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If I flag a comment, I am presented with a number of choices.

  1. It contains harassment, bigotry, or abuse. This comment attacks a person or group. Learn more in our Code of Conduct.

  2. unfriendly or unkind. This comment is rude or condescending. Learn more in our Code of Conduct.

  3. It's no longer needed. This comment is outdated, conversational, or not relevant to this post.

  4. Something else.

OK, let's try to classify some cases...

"1. harassment, bigotry, or abuse" - simple

"You are a dirty choose-targeted-ethnicity and you suck!"

Clearly this is harassment and I hope a moderator will contact the person and take the appropriate actions.

"4. Something else" - I mostly avoid this.

Most of the time, I'll pick another category because I figure something else requires mod intervention and most of the time there's a specific reason for my flag.

"2. unfriendly or unkind." - ?

"You are lying when you claim that..."

So, I am saying that someone is being quite unpleasant but not racist, abusive, etc..., so not 1.

But, in practice, how does it differ from 1.? Less moderator workload? An automated removal without needing mod intervention? Less chance of the person getting a temp ban?

i.e. "I don't like it, but not under the category of 1., so discretion as to moderator warnings?"

"3. it's no longer needed."

OK, sometimes that clear enough. You have a long comment thread and the OP has finally corrected something.

And in any case, when it is really a huge thread, I think there is a worker notification process calling it to moderator attention so it's not even clear flagging it manually is useful.


But....

I recently saw a mod say "well, you could have flagged xxx as no longer needed. that way we can delete all the comments together, without reviewing. less work for us".

I assume #1 and #2 both disallow mass removal? Is that explained anywhere?

Then we have contentious subjects and inflammatory language...

"Group X wants to kill every group Y!"

"Group Y wants to kill every group X!"

You can surely guess where this is coming from. I understand people are frustrated, but repeated emotional outbursts and accusations like this aren't very constructive.

It certainly is above a generic no-longer-needed. It is certainly not straight out abuse/bigotry. I'd be happy to just see it gone the first 5 times a person makes such comments, but I would also want to flag that the person is contributing to amping up toxicity in comments.

In the past, I flagged 4. Something else and wrote something like "inflammatory comments" in the free text box.

How should we use the flags to clarify our concerns, while minimizing moderator workload?

  • minimize work on routine stuff

  • call out egregious behavior for quick attention and personalized review, but only in extreme cases

  • flag persistent behavior as problematic, but without the need for immediate attention.

Whats the practical difference between 1. abuse and 2. unfriendly? How wide is the use case for 3. no longer needed?

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  • 2
    This sounds like it would be better on the main meta as it would be something to look at for helping on all sites.
    – Joe W
    Mar 22 at 18:34
  • 2
    No, a lot of this is tied to the unique nature of a political site. Stackoverflow really doesn't need that kind of nuance, most of time. And besides that, I suspect most people look to *their" site's meta to figure out stuff, not the main meta. Mar 22 at 18:36
  • 1
    I don't think we are that unique and there are other sites out there that could take advantage of this same idea.
    – Joe W
    Mar 22 at 20:30

1 Answer 1

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In practice, it doesn't really matter if you choose "harassment, bigotry, or abuse" or "unfriendly or unkind" on a comment. They both show up to us moderators in the exact same way. I don't really understand either why Stack Exchange decided to create two separate flagging-reasons which are both essentially synonyms for "commenter is being a jerk".

"no longer needed" should be used when a comment is a suggestion for improvement that was applied by the author, when it is a reply to a comment that was deleted or when it's a debate comment that doesn't aim to improve the question at all. While the "being a jerk" flags can often be judged without taking a closer look at the context, all these reasons for "no longer needed" usually require closer examination to decide. So it makes sense to have a different reason for this category of comments.

The "something else" flags with a more detailed description can be really useful for us moderators when it's not immediately apparent at first glance why a comment should be deleted.

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  • Thanks for this answer, could I ask one further clarification: I've used a custom "something else" flag to ask flag handlers to have a look at a whole comment thread which had derailed into off-topic bickering. This seemed like a better alternative than flagging comments NLN individually, or flagging one and hoping the other comments would be noticed in context. I am also mindful of the elevated workload, is this the 'best' way to express "I say we take off and nuke the comment thread from orbit, it's the only way to be sure" ?
    – bertieb
    Apr 5 at 11:08

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