What is going on with the up tick of deleting comments? To be specific, I am not talking about comments that should be deleted such as:

  1. Great answer +1
  2. What a dumb question
  3. Go fly a kite, I cannot believe you think that way

I am talking about comments where you are adding valuable input to the user, whom we are (at least I am) here to help, that doesn't directly answer the question.

Personally, I have been helped by many comments during my time here that did not directly answer my question by some of our highest ranking members. I simply don't get the need or desire to police useful comments so hard.

The site suffers because of it IMO.

  • 3
    We have some new mods that from what I see have some strong opinions.
    – paparazzo
    Aug 10 '18 at 12:56
  • 8
    Please post links to the posts where comments were deleted in error.
    – Masked Man
    Aug 10 '18 at 13:13
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    @MaskedMan How on earth will I remember those? You give me way to much credit in the strong memory department sir.
    – Neo
    Aug 10 '18 at 13:55
  • 2
    from help center: "You should submit a comment if you want to: - Request clarification from the author; - Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post; - Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated)." (this comment of mine probably falls under minor or transient information:)
    – gnat
    Aug 10 '18 at 16:11
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    @MisterPositive So, problem solved, I guess? If you don't remember where the deleted comment was posted, you probably have no reason to worry about the comment being deleted.
    – Masked Man
    Aug 10 '18 at 18:01
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    You would have better reception if instead of calling the moderators "police" you try to start a reasonable conversation.
    – enderland
    Aug 10 '18 at 18:20
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    @ElysianFields I don't recall using the words moderator's are policing comments...I will re-read it to be sure..... Nope did not do that.
    – Neo
    Aug 10 '18 at 18:53
  • @MaskedMan Completely agree. You were a community member first.
    – Neo
    Aug 10 '18 at 18:54
  • 1
    @MaskedMan one of my comments was removed very quickly after I posted it. It does happen, I am not the only one on the site that has noticed. In my case, it may or may not have been a valid deletion, but if you like I can keep a log if you really think it will help. My main point was to draw attention to something I see as hurtful to the community.
    – Neo
    Aug 10 '18 at 18:59
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    @MisterPositive your original title was: Comment Deletion Police and the only people who can delete comments are <> folks... (technically if enough non-moderators flag I guess comments get deleted, too, though that rarely happens except with obvious stuff)
    – enderland
    Aug 10 '18 at 20:32
  • 2
    I understand comments get flagged usually before deletion, but I've seen lots of comments deleted that I wouldn't think were even slightly flagworthy... but they're just comments, not meant to be permanent anyway... I delete quite a few of my own comments every so often.
    – Kilisi Mod
    Aug 11 '18 at 14:03
  • 1
    @Kilisi Fair point.
    – Neo
    Aug 13 '18 at 11:19

There's been some increase in comment deletion, but there's context.

Comment flags (per week) for the last year:

graph with upward trend and recent spike

The shape of that curve isn't unique to The Workplace; it's similar on Stack Overflow, though of course the Y-axis values are different.

Are people flagging lots of old comments and that's why we have a problem? To answer that, here's the percentage of comments posted each week that got flagged:

flagged comments, similar shape

The shapes of those curves, especially recently, are very similar. That suggests to me that the flags are mostly on new comments. So either we're getting more flag-worthy comments or people are flagging more aggressively; either way, if moderators delete the comments, that means we felt the flags were warranted.

Even with more flags, though, moderators aren't purging tons of stuff. Other things have happened too:

In the last year, 72,761 comments have been posted here, with weekly totals mostly ranging between 1250 and 1750. 15,925 of those comments have been deleted, about 5600 of them by their authors (not moderators). 6409 comments were moved to chat and thus preserved (in 391 separate threads). Some of the comments moved to chat were not also deleted on the main site, so I have to get a little hand-wavy on that part, but at a rough guess, out of those ~73k comments, only around ~4k were actually purged. The largest flag reason by far was "no longer needed".

We get a lot of comments and a lot of flags on comments. We relocate a lot of discussions and about a third of the deletions are self-deletions. Moderators are outright nuking fewer comments than you seem to think we are, and the process is substantially driven by flags.

(Thanks to Shog9 for data-wrangling.)

  • 2
    Thanks for the peek behind the curtain....
    – Neo
    Aug 14 '18 at 10:56
  • 1
    The recent spike in flags appears to coincide with the change in name from comments to suggestions. I wonder if that is consistent with other Stack Exchange sites which have or have not had that naming change.
    – Ben Mz
    Aug 14 '18 at 14:52
  • 4
    @BenMz the curve has the same shape on Stack Overflow, which didn't get that change, but I didn't ask Shog to check other sites. That'd be a good thing to ask about when it's time to evaluate that wording change, though. Aug 14 '18 at 14:58
  • Monica, spike at SO is most probably only a coincidence: it seems to have its own reasons such as recent welcoming turmoil and opening comments flags for new users about two weeks ago
    – gnat
    Aug 14 '18 at 15:50
  • 1
    @gnat Agreed. SO is a whole different beast.
    – Neo
    Aug 15 '18 at 14:04

See related Meta question here:

Why do "we" want to "fix" comments?

It's pretty clear when you add a comment/suggestion what the intention is - asking for clarification or adding additional information. This isn't just for TWP, it's site-wide.

Therefore, we remove comments that:

  • Answer the question (hint text explicitly tells people not to do this)
  • +1 for saying "Cat videos"
  • Not relevant to the question/answer
  • Detract from the question/answer
  • Contains chatter that doesn't add anything to the question/answer
  • Is abusive/derogatory to someone on a personal level
  • Say "Voting to blah-blah-blah" where blah-blah-blah has since happened

The vast majority of comments deleted are ones that attempt to answer the question, or where people confuse the "add a suggestion" button with an instant messenger.

  • 1
    Are you as moderators allowing the comment flagging system to work or are you actively pruning comments on your own? ( stuff that is not flagged ) I think we should let the flagging system take care of comments, they should not normally need active moderator attention.
    – Neo
    Aug 10 '18 at 13:56
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    A huge amount of comments are flagged.
    – user44108
    Aug 10 '18 at 14:11
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    If the comments are flagged and removed by the community, then so be it. My issue would be with a moderator just deleting comments that are not flagged.
    – Neo
    Aug 10 '18 at 14:23
  • 3
    "I'd just like to add a comment saying ..." no, put it in an answer, or risk it being deleted.
    – Aaron Hall
    Aug 10 '18 at 15:36
  • @AaronHall That will be harmful to the overall value of TWP. Value can be added, that is not directly an answer, via a comment. This fact is not disputable. This site is not the exact clone of others on the stack.
    – Neo
    Aug 10 '18 at 15:39
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    @MisterPositive Moderators are community members too and they too can flag comments like everyone else does. Hence, there is no real reason to make a distinction between comments flagged by mods and non-mods. Moderators don't give up their community citizenship on becoming moderators.
    – Masked Man
    Aug 10 '18 at 18:05
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    @MisterPositive the vast majority of flags on this site are on comments. They are often the hardest flags to moderate. The other sites I moderate are not like this, by the way. Aug 10 '18 at 21:49

There is no one going around trying to police comments. Starting posts that way is confrontational and frankly not going to win you any points.

That being said, some more context, too - there are two primary ways moderators see comments to delete.

The first is direct flags on comments. The second is auto raised flags whenever a post has 20+ comments on it (you'd be surprised how often this happens).

There are currently 5 posts with active flags on the main site. Of these, 3/5 of the posts with flags on them have or at some point have had the "20+ comments flag" on them.

Speaking from personal experience I rarely would delete comments that I come across in normal browsing of the site without comments.

  • 1
    Thanks for the insight
    – Neo
    Aug 10 '18 at 18:54

Never heard that one before.

Nonetheless, in brief:

  • Moderators don't go on a witch hunt against comments.
  • During our "regular" site use, we (flag and) delete comments only if we notice ... problems.
  • When handling comment flags, we usually handle the entire conversation.
  • In case of comment flags on Highly Noteworthy Quality questions, we usually handle comments on the question and all the answers.

Personally, I don't believe that deleting comments like "thanks, this answer helped me" or even comments with partial answers improves the site's "quality". Regardless, SE believes that comments are just noise, so there we go.

Fun Fact: Believe it or not, some users use "bots" to obtain a live feed of comments, so that they can flag them to reduce the "noise" by truckloads. Make of that what you will.

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