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The big question

This post is meant to gather a consensus on what comments mods and the community consider to be flaggable.

When I want to flag a comment, I see this:

But what do each of the reasons mean, and when should I choose them?


Useful questions a canonical answer should answer:

  • Should I flag a comment that contains misinformation? If so, as what?
  • Should I flag old close reasons? If so, as what?
    e.g. "this is proofreading question and is likely to get closed unless you provide a source of concern"
  • Should I flag comments to which the edit of the post has responded? If so, as what?
    Imagine a scenario when someone posts an answer and someone else comments "It would also be nice if you mention that blah blah blah" and the poster edits the question mentioning blah blah blah". Another scenario would be that someone posted a comment that "this answer is wrong because X is not Y" and the poster corrects their answer.
  • Should I flag comments that can reasonably stand as answers? If so, as what?
  • Should I flag comments that criticize the post rather than the person, even if they do it harshly? Comments ranging from "this is bad answer" to "what the hell is written here! This answer is [ . . . ]."
  • < feel free to add more questions that need answering here >

This post deems necessary because

1. We (the people who care about moderation and occasionally flag comments) get declined flags every now and then and that's because mods aren't consistent with their decisions unfortunately. (Naturally, since lack of consensus results in lack of consistency, they're not at fault at all)
2. While the reasons for flagging are obvious, different SE sites have different rules for how to flag and how to handle flags. Different SE sites have different moderation cultures since they handle different topics.
3. It just feels nice to write a FAQ and do moderate comments. Sometimes they get out of hand!

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We get declined flags every now and then and that's because mods aren't consistent with their decisions unfortunately

How a flag gets ultimately handled is not a matter of inconsistent decision-making; it's more a matter of each flag being its own case, and it must be weighed individually, by individuals.

Some flags (such as blatant spam) are easy no-brainers. Many of them, though, get thrown along the gray areas. And we have limited options on how they are ultimately handled.

If a flag ultimately gets declined, that's not intended to be punitive. I appreciated most flags I get, even the ones that get marked as declined instead of helpful.

My daughters used to marvel at how many of their questions would get answered with "it depends." And that's how I feel about most of your flagging questions:

Should I flag a comment that contains misinformation? If so, as what?

Rather than answer that as a yes or no question, I would rather talk about the many ways you could handle that. You could politely and constructively make a comment. You could do more research to see if maybe the comment is right, and your perceptions are wrong. You could flag it to bring it to the moderation team's attention. I don't think any of those responses would be wrong, but I think that, in most cases, flagging is probably the least constructive way to handle it out of the options I've listed.

Should I flag old close reasons? If so, as what? e.g. "this is proofreading question and is likely to get closed unless you provide a source of concern"

You could, but, again, I think it might be better to cast your close vote and let the rest of the community decide.

Should I flag comments to which the edit of the post has responded? If so, as what?

If you think those comments could now be deleted, flag them as obsolete. Sometimes, though, I'll let them stand, if I think they will help bring attention to the edit history which may provide important context, such as when an older answer might have focused on the original question.

Imagine a scenario when someone posts an answer and someone else comments "It would also be nice if you mention that blah blah blah" and the poster edits the question mentioning blah blah blah". Another scenario would be that someone posted a comment that "this answer is wrong because X is not Y" and the poster corrects their answer.

Same thing as above. Flag them as obsolete if you think the site would be improved if these comments were cleaned up.

Should I flag comments that can reasonably stand as answers? If so, as what?

Most of the time, no. Either leave a comment, saying, "Maybe you could expand that into an answer," or write an answer that has more substance than the comment, and acknowledge that first person's comment in your answer. Then there's another possibility: maybe the comment is fine, but the question is too basic. Some questions invite "comment answers," like, "Which one of these three is grammatically correct?" (Answer: "The second one.")

Should I flag comments that criticize the post rather than the person, even if they do it harshly? Comments ranging from "this is bad answer" to "what the hell is written here! etc."

Flags to rude comments are always appreciated. Everyone should strive to play nice.

That all said, those are just my opinions, and gray areas abound. When is "misinformation" really "misinformation?" When is a comment witty instead of rude? When is a comment obsolete versus when does it hint at some important revisions? When could a comment really be an answer on its own, versus being a helpful comment? Participate long enough, and you'll run into plenty of cases where you find yourself thinking, "Hmmm, this is kind of in-between."

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  • "Same thing as above. Flag them as obsolete" Both of you moderators agree that we must flag comments when it is no longer helpful or relevant. But still I don't understand why my flags got declined? :( – Usernew Dec 21 '15 at 7:14
  • I never said anyone "must" flag anything. As I said, each flag is an individual case. Are you talking about yours flags on this comment? If so, I can see why they were declined. The comment there does a good job explaining something in a way that might be helpful for the learner. It would be a shame to delete it, even if it references something that is obsolete. – J.R. Dec 21 '15 at 9:26
  • I read here that only unhelpful, noisy or bad-faith flags should be marked declined; others should be marked as helpful even if they do not lead to moderator action. September 2011 Moderator Newsletter I see it was a while ago; has the policy changed since then? Why would you mark a flag as declined if you appreciated it? – sumelic Dec 21 '15 at 9:57
  • @sumelic - I often do exactly what you say – mark a flag as helpful, even if I don't take any action. But there may be times where it gets marked as declined instead. (For example, I may start declining flags when I've seen several against the same post.) BTW, I just went back and analyzed some recent data. From what I could see, the vast majority of flags were being marked as helpful. I think our moderation team is doing pretty good in this regard. – J.R. Dec 21 '15 at 10:13
  • @J.R. No! Check this transcript. I am talking about "that" comment which is now deleted as I had to ask the poster of the comment to delete them. My flagging was overlooked. I again flagged them, again overlooked. So i had to ask Dam to delete them. Both of you moderator approves that those should have been deleted. – Usernew Dec 21 '15 at 10:59
  • @Usernew - This seems like a lot of fuss over a declined flag and a comment you don't like. – J.R. Dec 21 '15 at 11:10
  • 3
    Well, let me explain again. I wrote an answer. In that answer, a point contradicted what was explained in the source pic in that answer. A user commented pointing out my mistake saying "Doesn't this point contradict the source?" and I corrected it. Now the point doesn't contradict anymore, but the comment still sits there, still saying "Doesn't this point contradict the source?" even when it doesn't contradict anymore, as I have edited it. Now do you get the big picture. Further, if this is the attitude of moderators here, I don't see people much flagging and reporting something – Usernew Dec 21 '15 at 11:15
  • to make this site more clean and helpful to English language learners. And if you still think that those now-deleted comments were helpful, which were quite honest misleading, then I cannot say more. – Usernew Dec 21 '15 at 11:16
  • J.R. by obsolete close reason comments I mean ones like "I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because chickens fly higher than planes" where the post has or has not been closed. Those don't contribute any information and are just "meta" stuff. I asked if we could flag old ones as obsolete. – M.A.R. Dec 21 '15 at 12:55
  • @Usernew - Please provide a link the comment in question, not a link to a chat room where you talk about this. RE: Further, if this is the attitude of moderators here, I don't see people much flagging and reporting something. Um, the moderation team handles about 400 flags a month with an average response time of less than 3 hours. If you want to start criticizing the moderation team over one flag, well, go ahead, let us have it. – J.R. Dec 21 '15 at 15:56
  • @Ϻ.Λ.Ʀ. - Go ahead and flag them if you think the site would be improved by removing the comments. At worst, the flag will be declined and the comment left alone, if the moderation team disagrees with your assessment and sees some value in letting the comments stand. – J.R. Dec 21 '15 at 16:11
  • K thanks @J.R., what I wanted to hear. – M.A.R. Dec 21 '15 at 18:30
2

Okay!

In my opinion:

Should I flag a comment that contains misinformation? If so, as what?

No flag is required. If it contains wrong information, write down a comment down to it. Say - "I think it's not correct. 'read' is a transitive verb and it'd require a direct object."

Should I flag old close reasons? If so, as what? e.g. "this is proofreading question and is likely to get closed unless you provide a source of concern"

Yes, you should flag it. It's obsolete and after editing the question, this is no longer informative or relevant to the post.

Should I flag comments to which the edit of the post has responded? If so, as what? Imagine a scenario when someone posts an answer and someone else comments "It would also be nice if you mention that blah blah blah" and the poster edits the question mentioning blah blah blah".

Yes, flag it. It's now obsolete for the same reason mentioned above. The 'blah...blah...blah..' is now included.

Another scenario would be that someone posted a comment that "this answer is wrong because X is not Y" and the poster corrects their answer.

Ditto the previous answer.

Should I flag comments that can reasonably stand as answers? If so, as what?

We often do that. No need to 'flag'. Flags are visible to moderators and we cannot urge the comment writer. In fact what we have been doing is quite right! Express your opinion to the commentator that it should better go as an answer. In fact, this is very useful as in some cases, the commentator replies back that s/he is quite busy and cannot post that as an answer. Some other user who posts the answer gets very good information looking at that comment. So, let it be!

Should I flag comments that criticize the post rather than the person, even if they do it harshly? Comments ranging from "this is bad answer" to "what the hell is written here! This answer is [ . . . ]."

Criticism is welcomed, rudeness is not! So, if you want this site to be clean, flag comments that don't have any flair of a civilized tone.

Thanks for the invitation, by the way!

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  • 1
    "Yes, flag it. It's now obsolete for the same reason mentioned above. The 'blah...blah...blah..' is now included." I flagged three comments yesterday for this same reason, but they got declined. I again flagged them stating that the comments are now obsolete as I had edited them, still they got declined. Let's wait for another moderator to throw some light on this matter. – Usernew Dec 19 '15 at 7:11
  • When we click on the "add a comment" button, we see 'Avoid Comments like "+1" or "thanks."' So, what about comments that aid nothing to the question and answer, such as: "+1 for mentioning this, that." "thanks for clarification." ??? – Usernew Dec 19 '15 at 7:16
  • Comments not necessarily address the question directly. I see '+1 for mentioning something' quite useful as the reader would understand that in that answer, that mentioned matter carry some weightage. At times, some part in some answers make them simply outstanding and it is worth mentioning it. About that 'blah..blah...' do let me know, and I take care. Which one you are talking about? @Usernew – Maulik V Dec 19 '15 at 7:42
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As far as I can tell, there is no point to flagging comments as "obsolete". The moderators will just decline the flags.

A scenario:

  • Answer is posted in comment #1.
  • Original poster asks (in comment #2) for a clarification of comment #1.
  • Follow-up comment #3 clarifies comment #1.
  • Original poster asks (in comment #4) that comments #1 and #3 be written up as an answer.
  • Comments #1 and #3 are written up as an answer.
  • The original poster accepts the answer.
  • Two years pass.
  • In a meta-thread, moderators encourage flagging obsolete comments.
  • Comments #1, #3, and #4 are flagged as obsolete -- because they have been incorporated into an answer.
  • The flags are declined.

Conclusions:

  1. Flagging obsolete comments does no good, even when the obsolescence is obvious.
  2. If the moderators disagree with conclusion #1, the moderators will need to change how they handle "obsolete" flags.
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  • This scenario is consistent with @Usernew's repeated experience, about which J.R.♦ wrote "This seems like a lot of fuss over a declined flag and a comment you don't like." – Jasper Dec 21 '15 at 17:39
  • I strongly disagree with the conclusion that the flagging "does no good." Flagging is designed to bring a matter to a moderator's attention, so that it can be evaluated. Bringing it to the moderation team's attention is always a good thing, whether the comment is ultimately deleted or not. Sometimes we'll agree with you and delete it; other times we will see some value in letting the comments stand for some reason. The latter case doesn't somehow negate the value of the initial flag, I don't think. – J.R. Dec 21 '15 at 17:48
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    Well, I beg to disagree Jasper. We're flagging stuff to get removed. So you know, bad stuff that only clutters up posts and unnecessary readings should be removed. An exchange like "please edit to explain why dolphins can't fly" with a response "I edited. Thanks for telling me." is useless on the post. It gives no further info than the answer, so should be flagged for removal. Of course, this clutter and relevance argument is negligible in normal threads, but what about a post with 400 comments under it? – M.A.R. Dec 21 '15 at 18:33
  • @Ϻ.Λ.Ʀ. -- We agree that these obsolete comments should be deleted. My post observes that flagging comments as obsolete does not seem to help. – Jasper Dec 21 '15 at 18:36
  • Let's say that last week, 12 different users flagged 30 comments that they believed were obsolete. Furthermore, let's say that 22 of those comments got deleted, but 8 were allowed to stand for some reason. If you happened to be the user who flagged one of those 8 comments, then I can see why you might allege that "flagging comments as obsolete does not seem to help." However, look at the aggregate: 22 of 30 comments are now gone, thanks to support from the rank-and-file of the community. If everyone stopped flagging altogether, then next week all 30 comments would remain, with none deleted. – J.R. Dec 21 '15 at 19:29

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