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I often see posts from a student who is struggling with some concept which has comments that focus on the approach or technique used being old and obsolete rather than focusing on the question itself.

The comments almost invariably end with the author instructing the student to tell their professor or teacher or whatever that the course content needs to be changed.

There are many reasons why a class may be using older technology or why class content is the way it is with many of those reasons having nothing to do with the competence and knowledge of the instructor or professor. The needs of the classroom are often different from the needs of industry.

Should such comments be flagged as "Rude", "No Longer Needed", or else?

  • Hey Richard. Are you talking about a specific site with this question? Some sites may be a bit different than others and have specific guidance for these issues. – Catija Dec 15 '17 at 3:43
  • Sometimes these comments can be useful for others so they know it's not a good way to go themselves when they don't have any similar constraints on what to use. – PeterJ Dec 15 '17 at 4:31
  • @PeterJ most of the examples that I have seen of this sort of comment does not appear to have any illusions about guidance but are rather more of a rant. I have seen actual answers to such postings in which the author provides not only a usable answer but then follows it up with a brief discussion about the age of the technology. Sometimes there is a class project to use a particular approach not because it is the way it should be done but rather as a learning exercise. Typical of these questions is reinventing functionality normally part of a library for instance. – Richard Chambers Dec 15 '17 at 4:58
  • @Catija I browse through a number of sites and the technology sites are more likely to have this comment behavior than sites such as Travel. – Richard Chambers Dec 15 '17 at 5:00
  • Woo Hoo. An opportunity to score the Peer Pressure badge! – Richard Chambers Dec 15 '17 at 5:03
  • Actually, since there's an upvoted answer... not really – Journeyman Geek Dec 15 '17 at 5:04
  • @JourneymanGeek oh well. Maybe next time though hopefully if I post anything else in Meta it will be better received. – Richard Chambers Dec 15 '17 at 5:06
  • That's the ideal. I wonder if its a mix of it kinda being more of a MSO question + the tone of it. Does feel the slightest bit ranty – Journeyman Geek Dec 15 '17 at 5:14
  • @JourneymanGeek dialed back the ranty. Lol – Richard Chambers Dec 15 '17 at 5:19
  • Up to 0 with edits. No peer pressure badge for you. – Journeyman Geek Dec 15 '17 at 6:38
  • @JourneymanGeek and Aibot and Andrew T have made some nice adjustments to the post as well. – Richard Chambers Dec 15 '17 at 12:57
  • When you're paying out the ass to learn software development and they're teaching you VB 6, you bet your ass I'm going to point that fact out. And anything else that appears wrong with the product they're buying. – user1228 Dec 18 '17 at 21:59
  • @Won't Students just want answers not polemics and additional worries they can do nothing about. Professors and teachers just want to help students learn the material and concepts. Professors and teachers for the most part know when the learning materials are not up to snuff. Between state legislatures cutting budgets, alumni who refuse to donate, and corporations showing little interest in investing in education, state institutions do what they can. Many students are already suspicious of professors and you want to further poison the well making a thankless job even more so. – Richard Chambers Dec 19 '17 at 1:05
  • "they can do nothing about" Wrong. "Between state legislatures cutting budgets, alumni who refuse to donate, and corporations showing little interest in investing in education" not valid excuses at all. This is such a load of crap. Everything you need to learn modern software development is available for free, right on the internet. From IDEs, to frameworks and beyond. There's nothing I use on a daily basis that I couldn't download for free and start using. If you can't hack that while charging thousands per credit hour, you're a fraud. – user1228 Dec 19 '17 at 13:57
  • @Won't where do you download a computer from? – Richard Chambers Dec 19 '17 at 14:31
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Comments are a bit of a sticky situation, really.

They're regularly used incorrectly for a variety of reasons. If you see a comment that doesn't actually do what comments should - request more information, ask for clarification, or make suggestions for improvement - those comments are fair game to flag for a moderator to remove.

This is true anywhere on the network.

Now, whether the moderator agrees with your flag will largely depend on the site and their local comment policy. Some sites are pretty liberal with their comments and delete few of them. Some sites, like one of the ones I moderate, are very active in deleting pretty much any comment that doesn't do one of the things I've already mentioned.

What response you'll get from a moderator will depend on the site, so it's probably a good idea to take that into account. You can always research specific sites' comment removal policy. Many have them. If they don't, you can always ask. Some sites have chat rooms where the moderators are active... that might be a good place to reach out and see what they think, otherwise, there's the child meta of the site (this is the big network-wide meta).

So, which flag to use?

In a general case like this where the statement is more benign than attack-y, I'd go with "No longer needed". That's definitely true and hopefully a moderator will agree.

If the comment veers into insulting the supposed professor "Your professor is an idiot and should be fired for teaching you this way"... that's rude/abusive and it should be flagged as such.

If your flag is declined, you have a couple of options

  • you can flag again but with a custom reason explaining your flag and asking that the comment be removed. The generic flags sometimes don't tell us much so we have to do a bit of digging - or not - so a hint is often useful when we're hip-deep in flags.
  • ask about it in chat. Even if there aren't any moderators there, you're likely going to find some experienced users who can recommend a course of action.
  • ask about it on meta. I'm guessing that asking about comments not being deleted on Stack Overflow might be a bit of overkill, particularly with how many active moderators they have, but on smaller sites, meta is the right place to go when you're looking for help understanding why your flags are declined.
    Please do make an effort to phrase the question as a request for understanding/information rather than being accusatory towards the moderators. It makes us more likely to respond and explain.
  • 2
    Since this is most of my answer, and more, I'd also add, realistically you rarely get to pick what technology stack you use, and these comments don't help very much. On the other hand, flag em, move on, and maybe see if you can turn that rage into something positive, like awesome answers to those questions. ;) – Journeyman Geek Dec 15 '17 at 4:00

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