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I often delete my own comments when there are typos, when they might be interpreted in the wrong way, or their wording needs improvement. I also do my utmost to delete comments that are no longer needed, so I am not a "comment whore" (I think "whore" is an expression popular in the US for people who crave attention at all costs. If someone is offended by the term, apologies, a more effective expression does not spring to mind.) Yet, on several occasions on Meta, I find perfectly harmless comments of mine are deleted when I return to visit a page.

A now-deleted comment of mine on this post attracted a couple of upvotes, I didn't keep count, yet it was deleted for it being "chatty". It was not the only victim of the culling.

EDIT
The comment which was deleted was, I felt, useful, it was not idle chatter. It was useful to point out that the incriminating post was invisible for users like myself who do not have 10K on Stack Overflow, it was complimenting the OP on the amount of care and attention they spent in composing the question and at the same time reminding users that a post so well thought out and argued takes considerable time. Then there was something else, but I've completely forgotten what it was, too bad, I suppose. If ever there was a more conciliatory comment then that was it.

On a closely related issue, anything can be interpreted in the wrong light by one or more users, this inevitably leads to prejudicial treatment, and that risk increases when the person commenting is a non-native speaker. A number of non-native users' posts and comments are weak on nuance, tone and ‘diplomacy’, and some languages adopt a more direct, perhaps brusque, approach than the pleasantries the English language employs. This missing tone can make or break a post or a comment.

Here is one such question which I recently edited because the downvotes seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction to the OP's original title. After the not insignificant edit, the upvotes started to arrive.

Mods and CMs alike should always be fair, even towards users they may personally dislike or find particularly annoying, and recent events have led me to believe that I fit into that category. I have been warned of misusing comments and the veiled threat of suspension has been used as a stick to dissuade me from actively participating. This sounds like sour grapes, doesn't it? It's not. My reaction on finding that a comment (which did not violate CoC and was not off-topic) of mine was yet again deleted is of stunned disbelief.

I thought comments on Meta were viewed differently from those on the main site. I found the following topic, posted in 2015 by a highly respected mod on a number of SE sites and very recently also appointed as a mod on Meta.

[Emphasis in bold mine]

We all know what comments are for -- and aren't, but that guidance is, naturally, geared toward main sites, where we want to keep things clean and focused. Meta, on the other hand, is a site's "second place", with some different rules and conventions. For example, questions on main sites can be closed as primarily-opinion-based, but meta is all about opinions. There's a "discussion" tag and such questions collect many opinions. Meta is different.

The OP of Stack Overflow has engaged in ideological censorship and unwelcoming behavior also expressed perplexity on the deletion of several comments beneath their post. The mod who undertook this action, replied [Emphasis in bold mine]

Anything that provided context, potential clarifications/requests that didn't feel like they'd fit into an answer that was on topic but were useful or talked about possible reasons to close (since they are automatic)- and a few more that felt like they wouldn't be answers. I could have purged them all, and it was tempting, but if you're going to argue out points in comments, that's not what they are there for. And now, I'll be doing a second round of cleanups

Later, they added this further explanation

So, We'll be rather agressively pruning the comments here. Its not social commentary, just housekeeping - but feel free to post any substancial information that's of interest on this topic as a post.

I 100% disagree, it is still social commentary. Only the comments agreeing with the deletion of the answer were allowed to stand. How is that not social commentary?

It's also worth noting that it is impossible to post an answer on a question that has been placed on hold, so that comment was poorly thought out. It happens.

Henceforth–lovely word–I shall be taking screenshots of every comment I post on MSE, especially those which express disagreement with a decision undertaken by the team and do not violate the CoC. The two can be achieved.

Overall, it seems to me that the arbitrary deletion of comments follows no fixed criteria.

Related: I'd like to be able to see "Unfriendly" flags lodged against me

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    For monica's post she did say "I'm specifying per-site metas and not MSE because MSE seems to have conventions that fall somewhere between "main site" and "per-site meta"." so I'm unsure that's entirely relevant to the situation at hand – Journeyman Geek Apr 21 at 9:30
  • @JourneymanGeek what does the discussion tag on MSE exist for then? If it is not to discuss and share opinions until, in an ideal world, we can reach a common ground. – Mari-Lou A Apr 21 at 9:44
  • I've fixed that the post is on hold for now. If you're interested in putting your comments into a full answer, this is your chance ... – rene Apr 21 at 10:51
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    @rene It will have to wait. I am now with family and friends, giving a hand in prepping Easter lunch! Happy holidays! – Mari-Lou A Apr 21 at 11:59
  • +1 for being annoyed at comments being handled in a seemingly biased way; -1, however, for thinking that comments should ever be permanent in the first place (even here), regardless of content. But +1 overall for the discussion. – Jason Bassford Apr 21 at 18:22
  • @Mari-LouA you are free to do so in answers. And carry on from there. – Journeyman Geek Apr 21 at 21:52
  • @JourneymanGeek then maybe every comment that contains a piece of opinion should be deleted? I dunno, I see questions with what seems like fifty or sixty comments, untouched and they make for good reading too. As long as the comments are on topic and do not insult or offend anyone, they should stay on meta and that includes MSE. – Mari-Lou A Apr 22 at 7:43
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    See. The last bit. That's not how it works. It's how I suppose you wish it did, but it's not. All this is in my answer - since well, it's important and I don't think it should be transient. It's not just about opinion, it's about usefulness. That said you can always back up an opinion with a post and often get a fuller reply... Or two – Journeyman Geek Apr 22 at 7:52
  • Opinions are not answers though are they? And sometimes you just don't have the time, the will or the background knowhow to support an opinion, which I repeat is perfectly legitimate on posts tagged discussion. – Mari-Lou A Apr 22 at 8:02
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    It just seems to me to be yet another unfortunate action that appears to be biased from the outside. In a case like this, deleting most comments but leaving up only "useful" ones which all are in support of removal of the posts in question seems counter productive to the claim that there was no bias involved. It reeks of bias from start to end. More care needs to be taken when dealing with these situations. – Kevin B Apr 22 at 15:47
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So, there's a deeply controversial post, with lots of people who need to put in their 2 cents on a comment. And eventually those comments add up.

I could comment on your post, and not actually need to worry about folks downvoting. I'd also lose the ability to have any flavour of nuance. In short, any comment at all could plausibly be deleted. SE's toyed with renaming comments clarifications and that's what they are for. Its worth remembering that a post getting over 20 comments is an auto flag, and we often wait, and see before we clear out comments on MSE.

As for clearing the comments themselves - the decision wasn't based on my agreement or disagreement with the comments, but rather how useful they seemed.. I cleared out most of them - as is common practice here and elsewhere. Considering the content being about censorship, its worth remembering I cleared out comments on both sides of the debate that seemed argumentative, keeping a few that felt like they provided useful context.

If a comment was afoul of the COC, we'd do much more than simply clear out the comment

Mods and CMs alike should always be fair, even towards users they may personally dislike or find particularly annoying, and recent events have led me to believe that I fit into that category. I have been warned of misusing comments and the veiled threat of suspension has been used as a stick to dissuade me from actively participating.

Which is fine. I'd totally get a second opinion if it was about a specific user. Its not about you but a general cleanup of comments. If you somehow feel its about you, and you've constantly been reminded about the appropriate use of comments, well, maybe you might want to consider why. As a whole 36 comments were deleted, many of them were not yours. Its certainly nothing personal.

Some posts are tricky. The extra clarification was precisely because I figured someone would decide to turn it political when it wasn't. I also wanted to make it clear that, well I made the call, simply cause of the sheer amount of emotion over the issue.

The closure was a hard call. At the end of the day, this entirely seemed like a reaction to a post on MSO, involving issues that have been hashed out in detail on MSO, involving SO community culture. I'm not saying the network is perfect when it comes to the subject of the post, but we have different problems and visibility as compared to SO.

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    Just get rid of all of the comments then. If it's a long, controversial discussion, then remove everything. I agree with the criticism that leaving anything behind can be seen as biased. There is no promise that a comment will be permanent. If you feel that a particular comment is essential to the question, or provides really useful information, then turn it into an answer. If you don't have that level of belief in it, then you shouldn't be allowing it to remain while selectively removing others. – Jason Bassford Apr 21 at 14:36
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    @JasonBassford: "I agree with the criticism that leaving anything behind can be seen as biased." Who cares if someone could see it as biased? Some people think that anything which is not actively promoting views they agree with is a priori biased. What matters is whether keeping the comments that were kept genuinely constitutes bias. – Nicol Bolas Apr 21 at 14:49
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    Well, tough. Someone has to make a decision, read through the comments and try to decide what's the best course of action. Its a bit like a duck swimming - you don't see much on the surface but there's a bunch of frantic pedaling, and decision making behind the scenes. Personally I'd like to think my biases are towards trying to keep SE a place I'd like to keep engaging in - rather than politics. Its worth remembering folks sometimes are in places where politics and discourse can be different – Journeyman Geek Apr 21 at 14:53
  • @JourneymanGeek If it's a long series of controversial comments, trying to decide is the wrong approach. Just delete all of them. – Jason Bassford Apr 21 at 14:55
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    Its the approach we're told to take, and the approach we do take. Its the right approach because some of these comments are useful in a longer term. Most of the comments here will go eventually, once their use is gone, but not yet. But sometimes comments are useful for a little longer. If it was easy, you wouldn't need human beings. – Journeyman Geek Apr 21 at 14:57
  • Yet again, I find my comment which politely explained that I have not been "… constantly been reminded about the appropriate use of comments” on MSE and “well, maybe you might want to consider why” I was warned once by the mods from MSE. It's the arbitrary deletion of similar clarifications, made politely, which are beginning to be really upsetting. That piece in your answer implies you and other mods on MSE have repeatedly stated that I have misused comments. It's simply not true. – Mari-Lou A Apr 22 at 16:19
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    Well - there's clearly a disconnect between how we see comments - as transient artifacts used for clarification, and comments as discussion and first class artifacts. In addition it's you who said mods warned you about misusing comments, so it's not just here. – Journeyman Geek Apr 22 at 16:37
7

I agree with the answer from the moderator who deleted them. Let me add a few things.

First, comments can be noisy in the aggregate, and that's a valid reason to delete them. Comments have no inherent right to survive. Moderators do not need to make a solid case against every individual comment we delete. We do have to be fair, of course, and having reviewed Geek's actions, I believe he was very fair. I did some further cleanup this morning and let the other mods know so they could review my work, too. Comments from all sides of the argument, some highly upvoted, were removed because they were no longer helping. Also, note that the OP said, in a comment on Tim's answer, that the matter is closed now, so there's no point in further discussion there.

Second, "then delete them all" doesn't work when there are lots of different things going on in a pile of comments. A couple people having a protracted argument shouldn't be able to hijack everything else. Comments seen to be adding something without continuing an argument were kept. Sometimes a reasonable comment becomes obsolete after other stuff is cleaned up, and so it goes too. It's an inexact science, but we do our best.

Third, you cited as part of your support a post that I wrote. You missed that I was asking a question, not asserting policy. I don't see what my question about responding to comment flags on per-site metas has to do with the current situation.

Fourth, you wrote:

Mods and CMs alike should always be fair, even towards users they may personally dislike or find particularly annoying

Yes. We are. In fact, we have to be extra careful when dealing with people we find particularly annoying, to make sure we're evaluating the case and not the person. If you believe you have been unfairly targeted you are always welcome to escalate to SE, but do be aware that we aren't just saying "oh, that bozo -- suspend!".

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