Why was this dumb comment deleted? January 12, 2015 2:45 AM   Subscribe

I know there isn't a policy for deleting dumb comments. They happen all the time, and not even a modagement team of 400 would be able to eradicate them. And there's a "general" policy for not deleting comments that are referenced, or are responded to despite how offensive, stupid, dumb, etc they may be.

So why was a comment that was referenced verbatim no less than 5 times deleted?

I don't know the entire comment, but it included:
It is not a racist system, it is one that discriminates against the poor. Consider this, rich African Americans don't have the problems that poor African Americans have. If it was a racist system they'd both face the same problems. African Americans would not have the ability to become rich if it was racist.

Referenced here, here, here, here, and here.

What is the general modagement policy regarding deletions when they are referenced? Is this consistent with that policy? If not, whats the difference here?
posted by hal_c_on to Etiquette/Policy at 2:45 AM (73 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Checking the time stamps on that, I see that the delete happened shortly before the comments responding to it. It's a delete that every mod would make since it's a dumb derail ("there's no racism, only classism" type) that doesn't have anything to do with the posted article.

It looks like some people saw the comment pre-delete before refreshing the page, and responded. To avoid that, we'd normally try to either monitor the thread to make sure that the deleted comment doesn't get further responses, or add a "[comment deleted because blah blah]" note so that folks can check with a refresh before referencing a possibly deleted comment. I'm not sure what happened in this case, but if there is something else going on at the same time, sometimes a mod might get caught up in the other thing and forget to check back.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:58 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure deletions are quite as rules-lawyerly policy-driven as you're seeming to imply, hal_c_on...
posted by Dysk at 4:16 AM on January 12, 2015


It was a factually incorrect comment that was going to derail the thread. Deletion is hardly a surprising call. I was a little confused to see that responding comments were not also pruned (as I spent a little time looking for the original comment), but I attributed it to the fog of moderation and moved on.

I can't tell whether you think the correct course would have been no deletion or deletion of everything.

As a general rule, I oppose trying to pin down a concrete set of rules for deletions, mostly because I don't think such a set of rules are possible and, if they were, it would just lead to more aggrieved MeTas arguing about application of "the law." Then we would need an appellate mod system, and nothing good would come of that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:12 AM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


The original comment and a jokey response to it were flagged and deleted. None of the follow up comments (all made minutes after the deletion) were flagged.

As always, we can't have mod eyes and ears everywhere so you should flag things like this and they would have been deleted.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:48 AM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Man, I miss Will Shetterly.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:54 AM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


He's on Twitter! All the Will Shetterly you can handle.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:15 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree the comment was a stupid derail, but I think there should be a note any time a comment is deleted. It would help in situations like this, where references are made to missing content (it may have even prevented people making the reference). Also, I personally would like to know that I am reading an edited discussion, even when, such as in this case, I agree with the edit.
posted by spaltavian at 6:24 AM on January 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Man, I miss Will Shetterly.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:54 AM on January 12 [+] [!]


I had a similar initial reaction but I don't think the word I used was "miss".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:31 AM on January 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think a technical fix could help as well, as a comment gets deleted, if it dropped from view or was marked as deleted in real-time in other open browsers, you might not get five people responding to something already deleted they happened to catch in the few minutes it was up.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:32 AM on January 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think there should be a note any time a comment is deleted

I think that's a bit too much and would inundate contentious discussions, and introduce tons of MetaTalk style comments in the blue. As a mod I should be more precise with deletions and it helps if flags lead the way for us.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:35 AM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


I hope nothing will be done because I'm looking forward to future opportunities to use GenjiandProust's fine phrase about the fog of moderation.
posted by Segundus at 6:37 AM on January 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think that's a bit too much and would inundate contentious discussions

I know it's a non-starter anyway, but to clarify, I wouldn't necessarily ask for note for every individual deleted comment. A single note for a chain of related deleted comments would satisfy the the concerns I mentioned above.
posted by spaltavian at 6:48 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I appreciate the [some comments deleted notes that get left sometimes, especially when there are still responses to deleted comments in the thread.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:53 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rather strange why metas about deleting wackadoodle comments are appearing, if anyones intent is to make some sort of valid case for self policing out of this - it might be rather difficult.

On the subject of deleted comments may I ask if any reference to or content around Shanley Kane is verboten on Mefi ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:26 AM on January 12, 2015


On the subject of deleted comments may I ask if any reference to or content around Shanley Kane is verboten on Mefi ?

I may be missing something, but isn't there an entire active thread (and a MeTa about that thread) about Shanley at the moment?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:35 AM on January 12, 2015


I think a technical fix could help as well

This is one of those things that comes up so rarely that I think building a thing specifically for that is unlikely to do much except in monster threads where it would likely bog down threads and/or make them all about comment deletions. I hear you that it's a thing that comes up (and one of the things that may be tougher to manage in a more-lightly-moderated MetaFilter) but a technical solution to a social problem is unlikely to have the result you are looking for.

There are good reasons there isn't notification when comments are deleted and while you're welcome to change that I don't think it's a good idea.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:01 AM on January 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I may be missing something, but isn't there an entire active thread (and a MeTa about that thread) about Shanley at the moment?

No.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:11 AM on January 12, 2015


In the universe you're in, I guess not, sarge. Over here, though, yes.
posted by rtha at 9:20 AM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the quick explanation, y'all.

I appreciate it.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:21 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's the Shanley Kane FPP.

The MeTa it was discussed in has been closed, but is still there.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:23 AM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


For whatever it may be worth, I think mathowie's idea of some kind of real-time deletion notification is a good one in theory. Jessamyn raises a good point that it might bog down threads, especially the ones where it would be most useful and where bogging down would be the most problematic, but perhaps pb could speak to whether this is likely to be the case in actuality. It's a rare situation to be responding to an already-deleted comment, but I think that it would be helpful in those rare situations as long as the new feature was minimally obtrusive, had a negligible drain on thread responsiveness, and didn't hammer the servers too hard.

The rarity of the problem doesn't make it not worth addressing, as long as the fix doesn't bring more problems of its own; this seems in keeping with what I see as MeFi's overall philosophy of iteratively-improving UI design. Proposed changes are considered, pros and cons are weighed, and if a change appears to offer more pros than cons then it is implemented in the simplest and least-disruptive way possible, with an eye toward being able to reverse the change (or allow opting out of it) if it is not as successful as planned. The real-time "this thread was deleted" box also solves a rare and arguably trivial problem, but we still have it and I'm glad we do.

I would suggest, if a real-time comment deletion notice feature were to be implemented, that it be done by causing newly-deleted comments to be tagged in some way rather than by making them disappear, which would presumably require the thread to at least partially re-render and shift around in order to close up the newly-made gap. Also, since a deleted comment would vanish, it would perhaps be less obvious where the edit had been made than if the comment were simply tagged, possibly leading one to falsely assume that the excision was made elsewhere than at the comment to which one is in the process of replying.

Also, it might be good if there were some way to see from the comment composition box that an earlier comment had been deleted, in lieu of or in addition to an inline tag. People often respond to comments that are far enough back in the thread that they are off the screen when they are composing their replies (at least, I know I do) and if such a comment were only tagged inline it wouldn't really be very helpful. Perhaps there could be a "x comments deleted, show" box that would appear similarly to the "x new comments, show" box that we got a while back and which I adore. Then it would be obvious that something had been deleted while the comment was being written, and it would be easy to go and check what it was so as to avoid responding to it.

Such are my thoughts, anyway.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:30 AM on January 12, 2015


So why was a comment that was referenced verbatim no less than 5 times deleted?

I think if you see that, it's generally a good idea to let the mods know that "hey, that comment you deleted has replies to it, FYI." (Flag them and maybe hit up the mods via contact form.) Generally speaking, when I do that, the replies seem to also disappear. As stated above, what typically happens is the replies were being written as the deletion was taking place and those folks didn't know they were replying to a thing that was no longer there as they hit the "post" button. I personally think it is good practice to remove the replies because I think when the comment is deleted, but the replies are not, it makes the person who got the comment deleted feel like they are being both censored and ganged up on.

So I think in the interest of not fostering festering wounds, where some folks feel justified in being jerks because they feel they got away with it last time (or something) and so on, it's generally good if the replies also disappear. But I also understand the forum is simply too large at this point for the mods to read every single freaking thing, much less in real time as it hits the page. So help from the community is pretty much essential at that point.
posted by Michele in California at 10:13 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


My thought of a technical solution is much like the "2 new comments" box we do currently. Since we're already monitoring the thread for changes to display that notification, we could also put up a notification that says something like "a comment has been deleted, please refresh the page if you are responding to something directly" and that might entice people to avoid this behavior.

It's really tough in contentious threads, where someone says something outlandish or silly and sometimes it can only be online for a minute, but since 200 people were reading the thread at the same time, we can be deleting responses to it for the next 20-30 minutes. In this case I'd say the comment update scripts probably exacerbate the problem, since you don't have to reload a busy thread all day, and can just keep hitting the new comments notification, making the whole page quite "out of date" from reality.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:13 AM on January 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


That sounds like a great idea, Matt. I wonder if pb sensed a disturbance in the force and implemented it.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:18 AM on January 12, 2015


cjorgensen: "Man, I miss Will Shetterly."

Serious question - are his books any good? I am familiar with his odious on-line behavior, but i seem to remember some of his novels having a good rep back in the 80s.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:22 AM on January 12, 2015


"a comment has been deleted, please refresh the page if you are responding to something directly"

Ah I get it, great idea. Maybe less wordy. "Please reload page for current comments." Otherwise you may get into bean-county "Well it says A comment but it's really 11 comments" and I think the last thing you want is a comment deletion count.

The big deal is to make it easy on mobile since reloading 800 comment threads is a total pain in the ass. Wish there was a way to like just reload the last X comments and not the whole thread. There must be, right?
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:33 AM on January 12, 2015


Wish there was a way to like just reload the last X comments and not the whole thread. There must be, right?

Wish there was too, but there's no easy way to do this, unless we were putting out comment threads in chunks of like several hundred. Good call on the tighter wording.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:35 AM on January 12, 2015


Would it be possible to check comments on posting to see if they contained significant quotes from comments that had been deleted?
posted by ambrosen at 10:43 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Would it be possible to check comments on posting to see if they contained significant quotes from comments that had been deleted?

That'd be pretty hard to search for phrases/similarity and beyond our means.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:44 AM on January 12, 2015


Having to copy one's reply out of the comment composition box, reload the (perhaps very large) thread, hunt for the spot where the comment you're responding to ought to be, double check that you found it/it's gone because sometimes it can be a bit hard to find one's place in a long thread, and then (assuming the comment you're responding to is still there and that nothing has happened to your clipboard in the meantime) paste your reply back into the composition box seems pretty cumbersome and failure-prone from a user perspective.

Is it a total non-starter to have an inline tag for the deleted comments, perhaps by reducing their contrast compared to regular comments or by putting a red marker in the margin, so that rather than reloading the whole thread one could just scan upwards and look to see which comments have been deleted? They would of course disappear entirely upon reload, but that to me would be a much easier and more useful way to notify users that the comment they're trying to reply to is gone.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:45 AM on January 12, 2015


perhaps by reducing their contrast compared to regular comments or by putting a red marker in the margin, so that rather than reloading the whole thread one could just scan upwards and look to see which comments have been deleted

We could conceivably gray out deleted comments and put a message at the bottom, but I have a funny feeling if we were showing deleted comments, we'd get people copy/pasting them a lot to "save" them or argue with us or repost them. We've never really had visibility for deleted comments before, and this seems like it would put a bit more focus on it and have some negative consequences.

I hear what you're saying on the in-progress copy/pasting of comments though, the hope with a notification is we remind current thread readers that things might have changed before they start a reply comment.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:50 AM on January 12, 2015


I think a technical fix could help as well, as a comment gets deleted, if it dropped from view or was marked as deleted in real-time in other open browsers, you might not get five people responding to something already deleted they happened to catch in the few minutes it was up.

I think this is a great idea - maybe actually just highlighted in a different color or something like that so people could still go to MeTa if they wanted, but still know not to respond.
posted by corb at 10:53 AM on January 12, 2015


Serious question - are his books any good?

He's a stereotypical midlist author. He's books are generally a fun read, but nothing that will stick with you. I read a few back when I couldn't get enough of Lindholm, Bull, and Brust.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:08 AM on January 12, 2015


I really like Dogland.
posted by PussKillian at 11:15 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


He's a stereotypical midlist author.

I dunno, I think Will Shetterly was better than that back in the day. Nevernever is one of the better things to come out of the Bordertown books, a well-crafted YA novel at a time when YA wasn't the rage. He also is a pretty decent guy in person. I'm always a little bewildered when I see something he's done online, because it reads like a totally different person....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:20 AM on January 12, 2015


jessamyn: "Ah I get it, great idea. Maybe less wordy. "Please reload page for current comments." Otherwise you may get into bean-county "Well it says A comment but it's really 11 comments" and I think the last thing you want is a comment deletion count."

In my mind brain, I see this functionality as this above-the-comment-box notice, and right above (or framing?) the deleted comment.
posted by boo_radley at 11:21 AM on January 12, 2015


Wait, I know! How about if Matt just disables commenting?

Yeah, I know, I'm not helping.
posted by ODiV at 11:35 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


GenjiandProust: "I'm always a little bewildered when I see something he's done online, because it reads like a totally different person...."

I really like almost everything Steven Brust has written, but I don't care for what I've seen of him online. I think this is not necessarily an unusual phenomenon.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:45 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I know it is possible to disable copying of things online. So I will suggest that if there is a move to highlight deleted comments in some way and then have them disappear on reload, maybe the highlighted comments could have copying disabled in order to try to avoid having that become a new source of problems.

But some portion of this issue is social, not technical. So some other approaches (that might be "in addition" rather than "instead of"): Promote the "Flag it and move on" meme a bit more in some manner; educate people a bit better on flagging comments that quote deleted remarks; and maybe come up with some language to succinctly convey "if you are replying in a fighty manner, consider the possibility that the thing you are replying to may have already been flagged and is being deleted and your fighty reply does not add to an atmosphere of civil discourse." or something along those line. Kind of like on MeTa it says "Everyone needs a hug."
posted by Michele in California at 12:05 PM on January 12, 2015


My sense is that notification of deleted comments, except in the unnusual cases where this is already the practice, will do more harm than good. In general, I think we're better off for deleted comments to just disappear. I totally agree that this isn't ideal, that it's both a little creepy and it has the practical problems we're discussing.

But people freak out about deleted comments enough as it is. I personally believe that most people aren't ever aware that their comment has been deleted. The same (non-targeted) mechanism that alerts responders that a comment has been deleted will also alert the writers of those comments. You can't have one without the other. Also the other people who would be upset to learn that the comment was deleted -- most of them, too, don't ever know. I think a lot of bad feeling is simply sidestepped by the current practice. Again, it's not ideal, but I think it's effective.

And then there are the ways in which an increased visibility of deleted comments in aggregate would disrupt both threads and the whole site. Deletions are already general fodder for complaint, this would just make them much more visible and ready-to-hand.

I think the optimal solution is just for people who are specifically responding to a particular comment become more mindful of checking to see if it's been deleted before they post their response. That would limit the increased awareness to only that particular group of people. Not the writers of the deleted comments and not the other people who are participating in the thread but aren't writing a response to the deleted comments. I think that's why a technological solution was suggested -- if the server/browser could actually know that you're pressing submit in reply to a deleted comment, then that one and only class of people would ever know and they'd always know. Doing a search for a quote would be imperfect and have various costs. People using a "reply to this" button would work, though. But it would have the problem of implying a threaded model, which we don't use, and it wouldn't work where someone is responding to more than one comment. I'm not seriously proposing this as a solution, just noting it.

So I think that leaves us with, at best, just responders being more diligent in checking.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:06 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's not any technical reason you can't remove deleted comments in the same process that loads new comments; it's pretty simple DOM modification, and I see that MetaFilter is using jQuery which makes finding the offenders simple enough.

ODiV's ever-so-helpful comment above, for example, is anchored with ID #1185971. The anchor in it isn't the block you want to remove; that's actually the div with class comments right above it. But jQuery will do relative finding, so you just need to look for the three preceeding elements (helpfully, prev() does this) which are 2 BRs and the div around the comment.

I don't know how you'd want to word that but I don't think it's unreasonable to do it. I'd argue there's nothing really useful about knowing the quantity of new comments - "comments have changed, reload" would do the job. But I imagine some folks would be torqued to go from more information to less.
posted by phearlez at 12:07 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


By the way, when people flag for fantastic, that doesn't actually show up in your moderation queue, right?
posted by halifix at 12:08 PM on January 12, 2015


In the universe you're in, I guess not, sarge. Over here, though, yes.

The MeTa it was discussed in has been closed


Free your ass and your mind might follow.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:39 PM on January 12, 2015


maybe something like "+2 comments; -1 comment"?

re: shitterly, one of the nicest things about the sheer overwhelming volume of work out there is you can choose to utterly ignore writers who behave in awful ways, especially awful ways that are marginalizing to already disadvantaged groups, and still have more great work to read than you will ever be able to get to in ten lifetimes.
posted by NoraReed at 12:56 PM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Free your ass and your mind might follow.

A still-open thread on the blue and a thread on the gray that, while it focused on Shanley Kane, was pretty frank and open, don't read to me as "any reference to or content around Shanley Kane is verboten on Mefi." But I'm just some schmo. In your place, I'd take it up with the mods on the contact form, because the issue in this MeTa seems a little more specific than "the subject of deleted comments," but again, I'm just some schmo.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:08 PM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


A quick thought about wording -

"a comment has been deleted, please refresh the page if you are responding to something directly"
vs.
"Please reload page for current comments."


I think it needs to make a clear reference to 'deleted'/'deletion', otherwise it looks too much like a general rule of thumb suggestion that people will ignore. Maybe:

"Comment(s) deleted. Please reload page for current comments."
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:38 PM on January 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


We could conceivably gray out deleted comments and put a message at the bottom,

Can't see any way that would do anything but make things worse and its a huge sea change to even consider it. This is a thing that

- primarily happens in monster/hot button threads
- happens because people are having a more real-time conversation (that the "X new comments" feature enables) and don't slow up to reload a thread because they don't have to
- mostly concerns the new comments that people are reloading with that feature

So it seems like a technical solution would be to find a way to have some sort of quickie reload of the last chunk of comments or notify people that there have been deletions in some other way (which is still going to get the "WTF" reaction honestly) or just presume that this is a feature of the way the site works and tell people to be mindful of it and work within that constraint.

Like how many people are we talking about, and how many threads? A thread every few days. About 10-30 superfans? This has been a problem that has existed since the "load new comments" feature has existed. And it's a mostly awesome feature but has this unintended side effect. I don't think all-new things have to be programmed because a few people seem to be quick on the post button and mods are slow to respond and/or are modding-from-phone and not staying on top of threads.

This seems like a situation in which more awareness of the flow of the thread and a mod note that things were deleted in the smalltext style that mods use would have eliminated this particular issue. I'd try that before building all new technical stuff.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:50 PM on January 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I agree that showing deleted comments, even grayed out, is not a road we should go down. And yeah, anything that throws a spotlight on deletions is likely to generate more derailly meta-conversation, rather than keeping threads moving well.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:17 PM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think it would be fairly straightforward to take one of the existing quoting user scripts and build in a feature whereby it is aware of the identifier of the comment being quoted. This means it could be extended to support notification when a quoted comment has been removed. Of course, there's no official quoting approach so you'd need to open that can of worms to add this feature to the main site. I don't know if that's worth it or not.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:37 PM on January 12, 2015


Automated textual surgery.
posted by clavdivs at 2:41 PM on January 12, 2015


Yeah, I agree with Ivan upthread that any of these proposed solutions would put more emphasis and attention on deleted comments that would ultimately be problematic. I think we'll stick to the current status quo and ask people to flag replies to deleted stuff to prevent this (and leave notes when necessary).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:32 PM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


That comment was such a tactical strike of a threadshit that my only complaint is the comments replying to it that even mentioned it didn't also get deleted.

the system isn't broken because this comment deleted, it's broken because any mention of it still remained. something getting quoted a lot is not a reason to keep it around, outrageous threadshits and derails often cause that because they're outrageous.
posted by emptythought at 4:00 PM on January 12, 2015


Why was this dumb comment deleted?

Because it was a dumb comment.

Next up: why is water wet?
posted by double block and bleed at 5:14 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Next up: why is water wet?

Because it's dryist
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:39 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


A supported quote button wouldn't be a bad thing. Reveal a button when text is selected, insert that text in the comment box with attribution. Repeat once or twice when quoting multiple people. Even when one finds the right userscript, mobile platforms make it hard to use.
Sorry, I missed the discussions you've probably already had.
posted by Tobu at 6:10 PM on January 12, 2015


it's broken because any mention of it still remained

Right, and I agreed in my first comment, but no one flagged any of the follow-ups, all made after the original was removed. I would have deleted them all if I had seen them.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:13 PM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think some kind of technical solution is not a bad idea, as matt originally said, because the volume of comments being deleted has grown so much that the likelihood of multiple responses to any one of them is much greater now than it was way back in the early days of Metafilter. Not only has the user base grown larger over the years, but the deletions have risen at an even greater rate.

I mean, based on the 2013 and 2014 stats, the percentage of comments deleted on Metafilter was .98% in 2013 and 1.18% in 2014. That's a .2 increase, making for a rate of change (difference/average x 100*) of 18.5%.

So deletions increased at a rate of 18.5 percent from the year before.

Wait, is that right? Cool. I always wondered how to do that.
__
*I freely admit that I totally cheated and asked my resident math genius what the formula for that was.
posted by misha at 6:28 PM on January 12, 2015


My thought of a technical solution is much like the "2 new comments" box we do currently. Since we're already monitoring the thread for changes to display that notification, we could also put up a notification that says something like "a comment has been deleted, please refresh the page if you are responding to something directly" and that might entice people to avoid this behavior.

I like this idea.
posted by homunculus at 6:39 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


NoraReed: "re: shitterly, one of the nicest things about the sheer overwhelming volume of work out there is you can choose to utterly ignore writers who behave in awful ways, especially awful ways that are marginalizing to already disadvantaged groups, and still have more great work to read than you will ever be able to get to in ten lifetimes."

And that's fine, and I am not particularly running out to buy any of his backlist. I was just curious whether he actually had produced anything of value when he is not busy being an abusive asshole online. Which was answered.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:02 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Automated textual surgery.

I read that as "automated textual savagery."
posted by homunculus at 7:17 PM on January 12, 2015


Snarky reply time

1) Hey now, if you're gonna quote smalltext, it must be repeated in smalltext

2) Pony request, all quotes of smalltext automatically detected and quoted in small text (mathowie mentioned something similar would be easy or hard above, I forget which, I am being a dork and know which)

3) The nice thing about snarky smalltext that isn't directly asking for a response is that you can ignore it

4) Just being snarky for snark's sake like me now is less virtuous than being snarky because of a desire to reduce the exposure of odious people

5) I have no idea what I'm on about

6) Americans like me who find themselves saying "on about" should probably be beaten by English Hooligans, or at least verbally snarked
posted by aydeejones at 7:18 PM on January 12, 2015



I read that as "automated textual savagery.

posted by clavdivs at 8:18 PM on January 12, 2015


A supported quote button wouldn't be a bad thing. Reveal a button when text is selected, insert that text in the comment box with attribution.

See, if you can get to the level of technical wizardry where we have a "reply" or "quote" button, and some sort of notification comes up while we're replying to a comment that's been deleted, letting us know our in-progress comment will be deleted because we're replying to a deleted comment, then I think the technical solution would help.

If we're not at that point, though (and I assume we're not at that point), then I think people just kind of need to realize that if they're replying to an inflammatory comment, that comment might be delete-worthy enough that their own comment will be deleted.
posted by jaguar at 8:41 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least half of all of my commentary is "dumb", or is in response to potential dumbness, further dumbening the aforementioned proto-dumbation with additional dumbitude. That's why I flag all of my own comments, so that the mods, ever-vigilant against the awful threat of dumbness, can swiftly delete every stupid thing I say. The net result of this, of course, is that the bell-curve of my commentary (ranked by comment intelligence) has the lower, dumber, half removed by these tireless stupidity-pruners, and as a result I come across as the most intelligent person you have ever met. Of course you'll never know my secret, because the mods will delete this comment, because it is utterly stupid. Unless it is highly intelligent, in which case they'll leave it be. I have no idea which it is, because I am an idiot. OR AM I?! No, I am. Quite a horrible, witless shithead, actually. Really I'm quite offensively stupid. OK - vote #1 quidnunc kid! Ciao!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:39 PM on January 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


Americans like me who find themselves saying "on about" should probably

attempt to join an UK police force, as that seems to be the standard way to start a police report: "On about january 12th, I proceeded in a westerly direction when my attention was caught by..."
posted by MartinWisse at 10:58 PM on January 12, 2015


I think people hearing things like "comments deleted. slow down, cool your jets" from actual mods (though not sure mods have used those actual words) helps to bring down the temperature, especially when those comments are liked.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:16 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really like NoraReed's suggestion:

maybe something like "+2 comments; -1 comment"?

Having said that, I wish that we could have jaguar's suggestion:

...we have a "reply" or "quote" button, and some sort of notification comes up while we're replying to a comment that's been deleted, letting us know our in-progress comment will be deleted because we're replying to a deleted comment, then I think the technical solution would help.

As that is the best solution that I've seen in the thread, but I also agree that the site probably isn’t at that point. I suspect that NoraReed's suggestion would be much easier to implement.

I think people just kind of need to realize that if they're replying to an inflammatory comment, that comment might be delete-worthy enough that their own comment will be deleted.

The problem I see with asking people to realize that inflammatory comments may be deleted, is that this is not individually true for all perceptions. I have seen some extremely inflammatory comments stand, which I assume occurs because my understanding of what is inflammatory is subjective, just as it is for the mods. I imagine that you could ask people to refresh their browser before commenting on heated topics, but I suspect that would require reminders and chiding that NoraReed's suggestion would make unnecessary.
posted by Shouraku at 5:22 AM on January 13, 2015


It would be great if deleted comments would first grey out and then disappear with the sound of a balloon popping (and a really contentious discussion sounding like a bag of microwave popcorn), but given the technical limitations a basic indicator like what NoraReed suggested makes sense.

But I also wonder about Jessamyn's comment above -- the combination of fast-moving thread plus heated comments must represent a small percentage of things here, with the majority of comment deletions happening in calmer circumstances.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:33 AM on January 13, 2015


I think there might be some usefulness in having a gray box that appears saying "comment(s) deleted. Please reload" or whatever, just like the magic gray box that says "this thread has been deleted". I leave threads hanging out for a while on my phone (and often it takes a long time to get to the bottom of a thread); it wouldn't just be for very fast moving threads.

(Didn't the "this post has been deleted" magic box used to be red? But it's gray now. Was that a change with the new theme?)
posted by leahwrenn at 7:47 AM on January 13, 2015


the combination of fast-moving thread plus heated comments must represent a small percentage of things here

That's most of my reaction to the thought too, yeah; I think brainstorming technical approaches to reducing the likelihood of a Mods Deleted Something But Didn't Catch The Replies To It thing is worth doing because, hey, brainstorming, but on my personal list of priorities it falls pretty low because it's just not something that eats up a lot of our time on average.

This specific incident, minus the metatalk post, is a good example of the occasional fail-state: we nix something, we get distracted by other site stuff, we don't immediately catch replies to the deleted thing, and someone(s) alert us via flags or a quick contact form note that there's stragglers that don't make sense, which we go back and delete with a quick thank you.

It's very slightly messy but also not a huge deal, and when we find out that a thread's playing out more hyperresponsive than we'd been figuring we can assign it a little more attention to compensate.

For an example, usually if I nix a comment that I think may be trouble (because e.g. it's pretty inflammatory, or because it took a few minutes to get to or to be flagged in the first place and so a lot of people may be responding or have it in their view of the thread as currently loaded, or because there's already been at least one response), I'll kill the comment, make a call about whether to explicitly leave a note, and then leave that thread sitting open in a tab in my browser and monitor the new comments that come in over the next fifteen or twenty minutes. If there's post mortem replies, I can nix them easily as they come in, and if it seems like it's gonna keep being a problem and I hadn't originally left a note, I can leave a note at that point instead.

That's how it plays out in most cases, for me. You can see a potential failure point there if I make the call that post-deletion responses aren't so likely and don't actively monitor the thread, and every once in a while I'm gonna make that incorrect call especially if the deletion was prompt and the deleted comment not nuclear-grade stuff and the rest of the site is busy. But flags or contact form help out nicely in most of those cases, and I think with a little more userbase awareness most could become functionally all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:49 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


"..we have a 'reply' or 'quote' button, and some sort of notification comes up while we're replying to a comment that's been deleted, letting us know our in-progress comment will be deleted because we're replying to a deleted comment, then I think the technical solution would help."

That's what I had in mind earlier and I definitely think it's doable. I'm sure we've had discussions before about adding a "reply" button next to the formatting buttons, which would work (nearly but not sufficiently) the same way -- but I don't recall the outcome or the reasoning why we don't.

Seems like some sites have a bare-minimum quote function that works just like how the formatting buttons here do -- just adds something like a pair of blockquote tags around what you've highlighted in the text entry box. I'd think that you could do the same thing but with text that's highlighted anywhere on the page, too, though it would be more complicated to code.

What some sites do is what stav's mefightclub site does -- every comment has a "quote" button beneath it which automatically inserts into the text entry box for a new comment at the bottom of the thread a formatted quote of that particular comment in whole or in part (I just checked and if you've not highlighted anything in the comment, it just quotes the entire comment -- if you've highlighted something, it just quotes what's highlighted).

That system would allow the added functionality that we're discussing because the javascript quoting function could keep enough information in it (such as a link back to the quoted comment) sufficient for the quoted comment to continue to be uniquely identifiable -- when the comment is submitted, then, on the server side there can be a check to see if the quoted comment has been deleted and do whatever. Better yet, when that client-side timed function that checks for new comments run -- the one that notifies about new comments being posted -- it could also check against the deletion of any comments that are being quoted in the user's text entry box and notify accordingly.

That seems maybe a bit elaborate, but I don't think it's more than a few hours work for pb and once it's done, it's done, and I don't see it adding to any more client-side or server-side load, because both are processing all the same information, anyway.

Now, both the quoting function like stav's site uses and the quoted-deleted comment function dependent upon it I describe would minimally require each comment to have an additional "quote" link on it, next to the favorite and flag links. That's not an addition to be taken lightly, I think. One of the best things about the site's design is how uncluttered each comment and the result pages end up being. Note that the favorite and flagging links are not graphical buttons or whatever -- they're absolutely minimal bits of text. I think that's good design in this context. So although this is all doable, and it would optimally solve the problem we're discussing, and even though it wouldn't be technically that difficult, it's not clear to me that the problem being addressed is that large and the change to the site's design and usability is that small. Maybe.

Personally, I think the addition of a very minimal quote button next to the formatting buttons we have would be a nice addition, which would help normalize what is already MeFi's community quoting conventions. Just takes the text you've already pasted and surrounds it with the formatting (as the bold and italic does) or, slightly more elaborately, takes any text highlighted on the page and surrounds it with the formatting. The latter could check to see if the highlighted text comes from a comment block of text and then do the things I previously described -- that would solve the design concerns at the expense of complicating the coding.

But if we're limited to just posters being more mindful, I think that people should just be encouraged (however) to use the "preview" button when they're quoting somebody and check to see if the comment's been deleted. I understand that only a small number of people use the preview function -- they rely upon the live preview (we've discussed before why that can cause some problems -- the live preview cannot be guaranteed to produce the same result a submitted preview does). But maybe people could learn to use preview specifically when they're quoting a comment?

Just some thoughts.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:31 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


As someone using mobile devices more frequently (so user scripts don't work), I would LOVE the quote button!

Not to mention the added benefit that direct quoting being made simpler could possibly result in less of those nasty "paraphrases" we are all so fond of.

You know, the kind where you write, "I''m a cat person. Nothing against dogs at all, but cats are the best!" And go on your merry way, strolling in the sunshine and thinking happy cat thoughts, only to return to a response of, "Look, you basically just said 'Cats are great but dogs are little Hitlers in fur coats', so why don't you go join Cat Lovers Anonymous already and leave this thread to those of us who don't hate puppies?!"
posted by misha at 10:44 AM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Personally, I think the addition of a very minimal quote button next to the formatting buttons we have would be a nice addition, which would help normalize what is already MeFi's community quoting conventions.
I agree that this would be cool. The MefiQuote script works pretty much exactly as you describe, with the addition of being able to customise how the quoted text appears and is referenced (which would definitely not help with 'normalising' quoting conventions, if that's important).

I'm not sure this would help with definitively identifying replies to deleted comments, though. It would obviously help in cases where people use the quote button, but completely miss the inevitable comments that are quoting others without doing so. Given the infrequency of this specific issue in the first place and the infinite different ways of quoting a comment, the most effective way of dealing with that issue is, unfortunately, a human solution in the end.

If a quote button was implemented, could it be done in a way that the user was flagged if a quoted comment had been deleted in the same way a red box appears when the thread has been deleted? Obviously, I have no idea how that works (I hear a chicken is sacrificed every time a thread is deleted to enable it, though) and it wouldn't solve those situations where people don't use the quote button, but would thin the herd to some extent.
posted by dg at 12:52 PM on January 13, 2015


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