Minor issue with mods removing comments and not noting it November 3, 2007 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Minor issue with mods removing comments and not noting it

Here a mod deleted 4 or 5 OT comments (definitely rightfully) but didn't make a note of that -- making it look like my first comment was being weirdly snarky/dismissive of the one single comment that's now left, rather than the 5 or 6 comments I was referring to when I wrote it.

Would you consider inserting a note like "removed several OT comments arguing about TastyBites"? I know this is a minor issue, so thanks for listening (and feel free to delete this post if it's not general-interest enough).
posted by sparrows to Etiquette/Policy at 11:44 PM (92 comments total)

usually they just disappear
sometimes Jess puts in a note, but usually when it is more of a reminder to stop injecting comments that she will just have to remove
posted by caddis at 11:49 PM on November 3, 2007


[comment not removed]
posted by blue_beetle at 11:58 PM on November 3, 2007


This is exactly what I'm talking about! This is part of a continuing campaign to [content redacted] serve us all better with a little transparency!

Sheesh!
posted by exlotuseater at 12:08 AM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ooh, what about an automatic system that sends you a MefiMail everytime your comment is deleted? Wait, no, that's a terrible idea -- the mods would be flooded with complaints.

So, I think that's why they try not to directly notify users.
posted by spiderskull at 12:40 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks. I was asking just in this case because the missing comments in that thread make my comment oddly rude and snarky. I try to be good and avoid snark, and there it looks like I'm being snarky for no reason at all. I'm asking because of how it looks to everyone else, not to me.

(In reality I was responding to a five- or six-comment argument back & forth between two people, over whether the need to microwave a TastyBite means a TastyBite needs "preparation".... I was trying to get the thread back on track when almost all of it was totally OT. Now, with those comments gone, it looks like I was making a snippy comment in response to just ONE good and sort of on-topic mention of TastyBites.)
posted by sparrows at 12:47 AM on November 4, 2007


I actually really like that idea spiderskull.

Also, sparrows, when that happened to me once I just emailed Jessamyn directly, and she deleted my comment too so I wouldn't appear psycho.
posted by serazin at 12:49 AM on November 4, 2007


As far as I recall, the capability to insert a comment does not exist. They can only delete, edit, and append.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:36 AM on November 4, 2007


Minor issue

I think that about covers it. Sometimes a note is left and sometimes not. I do think you're being a little oversensitive in relation to the way your first comment reads. It's ok. Very little bite, yet still tasty.
posted by peacay at 2:00 AM on November 4, 2007


serazin -- I'm not sure... I mean, on one hand, it's convenient, but on the other, I could easily see this as overwhelming the moderators. It's way more convenient to hit "Reply" and write up a long rant in that situation (especially since it's at the moment that they find out their comment has been deleted).
posted by spiderskull at 2:11 AM on November 4, 2007


sparrows - I see what you're saying about threads being confusing. On Facebook, when a comment gets deleted in their forums, there's a little placeholder to indicate that. It may work here, but it could just as easily clutter the pages too.

(Clearly I have no discernable opinions and simply state obvious pros and cons for issues)
posted by spiderskull at 2:13 AM on November 4, 2007


when that happened to me once I just emailed Jessamyn directly, and she deleted my comment too so I wouldn't appear psycho.

Same here! And thanks again for that, Jessamyn!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:55 AM on November 4, 2007


[THIS COMMENT LEFT INTENTIONALLY BLANK]
posted by loquacious at 3:00 AM on November 4, 2007


You know, I bet if I'd been able to read the previous five or six missing comments, I would definitely have favorited that comment by sparrows.

As it currently stands though, it just doesn't make the cut. Sorry.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:58 AM on November 4, 2007


I hate comment deletion.

However, I would be pretty happy about comments being replaced by some sort of placeholder text.
posted by blacklite at 5:24 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


[ this comment was deleted by the MetaFilter staff at 4:25 AM on November 4 ]
posted by blacklite at 5:25 AM on November 4, 2007


Fortunately I need fear no deletion. My every utterance is collected and collated by one of my disciples then copied out long-hand in a gloriously illuminated vellum tome, the better to facilitate later exegesis in reverent study groups. Currently controversy rages over the Antinomian and/or eschatological implications of, "lol, it's like the kitten is fixing your computer!"
posted by Abiezer at 5:44 AM on November 4, 2007 [10 favorites]


I hate intentional blankness, because it never is blank.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:02 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Think twice before you snark.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:08 AM on November 4, 2007


Yeah, I have to say that some sort of notation about a comment deletion would be nice. Sometimes, I'll be reading through a long thread and someone will reply to a poster by name...but there will be no prior post by that name.

If the mods are capable of editing posts, it should certainly be possible to replace the offending text with a simple [This post removed due to offensive content]...or whatever the reason might be. Go ahead and leave the poster's name. I see this sort of moderation all the time on other boards. Seems to be fairly standard.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:13 AM on November 4, 2007


I know this is a minor issue, so thanks for listening

It's not a minor issue, it's a major and unacknowledged flaw in the system. But that battle was lost long ago.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:24 AM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Usually if we remove more than a few comments -- and not just one throwaway joke -- we'll leave a note. I thought it was sort of clear what happened so didn't, possibly in error. This time we had two conflicting guidelines at work.

- remove derails that aren't answering the question, especially when they occur early in the thread and the question hasn't been answered yet
- if at all possible, don't remove comments by the original question asker

Plus of course there's "don't edit questions"

So while it's easiest for me to say "well just don't respond to comments you think are going to be deleted" that doesn't always work and involves a deeper level of trust than most people have about moderation activity here, so my advice is to email us next time and we'll fix your comment with your permission. Do you want me to go edit it now?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:28 AM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's not a minor issue, it's a major and unacknowledged flaw in the system. But that battle was lost long ago.

just who the hell do you think you are, stavros? quonsar?
posted by quonsar at 8:14 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dear AskMetaFilter:

Where can I get my kitten a whip ?

Or, more properly,

I CAN HAS ASS WHIP ?

Abyssinnia, baby!!
posted by y2karl at 8:33 AM on November 4, 2007


As far as I recall, the capability to insert a comment does not exist. They can only delete, edit, and append.

Basically, yeah. When we leave a note, it's us commenting in the thread in real time; something like this, we'd be commenting however many comments after the fact if we decided to go back and add a note, which is probably too confusing for anything other than a serious ongoing issue in a thread.

If the mods are capable of editing posts, it should certainly be possible to replace the offending text with a simple [This post removed due to offensive content]...or whatever the reason might be. Go ahead and leave the poster's name. I see this sort of moderation all the time on other boards. Seems to be fairly standard.

It'd be possible, but yikes, no. That so at odds with how moderation has worked here for years that I think a lot of people would be upset and taken aback. It's extremely rare that we even edit a comment in place, and last time that happened it was a huge fucking mess; so adding or replacing content under someone's byline and keeping that byline seems kind of twisted in context.

I don't like the idea of substantially removing someone's content but keeping their byline. It seems like a taunt. And while for that matter we could zap the db to change the attribution of the deleting mod, I don't like that either, for different reasons. And on top of all that, it'd kind of fuck with how we currently track deletions in the backroom.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:44 AM on November 4, 2007


You guys should always leave a note in threads where you delete more than one comment, and probably when you delete a single comment, too.
posted by mediareport at 8:49 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


But really, is that a net gain? Someone snarks in Ask Me, they know it will be deleted, and it gets deleted. Why does that need a note saying it was deleted?
posted by smackfu at 8:51 AM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


just who the hell do you think you are, stavros? quonsar?

I assumed you had tagged him in.

it's a major and unacknowledged flaw in the system.

There's a difference between things that we all agree could be improved (search, for example) and things that don't come up very often, don't bother too many people, and are easily fixable on a case by case basis. You act like we're pretending this issue doesn't exist; we're just saying that it ranks maybe 3-4 on the 1-10 MeFi Problems Scale where we mostly code solutions (or new rules) for things that hit 7-10.

As it is, we often email new MeFites to let them know why we deleted stuff. We add notes when we think a thread was going to get continuously derailed and we usually leave a note if we remove more than a few comments. We maintain that we won't edit comments without express permission except in really rare and clearly outlined circumstances and doing something else would require a coding solution to address a problem that is not much of a problem by most accounts.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:55 AM on November 4, 2007


it'd kind of fuck with how we currently track deletions in the backroom.

It would? Tell us more, cortex.
posted by timeistight at 8:57 AM on November 4, 2007


I think it's far more honest to note deleted content.
posted by theora55 at 9:13 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


It would? Tell us more, cortex.

Deleted comments live on in the database; a flag gets thrown on them that suppresses their display in-thread, but they're otherwise untouched. So we can still see, on the admin side, the content and timestamp and so forth of a given comment, which is useful if one of us wants to see what the others had been dealing with that day or whatever. It also allows us to actually bring in the verbatim text of a comment when it become important in the context of a metatalk thread or email.

If we edited the original text of a deleted comment to reflect moderation commentary on the comment instead, we'd blow that out, which would suck. We could engineer around it—either hack a way to drop metacommentary into the thread outside the normal flow of comments, or build a special home for deleted comments outside of the normal comment db—but both sound to me like more effort than they're worth for the problem they'd be solving.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:26 AM on November 4, 2007


theorra55: To whom is it being dishonest to simply erase the comment? The poster, the reader? I've had plenty of comments deleted, like many MeFites (kind of surprised I haven't been e-mailed about it yet actually), but I don't feel slighted in the least when it happens- if a comment sucked or didn't belong, I'm happy to accept that. There's nothing dishonest about removing content that doesn't belong on MeFi. I'd much rather have my comment removed entirely than have the thread marked with a "baphomet is a jackass" flag (which I can take care of handily on my own, thank you).
posted by baphomet at 9:37 AM on November 4, 2007


If we edited the original text of a deleted comment to reflect moderation commentary on the comment instead

It is ALWAYS better to delete than edit.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:42 AM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm glad to read that deleted comments are retained. That being the case, it should be trivially easy to introduce a [comment deleted] indication in the thread.
posted by timeistight at 10:04 AM on November 4, 2007


I have no idea how much work this would require, but would it be possible to have a comment number indicator like:

comment 10 posted by timeistight at 1:04 PM on November 4 [+] [!]

If it was possible, and if deleted comments wouldn't bump-up later comments, it would be easy to see that comments 2-5 were deleted.

Again, I have no idea whether this is possible or how much work would be involved in doing it.
posted by necessitas at 9:28 AM on November 4, 2007


Metafilter: a special home for deleted comments
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:48 AM on November 4, 2007


 
posted by Poolio at 10:22 AM on November 4, 2007


Also, sparrows, when that happened to me once I just emailed Jessamyn directly, and she deleted my comment too so I wouldn't appear psycho.

I once asked for the same thing, but she said:

"I'd have to delete all of your comments for you not to appear psycho."

"Yes, I realize that, so..."

"No, I'm not going to do that."
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:34 AM on November 4, 2007


necessitas: That's just asking for clutter and draws unnecessary attention to the presence (absence?) of deleted material. The comment was deleted because the mods felt it didn't contribute to or belong in the thread, bringing attention to the fact that it was removed is completely antithetical to the reason it was removed in the first place. As stated above, if a mod needs to issue a cautionary "take it to MeTa if you have a problem with x" in response to a number of deleted comments, they will, but other than that what reason is there to feature deleted content?

The moderation is fine as it is. It isn't heavy-handed or obsequious, it isn't exceptionally biased, and it works. The fact that the mods on this site can take the powerful-but-transparent approach to moderation is what sets it apart from a lot of sites that feature similar content.
posted by baphomet at 10:40 AM on November 4, 2007


it would be easy to see that comments 2-5 were deleted.

Then people would want, nay, demand to know what comments were deleted and why, goddamnit, why are the mods suppressing their freedom of speech, fornicating with demons, eating babies and preventing peace in the Middle East.

As a user, by all means call'em out if you think they've done something wrong or you're pissed 'cause your comment got deleted, but it wouldn't be productive to leave indicators for the general public that comments have been deleted.

Yeah, yeah, it seems counterproductive to a transparent community/society/whatever, but there's several factors which counter that:

1. Thousands of sharp users who love the place and don't seem to miss shit.

2. All three of them have a history of not abusing their positions of power. Sure they screw up or do things people don't like, but they don't go on rampages deleting what they personally don't like.

3. The admins actually seem to love the place as much, if not more, than the refreshing-the-homepage-every-2-minutes users and what to preserve all the good things about the site, while getting rid of the crap.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:54 AM on November 4, 2007


Brandon Blatcher and Baphomet, I agree. I couldn't care less whether or not comments are deleted, mine included. I can usually tell when an odd comment is really a reply to a deleted comment, and when I can't, I think the commenter is just odd. No big deal.

What would annoy me is a constant break in the thread for a [comment deleted] notice. After that, people would lobby for [comment deleted because it was flagged X times] notices, and since people seem to constantly need a bone to pick with the mods, they'd then lobby for [comment deleted: 100 noise flags, 20 derails, 5 other] notices. Then people claim their highly-flagged, deleted comments. That would be terribly annoying. At the time, numbering posts seemed like a good way to have the transparency that people are griping about, without having a lot of useless [notices]. Now that I think about it, If there are two comments in a thread, one is number 1 and the other is number 37, that will only lead to more griping about why 35 comments were deleted.

People sure make communities difficult, don't they?
posted by necessitas at 11:14 AM on November 4, 2007


MeFi (and especially AskMe) are made better with the occasional pruning of threads. It still sort of squicks me out, though.
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:18 PM on November 4, 2007


Brandon Blatcher: "... they don't go on rampages deleting what they personally don't like."
How can we be sure about that, given that it would leave no trace? ;-)

You know, sometimes you just have to trust people. I can't imagine that there is a shred of evidence that there is any reason whatsoever not to trust the current mod squad, so why not leave it at that? Plus, there will always be a certain (small) number of users who will get off on the number of deleted comments with their name on them (the oft-quoted "king of the shitpile" syndrome) and deleting all (public) trace of them denies the attention these people crave.

Whether or not to acknowledge that comments have been deleted will always have to be a case-by-case thing and I think it is done pretty well.
posted by dg at 12:43 PM on November 4, 2007


If some marker was left in place of a deleted comment, surely it wouldn't need to indicate who the original author was.

Though I still support the status quo.
posted by mullacc at 12:44 PM on November 4, 2007


Some posts ache like a tooth that's impacted;
The mildly jokey are simply retracted.
We all love our own prose,
But what brings some to blows
Is the thread that's ghost-writtenredacted.
posted by rob511 at 1:14 PM on November 4, 2007


Cortex, would it be possible to display only a timestamp for deleted comments? No username or other text, just a marker to show that something used to be there. It can be quite confusing to read a thread with deletions in it if you don't know that some comments are gone. I agree that showing which user got deleted is just asking for trouble but a little token to indicate that somebody got disappeared would help readers follow the discussion.

The more combative MeFites occasionally seem absolutely psycho when 90% of an argument gets deleted, leaving only a single howling-at-the-moon comment at the end. It's hard to decide whether it's funny or I'm just glad I don't have to sit next to them on the bus.
posted by Quietgal at 1:34 PM on November 4, 2007


Yeah, it's very easy to get the wrong impression of a user if his comment is the only one standing after a heated back and forth.
posted by Catfry at 1:55 PM on November 4, 2007


On Facebook, when a comment gets deleted in their forums, there's a little placeholder to indicate that.

Well, then, we'll probably have it here too, pretty soon.

sorry.
posted by dersins at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2007


How can we be sure about that, given that it would leave no trace? ;-)

People remember what they wrote. Sure, an admin could probably get away with deleting a few comments, but there would quickly be an uproar, people taking screenshots or even tracking/tabulating comments as they go, or asking other admins to take a look behind the scenes.

So, in order for a power mad mod to succeed, they'd have get all the other mods to agree to back them up and if that even worked (which would be hard to do, they're like cats), the users will quickly be on to them, calling bullshit and demanding change or leaving.

Finally, it's just a website. At best the mods can only prevent you from posting here, not damage your credit, arrest you or physically harm. Yeah your brilliant LOLcat joke might not be heard by humanity, but somehow we'll all survive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:15 PM on November 4, 2007


would it be possible to display only a timestamp for deleted comments? No username or other text, just a marker to show that something used to be there.

That'd be possible without a bunch of reengineering, yeah. Essentially, that's the canonical proposition that's come up in these discussions before. I don't personally feel so strongly one way or the other on that idea, though I lean at least somewhat towards leaving the system as it is. However, Matt's been pretty adamantly anti-marker over the years, and I don't know that anything happened lately to change his mind.

I really do get the "it's confusing sometimes" aspect of comment deletion—when we're deleting comments, we think (as much as we're able to at the time) about how the deletion is going to affect the thread, and that's often what motivates us to leave a comment in the slightly weird cases. I honestly think that non-disruptive deletions wouldn't be served by having markers, and that since we try to mark the disruptive deletions with comments the markers wouldn't be adding a whole lot in that case either.

Hence my leaning against—I don't think the markers would be bad, per se, but I'm not convinced they actually be good, either, except insofar as folks who are fundamentally for markers would like it better.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:16 PM on November 4, 2007


Prudent deletion is as good as an intramuscular injection of benzathine penicillin into a syphilitic thread. With enough regularity, good deletions may prevent Metafilter from losing both dick and mind.
posted by breezeway at 2:21 PM on November 4, 2007


I'd very much like something small and unobtrusive, just a little [comments deleted] in the thread. Hell, collapse multiple deletions into one marker, just to make it clear that the thread has been moderated.

It's not a matter of trust, the existing mods have done an exemplery job of keeping things sane, I just think that transparency > no transparency.
posted by Skorgu at 3:25 PM on November 4, 2007


since we try to mark the disruptive deletions with comments the markers wouldn't be adding a whole lot in that case either.

Regardless of how folks feel about markers for individual deleted comments, it should always be the norm for mods to leave a general note that a thread has been pruned. If that means the note shows up below interactions that might seem confusing to someone arriving at the thread from a search engine or another site, well, them's the breaks. But at least if the person new to the thread keeps reading, they'll eventually hit some sort of note that will help explain why the thread reads a little weird.
posted by mediareport at 3:28 PM on November 4, 2007


I'm not sure I understand the argument against always leaving a deletion marker of some sort. Are comment deletions so very common that little markers would be truly disruptive?

Some rough statistics might be helpful. Is there a continual flood of dumb little comments that get quickly flagged and removed or do comment-deletions occur less often than once every twenty threads?
posted by nobody at 3:59 PM on November 4, 2007


Perhaps the mods will answer, but from my perspective as an addict who sometimes watches the site like a hawk for hours on end some threads have no deletions, some contentious threads get quite a few, especially in AskMe where the standards are higher. Go ask a question about whether God exists in AskMe and you have just made hours of work for Jess. Politics or other contentious subjects in the blue can also cause issues. Jackass posts like Farkish youboob posts generate a lot of comments that could be deleted, but the mods usually let you suffer your fate in such situations.
posted by caddis at 4:10 PM on November 4, 2007


But at least if the person new to the thread keeps reading, they'll eventually hit some sort of note that will help explain why the thread reads a little weird.

Not every thread that's been pruned reads weird and not every thread that reads weird needs to be pruned.

Some rough statistics might be helpful. Is there a continual flood of dumb little comments that get quickly flagged and removed or do comment-deletions occur less often than once every twenty threads?

This is an excellent example of people wanting more info so they can do backseat moderating. Either you trust'em the admins or ya don't.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:18 PM on November 4, 2007


I've wished for a feature like this increasingly often of late, too. Put me down as someone else who would like it if there were some sort of [there was a comment here but it's gone now] marker. Or a [three comments in this thread have been deleted by mods] note, but that wouldn't be as helpful for making sense of a thread that's been swiss-cheesed by deletions. Or even a lofi-style way to view the unexpurgated thread (presumably without a comment box, to make it harder for people to continue a flamewar that's been moderated against). A mod doesn't have to be "power mad" to make deletions of comments I'd rather have read.
posted by hattifattener at 4:30 PM on November 4, 2007


>just who the hell do you think you are, stavros? quonsar?

>>I assumed you had tagged him in. [...] You act like we're pretending this issue doesn't exist; we're just saying that it ranks maybe 3-4 on the 1-10 MeFi Problems Scale where we mostly code solutions (or new rules) for things that hit 7-10.


I'm acting like nothing of the kind. Jeez, could you be any more dismissive? quonsar is the master of the hit-and-run one-liner snark, dancing into threads with a red cape and leaving the barbs in Matt's side. For better or worse, I've written thousands (if not tens of) over the years trying to be reasonable and discussing with people why silent deletions are BAD and WRONG and OOGIE DOODIE. Give me a little credit. I love the q, but I do try to be a touch more substantive in my criticism.

I said that the battle had been lost, and it's clear that the current way in which offending content is disappeared is not going to change, and it's further pretty clear with things like Twitter integration and personal messaging and profile page avatars and favorites and 'friends' activity (all at the 7-10 end of the problems-seeking-solutions urgency scale?) that the focus of feature development is in a direction that does not really alter or enhance the core function and purpose of the site (which mostly works just fine), and one assumes in lieu of any kind of word about what's upcoming and why that those things are decided by Matt alone.

You (jessamyn) have said recently to me during discussion of a semi-related issue (if I remember correctly) that you and cortex are basically employees (which surprised me, to be honest, in terms of attitude at least), in light of which there just doesn't seem to be a whole lot of point discussing stuff like this at length with you, at least if the objective is to try and see a change. Matt doesn't seem to discuss features as much as he does issue surprise edicts and features, and very occasionally back down a bit in the face of collective browbeating, grudgingly (like being able to hide the activity stream recently on the front page). It's all a bit frustrating, but perhaps that's just me.

So, anyway, 'unacknowledged' might not have been the perfect word choice. It has been signalled many times before that the site admins have heard and understand that many people are dissatisfied with silent deletions, but 'too bad, it ain't gonna change' has pretty much been the response, at least from Number 1. Not sure what word I'd choose for that situation. But I was trying to avoid this kind of lengthiness with shorthand that I thought was contextually understood.

With regard to the specific way this particular discussion of the issue of silent deletion is going: I don't think it's an issue of display and formatting, it's a matter of principle and community standards, and among other things, the way that deletions disincentivize (terrible word) the person whose post is deleted, but do not serve any kind of standards-reinforcing public role.

(Again, the issue is not how to display this stuff, that's easy. The issue (last time I can recall any substantive reason being given against it) is that people will complain more, which is neither proven nor much of an excuse. But this ground has been covered before, by myself and others, at even greater length.

By the way, a simple way to get around the issue of [comment deleted]s messing up a thread would be to hide them in collapsed (display:hidden;) DIVs (piss easy, since the site already loads Prototype.js for some of the other gewgaws) with a tiny [+] over on the left hand margin, or something similar. Flow of the thread would remain entirely uninterrupted.)

I've been getting the feeling that I'm overcriticizing a lot of what's been happening at the site over the past few months, or at least that it seems that way. If I wasn't passionately engaged and very much trying to defend what I see (correctly or not) the best interests of the community (moving into the future without totally disrupting the user base), I wouldn't be doing it. I do keep trying to disengage, but the metacrack is strong, and the flesh is weak.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:45 PM on November 4, 2007 [8 favorites]


I feel like I should add that all of the new features that I mentioned are actually pretty great, and I thank Matt and pb (I assume) for rolling them out, even if I'm a little doubtful about prioritization.

And although I tend to argue vociferously about what I reckon are the principles involved, I still think Metafilter is, for the most part, getting better with time, rather than the opposite.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:56 PM on November 4, 2007


Okay, how about this? Everything stays the same except that MetaFilter Pro members get to see the deleted comments?
posted by timeistight at 5:20 PM on November 4, 2007


all animals are equal, except that some are more equal than others
posted by caddis at 5:37 PM on November 4, 2007


would be to hide them in collapsed (display:hidden;) DIVs (piss easy, since the site already loads Prototype.js for some of the other gewgaws) with a tiny [+] over on the left hand margin, or something similar. Flow of the thread would remain entirely uninterrupted.)

That's not a deleted comment, that's a hidden comment. Are you arguing that the admins shouldn't delete anything, but instead use the collapsed method you propose?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:37 PM on November 4, 2007


Heh. I think it's likelier more people would pay for MeFi Platinum™ if deleted comments were hidden. After all, it's not like anybody wants to see the insults, bad jokes, self-promotion, stupidity and excess. We are done a service by not being forced to read them.

Which is why I say it's a just matter of principle that negative reinforcement through visible deletion is as important as positive reinforcement through +faves and other (social reinforcement) means. Even if, as I suggested, deleted comments are there but hidden without a click, I would almost never read them, unless trying to figure out what happened to a heavily redacted thread.

And then I'd be able to tell who The Bad People were, you see, and mark them well. Yes, mark them well.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:38 PM on November 4, 2007


Whoops, that was directed at timeistight.

Are you arguing that the admins shouldn't delete anything, but instead use the collapsed method you propose?


Yup, that's precisely what I'm saying. Deleted threads are still visible at lofi.mefi, and cortex has said deleted comments are held in the database.

But, like I said, I just threw that out as a possible implementation. Again, it's not about the mechanics for me, it's the principle.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:40 PM on November 4, 2007


On the one hand, it's an intriguing idea stavros. It would allow the admins to continue their current role of keeping the site readable (in some respects) and AskMe on track, while still not offending users.

On the other hand, I think it'll bring out the worst in users, because it would allow every bitchy, bitter, name calling, comment to stand, which is something no site needs, especially AskMe.

Not every damn comment written by some drooling, angry idiot with the social skills of retarded ape needs to stand.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:53 PM on November 4, 2007


Sorry, actually, no wait, that's NOT what I was suggesting. I had a brainfart there.

What I was thinking was that when a comment is deleted, it would be replaced by [comment deleted] with the usual username and timestamp, but hidden. We can see that user X said something that was deemed crap (so we know the bad actors and they are motivated to stop it) but not what was said.

You're right, of course, that leaving bitchy, angry, stupid (etc) comments in place, but hidden, would not be a good thing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:00 PM on November 4, 2007


so we know the bad actors and they are motivated to stop it

You're thinking like a reasonable person, but there's a strain of humanity that would be just be encouraged to email all the retarded apes just like them to say "Dude look at comment where I pawned that bitch!" I think it would also encourage side conversations, where these dimwitted mouth breathers would just run amok in their hidden trenches, flinging shit, because hee, hee look, nobody deletes this stuff, so we can say ANYTHING. So then we got a diffused focus in threads, where people just start posting random shit in threads, knowing it'll be hidden, just so they can start their daily side conversation. All it takes is one or two of these fucks and you've got complete hell.

And then, at some point, one of them would write something that brings about a lawsuit or the cops and do you really want Matt sharing a cell with Big Marv?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:15 PM on November 4, 2007


Well, Brandon, that argument -- the King of the Shitpile argument is the traditional shorthand -- is the one that Matt has most often trotted out in response to discussions like this.

I don't buy it. Deliberate, consistent anti-communitarian behaviour can and has been dealt with in past by timeouts and eventual bans for unrepentant SHITCKOK!!1!ery, and I don't think it would be a problem any more than it is.

(Also, you did get where I said (after correcting myself) that deleted comments would be replaced by [deleted comment] (verbatim, with the usual username/timestamp) in a toggleable div, right? The nightmare scenario you're suggesting wouldn't and couldn't happen in that case -- there'd be nothing there to respond to.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:22 PM on November 4, 2007


After all, it's not like anybody wants to see the insults, bad jokes, self-promotion, stupidity and excess.
So you're saying I need to re-think my strategy here?
posted by Abiezer at 6:25 PM on November 4, 2007


the sky might fall too. we should ban the sun.
posted by quonsar at 6:25 PM on November 4, 2007


the sky might fall too.

Good point. I'm wasting my time here, again.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:27 PM on November 4, 2007


Well, I'm suggesting that deleted comments be hidden but retrievable, at least by me. I'd like to decide for myself whether I need to be protected from anyone's words.
posted by timeistight at 6:29 PM on November 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


the sky might fall too. we should ban the sun.

I get the point, but it doesn't fly here. The sky has never fallen. However, assholes have completely wrecked forums/sites before.

the King of the Shitpile argument is the traditional shorthand -- is the one that Matt has most often trotted out in response to discussions like this.

Naturally, i don't speak for Matt, but I've been an administered a forum before, been around enough other forums and usenet to see the dynamic in action. I'm not saying, "oh I know so much, listen to me grasshopper", but that dynamic can happen and once you've seen it up close, you don't want to see it anymore. It brings out the worst in people.

deleted comments would be replaced by [deleted comment] (verbatim, with the usual username/timestamp) in a toggleable div, right? The nightmare scenario you're suggesting wouldn't and couldn't happen in that case -- there'd be nothing there to respond to.

Maybe I'm missing something, but from what I understand of your description, that comments wouldn't be deleted, just hidden by a toggleable div, which I'm assuming the users could then untoggle (and this might be where I'm failing to understand), then the mouthbreathers would indeed have a trench to shit in.

Look, we're in pretty much agreement about the new additions to the site and whether that focus is good for the site, but as far as deleting comments goes, I say delete away, as long as stays on it's current trend of being judicial pruning as opposed to "oh, i don't like that"


I'd like to decide for myself whether I need to be protected from anyone's words.

I don't see it that way. I see it as the admins trying to keep a thread focused, especially in AskMe.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 PM on November 4, 2007


Maybe I'm missing something, but from what I understand of your description, that comments wouldn't be deleted, just hidden by a toggleable div, which I'm assuming the users could then untoggle (and this might be where I'm failing to understand), then the mouthbreathers would indeed have a trench to shit in.

No, that's what I said at first, but misspoke, then corrected myself, twice.

But history says this is a waste of time, so I'm out.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:01 PM on November 4, 2007


The mefimail, pictures and other features are pleasant, but noting comment deletions rank highest for me in terms of keeping the site honest. It's just good communication.
posted by theora55 at 6:42 AM on November 5, 2007


Again, to whom is it being dishonest to completely redact commentary? There's nothing dishonest about taking a completely out of place, inflammatory, or otherwise useless comment out of a thread where it completely doesn't belong.

Dishonesty would be to leave those comments in or marking those comments, in that it would be dishonest to the person who posted the thread/question by detracting from what they intended to present/inquire about.
posted by baphomet at 7:29 AM on November 5, 2007


Please theora55, you've stated twice that it's "dishonest" to just remove content but you have declined to expound on what you mean by that. Without qualifying this dishonesty you perceive it's really just a meaningless word, because I can run around and say that I think it's disingenuous to add pictures to user profiles and nobody is going to know what the fuck I mean unless I say, "and here's why." So where's your "here's why"?
posted by baphomet at 7:32 AM on November 5, 2007


but noting comment deletions rank highest for me in terms of keeping the site honest.

I assume you'd extend these requests to movies, music, tv, radio and books? All of these things are edited to varying degrees.

You'd have a point if the site had a history of screwing people over, if say Ronster425, the insane admin from 2002-2004, had crafted a web of lies, deciet and treachery, which left a lot of bad feelings, bruised egos, flamewars and two children outta wedlock.

But Ron never existed. The admins don't have history, as far as I know, of deleting things just 'cause they don't like them. If I'm wrong, or missed something, please point them out, and lend you my person pitchfork and extra-long-burning-torch recipe from granddad and saddle up the horses myself. If not, that what say we trust'em, and just sleep in shifts, just in case?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 AM on November 5, 2007


This comment has not been deleted.

[watch for the deletion of this comment]
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:38 AM on November 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "Maybe I'm missing something, but from what I understand of your description, that comments wouldn't be deleted, just hidden by a toggleable div, which I'm assuming the users could then untoggle (and this might be where I'm failing to understand), then the mouthbreathers would indeed have a trench to shit in."

GAH! Okay, I have to chime in and explain this, if only because I was visualizing the same thing, and figured it'd work well.

So: in the future-stavros-quonsar-MeFi, you go into a thread, right? And it's a contentious thread about how Ralph Nader believes that aliens are atheist friends of Al Gore, or whatever. And it looks exactly the same, except at the bottom of the header, instead of saying just (9 comments total), it says (9 comments total, 4 deleted). And the "4 deleted" is a hyperlink, which, when you click it, brings up the same page, except that there are four red [COMMENT DELETED] markers spread out over the page.

I should say that I don't see this as an unfocussed way to view threads. In fact, at this point, I actually come down on stavros' side. I think this is a very, very good idea; it doesn't interrupt the flow of threads, but it allows for a level of transparency that's extremely useful.

I understand why this isn't really a high priority for matt, jess and cortex. They can already see these comments, and they have enough work trying to delete them and limit the fallout from them. But I'd like to suggest that this feature would actually help them a great deal; right now, a fair amount of shitslinging and argumentation happens two or three times, first when it's posted, then when it's reposted, then when it's questioned. This way, it would be clear, if not who made the comment that was deleted, at least that a comment was made there that was deleted, and that we should be on our toes. Something like a "things are getting a little too rowdy in here, let's keep it cool" marker. And the lengthy period of parsing what actually happened in edited threads will be cut down a good deal, which would certainly be better for the people who have to moderate.

Brandon Blatcher: "The admins don't have history, as far as I know, of deleting things just 'cause they don't like them. If I'm wrong, or missed something, please point them out, and lend you my person pitchfork and extra-long-burning-torch recipe from granddad and saddle up the horses myself."

We all know that we can't test this proposition. There's just no way. It seems like stavros isn't taking issue with the way that deletions are made-- maybe I'm wrong, but I get the feeling he thinks the moderation is pretty moderate-- and I agree with him on that, but we have no way to show it, because there's really no easy way to point up places where comments were deleted. And every single time a dipshit posts a stupid comment and then complains that it was deleted, those of us who think it's a fine deletion won't be able to say when, where, or how.

It's not really a function that we need to prove that admins aren't evil. It has the side-effect of keeping them more honest, but it's just a kind of transparency, and transparency is neutral. In fact, transparency can makes things a good deal more convenient and economical, and, in this case, I'm almost certain they would.
posted by koeselitz at 9:32 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


koeselitz- except inevitably every thread with more than a certain payload of deletions, which may not necessarily be very high, is going to show up on MeTa with "What's with all the deletions in Thread X?", which again is going to draw focus away from the content the admins felt should stand and be discussed to the content the admins edited out (which, as seems to be generally agreed upon in this thread and others, is not heavy-handed or excessive).

That's the problem: the content deletions are executed because something is not relevant or helpful or useful to the discussion, and in some cases may detract from it in an extremely volatile way. Indicating the absence of that material is only going to invite an argument about what it was, and why it was removed, and WTF ADMINS and such. Thus it defeats the purpose of removing the content, which was to keep the discussion helpful, (mostly) positive, and (mostly) on topic, because it shifts the discussion to focus on the deleted content (which was deemed unfit for the thread, and thus does not need to be discussed). I think we all agree that the content removals are not biased by personal opinions or preferences, but rather by community flagging and sensible moderation, meaning that the content-check implicit by deleting a comment is completely removed by indicating that a comment was deleted.

This also brings up the frightening prospect of having 2 MetaTalk threads for a potentially contentions blue/green post: 1 for the actual content and 1 for the deleted content.
posted by baphomet at 10:15 AM on November 5, 2007


We all know that we can't test this proposition.

People remember what they wrote. People remember what they read in a thread. If perfectly good comments start disappearing, we'll hear about it.

And every single time a dipshit posts a stupid comment and then complains that it was deleted, those of us who think it's a fine deletion won't be able to say when, where, or how.

Doing a google search on metalk.metafilter.com says differently. People have no problem calling out the admins if a post or comment of theirs was deleted.

It has the side-effect of keeping them more honest,

When have they been less honest?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:41 AM on November 5, 2007


Brandon Blatcher: "When have they been less honest?"

Did you read my comment? Never.
posted by koeselitz at 11:50 AM on November 5, 2007


Then why do you need to keep them more honest if they've never been dishonest?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2007


This also brings up the frightening prospect of having 2 MetaTalk threads for a potentially contentions blue/green post: 1 for the actual content and 1 for the deleted content.

GODDAMNIT YOU WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO READ THE DELETED COMMENTS ONLY THAT THEY WERE ONCE THERE AND WHO MADE THEM WHY CAN'T PEOPLE REad what's right in....

wait, I said I was out of this thread, didn't I.

Then why do you need to keep them more honest if they've never been dishonest?


*slaps forehead*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:47 PM on November 5, 2007


GODDAMNIT YOU WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO READ THE DELETED COMMENTS

I think he was speculating about people starting threads asking what all these markered deletions were about, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:58 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thank you cortex, that is what I was intending to communicate. Mr. Wonder Chicken- I did, unlike many people in the thread, read and understand what you were attempting to communicate with your lengthy comments in this thread.

You can MetaMail me for info on where to send my apology pie; caps lock hurts my feelings. I like banana cream with chocolate shavings.
posted by baphomet at 1:11 PM on November 5, 2007


Brandon Blatcher: "Then why do you need to keep them more honest if they've never been dishonest?"

The purpose of transparency isn't necessarily to "catch the admins in the act;" it might facilitate use of the site by people who use it for perfectly legitimate reasons. It would, for example, add more comprehensive scrutability to discussions that are contentious.

Like I said, honesty is only a side-effect, and not even a necessary one. The point of such a system is to introduce a transparency that would be convenient to all of us. I don't understand why you think anybody is saying that we're asking for this so that we can watch the admins and make sure they don't fuck up; it begins to feel as though you're willfully misreading what I type when you pick out "it has the side-effect of keeping them more honest, but..." and treat that like it was the whole of my thesis.
posted by koeselitz at 1:18 PM on November 5, 2007


note that that last part was intended as tongue in cheek, or in your case tongue in beak, humor. If you read my thoughts above, stavros, you'll find that they jive with and specifically address the layout/system you described above. You know you can't stay out of this thread!
posted by baphomet at 1:18 PM on November 5, 2007


koeselitz,

it's just a difference of viewing things I guess. You're calling for transparency, but I think things are already pretty transparent, so it seems to me that calling for more is redundant.

While the appearance of a deleted comments marker, but not being able to see the comments strikes me as pretty useless and prone to raising more questions and derails.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:25 PM on November 5, 2007


Yeah, I that makes sense.
posted by koeselitz at 6:47 AM on November 6, 2007


No it doesn't.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:12 PM on November 6, 2007


Does.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:47 AM on November 7, 2007


« Older Friend? Neighbor? Spouse? SWORN ENEMY?   |   Ain't nothin' goin' on but the rent. Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments