It's been a bit quiet in meta.SF the past few days, so I thought it was time to stir the pot. :)

So, I came across this question just now. Reading through the comments (see comment thread screenshot below), I flagged one for being "not constructive", and it was declined. Now, I couldn't care less about the declined flag. What I do care about is the fact that it is considered acceptable for high-rep users to treat new users like this. Sure, TomTom is right, this question was off-topic. That's fine - no need to insult and disrespect the OP for posting an off-topic question. Just VTC and be done with it.

Could someone (preferably the moderator who declined the flag) explain:

  1. why the flag was declined
  2. why this behavior is tolerated?
  3. in whose world is this comment (third from the bottom of the thread) constructive for the mission of SF?

In the face of the numerous "THE SKY IS FALLING" threads on meta recently, I've been trying to remain engaged and optimistic. If this is what can be expected of our moderation staff going forward, though, I fear my optimism will wane quickly.

The Question In Question

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    FWIW I've pretty much quit flagging stuff because I flagged a (moderators) comment NC and it was declined but the whole comment thread was subsequently cleaned up (as in overnight). – user9517 Nov 1 '13 at 17:31
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    @Iain - that's unfortunate to hear. Prior to today, I've always thought that my flags (comments and otherwise) were handled well. Immediately before the above incident, I had flagged a different comment (from the same user) for containing misinformation about SF topicality. That flag was declined as well, but the comment in question was edited by the moderator to remove the misinformation. Doesn't make any sense why that should have been declined. – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 17:35
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    EEAA : You are absolutely correct. SF has raised the bar too high, and is far to quick to close threads for rather silly reasons (I saw one closed because the user was using vmware PLAYER, which was considered not a real sysadmin tool -- please!) Thank you for raising this issue. – Jonesome Reinstate Monica Nov 1 '13 at 19:17
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    @samsmith - ok that's just silly. Please re-read my question. It has nothing to do with what you're suggesting. Looking at the downvotes on your past meta posts, it looks like either 1) you really don't understand SF's charter or 2) you desire a significantly different SF than the community wants. – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 19:21
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    @EEAA OK, I misread your direction. However I am in the same place as you are vis-a-vis "In the face of the numerous "THE SKY IS FALLING" threads on meta recently, I've been trying to remain engaged and optimistic. " – Jonesome Reinstate Monica Nov 1 '13 at 19:22

I'm pretty sure I declined the flag on this comment.

I say I'm pretty sure because the comment looks familiar; however, comment flags like comments are second-class citizens, and there's little or no history kept for them. I looked through my own mod history but wasn't able to confirm that I acted on any particular comment flag; only the fact of a deleted comment is logged.

I'm also sure that it was a mistake to decline this flag, as that comment really needed at least a good editing. You have my apologies.

Unfortunately the UI for handling comment flags has a lot of shortcomings; as previously noted, there's no record kept of how the comment flag was handled, and worse, when you do handle a comment flag, the system completely removes it from the screen. So if I hit 'dismiss' by mistake, it's very difficult to go back and find the comment again. By contrast, after handling a flag on a question the question remains on screen but collapsed to its title, so a mistake can be easily rectified.

I think it's time to go raise a little hell on mSO about the sorry state of comment flags and see if this can be improved at all.

  • Thanks, Michael. It does seem like comment flag handling could use a bit of attention. Thanks for your explanation. – EEAA Nov 3 '13 at 2:30
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    If you read @voretaq7's answer below it appears to contain an explanation 'administrative convenience; for a 'lazy bastard' which is not the same as making a mistake. You have probably just pleaded guilty to a crime you didn't commit. – user9517 Nov 3 '13 at 7:33

Regarding the question in question, this one wasn't me but looking at them the comments here are definitely over the "Be Nice" line. (Crash Override was also being a bit of a lunkhead to be honest - their comments REEK of "I'm too special to have to read the topicality section of the help center" entitlement, but we still have to "Be Nice" when we tell someone they're being a lunkhead.)

I went and zotted the whole question as it was off-topic and cleaning up the comments wouldn't help that (plus it was collecting delete votes anyway). The rest is a matter for the grues and badgers...

The edit to TomTom's comment on this question was (part of that comment was wrong but not wrong).

With respect to the above comment, declining the flag there was solely an administrative convenience: Comment flag handling options are "Delete" or "Decline" (there's no "Valid but I'm not going to do anything" button like there is for regular flags).
If we delete a comment it's annoying to get it back (or we have to write a new one), so if I'm editing a comment to "fix" it I generally decline the flag and make the edit.
I'll be the first to admit that this is a crappy workflow but it's a time-saver and I'm a lazy bastard :-)

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    Note: I unzotted the question, scrubbed the comments, and left something constructive. – Chris S Nov 1 '13 at 18:01
  • Makes sense, and thanks for the explanation about the mechanics of comment flag moderation. – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 18:02
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    Oh, and in regards to Crash Override being a lunkhead. Agreed 100%. However, that doesn't mean we need to reciprocate. Like I said in my Q, just VTC and be done with it. If one feels a need to leave a comment, it should be polite, civil, and respectful. – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 18:03
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    @ChrisS Old softy you are. Next you'll be recovering the users files from the tapes instead of having them arm-wrestle with the tape robot for their data. – voretaq7 Nov 1 '13 at 18:06
  • @voretaq7 I don't have a tape robot. I move the tapes myself... Speaking of which, I'm overdue for my October backup. – Chris S Nov 2 '13 at 0:57
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    I can understand the workflow issue but decling flags cast in good faith (without explanation) is absolutely the wrong thing to do and should be avoided as it teaches the wrong behaviours. The September 2011 moderator news letter has details on this. Please pass it on to your moderation colleague so they can be educated. – user9517 Nov 2 '13 at 12:54

I'm not the moderator who declined it. I can't speak for them, but can note that since the decline that moderator has been inactive (random guess: he was going to do something, but got pulled away?).

What I can do, is cleanup the comments. You're correct in thinking that TomTom is out of line (as usual). There are a few users who regularly play hop-scotch with what's acceptable to post in comment, and get banned regularly for it. These users aren't pera-banned essentially because the community upvotes their posts. It's certainly not that high-rep users get a free pass or anything like that.

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    Thanks Chris. My personal feeling is that high-rep users really ought to be held to a higher standard than the rest of the user base. High-rep users' answers and comments hold a certain amount of "weight" , and because of this, can strongly influence user perception of the site, both positively and negatively. – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 17:48
  • I could get behind that, but it's got to be the community's decision, or Stack Exchange would have to trump. – Chris S Nov 1 '13 at 17:50
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    I don't know that this "higher standard" would need to be codified in any way (though maybe that's the only way it would work). Rather, just that all of the high-rep users (myself very much included) need to be extra mindful about how we communicate on the site. – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 17:54
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    I definitely agree about holding high-rep users to a higher standard of civility - we generally tolerate a level of snark / non-constructive commentary from anyone on the site regardless of reputation, but when it's beyond good-natured teasing ("Just shoot the NT4 domain controller. Problem solved.") into rudeness and abuse it's not acceptable from anyone, and certainly worse coming from the users who are supposed to be setting the example... – voretaq7 Nov 1 '13 at 18:04
  • I think one way you help hold high-rep users accountable is doing what you did @EEAA here in meta.SF. Not that TomTom ever comes to meta it would seem, but maybe he read this "thread" and will think twice next. Maybe the right step is to flag it and then comment and call the user out on their post? – TheCleaner Nov 1 '13 at 19:05
  • @TheCleaner - Not sure it's productive to hash out things like that in the original comment thread. I'd prefer to flag it, come here to discuss (if necessary), and let the moderators and SE staff do their job in dealing with any users that cause repeat problems. – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 19:08
  • Understand. I don't know...does the OP get a notice from a moderator if they get flagged and the moderator removes their post? Something like a "settle down turbo...be nice" or similar? BTW, I never look at serverfault.com/tools?tab=flags&daterange=today or any other of the tools menu...should we as 10k+ members be doing so? – TheCleaner Nov 1 '13 at 19:12
  • @TheCleaner - that's a great question. I'm not sure. – EEAA Nov 1 '13 at 19:14
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    People don't get notified when we remove or edit their comments (I occasionally "lighten" the language of comments). If their comments are particularly colorful, they'll get a love letter in their e-mail. – Chris S Nov 1 '13 at 19:20
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    @TheCleaner: I believe it takes several unhandled flags sitting in the queue for ant to appear on that list and that's a fairly rare event on SF. – user9517 Nov 1 '13 at 20:19

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