I've left a comment on an answer asking the answers's author to follow serverfault's guidelines, namely "quote the most relevant part of an important link". I'm sure it had no epithets or insults and was straight to the point.

My comment was (it was made available to me now):

@MichaelHampton according to serverfault answer guidelines you should provide context to your links: "Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the target site is unreachable or goes permanently offline." serverfault.com/help/how-to-answer – naktinis

The answers's author has then removed my comment followed by a reply:

@naktins Insults are inappropriate here. Do not do it again.

If you look at his other responses under the same answer they all seem to be trying to ignore the style guideline in question and attacking anyone who suggests otherwise.

The only way I could now interpret the insult is "How dare you recite rules to me". But this is the same as "I'm lawyer/parliament member/president how dare you recite laws to me". Rules are equal to everyone and reciting them should not be censored, because someone feels insulted. To quote some more rules of SE, moderators should be patient and fair (especially when editing comments on their own answers).

My comment could have seemed unnecessary at most. But actually, I keep to the opinion that the answer should be extended as some other user suggested in comments (it's now locked, so I can't edit). From:

Are you referring to nginx_ensite and nginx_dissite?


You are probably referring to nginx_ensite and nginx_dissite. They are 3rd party scripts – that's why you couldn't find them in nginx package.

I think the moderator is being emotional and reactive instead of patient and fair.

Can I dispute this biased decision to remove my comment? Can something be done about biased and unfair moderators?

The answer in question: Nginx enable site command

Updated: Added my exact comment and a better explanation, why I think the moderator overreacted.

  • 7
    Oh dear what a lot of squitter over a 4 year old answer that had already been called out for the same thing. Sometime saying nothing is the correct thing to do... this is clearly the right thing to have done here. – user9517 May 30 '16 at 21:14
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    @Iain The question is about moderators abusing their powers on their own answers. Also, I think moderators should have a better understanding of what is considered an insult. – naktinis May 30 '16 at 21:22
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    For the record: I've also deleted the answering comment by Michael, as it answers to a deleted comment and doesn't make any sense on its own. – Sven May 30 '16 at 21:30
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    Anyone is entitled to be insulted by whatever they want and they generally are. If Michael wants to be insulted by your quoting 'the rules' at him then that's up to him. he was, he acted appropriately for his perception of your insult. I mean I find it insulting that you, a user with no apparent useful contributions to SF should be calling out someone of Michael's standing in this community. There,you have insulted two people here today. – user9517 May 30 '16 at 21:31
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    @Iain my statements being true or false are not defined by my status in community. Moderators should be objective, and not do what they please and justify that by making stuff up. – naktinis May 30 '16 at 21:48
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    Perception is reality. – user9517 May 30 '16 at 21:51
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    Reality is reality. – naktinis May 30 '16 at 21:52
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    @Iain yes they are and so are non-moderators. Moderators are for maintaining quality of serverfault content and they have to be "patient and fair". If they are not fit for the role, they should be replaced. serverfault.com/help/site-moderators – naktinis May 30 '16 at 22:16
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    "How dare you question me, don't you know who I am" attitude. How refreshing coming from an ex-mod. I'm sure you exemplify the standards that Stack Exchange and Server Overflow want in the moderation team. – cde May 30 '16 at 23:53
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    @cde 'you don't need to lecture me too' is not the same as 'do not question me'. I'm sorry you got all indignant over reading that wrong. – user9517 May 31 '16 at 8:30
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    I don't recall site policy to 100K+ user usually, especially when another user ask for the same clarification as you asked, and that Michael friendly answer the other user first. What was your goal ? As for me the comment alone is not insulting, but when you check the comment's history, I can understand how someone seen it as insulting. – yagmoth555 Mod May 31 '16 at 15:24
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    I think the moderator is abusing his power in order to defend his reputation, avoid admitting he's wrong, and is being emotional and reactive instead of patient and fair. This whole statement is such an exaggeration and very confrontational. Remember we're talking about deleting a comment most people here agree should have been deleted. What is your addition to your question meant to accomplish? – Reaces Jun 1 '16 at 11:35
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    @Reaces I added context: what my comment was, what mod's response was, and demonstration of what I suggested in the original "insulting" comment, namely, adding one or two sentences to make his answer better. As you yourself have correctly suggested: maybe mods should sometimes refrain from acting on their own answers, especially when they feel emotional. – naktinis Jun 1 '16 at 12:23
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    @naktinis Can I refer you back to the second sentence of my first comment. – user9517 Jun 1 '16 at 12:47
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    Crazy. Micheal quotes SF rules all the time, including that one, to others. But when faced with it himself, he's insulted and deletes the comment? You other mods should have had a sit down with him and stop defending him. Childish. Please don't delete my comment oh powerful overloards! – Ryan Babchishin Aug 18 '16 at 1:34

I would like to throw in my 2 cents here (I am sorry), as I get the feeling that people are talking past the posed question(s).

Talking past the question for a moment:
Let me pre-face it quickly by saying that I personally think this is all an exaggerated response. The moderators response was not overly harsh, and the way he perceives the comment is wholly up to him. As such I don't agree that he should apologize, or be apologized to.

It is a reality of working with others that at times you will but heads.
Learn to let it go, or you will create more problems in the long run.

As for the actual questions:

Can I dispute this biased decision to remove my comment?
Yes, you just did. You posted it on meta. Whether you should have is a different matter.

Can something be done about biased and unfair moderators?
Yes, they can be removed by the stackexchange network staff.
However, that would be an out of proportion response here.

What should have perhaps happened here, was that the moderator should have asked another moderator to take a look at the comment.
Or just removed it without any added comment.
But that's in the past now, as I said before I believe the best response now would be to let it go. Nothing substantial happened, and as is often the case in life both sides feel wronged.

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    I was hoping that maybe there is some "dispute" functionality for comments removed for seemingly weird reasons, using that would be easier and more appropriate than writing a meta post and starting long discussions :) I completely agree with the point about moderator asking another moderator to take a look (maybe the author should be able to do that once too). – naktinis Jun 1 '16 at 12:34
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    @naktinis As has been said umpteen times already, comments are ephemeral. They hold no more value than the hairs that grow out of my grandfather's nose. They can be culled at any time, and are in no way an essential part of Server Fault. Honestly, this is much ado about nothing, and your best course of action is to forget about it at this point and move on (which it appears you've realized). – EEAA Jun 1 '16 at 14:48

"Do not do it again" is an order (an imperative statement), not a threat. A threat would be "If you do it again, I'll come to your house with a cream pie and throw it into your face while shouting, 'Mit Schlag!'" Or some other statement that included potential consequences. Moderators are allowed to make imperative statements.

As for whether or not it's insulting, well. What we say in the south is "Don't teach your grandma to suck eggs." Or, to quote Shadow Wizard on your closed meta.se post,

"As for your comment, it is insulting since being a moderator and long time member, that other user obviously knows the rules. No need to throw it in his face. Besides, we can't control what offend people. For all I know, you might be offended if I'll show you picture of a cat. So you can flag it, while the other user happens to be a moderator - he didn't suspend you or anything, just removed what he considered offensive (and wrong) comment."

Offense is in the eye of the beholder. You're certainly offended; do you have a right to be? Who's the judge of whether you have a right to be offended or not? Are we going to take a vote, or does the right to be offended require consensus? If we take a vote and the majority decide that you have no right to be offended, will you magically stop being upset and say, "Oh, well, that's all right, then"?

Michael is a person with the same right to be offended that you have.

The implied question seems to me to be, "Are moderators allowed to be human beings, or must they be perfect emotionless automatons who never get offended or make mistakes?" If you find any perfect people, let me know and I'll vote for them for moderator in the next election. In the mean time, I think Michael does a good job.

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    How can we have a good, out-of-all-proportion flamefest when Katherine keeps coming along and pouring calm rationality on everything? – MadHatter May 31 '16 at 13:42
  • Of course everyone can feel however they like, but as a moderator you have a responsibility to be patient and fair. I think the moderators decision in question was biased, reactive and poorly managed. Moderators don't have to be perfect, they have to be fit for their roles. – naktinis May 31 '16 at 14:33
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    Does a single comment and comment deletion render a moderator unfit for his role, or should there be more to it than that? – Katherine Villyard May 31 '16 at 14:35
  • Probably not enough, but it needs to be brought up (and that's what I'm asking about in this meta question above). That's just one downvote for the moderator from me (if there's a registry in SE mod database). But, my question is not as much about firing a mod, but about disputing a particular content removal decision. – naktinis May 31 '16 at 15:00
  • What precisely are you wanting to happen from this? It's difficult to tell from your post. What do you think is a proportional response to Michael saying he found your comment offensive and deleting it? – Katherine Villyard May 31 '16 at 15:05
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    @KatherineVillyard I think having to read this entire asinine meta Q/A is easily punishment enough, if indeed anything wrong was done, which is still up for debate. – Wesley May 31 '16 at 15:28
  • @KatherineVillyard I've elaborated on "what precisely I'm wanting to happen" in a separate answer. – naktinis May 31 '16 at 16:56
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    I don't think I've ever not upvoted an answer of yours on meta, and apparently I'm not going to have to start. – Reaces Jun 1 '16 at 6:43
  • Thanks, @Reaces! – Katherine Villyard Jun 1 '16 at 18:09

I don't see any outright insults here on the part of naktinis, at least as far as I would be insulted, but your comment was also completely unnecessary and outright wrong in the situation.

To recapitulate: The question was in a nutshell "how are these commands named, I forgot". The complete answer to this is nginx_ensite and nginx_dissite. The link Michael Hampton gave was not at all necessary but added value to the answer, and in fact his answer did exactly gave the most/only relevant part of the link, namely the name of the commands (with the name of the command, all else is at worst a quick google search away).

This policy you cite is meant for situations where people link to outside resources without additional details, like "Find how this is done in my linked blogpost" or "MS described it in this linked Technet article".

Asking for more based on your apparent misunderstanding of the question, the answer and the policy regarding links is inappropriate and removing the comment was the correct action in this situation and I would have done the same.

  • 5
    Fair enough, I agree my comment could have been repetitive in the context, but how is my answer an insult? Why not call it a personal attack or racism or whatever else you like? We probably shouldn't discuss the question in detail here, but one thing that could be added is the fact that nginx_ensite etc. are not part of standard nginx packets (unlike a2ensite the question refers to which is part of apache2), but a 3rd party script – thus the confusion. If the github repo moves the mention of the command names becomes useless. – naktinis May 30 '16 at 21:38
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    As Iain already said, what people feel insulted by is up to them. I don't think it's worthwhile at all to discuss the actual answer beyond establishing if it's a complete answer or not, and I think we (I?) have done this. – Sven May 30 '16 at 21:50
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    Agreed, I don't see the original comment directed at Michael as an insult, but removing it was the right thing to do and the fact that it was Michael who removed it isn't a problem, there's no abuse of power. – Ward - Reinstate Monica Mod May 30 '16 at 21:57
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    The issue isn't a deleted comment, is the accusation that it was an insult, and the threat to not do it again. – cde May 30 '16 at 22:51
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    Sven, I'll share a different perspective (and I intend this with the best of intentions -- not trying to criticize). I don't think it's accurate to say that Stack Exchange's policy is that anyone can call anything they want an insult -- anything goes. Rather, there's a certain amount of judgement involved -- even if someone is personally insulted, moderators usually shouldn't remove a comment if they judge it's not actually insulting and it otherwise has value. (cont.) – D.W. May 31 '16 at 5:00
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    But, more importantly, if it's a moderator who feels insulted, it's usually better to let another moderator make the judgement call and handle it. This isn't always necessary -- in clearcut cases or if you feel comfortable defending your action on meta, go ahead -- but when reasonable people can disagree, it's better to let another moderator handle it. From that perspective, it sounds like this could have been better handled (with the benefit of hindsight), and your answer isn't acknowledging that. – D.W. May 31 '16 at 5:01
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    And, at the same time, it seems to me we should also recognize that this is extremely minor. Where's the harm? The harm is extremely minor. For instance, suggestions that the moderators are out of control or have a holier-than-thou attitude seem over-the-top and unfounded; those kinds of statements aren't helping. SF moderators work hard and have a huge workload, and we're all human -- we make mistakes. But, at the same time... the first step to improving is to acknowledge the mistakes and reflect on how we can do better in the future. Anyway, sharing an outside perspective, fwiw. – D.W. May 31 '16 at 5:03

Was the comment insulting? No. There was nothing there that was objectively insulting. In my opinion, a reasonable person should not be insulted, and the comment shouldn't be removed on grounds that it is offensive or insulting.

Was the moderator abusing their power? No. It was a comment. Comments are transient and deleted all the time. Suggestions that the moderators are out of control or have a holier-than-thou attitude seem over-the-top and unfounded.

I think it would be helpful to tone this down a bit. SF moderators work hard and have a huge workload. They're volunteers and they make a tremendous contribution to the community. They handle hundreds or thousands of flags, and let's be realistic: occasionally they're going to make a judgement call that with the benefit of hindsight might not have been the best one. We're all human -- we make mistakes. That doesn't mean they are abusing their power or consider themselves above the law.

But, at the same time... the first step to improving is to acknowledge the mistakes and reflect on how one can do better in the future.

One way to avoid the situation in the future is: if a moderator is insulted by someone's comment on their answer, it's probably better to let another moderator handle it. This is standard guidance for moderators: it's usually better not to moderate issues that arise on your own question/answer. It's not a hard-and-fast rule -- especially when the case is clearcut -- but it's often helpful.

If a user flags a comment and offensive, moderators will review the flag and make a judgement call on whether they agree that the comment is potentially offensive to a reasonable person. This involves some judgement -- an "offensive" flag doesn't automatically lead to deletion -- but it generally works pretty well. If two people judge it to be offensive (the flagger and the moderator), odds are we don't want it here.

This gets circumvented a bit when a comment is removed by a moderator, without anyone flagging it. In clearcut cases or cases where the moderator is not personally involved in the situation, that's still fine and probably not too error-prone. But in a situation that's borderline and where the moderator is personally involved (e.g., they are the target of the comment), having the moderator act on their own has a higher potential for bad outcomes. That's why it's safer to flag this for another moderator, step aside, and let another moderator handle it. If nothing else, it removes the possibility of accusations that the original moderator is acting out of emotional involvement.

In summary: Yes, the response to the comment probably could have been handled better. Yes, probably it's possible for the moderation team to learn a lesson or two and make a slight adjustment to how they'd handle similar situations in the future. But no, the moderators weren't out of control. They're well-intentioned, hard-working people who won't always react in the exactly-optimal fashion every single time. Cut them some slack, assume good faith, and treat them with respect. It'll end better for everyone that way.

And if you are told that your comment is insulting and you don't feel it was, develop a thick skin. Rather than being offended, take a step back and ask "Can you help me understand what you perceived as insulting? My comment was intended to provide feedback and I didn't intend any of it as an insult. I'd like to learn for the future so I don't inadvertently make anyone else feel insulted" and then listen to the response you get. Because, let's be honest: whether any one comment is deleted or not is minor in the grand scheme of things, but learning about how to communicate frankly without being misunderstood has lasting value beyond any one comment on one answer.


And given the overall circumstances I think your comment was insulting. For that matter, so is the question you posted here.

Just for the record, you posted:

@MichaelHampton according to serverfault answer guidelines you should provide context to your links: "Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the target site is unreachable or goes permanently offline." serverfault.com/help/how-to-answer – naktinis 9 hours ago

There is nothing from that link that would be useful to post but the script itself, and I don't think that copying the whole script is a good idea. Someone would have to update the post again whenever its author made a change, and that's just not realistic. If the project ever went away, it's a simple enough matter to delete the post.

Some other moderators will look at the post in due time. Today is a holiday in the USA.

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    In what way is that insulting? I just pointed to serverfault answer guidelines and asked you to add one or two sentences to your answer. – naktinis May 30 '16 at 20:13
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    Sorry Michael but in my opinion you screw up big time. There is not a single word that remotely sounds insulting to me. In my opinion you own that guy an apology. – Patrick Hofman May 30 '16 at 20:27
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    @PatrickHofman The comment itself was the insult. It was completely unnecessary and inappropriate. And I think you have who owes whom an apology exactly reversed. – Michael Hampton May 30 '16 at 20:33
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    How was that insulting? You can argue about if it is useful to put in extra information from the link (I think it does), but still that doesn't make it an insult. – Patrick Hofman May 30 '16 at 20:36
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    @PatrickHofman It is when someone has already made that statement and had it answered. – Michael Hampton May 30 '16 at 20:39
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    @MichaelHampton discussing the particulars of the answer in question is off-topic in this thread. Back to the topic, are you saying your definition of "insulting" is "when someone has already made that statement and had it answered"? – naktinis May 30 '16 at 20:43
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    A short comment requesting that a "one line, basically link only answer, which is also phrased as a question or request for clarification from the question asker", is standard. On most of the stacks I'm on, a mod would have flagged it with a message and converted it to a comment. But since you're a mod you escaped the usual actions. If you feel insulted, that's from thin skin. There was nothing patently insulting from his message. – cde May 30 '16 at 22:07
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    @cde: It's interesting that you are already the second person without any contribution on Server Fault feels the need to chip in to this discussion. – Sven May 30 '16 at 22:13
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    With @PatrickHofman being the first... – Sven May 30 '16 at 22:14
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    @sven it's interesting that moderator attacks on users is not limited to just server fault, and had it not happened it wouldn't have spread to meta.se and got everyone's attention. – cde May 30 '16 at 22:20
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    @Sven and anyone else: cde and Patrick Hofman followed naktinis here from his meta.se post. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/279791/… – Katherine Villyard May 31 '16 at 12:58
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    @KatherineVillyard: Yeah, I guessed at much. Still don't understand why they think they are in any position to weigh in here and throw around accusations and insults of their own (in cde's case). But this whole affair is already blown out of any proportion anyway... – Sven May 31 '16 at 13:14
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    @Sven People who know the Stack Exchange network are concerned about the way this has gone, that's why they're weighing in. You don't need to have spent many hours here to have an opinion on whether a single comment is insulting or not; no specific knowledge of SF is required for that really. If SE had intended that "outsiders" not be able to comment on this, then they wouldn't be able to. So it all seems pretty fair game for involvement to me. Mods should expect to have to explain their actions (I am one elsewhere so I feel qualified to say that), and they should be happy to do so to anybody! – Clive May 31 '16 at 13:34
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    @Clive: "Outsiders" are not in a position to decide if someone acts "holier than thou" or is "fit for this position" effectively based on a single comment. You need to have the complete picture and to get this picture, you need to know the community and be a relevant part of it. Well, at least that's the way I see it. Also, if you join any group in real life, you wouldn't expect that telling established members how they have to feel or how bad they behave at the first meeting would go over smoothly, and I don't see this is any different on an internet site. – Sven May 31 '16 at 13:55
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    Ok @Sven, that's fair - those phrases aren't constructive, I agree. But "outsiders" are in a position to have a valid opinion about whether that comment was insulting or not in the first place, and whether the mod acted appropriately. I feel you should let them voice that opinion without calling them out for not being regular members, as if that would make a difference to their ability to form that opinion (e.g. your comment to PatrickHofman, who used no evocative language as far as I can see). Just my two cents – Clive May 31 '16 at 14:06

I totally agree with you. The answer does contain some useful information but I think it could be expended to make it even more useful. But that wasn't the point.

The question is: was your comment insulting? No. It was not, not even remotely.

As said in comments, I think the moderator was wrong here and he owes you an apology.

  • 1
    Your perception is not relevant here. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is up to the individual to decide if they are being insulted or not. – user9517 May 30 '16 at 21:40
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    @lain your comment is insulting then. – cde May 30 '16 at 22:21
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    @Iain, one way to avoid the situation in the future is: if a moderator is insulted by someone's comment on their answer, it's probably better to let another moderator handle it. This is standard guidance for moderators: it's usually better not to moderate issues that arise on your own question/answer. It's not a hard-and-fast rule -- especially when the case is clearcut -- but it's often helpful. – D.W. May 31 '16 at 4:57

Now that there was a lot of fiery discussion, I would like to sum up and answer my own question (since I don't think it has been tackled properly yet).

Can I dispute a decision to remove a comment?

There does not appear to be functionality in SE sites for disputing deleted comments in particular. One way to ask for other mods to double-check is to create a meta post such as this one.

It would be more convenient if there was some functionality to see what's happening with your comment. E.g.:

  • See comment's state in your activity feed: flagged, deleted etc.
  • See how mods are discussing its fate (even read-only would be ok for a start).
  • A single chance to ask for extra moderation.

Now, from what I saw, the comment was just gone, even from my activity history.

Can something be done about biased and unfair moderators?

The question is not "should something be done", it is "can something be done" and the answer is Yes. There was a similar question asked about this in another meta post (community wiki).

The accepted answer there suggested that if there was no way to resolve the issue using site functionality (e.g. no way of asking for extra moderation), one could use the contact us form to contact SE directly.

Other ideas

Maybe SE is doing that internally somewhere in their databases, but if not, it could be useful to track complaints about mods and reevaluate them by SE employees once in a while.

In general I think mods in SE sites are doing a great job and having them is a great idea. The question is about the rare cases when they don't (and from other people's support, and other posts on meta sites I see it's not the first, nor the last case). Please don't take things personally.

  • People complain to SE about moderators all the time. I'm sure they have a bin to collect all the squitter in. Comments are 'ephemeral' or 'second class' as such very little time has been wasted on them and their curation. Every single comment could be removed from the site and the site should be no worse off without them. – user9517 May 31 '16 at 16:24
  • @Iain Yes, I understand that, though (from experience in StackOverflow etc.) sometimes they can be essential and even contain important parts of answers. That's not the question though. – naktinis May 31 '16 at 16:29
  • It seems to be getting some downvotes, but I think this is a good answer to the questions. I really hope the downvotes are not from mods who act emotionally and feel personally insulted by my low point count in this meta site. – naktinis May 31 '16 at 16:34
  • According to their profiles only one of the mods has been seen since you posted this 'answer' so I guess your hopes are not shattered. – user9517 May 31 '16 at 16:39
  • @Iain by mods I mean mods on all SE sites. Still no comment saying why this doesn't answer the question. – naktinis May 31 '16 at 16:41
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    I have quite a big problem with you now trying to frame the "questions" you brought up as general issues that SF or all of SE face (speaking only for SF, I don't think we do). Your post was clearly not "What can we do in general", but instead "I was mistreated by this SF mod, how can I deal with him". It should be clear by now that the core of your accusation "biased, unfair mod action and power abuse" is unfounded, because your comment absolutely warranted the mod action. This should resolve your question. – Sven May 31 '16 at 21:23
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    If you want to further discuss general mod issues, do this on Meta Stack Exchange, but don't force this on us. And please leave us out of it in general - nothing has happened that requires you dragging anyone into the spotlight. – Sven May 31 '16 at 21:24
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    You were advised on meta.SE to discuss the specific circumstances of this dispute on our meta site, but as Sven has stated, your answer is re-framing this into the context of a SE-wide issue. You say that your question has not been tackled properly yet, while at the same time appearing to have a poor grasp of what the appropriate context for engagement actually is. – Andrew B Jun 1 '16 at 3:23
  • Fair, so should I repost this answer on the SE-wide meta question? – naktinis Jun 1 '16 at 9:16

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