 8 '15 at 11:29
  • Ah, I see you cleared that up a bit. Fair enough, I'll remove the last paragraph of my post. – Tim Post Jun 8 '15 at 11:30
  • Actually, my comment was more about the first paragraph of your answer than about the last paragraph of your answer. I don't deny that these comments have been a bit of an elitist jerk thing for me to do. – Mike Nakis Jun 8 '15 at 11:35
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    @Tim any chance we can get stats about percentage of comments being deleted by moderators vs. comments deleted automatically by flags only? I have a strong feeling there are much more comments deleted automatically, but might be wrong. Thanks! :) – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Jun 8 '15 at 20:02

No, there shouldn't be any notification. Comments are not meant to be permanent, and one must assume that his/her comment might be deleted any moment, no matter how good/useful it is.

That's why it's very very important to always edit any useful information found in comments into the post itself, so it won't be lost in the void.

For the record, most comments are removed without any moderator intervention: enough flags from ordinary users (starting at three, more flags required if the comment has upvotes) and the comment is automagically deleted. For more details, see this faq post, under "Comment flags".

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  • I see the assertion "No, there shouldn't be any notification" but I do not see any explanation for it. Whether comments are permanent or not says nothing as to whether there should be notifications. – Mike Nakis Jun 8 '15 at 11:17
  • Is that actually true? How many flags non spam comments really get deleted through regular user flags with no mod involvement? – curiousdannii Jun 8 '15 at 11:18
  • Also, see "Ammendment 1" to the question. – Mike Nakis Jun 8 '15 at 11:23
  • @curiousdannii yes it's true, see edit for a link to official faq post about it. – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Jun 8 '15 at 11:36
  • @ShadowWizard I know that it's possible, I was disputing that it is common. The link shows no statistics. – curiousdannii Jun 8 '15 at 11:37
  • @MikeNakis if we treat comments as something that will be deleted without notice anyway at some point, there's no point to be notified when it happens. That's my common sense, at least. – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Jun 8 '15 at 11:37
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    @curiousdannii oh, I see. It's based on my personal hunch, will try to dig for solid stats, or prod a dev/CM to get those stats if I fail. Thanks! – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Jun 8 '15 at 11:38
  • @curious digging failed, plan B initiated. ;) – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Jun 8 '15 at 20:02

The community can and does remove unhelpful comments by flagging them. Seems like you're calling for the community to leave more "Mike, that was really unhelpful, please don't leave that kind of comment" meta comments. At first glance these seem like a terrible idea since they have nothing to do with the question, but I can see how they might also send a message to the poor person who asked and is already getting downvotes and closevotes that "hey, we don't actually hate you and mock you for the joy of it, we're here to help and that guy doesn't represent us." It's possible that the mere removing of a snarky comment doesn't send that message strongly enough. (Emotional support is not the strong suit of this network of sites.)

Consider a different meta post in which you urge community members to uphold their site's tone with comments in addition to flagging snarky comments. I know that some sites already do that.

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