On July 31st, the "no longer needed" flag reason was renamed "not relevant". Many have complained about or questioned this change (examples: 1, 2, 3, 4), but the only official post I've been able to find about the UI and wording changes doesn't even mention this wording change, let alone explain it.

Why was this done?


This was a matter of many people putting in a lot of effort to get some design elements in place while doing a bit of cleanup. We spent more time talking about it and have rolled it back to the previous text with a slight adjustment to the explanation:

It's no longer needed.

The comment is outdated, conversational or not relevant to this post.

So, what's changed:

  1. We had some feedback internally that "obsolete" is potentially unclear for some users, so we're going with "outdated" instead.
  2. "Conversational" replaces "chatty" - they are synonymous and the former is a bit more formal.
  3. "Otherwise unnecessary" is very broad and may lead to some confusion for moderators trying to address these flags. As such, we've focused on "not relevant", which combines more reasonably with the flag type and catches some comments that were likely never needed.

Making this text perfect is something that likely won't ever happen but we think this is a pretty good option. Keep in mind that the list needs to be short, so don't take it as exclusive. If the comment isn't needed any more - or was never needed - this is the right flag to use.

If there's a major block of comments that aren't being covered in one of the default reasons, the best option will be to use a custom flag (now called "something else") because it makes it much more obvious to us that such a flag reason is needed - we can analyze custom comment flags to see if there are common trends in the flag text.

Please excuse any confusion this has caused over the last week - it was very much unintentional.

  • 1
    The flag still shows up as "not relevant" in my flag history. – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Aug 7 '18 at 2:26
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    The problem is linguistic. When people read "relevant," they think, "pertains in some way to the post." Even obsolete comments are relevant, the way a typical user would casually define it. And this, I think, has been a source of consternation. – Aza Aug 7 '18 at 3:06
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    @Zyerah And that's the main reason we've changed it back to what it was. Limiting it to only "not relevant" excluded most of the reasons users flag comments. – Catija Aug 7 '18 at 3:08
  • @Catija Yeah! And, thank you for that, too :) – Aza Aug 7 '18 at 3:49
  • 4
    If needed is going to be part of the wording, then it should simply be it is not needed. No longer is simply too confusing from a logical perspective. – Jason Bassford Aug 7 '18 at 4:49
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    What is wrong with "not needed", or equivalently, " unnecessary"? No longer needed implies the comment was needed previously. – Masked Man Aug 7 '18 at 6:50

Nearly two years ago (when the comment flag dialogue still had five options), Taryn (who was called Bluefeet back then) asked a question on ELU about what a good word would be for a new (replacement) flag option.

A user (well, me, actually) suggested the word “irrelevant” and the answer was accepted. I gave the following as reasoning for why it would be a good choice:

What's nice about this word is it's simple. And it's also the word many people already use to describe this type of comment

(In retrospect I would also add that it’s a lot less negative than some of the other suggestions given as answers to that question too.)

I think it’s pretty likely that my answer was revisited and they saw “not relevant” (which is pretty close to my original suggestion of “irrelevant”) as a better fit than “no longer needed” (which implies that the comment was necessary at some point.)

  • 7
    As the current flag we see as mods is "not relevant" it is much more negative than the original "no longer needed/required". From the other side of the coin to your answer: one reason implies that it has outlived its usefulness, the other implies it was never useful to begin with. Most comments that get flagged were useful at some point and now just need cleaning up. To me this change was pointless bordering on harmful. – Mokubai Aug 6 '18 at 14:16
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    I'm reasonably sure that the expansion of "not relevant" is essentially "bears no relation to the subject at hand", so should we now be rejecting comment deletion flags when the comments were relevant to the question but are now merely obsolete? Or are we talking about it being "relevant" right here and now? It just feels like the worst possible phrasing was chosen here and it was done for the sake of doing it. – Mokubai Aug 6 '18 at 14:24
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    @Mokubai As I note below, the extended description of the flag lists "outdated" as its first example of why a comment might be "not relevant", so no, the wording change doesn't indicate that you're supposed to handle flags differently now. I entirely agree that it's a "pointless bordering on harmful" change, however, and agree that framing "outdated" comments as a subset of "not relevant" ones seems... a little unnatural. – Mark Amery Aug 6 '18 at 14:29

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