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The comment flags have been improved to look like this (stealing the image from Shog9's answer describing them):

enter image description here

It's a small thing, but "no longer needed" is incorrect; "longer" doesn't belong there. Shog9's post says the reason should be used for non-abusive unconstructive comments. An unconstructive comment was never needed. (Nor, arguably, an over-chatty comment, etc.)

This isn't just terminology; when presented with the new reasons the first time, it really brought me up short that my only apparent options were (effectively) "abusive", "obsolete", or "moderator." Yes, further reading of the (handy) descriptions helps, but "longer" serves no purpose and does hamper comprehension.

So simply "not needed" is all we need (though I'd prefer "not useful").

  • How about "superfluous"? Should be generic enough to catch all cases – Floern Jul 17 '17 at 16:07
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    I'd go with something like Just get rid of it will ya. – Bugs Jul 17 '17 at 16:13
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    @Floern: "superfluous" is basically a synonym of "not needed", but the latter is easier to understand for people for whom English is not their first language (or possibly not even their second or third). – T.J. Crowder Jul 17 '17 at 16:15
  • True, though "not needed/not useful" implies somehow that it never was needed/useful. Which is basically the opposite issue of what you describe. – Floern Jul 17 '17 at 16:24
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    @Floern Huh? The whole point of TJ's request is that such comments are never needed. The problem with "no longer" needed implies they were needed at one point, which TJ says is not accurate. That's exactly what he is describing, not the opposite of it. – TylerH Jul 17 '17 at 16:29
  • @Floern: I'd say the absence of "longer" doesn't imply the presence of "never". :-) "not needed or obsolete" could cover both off, but starts to get long. Or "not needed (anymore)" :-) – T.J. Crowder Jul 17 '17 at 16:29
  • @TylerH: I think Floem was saying, in the case of comments that really are obsolete. Like this one would be if you deleted yours. :-) – T.J. Crowder Jul 17 '17 at 16:29
  • yes, "not needed" excludes the "obsolete", and "no longer needed" excludes the ones that were never needed. So you need something that includes both. – Floern Jul 17 '17 at 16:32
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    @Floern: Well, no. Grammatically, "not needed" doesn't exclude obsolete. I'll say what I said above differently: "not needed" != "was never needed" – T.J. Crowder Jul 17 '17 at 16:34
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The literal meaning of "not constructive" would've been something like "useless", and "useless" / "not useful" / "unneeded" / "unnecessary" / "superfluous" were all proposed at one point as replacements.

I'll get to why I proposed "no longer" in a moment. First...

Background

The essential problem here is that there are really only two broad categories of problems that we care about when it comes to comments:

  1. comments that are inherently off-putting (to post authors, to casual readers, whatever)
  2. comments that just take up space without contributing any useful information

The first class of problem is high-priority - they're the sorts of comments that immediately make a site an unpleasant place to be even when not directed at the reader, so removing them quickly has a large immediate benefit.

The second class of problem is... "Death by a thousand cuts" - one or two have an imperceptible cost, but in quantity they push the site closer to those tedious forums where finding useful information involves scanning past scores of irrelevant responses. Arguably we could just hide them and be done with it, except that no one can agree on a suitable threshold for doing it - so instead we have flags and rely on moderator judgement.

The old set of flags tried to make this easier by splitting up the second class of problem into three more specific classes:

  1. Things that were once useful (obsolete).
  2. Things that were strictly-speaking always unnecessary, but in practice are demanded by social conventions (too chatty).
  3. Everything else (not constructive).

I posted some statistics for these flags as they're used on Stack Overflow in 2016. You'll note that these latter three flags make up the vast majority of comment flags raised, and are almost universally helpful with the exception of "not constructive" which saw a bit over 6% declined.

On that last observation... A big problem was that a common interpretation of "not constructive" wasn't just "useless", it was "slightly destructive" - IOW, folks often used it for comments they felt were rude or mean, as well as for comments that were off-topic, etc. Even though in theory it was the catch-all for "useless", in practice it was also the catch-all for "rude"!

This was kind of a bigger deal in practice than the statistics would suggest, since it meant...

  • There was probably too much mental energy put into deciding between "rude" and "not constructive", with the end result of off-putting stuff just not getting flagged at all.
  • Folks tended to be more upset if their flag got declined than they would've if the comment was just "noisy".
  • Trying to automatically prioritize or handle comment flags based on type was prone to inaccuracy.

Never appropriate vs. transient

This made revamping comment flags difficult, as there's a very good chance a lot of folks are going to just look for a drop-in replacement for whatever they'd previously been using. No problem if the flag they're looking to replace was "too chatty" or even "obsolete", but if it turns out we've settled on a new flag that looks too much like "not constructive" then we're gonna be back in the same boat - folks are gonna use it for off-putting stuff.

After... Oh, a year or so of trying to come up with a wording that had the connotation of "useless but benign", someone suggested that the real line here was between things that a reasonable person - even someone completely unfamiliar with how these sites work - would recognize as inappropriate and those that might be posted in good faith but later seen (by the commentor or others) as unneeded.

Hence, "no longer needed".

The hope here is that this name is immediately incongruous to flaggers looking for the "destructive" flag, while still close enough to "useless" (particularly with the subtext) to serve that purpose.

I guess we'll see how that pans out in practice.

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    So long story short, you want people to use "rude or abusive" rather than "no longer needed" for things that are mildly rude, and see "longer" as encouraging that? – T.J. Crowder Jul 17 '17 at 17:32
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    That's the hope. If not, we'll change 'em again. One of the other suggestions was to drop the cutesy names completely and just go with descriptions: "this comment is obsolete, chatty, or otherwise-unnecessary". The danger there is that we still end up with an implicit purpose in the first couple of words. – Shog9 Jul 17 '17 at 17:41
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    That being the case, not just "longer" but also "abusive" should be dropped: "Abusive" is a big word. Just: Rude / Not Needed / Needs Moderator Attention – T.J. Crowder Jul 17 '17 at 17:43
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    We sometimes see comments where somebody just insists on poking at a tangential argument without being actually rude, just disruptive. In the old scheme I flagged those as "not constructive". It sounds like I'm supposed to flag those as "rude or abusive" now, but that's not clear to me from the flag names/descriptions themselves. Put another way, there's a lot of "not constructive" that pokes around the edges of violating Ve Nice but doesn't. – Monica Cellio Jul 17 '17 at 19:04
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    I'd kinda prefer to see "in need of moderator intervention" used for more of those situations, @Monica - the problem isn't so much the comments as the author. – Shog9 Jul 17 '17 at 19:11
  • Why not literally call the flag "Useless but benign"? Seems clear enough to me. – Nathan Arthur Jul 18 '17 at 19:13
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    Seems pretty clear to me too, @Nathan - but then again, we both just read a page-long post explaining what that means and why it's desirable to have, so we may be a bit biased. – Shog9 Jul 18 '17 at 20:08
  • Should this question be tagged [status-completed] now that the flag has been renamed to "not relevant"? – Donald Duck Aug 3 '18 at 3:33
  • Still looking into that, @Donald. We may want to change that back; "not relevant" is, uh, kinda constraining. Expect a discussion in the next few days. – Shog9 Aug 3 '18 at 22:25

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