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Some preface: I have an alternate account that I'm using to gain rep in order to help test/build bots for the SOBotics community on stackoverflow. Bot accounts are essentially users, and they need 20 rep to talk in chat, and 50 in order to add comments.

On this account (with 23 rep), I flagged a question as a duplicate of the wrong post by accident:

Cannot delete own comment

When I retracted the duplicate flag, I noticed that the comment was not removed. When I attempted to remove it, there was no [x] icon to the right of the post, and I had no recourse other than to leave the comment up (Which was 100% a wrong duplicate for that post). Additionally, I couldn't even flag it for mod attention, because it was my comment!

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    It appears that this happens for any comment posted on behalf of a <50 rep user, also including trivial answers converted to comments and moderators converting answers to comments. – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Aug 1 '18 at 16:55
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Until about two years ago, users without the "comment everywhere" privilege couldn't even raise close flags: since this can trigger the creation of comments, it was simply disallowed until you earned the comment privilege.

This was pretty annoying.

OTOH, allowing users who can't normally post comments to get around that via flagging isn't great either; it opens the door to a couple of forms of abuse.

So we compromised: low-rep users can raise close flags, but cannot edit any comments created in this process. They also can't delete those comments, as they'd be unable to restore them if they did!

This is the first I've heard of this causing any problems. I tend to doubt most new / infrequent users even know that it is possible to retract flags.

  • As I commented on the question, this restriction may also apply to users who post trivial answers that get automatically converted to comments, and to users who post answers that are subsequently converted into comments by moderators. Is this true? If so, does this change anything? After all, in case of the former, the user can just re-post the same trivial answer again, getting it converted into a comment again. – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Aug 3 '18 at 3:50
  • Yeah, the "convert to comment" thing was a bit of a problem prior to this change; it wasn't abused often, but when someone latched onto it there wasn't much we could do to stop them. The limitations on these comments were a nice bonus. – Shog9 Aug 3 '18 at 4:10
  • Yeah, if I remember correctly, before the above change was made, users could post an answer that intentionally triggers the script, then edit the comment. It was only with the above change that that loophole was closed and <50 rep users could no longer edit those comments. – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Aug 3 '18 at 4:12
  • That wasn't accidental... – Shog9 Aug 3 '18 at 4:13
  • I know, just mentioning... – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Aug 3 '18 at 4:13
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    I'm a little torn on why a user cannot delete a comment. Regardless or not if I can repost said comment, deletion should always be available (IMO, just disable editing to prevent abuse.) At worst, you could always put in the deletion popup something along the lines of "Are you sure you want to delete this comment? You will not be able to add another one until you reach 50 reputation." – FrankerZ Aug 3 '18 at 10:36
  • Additionally, most mods I've talked to avoid converting answers to comments if they're below 50 rep (Something I personally disagree with) in order to prevent abuse. IMO, there should be a better system for the "convert a comment" system, such as a message sent to the user explaining how to answer and/or display/limit how many times an answer can be converted per user. – FrankerZ Aug 3 '18 at 10:51
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    I agree, @frankerz. Consider this a first step in a long process: without the ability to flag questions as duplicates, many new users had no other choice but to post them as answers; with that corrected, it becomes possible to consider alternative approaches to guiding them. – Shog9 Aug 3 '18 at 15:06
  • "They also can't delete those comments, as they'd be unable to restore them if they did!" What does that mean? Any ordinary (non-moderator) user cannot restore comments. If I understood that statement correctly, it claims that we don't allow (<50 rep users) to delete comments because if it were to be allowed, they wouldn't be able to restore them either, which is quite confusing to me. Could you please explain exactly what that means? – Masked Man Aug 6 '18 at 3:02
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog "users could post an answer that intentionally triggers the script" I thought converting answer to comment was handled manually by moderators? What is this script that automatically converts answers to comments? Since the criteria to convert an answer to a comment is "is this good enough to be a comment", not "is this not good enough to be an answer", that decision should always be made by a human (although with machine learning and all that, it could change). So as it currently stands, what is the need for doing this automatically? – Masked Man Aug 6 '18 at 3:07
  • @MaskedMan I think he meant "repost", not "restore". Users can't post the "possible duplicate" comment again, as they can't reflag a post if they retracted an older flag. Also, about the script: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/233960/… – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Aug 6 '18 at 3:12
  • Any user with >= 50 rep can re-post a deleted comment whenever they wish to, @masked - and many do. This isn't an option for low-rep users outside their own posts. – Shog9 Aug 6 '18 at 3:12
  • "low-rep users can raise close flags, but cannot edit any comments created in this process." Edit and delete are two separate things, OP is asking to be able to delete comments, not edit them. I cannot quite think of a scenario where a user can abuse deleting their own comment (albeit posted by the system, though in the user's name). – Masked Man Aug 6 '18 at 3:13
  • "Not good enough" isn't a good reason to convert answers to comments, @masked; a bad answer is usually a bad comment too. Downvotes and deletion suffice for bad answers. – Shog9 Aug 6 '18 at 3:14
  • @Shog9 Ok, understood. The word "restore" threw me off there a bit. It is clear now. – Masked Man Aug 6 '18 at 3:14
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This looks like a known bug. They will "eventually" fix it, but don't hold your breath! Use one of these ugly workarounds in the meantime.

  • Custom flag the post: Flag the post for moderator attention and explain the issue there. Generally, if you cannot flag the actual issue, get the moderators' attention "close enough" to it.

  • Go to the site chat room: If your site's chat room is active and users frequently hang out there, you can request one of them to flag your comment.

  • Don't do anything: For completeness, I will include the most mundane and zero-effort solution. Forget about the comment and don't do anything. Someone will eventually flag the comment as obsolete anyway. Nobody is going to die because the comment sticks around for a few hours or days. We have far too many obsolete comments anyway.

  • Post another comment isn't an option. Users would be less than 50 reputation and wouldn't be able to post. – FrankerZ Aug 2 '18 at 12:00
  • Additionally, if this is a known bug, why is this the first meta I'm seeing about this? I did do a pretty thorough search before posting. – FrankerZ Aug 2 '18 at 12:01
  • You are right, removed it. – Masked Man Aug 2 '18 at 12:34
  • @FrankerZ It was only recently that <50 reputation users could flag questions as duplicates. For a long time, they couldn't, since they couldn't post comments. – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Aug 2 '18 at 15:27
  • tbh a No longer relevant flag seems appropriate here. – Journeyman Geek Aug 3 '18 at 8:01
  • @Journeyman Flagging the post as no longer relevant is not an option, so the user should custom flag the post and explain the issue. – Masked Man Aug 3 '18 at 8:11

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