The problem

Comments are terrible; no one agrees on what they're for, or how long they should be kept. Comment flags are equally terrible, because if no one's on the same page as far as what should be posted in the first place then no one can agree on what should be removed either. On top of that, we have this confusing set of flags where two mean "noise", one means "vile", one means "moderator, help!" and one means nothing at all - the end result is that it's all but impossible to even analyze comment flagging.

The solution (or, part of it)

Two years ago, in a fit of rage, I wrote up some ideas for revamping comment flags.

Nothing got done. As always, everyone has a different idea of how things are supposed to work, and I'd bitten off more than I could chew. So, here we are, two years later, and comment flags still suck.

So let's start by just cutting the fat: if we can trim down the list of flags to a set of clearly distinct problems, we might have something we can build on. Here's what I'm proposing, based on the past two years of discussion:

preview of flagging dialog - see below for text

  1. Re-word the "rude or offensive" flag to read,

    rude or abusive: this comment violates our "Be Nice" policy.

  2. Remove the "not constructive", "obsolete" and "too chatty" flags.

  3. Add a new comment flag:

    no longer needed: this comment is obsolete, chatty or otherwise unnecessary

  4. Re-word the "other..." flag:

    in need of moderator attention: these comments require action by a moderator. Be specific and detailed!

That's it; that's all I'm proposing to start out - simplify things so that we have something to build on.

See also: Drop "noisy" comment flags from the moderator queue unless an answer has 5 or more comments

  • 10
    What about spam? Does that fall under "rude or offensive"?
    – ale
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 0:09
  • 8
    @ale Probably best if people use custom for that. Spam in comments means the user must have >=50 rep, which makes it a bigger problem, or a spammer is commenting on their own post, in which case deleting the post fixes the issue.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 0:13
  • 14
    It falls under "in need of moderator attention", @ale - there's no current spam flag, and because of the 50-rep requirement for commenting on most sites posting spam in comments almost certainly means a moderator needs to suspend or delete the user involved.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 0:13
  • 3
    Sorry, what's the difference between this and your suggestion from 2 years ago? Both of them are suggesting a trichotomy of "rude or abusive", "no longer needed", and custom mod flag; I'm not getting how the two proposals are different from each other. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 0:27
  • 3
    This is the third wording I've proposed, and there's two years of past discussion on that thread, @rand - also a bunch of tangential stuff about how flags should be handled which I can't justify lumping in with what's essentially a copy change.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 0:30
  • @ɥʇǝS not really. One can post spam comment on their own post with 1 rep only. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 16:43
  • @sha which, as I said, is simply solved by nuking the post. No need to worry about the comments.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 16:43
  • 3
    Why "these comments" and not "this comment" for the "in need of moderator attention"? Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 16:46
  • Try & encourage flaggers to provide context, @Shadow
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 17:10
  • 2
    @Shog9 not sure how this helps to provide context? I mean, one if flagging a single comment, so this wording might mean such flag should be used only if all comments on the post are bad. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 17:21
  • 1
    A fair number of these comments do pertain to multiple flags, the thread, the attitude of a poster, etc. @Shadow. And generally lack context. (A fair number of them are also random stuff like "this answer is wrong", which is par for the course with "other")
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 18:30
  • The Be Nice policy uses the word "guidelines"; I'm concerned this is a mismatch with "violates our Be Nice policy". Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 9:11
  • The "policy" is the paragraph at the top of that page, @Rebecca - essentially, "be nice". The guidelines attempt to explain that in practical terms.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 20:03
  • Friday afternoon seems like the right time to push: it'll possibly (?) get lots of traffic for a short while, and then not so much... so if it works, it's all good, if it crashes and burns, you have a chance to fix it. :-)
    – Peter K.
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 20:06
  • I'm having difficulty choosing which option flag for a comment containing the infamous "RTFM". I personally don't like the newly reduced flagging options. It just leaves too much room for confusion. Would this be considered as being "rude/offensive"? Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 21:24

7 Answers 7


Adam makes it happen!

This is the new UI for flagging comments:

rude or abusive, no longer needed, in need of moderator intervention

(for reference this was the old UI)

The first flag replaces the former "rude or offensive" flag; the last replaces "other". The middle flag - "no longer needed" - is new, and is intended to cover all of "too chatty", "obsolete", and the non-abusive uses of "not constructive".

I'll be tracking how these are used, and how their use contrasts with the old reasons.

Please report any bugs here on meta, and blame Adam for pushing on a Friday afternoon.

  • 9
    In StackOverflow in Spanish we have it in English, which is incorrect, but I suppose that is not a problem of the English site. Anyway I leave the comment.
    – ArtEze
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 19:56
  • 1
    The Int'l sites will need to wait for translation of the new string(s); once that's done & built, they'll look less awful.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 19:57
  • 1
    Any chance of a flag, "Answer left as comment" or something of that nature?
    – Ryan
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 20:24
  • 2
    But having "Answer left as comment" as a flag communicates that answers in comments should be flagged & removed. I used to often custom flag comments as such but they were almost universally declined, so I've stopped. Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 20:50
  • 2
    @Ryan 1) Make sure the info is in an answer. 2) Flag as "no longer needed".
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 20:58
  • 9
    @Ryan - That's assuming these should be deleted. Moderators have no means of converting these to answers, so our only option is to delete them. I'm not going to remove useful information left in a comment because it's too useful. That seems counterproductive. As Aaron points out, the only time this might be appropriate would be when the commenter has already converted this to an answer themselves, in which case "no longer needed" fits. Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 21:08
  • 11
    @BradLarson But comments are not useful answers, because you can't vote it down when they are wrong, misguided or plainly irrelevant. You should delete those comments and invite the user to post it as answer, so we can fully asses it. Also, answers on comments are free for all to make an answer based of them, at which point it becomes redundant.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 21:20
  • 1
    I guess its just our exchange (GraphicDesign) but we get them constantly every day.
    – Ryan
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 21:20
  • 9
    Shouldn't it be possible for users to add some custom text to the "no longer needed" flag? I think that it now becomes more difficult for a mod to understand, why a comment is no longer needed. Therefore I fear more rejected flags...
    – honk
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 21:34
  • 3
    Maybe, @honk; I'll watch how it's used / how many are declined in practice. My advice in general would be to defer to "in need of moderator intervention" if it's not obvious from the comment itself why a different reason would apply.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 23:12
  • 3
    As noted in this request, I'm trying to keep it simple initially in order to better determine the effect on flaggers of changing available options. Depending on the outcome of that, I may revisit the previous idea at some point. @anonymous2
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 15:57
  • 2
    Of course we do, @Diminutive - they never decrease though.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 1:37
  • 2
    I've always considered "obsolete" to mean "the post has been edited to address this" or something like that, not that I trust mods to approve such flags for anything but the most obvious cases (based on past experiences). Now I suppose there's an even greater argument for using custom flags for this fairly common scenario (which will probably get declined stating I should use non-custom flags)? Maybe I just need to be more optimistic. Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 18:18
  • 1
    Hm. Is "no longer needed" the best way to describe comments that were previously flagged as "too chatty," and were never needed? Perhaps "not needed" is a better option.
    – MTL
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 21:33
  • 1
    Shog SO moderators say here that rehash made it harder for them to handle comments flags. Probably worth noting that they don't want the old way back (neither do I as a flagger) so this is maybe just a signal that new way needs some further tuning
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 10:22

Repeating my answer on the old suggestion:

no longer needed: this comment is obsolete, chatty or otherwise unnecessary

Before this wording is cast in stone:

The title No longer needed suggests that this flag is only to be used on content that was needed at some point in time. Going by the detailed explanation and experience, this is not the intention of the flag. To avoid this unnecessary confusion, I suggest to change the title to something like “not needed (anymore)”.

  • 7
    Agreed, I have a serious semantic issue with the implication that you can only flag stuff as no longer needed if it was in fact needed at some point. Guidance from Shog seemed to me to be "don't both flagging stuff if it is simply not needed from the outset" which seems untenable to me. This renaming would obviate that concern.
    – TylerH
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 15:26
  • 25
    How about simply "not needed" in present tense, no commentary or implied relationship to the past? Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 3:06
  • 7
    This also stood out to me. What's wrong with a simple "unnecessary"? The full explanation can then replace that with something like "or otherwise has no value".
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 9:03
  • We went over this for months in the previous thread; trying to find a single word that captures this is unlikely to happen, hence the addition of a longer description.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 3:51
  • 9
    I don't find reducing it to a single word necessary, but I completely agree with "not needed" or "not needed (anymore)" -- it is an issue that "no longer needed" suggests it's only for comments that were once useful, and not for comments like "+1 nice answer" or "why was this downvoted?" or "i'm partial to strawberry ice cream myself". Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 13:49
  • @doppelgreener, agreed completely. This is the only aspect of the new UI that's confusing. "No longer needed" exactly defines "obsolete." "Chatty" is not described by "no longer needed." What it's really intended to communicate is that the comment is "noise," even if it wasn't when it was written. So "not needed (anymore)" is probably best.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 2:11
  • There is another aspect: Giving a reason why it is not needed is an invitation for an argument. Just saying "Not needed" is, hopefully, an invitation for the commentator to (re-) read the question.
    – schremmer
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 20:14

My experience as both a user and a moderator is that the distinction between "too chatty" and "not constructive" is not at all clear to people. Getting rid of those is great, as is clarifying "other" as "in need of moderator attention".

Obsolete flags are currently pretty broken, so I don't mind getting rid of them here, but I hope that in a future pass we can redeem them. As a moderator I would like to keep obsolete flags IFF we can improve them to tell mods why the comment is obsolete and/or let users validate obsolete flags against their own comments. Obsolete flags are a big time suck for me. Sometimes it's easy -- you can see that it's a reply to a comment that's no longer there, or the other person acknowledged it. Most of the time it's harder -- did one of the three edits between the comment and the flag really address the issue, do I even understand what the issue is (because moderators are not presumed to be experts on all topics covered by a site), is there something subtle going on?

Changing obsolete to "no longer needed" and lumping other stuff in there doesn't make things worse for me because it's already pretty bad. So given the state of obsolete flags today, sure -- go ahead. But I hope that, sometime in the future, you'll bring back obsolete flags in a functional form so that that subclass of comment flags can be handled more easily.

  • Nothing stops folks from using "other" for that. Except, y'know, the realization that they should. This is one reason why I'd like to rename "other" & try & position it as more of a "call on a moderator" feature than a catch-all (though of course it still would be). Apart from that, probably worth declining flags where the reason isn't obvious.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 2:39
  • 1
    On at least one of my sites (maybe two, can't remember off hand) we've asked people to skip "obsolete" and use "other" instead. Most people don't (and didn't) think of it otherwise. I think those people will just move over to "no longer needed" and be just as mysterious as before -- but not more mysterious, as I said, so we shouldn't block on this. I just hold out hope that we can make that part of comment flagging better someday. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 2:47
  • 1
    I'd really like a third option when handling comment flags -- along with delete and dismiss, "huh?". A declined flag sends the signal "nope, looked at it, disagree", which is not the same as "I can't tell WTF you are trying to say; try again with more clarity". Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 2:49
  • 4
    I'm pretty sympathetic to the whole "explain why it's obsolete" thing. Perhaps an optional freeform field (with a placeholder explaining what's expected) once the proposed "no longer needed" reason is selected would do the trick there. Probably wouldn't make things better in 100% of the cases (a second tier of "reasons" would likely go further, but I think that's excessive for comments), but I'd expect a reasonable improvement for a relatively low development cost. (cc @Shog9)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 4:01
  • 5
    Alternatively, when is a comment "obsolete" when the post hasn't been edited? Perhaps an explicit fourth option along the lines of "as obsolete due to an question/answer edit" to separate those clear cases from a more general "no longer needed" situation? (cc @Shog9)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 4:03
  • 1
    Add an obsolete flag with a reason, but just convert it into an other (mod attention) flag in the backend? Maybe prepend "obsolete:" to the message in case the flagger wasn't clear. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 4:50
  • @JeffreyBosboom That may be defeating the purpose of this reshuffling; the goal here seems to be to condense the front end of the flagging system so that it matches the routing behavior of flags on the backend as it currently is. Adding back a pseudo flag option that's really just one option masquerading as a different one would not accomplish much here.
    – TylerH
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 15:24
  • Yeah, that'd be a reasonable addition @Adam; OTOH, this is currently the most-used comment flag on SO (and some other sites), and a tremendous number of these flags wouldn't really benefit from additional information. The lowest-hanging fruit here is automation, which we're already doing to some extent; if we can separate out "benign" from "harmful" comments, I suspect we can crank that up a lot. The more unpredictable option (but a perpetual favorite for the past 6 years) is to just put commenters in charge of their own flags, which also removes the need for more data from flaggers.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 18:57
  • 1
    I don't trust users in the middle of a heated argument in comments to decline their own flags, but it'd be great if we could find a way for users to validate them -- which probably means just obsolete, as telling them they've received rude flags will just create more drama. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 20:34
  • 1
    @AdamLear I sometimes flag comments on SO as obsolete when I find answers there with obsolete comments on them, but I can nearly guarantee 100% that I won't do that if I have to type out an explanation each time - it's annoying enough having to wait 5 seconds per flag in order to do this, let alone if I had to copy/paste the same thing into each.
    – enderland
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 4:14
  • 1
    ... speaking of, it'd be nice if it was easier for trusted users to easily flag each comment on a thread or something, it's annoying that someone with massive valid vs invalid ratios has to wait 5 seconds to flag a comment chain. I often just.. don't even bother.
    – enderland
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 4:15

Speaking as a user: meh.

Speaking as a moderator: oh please no!

comment flags still suck


if we can trim down the list of flags to a set of clearly distinct problems, we might have something we can build on.

I'm not convinced that this is really on the critical path, but ok.

Re-word the "rude or offensive" flag to read, “rude or abusive: this comment violates our "Be Nice" policy.”

By all means, do add guidance to the dialog.

Remove the "not constructive", "obsolete" and "too chatty" flags.
Add a new comment flag:
”no longer needed: this comment is obsolete, chatty or otherwise unnecessary”

No! This goes in the wrong direction altogether.

An obsolete comment is a completely different problem from a comment that is too chatty. As a moderator who feels that I'm spending too much time on comment flags, I really, really dislike that you're proposing that I spend even more time by puzzling out reason for the flag instead of having it in the flag text. Please do not make moderator's life harder. Moderators reviewing comment flags need to determine what action to take. This involves two steps:

  1. Determine whether the flag is warranted.

    • A comment is obsolete if there is a reply indicating that it is no longer useful or if there has been an edit incorporating the meat of the comment.
    • A comment is too chatty if it isn't on the path to improving the post that it's on, e.g. it's a digression, an unrelated question, etc.
    • I have no idea what makes a comment “otherwise unnecessary.”
  2. Take the requisite action.

    • An obsolete comment needs to be deleted.
    • A comment that is too chatty — or rather a series of such comments — may either be deleted or moved to chat.

Conflating obsolete and too-chatty also makes future evolution harder. The best person to determine whether a comment is obsolete is its author; I hope that one day comment authors will get a chance to review obsolete flags on their comments. This does not hold for too-chatty flags, because many commenters believe that their comments are oh so important and totally not off-topic and they won't stand for the censorship of moving comments to chat.

Do not merge “obsolete” with “too chatty”.

Re-word the "other..." flag: “in need of moderator attention”

Ok. From a moderator's perspective there isn't that much difference between “rude and offensive” and that — in both cases, a moderator needs to evaluate the context, delete the comment if the flag is warranted and possibly take further action (e.g. mod message). But from flaggers' perspective it's nice to have the “be nice” remember in there.

I would prefer to keep the 4 existing comment flags:

  • obsolete — was a good comment, no longer is
  • too chatty — is a good chat message but not a good comment
  • not constructive — weak form of not desirable anywhere
  • rude or offensive — strong form of not desirable anywhere

Arguably “rude or offensive” should be merged with “not constructive”, but there are comments that don't reach the threshold of violating the “be nice” rule, but are nonetheless “not constructive” because they're provocative or otherwise driving towards conflict, typically a sign of escalation in a comment thread. Moderators do need to be aware of such cases, ideally before they reach the “rude or offensive” threshold, so the flagging dialog should make it clear that flagging such situations is encouraged. (Note: this paragraph is written with my understanding of “not constructive” in mind. The phrase “not constructive” is so vague and non-consensual that it loses a lot of efficacy, which is one reason why it might be a good idea to remove this middle ground. It's useful, but only if people agree what it means, which is not always the case.)

  • 6
    I'd be a lot more sympathetic to this argument if flaggers were actually distinguishing between "obsolete" and "too chatty". But they're not. There's a significant amount of overlap. And "not constructive" appears to be used far more for things that are either "too chatty" or "obsolete" than for things that are... uh, just short of rude. So if the purpose of these flags is to allow moderators to triage or alter their course of action, they're failing badly.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 0:37
  • 10
    "I hope that one day comment authors will get a chance to review obsolete flags on their comments" - YES. I've also suggested this (informally in chat, not on meta). Obsolete flags on comments could work something like VLQ/NaA flags: they go to the original author first; if they delete the comment, fine; if they don't, then send it to the mod queue. That would cut down on a lot of mod work in handling comment flags. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 0:41
  • 4
    I disagree with your description of "not constructive" though. For me, "not constructive" is much closer to "too chatty" than "rude or offensive": it doesn't necessarily mean something bad, just something that's not really necessary or not what comments are for. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 0:42
  • 3
    @Shog9 I'm sure that sites are different, but I don't see much conflating between “obsolete” and the others on Computer Science (of the sites I moderate, that's the biggest one for comment flags). Too chatty vs non-constructive and NC vs rude do get conflated, but obsolete seems to be clear to everybody. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 0:42
  • @randal'thor: For whatever it’s worth, I made a meta post for this.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 10:03
  • 4
    @Shog9: I'd be a lot more sympathetic to this argument if flaggers were actually distinguishing between "obsolete" and "too chatty". But they're not. – I do not know what statistics this is based on, but are you sure that this is not an artefact of people on SO flagging every criticism of their post with a random comment flag? On my site, obsolete flags constitute 95 % of all comment flags and they are almost always accurate (so far, I declined only one (1) obsolete flag). I also asked an SO mod and they estimated that they decline only 5 % of all obsolete flags.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 10:16
  • 2
    @Shog9: PS: These stats from 2014 confirm that only 5 % of obsolete flags are declined (on SO, I presume).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 10:29
  • 3
    @Gilles on The Workplace, the same comment might be flagged as too chatty, not constructive, or (occasionally) obsolete depending on the flagger, the phase of the moon, random(), and/or the motives of the flagger (using flags to try to suppress the other side of an argument is unfortunately a thing). The distinction between obsolete and the others still has meaning, but too chatty/not constructive is a distinction without meaning for our users. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 15:24
  • 4
    Generally, moderators don't decline comment flags unless there's nothing to do, @Wrzlprmft - which is a good thing, given the current ambiguity inherent in the flag types. On top of that, the UI is utterly terrible for moderators if there's any complexity whatsoever, so encouraging nuanced decisions on flags is practically begging for more errors. Last but not least, the system handles a reasonably large portion of flags automatically, and completely ignores flag type... As a result, I don't pay much attention to decline % on comment flags.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 17:28
  • 2
    What's with the downvotes here? I agree with you. If most if the comment flags are the same, you might as well not have types of flags and have a status of either flagged or not. Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 21:43

Gilles and Monica already argued along that lines, but here are some more arguments to keep obsolete a separate reason:

The distinction between obsolete and too chatty (or whatever it shall be called in the future) is quite helpful for me as a moderator handling this flag:

  • If a comment was flagged as obsolete, I first consider:

    • Did an edit address this comment?

    • Did another comment by the flagged comment’s author acknowledge that it’s obsolete?

    • Does the comment reply to another comment that has been deleted?

  • If a comment was flagged as too chatty or not constructive I first consider:

    • Is this something that is not a valid comment on any post?

    • Does this look like criticism? If yes, is it really about the post in question?

    • Does this look like the author provide some information to be added or considered? If yes, is this actually relevant to the post?

This is already pretty different. So for fast comment handling, it is helpful to know whether the flagger thought the comment to be obsolete or too chatty.

Now, if the case is not as clear as above, I have to take a closer look at the post and all the existing and deleted comments. In that case, it is again helping what I am looking for from the beginning. With an obsolete flag, my focus is on the completeness of the post. With a too chatty flag, my focus is on the scope of the post (and possibly the question).

The worst case if the flag is invalid. With a separate obsolete and too chatty flags, I only have to convince myself that one of these cases doesn’t apply – with the proposed merged flag, I have to convince myself that neither applies.

Now, one might ask why I do not argue against combining flags in general with the above arguments, or even for introducing more flags:

Using a type of flag for communication only works if everybody agrees what those flags are supposed to mean and there is no big grey zone between them. Otherwise choosing the right flag is too difficult or people get fed up with distinguishing and make the “wrong” choice. That’s why it’s good that the not constructive flag gets abolished (and that’s why there is so much quarrel about the NAA and VLQ flag).

But obsolete is different. I have never met anybody who did not understand what it’s good for. The vast majority of obsolete flags on my site are valid. And even on Stack Overflow the accuracy of obsolete flags is very high ([1], [2]). I have also failed to find Meta posts and similar by people who are confused by this flag’s meaning, while I found dozens by an analogous search for not constructive and too chatty. So, this flag is well understood and it works by communicating why a comment should be deleted. And all of this clarity is achieved by a single word – in the proposed interface, you can even spell it out.

I totally concur that removing not constructive solves a problem; I see that renaming too chatty may avoid some confusion; but I fail to see any problem that is solved by removing obsolete.

  • Quite honestly, if y'all just flipped a coin and either purged all comments or did nothing in response to these flags, it'd probably be fine... As long as rude/abusive/belittling/offensive stuff is getting deleted. We should've automated handling of everything else years ago; you're describing a multi-stage decision tree for comments whose only harm is that they don't matter; that's a luxury that simply can't be had once there are more than a trivial number of comments.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:28
  • 1
    But as long as comments are not deleted by a random process, why deny useful information to whoever is making the decision, be it a moderator, some ordinary user, or even a machine? What problem does this solve? — Also, that multi-staged decision tree still operates very quickly; it’s complexity does not matter here. What matters is that you handle an obsolete flag differently than a too chatty one.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:35
  • I don't deal with any comment flags so maybe I'm just not seeing this from the right perspective, but to me it's as simple as: "is this comment noise, or is it useful?" Noise? delete it... Useful? leave it where it is
    – Cai
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:50
  • 4
    @Cai: It’s not that simple. An typical obsolete comment was once a useful, constructive comment, that only became something that should be deleted because it was constructive and somebody followed whatever it suggested. Such a comment cannot look like noise per definition. (Note that the opposite case also applies. Note every comment that is noise can immediately be directly identified as such. For example: “Can comment on the option to use JQuery in this situation?” may be constructive or massively digressing, depending on the answer (and question).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 20:58
  • But both your courses of action (may) require looking at the comment in context; you may be looking for different things but you're still looking (and still looking at the same thing)...
    – Cai
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 21:05
  • That thing Cai just said is kinda the crux of this: you're basing the need for context on the comment itself, not the flag. This jibes with my analysis of flag handling patterns on various site: once sites / mods hit a certain scale, they're just not looking at the entire context for every flag anymore; they can't. We have a lot of room for improvement in tooling there, both for flaggers and for moderators - but that's never going to happen unless we drastically change the foundation we're building on; right now, "obsolete" is misleading to both flaggers and mods.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 21:45
  • 2
    @Shog9: they're just not looking at the entire context for every flag anymore; they can't. – and especially if you do not want to look at the entire context, knowing what shall be wrong with the comment is helpful, because you start looking at entirely different points for obsolete and too chatty flags. — "obsolete" is misleading to both flaggers and mods. – Seriously: Can you back this up in any way? How does it confuse somebody? Has anybody ever evidently been confused by this?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 22:22
  • 1
    @Cai: A comment may have a lot of context, essentially the entire question and answer. In many case you do not want to look at all that. So you focus on what may be relevant to your flag. And that depends on the type of flag. E.g., consider a comment like “I am from Germany.” on a language site written by the question’s author. This may be a reply to a request for clarification (which was then edited into the question and flagged as obsolete) or this may be totally irrelevant chatter (and flagged as too chatty). Depending on the flag, you start looking into the context at different places.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 22:33
  • A trivial search will find plenty of past discussion on this, @Wrzlprmft. Here's one instance
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 23:07
  • 3
    @Shog9: Looks mostly to me as though that was a case of confusion over whether to flag every comment individually or just the post, official guidance for which has vacillated for some time but currently stands in opposition to the recommendation in that answer. In any case, not clear that there was any confusion over what "obsolete" was supposed to mean, only whether a) the standard was actually met, and b) how to flag to clean up a comment thread efficiently. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 2:45
  • Read it again, @nathan. Lotta stuff going on there. Most of which isn't relevant to this discussion. Critical aspects are: there's no feedback on comment flags beyond "declined". There's no special treatment of multiple flags in a thread (in fact, the UI for flagging makes this intentionally annoying without explaining why). There's no guidance for flaggers who are trying to clean up a conversation they participated in, nor context for moderators to identify these situations.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 3:08
  • @Shog9: Still looks the same to me: everyone agreed that "obsolete" meant "handled by edit", and the main confusion between flagger and mod was over whether there had actually been an edit that handled it, and secondarily how best to get rid of an entire comment thread for a single reason. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 3:14
  • Then you still didn't read it, @Nathan. The moderator involved didn't participate in that discussion at all. There's no recorded explanation for why the flags are declined. Me & a couple of other mods are discussing comment flags and protocol with the flagger.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 3:19
  • 1
    @Shog9: Confusion in the meaning of a flag, not confusion in how to flag multiple comments or whatever else. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 3:37
  • 2
    @Shog9: I second Nathan’s comments, and I really think that should have been clear from the context: I am looking for evidence that the obsolete flag being distinct or having this very name causes any confusion (that was your claim: “‘obsolete’ is misleading to both flaggers and mods.”) – i.e., a problem that would be solved by merging the obsolete flag with other comment flags. I do not see any hint of this in your example – your proposal would not have prevented any of that confusion (maybe it would have caused even more). A search did not yield any examples of this either (see my edit).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 9:09

I like this from the triage point of view.

At the end of the day, any flag comes down to "I need someone semi-responsible looking at this". We're going to have to decide what to do anyway and this classification cuts it down to the basics. Things that NEED to be looked at and defused, things that are mostly harmless but clutter up the place and "everything else".

I've never really liked the "not constructive" flag either - typically when things sink to that level, its a broader issue, so I have a definite bias towards dropping that.


I see obsolete and too chatty as different. What about handing the decision to delete these off to high rep users through a comment no longer needed review queue? That way the extra work from differentiating the reason for the combined flag, is offor set by more eyes.

  • 1
    Yeah, we definitely want to either automate, democratize, or both. But, first things first: let's try & hone the list of common problems. Big problem with review is that it's common that an entire thread needs to be cleaned up, and you'd have someone going through and meticulously categorizing comments according to which flag matched. Unless one person's cussin' up a storm while the other is rambling on about cats, it probably doesn't matter - just delete the whole thread or don't.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 0:53

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