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Due to the volume of comments generated on the main site, StackOverflow, some comments can be "nuked" by a single user with a "no longer needed" flag. This is a built-in functionality available on all SE sites. The only requirement to use it is to have 15 reputation points.

There is a user that goes around all SE sites to flag such comments for deletion. These are then deleted without further supervision because of the aforementioned functionality.

Granted, most, if not all, these comments do not contribute significantly to the discussion (they either are simple "thanks", or contain "+1 for .... ").

Yet, here on Aviation we've always been more tolerant of comments, hence the question.

What would the community like, going forward:

  1. leave the user free to keep deleting such comments?
  2. ask the user to identify, but not nuke comments? (i.e. the user will have to use custom mod flags instead of the pre-canned "no longer needed")
  3. ask the user to stop altogether?
  4. something else?

To be noted that this is not a high-rep user from the community, but someone that has never participated. Moreover, it is thought that they might be using an automated search to identify comments to be flagged for auto-deletion.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not an active participant on this site, but I will flag comments that are considered noise as described in the comment privilege, just like I've done on other SE sites. I, however, will only do it naturally when I see it, and I don't do witch-hunting. As for single flag deletion, it's explained on MSE $\endgroup$ – Andrew T. Sep 4 '18 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. as for the first part, SE sites can have guidelines that deviate from the standard guidance, if the community wants. As for the explanation, I read it before posting here, but thanks for linking it. And if you feel that this post is about you, no, it is not. $\endgroup$ – Federico Sep 4 '18 at 10:46
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  1. ask the user to stop altogether

While I agree that we should not stand out with other SE sites, we must also realize the context: Aviation.SE is very different to StackOverflow.

On SO, most comments are temporarily because they either fix a bug in the posted code, point out better alternatives or compatibility issues. Most of these can be edited into the answer, after which the comment is no longer needed.

Here on Aviation.SE, there is quite a lot of story sharing in comments. The story itself is not an answer to the question, so should not be posted in the answer. I find these stories delightful to read and often provide insight. I'd hate to see these comments go.

Our "user to post" ratio is enough that we do not need an automated system. I am more worried about meaningful comments from experienced aviators removed more than too many comments on a post on Aviation.SE.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think there are a lot of junk comments gumming up the site. Unless there is some pressing technical need, this one is the approach I'd choose. $\endgroup$ – Pilothead Sep 5 '18 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely. There is simply no problem with comments in this community, and no need to have, or at least enforce, any strict rules. IMO, deletion of anything is a desperate measure and should be reserved for users with very high (say 10K+) reputation, or to broad consensus. $\endgroup$ – Zeus Sep 14 '18 at 4:59
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I don't think we should have a different stance on chatty comments to the rest of the network. The thing that unites our community isn't having a chin-wag over a cup of tea, it's wanting to build up a resource of questions and answers. It's pretty explicit in the way that the site works, that comments are only for temporary messages, so nobody ought to be disappointed if their comment gets deleted.

If we think the rules that trigger one-flag deletion don't work for our comments - i.e. if they spuriously trigger on comments that are genuinely needed - then we can always ask SE to disable that feature on our site. I don't think it makes sense to use custom mod flags for this purpose: it creates extra work for moderators, and some people will still use the no-longer-needed flags, whether on purpose or just because it's the obvious thing to do.

That said, I'm not a huge fan of using automation to flag comments that will be one-flag deleted. The premise of the one-flag rule, instead of SE automatically deleting the comments without intervention, is that there's still an agreement: in this case, both the automatic rule, and the user who flags. If a user robo-flags comments that they know meet the rule, then there is no longer an agreement, and this subverts the system. Using SEDE to find the comments and then considering them oneself is fine in this respect, though, because the human is still exercising judgement and making a decision.

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    $\begingroup$ I see where you come from, I have only a remark on your last paragraph. If the human is really exercising judgment, why do they only flag the comment that they know will meet the auto-deletion requirement, but not other chatty comments nearby? $\endgroup$ – Federico Sep 3 '18 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ (sorry for the multiple comments) as for the "if it deletes comments while they're still needed", checking is extremely tedious (due to the interface) and the volume makes it unfeasible $\endgroup$ – Federico Sep 3 '18 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Federico I don't know the details of the flags you're getting at the moment, so this is hypothetical. Some triggers which enable one-flag deletion are known publicly, so it's easy to choose only the ones that will be deleted. That said, I'm not recommending people do that: if you're going to flag chatty comments, flag them all. $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Sep 3 '18 at 14:26
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If the comments are truly useless/outdated, then, sure, cleaning them up is fine.

However, I don't think someone who has never contributed to Aviation.SE going around and just flagging all comments that meet some pattern is helpful and asking them to stop would be in order if that's what they're doing. Moreso if they're using an automated system, as I agree with Dan's last paragraph about that defeating the purpose of having a human element in the process. If SE wanted them automatically deleted without human intervention, they could do that themselves.

Comments that add extra useful information (but not directly providing an answer) or that are just funny should remain here, IMO, unless they start to get out-of-hand. Aviation does not have the millions of users that SO has, so those are not typically nearly as much of a problem here and they can often add to the value of the community, IMO.

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There is a big push on Stack Exchange sites (especially Stack Overflow) to be more welcoming. You might have seen the "new contributor" indicator, or the new code of conduct, or seen some of the blog posts.

The company is rethinking the position that "thank you" style comments, and other human-pleasantries, are noise. It's true that we don't want every single person who comes along to comment "+1" - we want them to vote. However, if the OP gets a great answer, and wants to comment, "Awesome, thank you!" (in addition to accepting the answer), there's really nothing wrong with that. The same goes for many other scenarios as well. Tone is much harder to gauge through text, and outright pleasant comments can have a huge benefit in how someone views the rest of the site.

As long as it's not excessive (requires some judgment), my suggestion would be to keep comments which make the site feel like a friendly community of humans, as opposed to a cold/intimidating community of robots.

If those are the style of comments this user is targeting, I would bring it to the attention of the Community Management team. They're in the best position to give guidance on the matter.

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  • $\begingroup$ We have hall monitors that target new users in order to "educate" them as to the rules. Some have never asked or answered a single question. This is less friendly than robots and seems to have been going on for a very long time. These are the only comments I'm in favor of purging. $\endgroup$ – Pilothead Sep 5 '18 at 5:22
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So far, lots of users here have expressed reservations about one-flag deletions, and nobody has expressed that the one-flag deletion mechanism is desirable for us.

Therefore, we should ask for the one-flag deletion mechanism to be disabled for this site.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not entirely sure this is the conclusion we can draw from here. I asked what to do in a specific case, if we want to ask for the mechanism to be disabled, we need to post a separate question here. $\endgroup$ – Federico Sep 14 '18 at 15:06

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