Looking for something not there May 3, 2010 7:31 AM   Subscribe

May we please have place holders for deleted comments.

It's happened again. I was reading the comments from the Drill, Baby Drill post and then jokeefe writes: "Rumple, that was uncalled for."

I couldn't remember any comment that was uncalled for, so I scrolled up and down the page looking for a comment from Rumple. Nothing. I then figured it must have been so bad it was deleted. I have no problem with the mods deleting comments but I do get frustrated when there is a reference to a negative comment and I have to stop reading and see what someone else is calling "outrageous" or "uncalled for" only to discover by process of elimination that the comment must have been deleted.

I know this issue has come up before with the Matt claiming it would draw too much attention to the deletions, but it is also frustrating and bewildering to read the thread and try to fill in the blanks. To be clear, I don't need to know what exactly Rumple wrote, but if there was a simple {deleted} notation above his name/time stamp, then I wouldn't have to reread the entire thread in order to figure that out.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy to Feature Requests at 7:31 AM (106 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

No, we can't. The whole reason these comments are removed is that they don't belong on the site, period. Email the person who made the comment and ask what they said or email us and we can email you the comment.

Rumple's comment was basically telling another user to shut up, in an exchange that is being discussed in another existing MeTa thread.

if there was a simple {deleted} notation above his name/time stamp

We've discussed before why we don't want to do this. We don't think it solves the general problem of people asking "what did he say, what did he say?" and it's perilously close to comment editing which we don't want to do. Most of the time if we do have to delete comments in MeFi it goes pretty unnoticed [early threadshitting usually] and if we think it won't go unnoticed we'll leave a note.

Sometimes people make a comment that we'd otherwise delete but we don't delete because a ton of people have responded. This is the flip side and I'd arge this is more problematic than deleting a comment and having the occasional missing reference.

We're aware that this isn't perfect, but we find that this system is preferable to one where every deletion is noted by us. While we know everyone won't go the flag-and-move-on direction, it really does help make moderating shitty comments much easier.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:37 AM on May 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


I couldn't remember any comment that was uncalled for, so I scrolled up and down the page looking for a comment from Rumple. Nothing. I then figured it must have been so bad it was deleted. I have no problem with the mods deleting comments but I do get frustrated when there is a reference to a negative comment and I have to stop reading and see what someone else is calling "outrageous" or "uncalled for" only to discover by process of elimination that the comment must have been deleted.

I think a better solution would have been to delete jokeefe's comment, too. Problem solved.
posted by empath at 7:40 AM on May 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


Not knowing anything about anything, I'd like to ask whether it's conceivably possible for a Greasemonkey script to exist along the lines of the deleted threads script(s), only for comments.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:41 AM on May 3, 2010


This is a case of not deleting enough, not of over-deletion.

*** this comment will self destruct in 5... 4... 3... 2...
posted by blue_beetle at 7:42 AM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think a better solution would have been to delete jokeefe's comment, too. Problem solved.

Probably. At the same time we try to err on the side of the fewest deletions and figure that people can deal with the occasional head scratcher but possibly we figure incorrectly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:45 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could disemvowel them!

(I do not favor this I am just throwing it out there)
posted by bukvich at 7:46 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: "Not knowing anything about anything, I'd like to ask whether it's conceivably possible for a Greasemonkey script to exist along the lines of the deleted threads script(s), only for comments"

From what I remember in previous conversations about this, no. Comments are numbered in order by time, and not by thread.
posted by graventy at 7:55 AM on May 3, 2010


We prefer the occasional situational friction of these orphaned backreferences (which don't result from every deletion; most deletions don't even hit the radar in this way) to the making-every-deletion-visible rubric where it doesn't make a difference whether there's any value in knowing about the deletion: in every single case there it is or there they are, drawing attention.

I feel you on the weird hiccup that comes with these odd moments, but making deletions visible would raise the profile not only of the odd ones but of all deletions, and wouldn't fundamentally address the other frustration people sometimes express about how deletion works: that they can't see the deleted comment's content regardless. We don't intend to change that aspect either, and adding markers would likely generate both more work for us directly in fielding questions about what was nixed and tweak the commenting culture here to be more deletion-centric and injecting more metacommentary into non-metatalk discussions, something we'd rather avoid.

As it is we try to clean up backreference stuff when we can, and to leave admin notes in cases where it seems like there's a really conspicuous hole left by deletions. In this case, I didn't even see that later reference to Rumple's deleted comment or I might have either cleaned up more or left a note.

Not knowing anything about anything, I'd like to ask whether it's conceivably possible for a Greasemonkey script to exist along the lines of the deleted threads script(s), only for comments.

It is not possible. Unlike posts, deleted comments are not world-viewable by an means, so there'd be nothing for the purported script to reveal.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:56 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


{expletive deleted}
posted by Pollomacho at 7:56 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's usually no way to surgically remove the cancer without taking a little tissue with it. You have to do what's best for the whole organism and just deal with the collateral damage as best you can.

So that's my take on that. Oh -- we're talking about moderating online discussions? No clue.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:58 AM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


the occasional situational friction of these orphaned backreferences
posted by Burhanistan at 7:59 AM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


And yeah, here's a previous comment that lays out the detectability of deleted comments in a bit more detail. Detecting them: possible, hazily, but probably too much work to make a greasemonkey script worthwhile. Fetching comment content is outright impossible.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:59 AM on May 3, 2010


I've had a few of my own (cranky, pre-coffee) comments get yanked and I'm kinda glad they're completely unretrievable. The mods are hard at work making me look good. :-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:02 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also feel like completely invisible deletions are a little too much like unpersoning. You don't even need to leave the username and timestamp of the deleted comment, just a little "." or something to indicate something was there. I often spend several minutes trying to resolve a back reference and then looking for a "[some nonsense deleted cut it out guys]" to no avail. An indicator of some kind would help me solve this halting problem.
posted by DU at 8:04 AM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


And yeah, here's a previous comment that lays out the detectability of deleted comments in a bit more detail. Detecting them: possible, hazily, but probably too much work to make a greasemonkey script worthwhile. Fetching comment content is outright impossible.

So what you're saying is I should write a Greasemonkey script that figures out where the deleted comments are and replaces them with Markov stuff all attributed to whichever username I most detest that day.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the mods do a great job of keeping order on the site, and almost every comment I've seen deleted deserved to be, but I agree with Secret Life of Gravy on this one. I understand not wanting to have a thread fill up with [deleted comment] notes, but I feel like the current system does cause a lot of confusion. I ran across one of these just this morning. It's not just for people reading the thread either. If one of my comments isn't there, was it deleted on purpose, or did it never get posted for some reason? I don't know.

Really though, invisible moderation just seems kind of creepy. You say you don't want to edit comments, because it would make it seem like the person said something they didn't (which I totally agree with). But this is very close: you're making it seem like the person said nothing at all, when really they just said something which wasn't appropriate for the site.
posted by Who_Am_I at 8:08 AM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


So what you're saying is I should write a Greasemonkey script that figures out where the deleted comments are and replaces them with Markov stuff all attributed to whichever username I most detest that day.

Heh. Note one thing not made clear in that previous comment about detectability: you can conceivably locate the comment id of a deleted comment, but can't tell which thread it came from. So they wouldn't have context, either. It'd just be a bunch of stranded Markovians doing a conga off on their own somewhere.

but I feel like the current system does cause a lot of confusion.

For what it's worth, we don't disagree that confusion can happen or anything. My opinion, I think that of the rest of the mod team too, is that it doesn't cause a lot of it, certainly not an actionable amount. It seems to lead to occasional hiccups like that, but the site is functioning pretty solidly in the mean time, and for the really weird instances where an oversight on our part has led to a bunch of confusion, people can ask.

It's not just for people reading the thread either. If one of my comments isn't there, was it deleted on purpose, or did it never get posted for some reason? I don't know.

Again, you can ask. We get questions now and then from folks wondering why a comment they thought they posted wasn't in a thread anymore, and it turns out that they must have hit preview instead of post or something similar. But that's like a once every month or two occasion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:16 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really though, invisible moderation just seems kind of creepy. You say you don't want to edit comments, because it would make it seem like the person said something they didn't (which I totally agree with). But this is very close: you're making it seem like the person said nothing at all, when really they just said something which wasn't appropriate for the site.

And if that person really wants to talk about the thing they said, they can bring it up in Metatalk for all the site to see and have a discussion about it. We're not issuing gag orders. And because we're not leaving a marker behind, we're not making a show of having deleted their comment(s) to the rest of the community, which would have its own problems and is not a practice I think is all that great either.

I'm sorry if invisible deletions seem creepy, but that's how it has worked on mefi for 10+ years now. There is more than one approach to comment moderation, this is the one we use, and we're happy to be really transparent about the process we use, the motivations for specific decisions, and the content of the deleted stuff; we do that stuff via email and in metatalk pretty much every day.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:18 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


If one of my comments isn't there, was it deleted on purpose, or did it never get posted for some reason? I don't know.

Really though, invisible moderation just seems kind of creepy.


It's always okay to ask us if you're wondering about your own comment. We're aware that this is a less-than-perfect solution but we're equally pretty convinced that a perfect solution does not actually exist.

MeTa is basically the non-invisible aspect to the moderation here. You can talk to the mods, ask what happened, discuss and debate it if you need to. We assume people will come to MeTa if they feel that something's important, not just because they're nursing a grudge that we're too delete happy or that their special snowflake comment was removed. Really, if we think we're moving something that will leave a hole, nine times out of ten there's a note left. That other one tenth of the time is an edge case where I think disagreement stems from.

Basically, the actual reason why we don't have a deleted comment indicator is that we feel that people would then want to know what was deleted, or ask us about it, or want to argue about it and we don't have enough hours in the day to do this. I don't mean this in the "oh my job is so complicated!" way but in the "If we spent time doing this we'd have to spend less time doing something else" way. What this means is that people have to generally trust us, and if they don't trust us [or have something else to say] they can come here to MeTa to talk more.

Most people never get anything removed from the site at all, a few people have one or two comments removed, beyond that, there are a lot of people who seem to get someting deleted every few threads fairly regularly [cortex can run the numbers if he's up to it] and if you're in this category, we're pretty sure you know it. We'll send people all their deleted comments, we'll tell you what was deleted in MeTa if you ask, but we think having a "comment removed" note most of the time is more derailing than just removing the comment in the first place especially if it was clearly outside of the "what is okay" boundary.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:19 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


if there was a simple {deleted} notation above his name/time stamp, then I wouldn't have to reread the entire thread in order to figure that out.

You still wouldn't know what was written and needed to be deleted.
posted by crunchland at 8:19 AM on May 3, 2010


What's stopping you from doing a ctrl-F for Rumple? Fifteen seconds later you've either read the comment or determined that there is no longer a comment to be read.
posted by kate blank at 8:25 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gravy, did you flag Jokeefe's comment once you realized that it referred to a comment that had been deleted? If you flagged it, the mods might have figured out that it should also be deleted.
posted by alms at 8:27 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've had a few of my own (cranky, pre-coffee) comments get yanked and I'm kinda glad they're completely unretrievable

I don't care to retrieve them, I just get tired of having to figure out on my own that something is gone.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:27 AM on May 3, 2010


You know, if the powers that be were to enact some kind of deleted comment placeholder, here's how I would like to see it implemented...

Nothing visible by default, so the site looks exactly the same as it does right now.
Like the J and K keys scrub through comments, a different keypress (say, C) would toggle the visibility of placeholders.
Placeholders would be nothing more than a horizontal rule or something similarly subtle, just to indicate a break in continuity. No usernames or content.
A single placeholder would be used for one deleted comment, or a string of continuous ones, with no indicator of how many were yanked in that spot.
The placeholder would contain an anchor to the comment ID(s) so links to the deletion would still work.
The placeholders should fit between comments without disrupting page flow, so toggling them on or off wouldn't cause you to lose your place in the thread.

Extra pony request:
If any comments downthread mention a deleted comment, treat them as usual. But if they quote it verbatim, replace the quote with a generic "[comment deleted]" blurb, without affecting the rest of the comment (usually a response to said quote, which is worthy of keeping around). This could probably be automated with fairly high, maybe 85% or so, accuracy.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:33 AM on May 3, 2010



You still wouldn't know what was written and needed to be deleted.

I really don't need to know what has been written. I just want to know if something has been deleted so that (as in the case of jokeefe's reference) I won't have to spend time thinking, "Wait. What did Rumple write? I don't remember reading anything objectionable-- did I accidentally skip something or is jokeefe being too sensitive."

Gravy, did you flag Jokeefe's comment

I didn't flag jokeefe because that wasn't her fault. And there was more to her comment other than the line about Rumple.

Basically, the actual reason why we don't have a deleted comment indicator is that we feel that people would then want to know what was deleted, or ask us about it, or want to argue about it and we don't have enough hours in the day to do this.

I guess this is the heart of my beef. Do you know for a fact that a deleted comment notation would result in more problems? I have the greasemonkey script that shows me which posts have been deleted and I've never questioned their deletion. I think this would be the case for deleted comments as well, but you, the mods, would know better than I.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:39 AM on May 3, 2010


Having a "deleted" notation above someone's username in a thread sounds a lot like public shaming to me. It tells every person who reads the site (user or not) that So-and-So said something so naughty it had to be deleted. Which is squicky and not really cool.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:46 AM on May 3, 2010


From my experience participating in and moderating internet forums, I conclude that the mods are correct that drawing attention to deleted threads would do more harm than good. So this is just a vote for the current system, frustrating as it is sometimes.
posted by ericost at 8:46 AM on May 3, 2010


* I meant deleted comments, not threads.
posted by ericost at 8:47 AM on May 3, 2010


Do you know for a fact that a deleted comment notation would result in more problems?

We know very little for a fact. I can't even think offhand of how to test for this? Have a notation for a week and see how ugly MeTa gets?

We know for a fact that when we drop in the "comment deleted, take this to MetaTalk" notes people often take it to MeTa or email us about it. Happened to me just this morning in fact. However, this isn't quite the same thing since often those threads were headed that direction anyhow. We do know that people ask about deleted posts that they see in the "deleted threads" blog and want to debate the deletions -- no big deal, we're happy to talk -- and we've had people who have emailed asking "hey was my comment deleted?" and if we say "yes" then they want to fight about it. I mean this doesn't always happen, but it happens enough that we don't want it to happen more. Fighting about single comment deletion with someone who is mad about it is time-consuming if you want to do it respectfully and not just trade potshots. Channeling threads that are breaking down into MeTa seems like a good use of our time. Having more invisible discussions about people's individual comment deletions doesn't.

And I know that you, SLoG, don't want to know what the comments say, but other people will. There are times when we'd much rather have people just email us if they have questions about the system that we have now rather than implement something new that we think would cause more questions and ill will.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:48 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Possible solution: a little text at the bottom of the page that says "# comments have been deleted in this thread. For more information contact a moderator." Possibly with a link to some information about deletion policy. I think it will add a little bit more transparency to the proceedings, more than there is already.

I can see the problems, of course. The mods probably don't want people asking them about every deletion, and it'll make more work for pb, but I would appreciate it.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 8:50 AM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do you know for a fact that a deleted comment notation would result in more problems?

No, we're stuck with professional speculation. I've read a lot of sites besides mefi with varying closeness of attention to how deletions are managed and what the metadiscursive culture is like, and my opinion, fairly strongly-held at this point, is that raising the visibility of moderative sausage-making by e.g. automatically and explicitly noting every deletion correlates to more metacommentary about deletions, moderation, etc in the actual threads themselves.

That's not something we want to see happen here. We already do a fair amount of work on a daily basis to try and minimize the amount of that that takes place (and needs removing/corralling/etc) with the current system, and potentially exacerbating that is not something I like the idea of at all. The occasional hiccup under the current system seems like an acceptable trade-off, much as, again, I sympathize with the frustration/annoyance that can sometimes lead to.

We try pretty hard to make the confusing cases clear with notes, but we're going to miss things sometimes so dropping us a quick note if something is confusing is okay, we may go back and toss in a note after the fact if it seems like it could be a seriously disruptive issue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:54 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


[comment deleted. That was way out of line. Open a MetaTalk thread if you really need to. --jessamyn]
posted by mattdidthat at 8:55 AM on May 3, 2010


That's editing comments, something they've taken a hardline stance on never doing. Which I think is cool beans.
posted by graventy at 9:02 AM on May 3, 2010


i think the deleted comments are actually being hidden because they are being sold to others. i've had a few deleted comments that, within minutes of deletion, show up in the gizmodo comments, almost word for word.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:03 AM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


mattdidthat, can we leave people's pets and what they allegedly do with them out of this discussion please? Especially since we know the DA's got no solid evidence!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:16 AM on May 3, 2010


I wouldn't mind some Unicode bug-splatter existing where a deleted comment was, or a *squish* or even something encased in <small> tags.

Why speculate? Why not test an alternative for a limited time period? That happened for favorites, as I recall.
posted by adipocere at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2010


Especially since we know the DA's got no solid evidence!

Ah, but they have plenty of liquid evidence.

I'll show myself out.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2010


I mean this with all due respect, but it seems to me that the easiest solution here is to let it go and move on, rather than implement a whole system on the website to track and account for these things and satisfy curiosity or whatever. Transparency is not the end all be all of life's miscommunications. It'd be like if you were at a dinner party with a lot of people and there were little post-its everywhere. "Joe tracked mud on the carpet here, but we cleaned it up." "Mary broke this glass and offered to replace it." "Mike said Kate's bean dip sucks and left a chip on the table for all to see."

This is one of the drawbacks with persistency of transcript. It's a feature of an online forum that you don't have in face-to-face conversation. It's nice because it let's you reflect, comment and refer to past communication conveniently and accurately, but it sucks for glossing over the less than perfect bits in the stream of chatter.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:19 AM on May 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


It'd be like if you were at a dinner party with a lot of people and there were little post-its everywhere. "Joe tracked mud on the carpet here, but we cleaned it up." "Mary broke this glass and offered to replace it." "Mike said Kate's bean dip sucks and left a chip on the table for all to see."

am i the only one who sees this would be a good thing?
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:21 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


* goes out to buy post-its *
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:23 AM on May 3, 2010


*places Post-It note on door at Frjtz: "iamkimiam was here but moved to England"*
posted by mattdidthat at 9:23 AM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why speculate? Why not test an alternative for a limited time period?

Because we don't feel like there's a compelling reason to go through that process, basically. It's easy to decide to run a test, but it's a hell of a lot of work to actually manage that test and the whole community reaction to it and to measure the impact/outcome in a meaningful way, and in this case that'd all be in service of an idea we actively dislike.

That happened for favorites, as I recall.

The favorites experiment endeavor is a case study in why a test like this would be a non-trivial undertaking. That month was murder, the first week especially. I think we're going to want to really believe in the potential value of a change and in the utility of a test for it if we're going to try something like that again, and this isn't a good example of such a thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:29 AM on May 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


I mean this with all due respect, but it seems to me that the easiest solution here is to let it go and move on...

This.

Deleting the comments quietly doesn't seem to be that big of an issue whereas a number of "comment deleted" notes immediately prompt questions of what was deleted and why and OMG, how could you do this to my special snoflake.

SLOG, I think it's just a matter of both extremes being confusing and irritating, but the quiet deletions confuse and irritate the least number of people, so ergo it stays. Just as Matt trusts us not be complete jackasses, we in turn have to trust the mods to do what's right for the site. I think the mods have worked and gained the general trust of the community and we as the users don't need to the invariable questioning of every little action that would occur if they made notes for every comment that was deleted.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:36 AM on May 3, 2010


That month was murder...

Oh, I didn't realize you had cameras out in the alley.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:38 AM on May 3, 2010


If you marked a comment as deleted, could I favorite its deletion?
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:38 AM on May 3, 2010


...scrolled up and down the page...

What do people have against Ctrl-F around here? It's getting to be just this side of 'or you could skip over reading the Lady Gaga/Apple/SLYT/Flash thing' as the helpful snark I'm always just about to post.

(I'm just barely joking.)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:42 AM on May 3, 2010


I have a lot of ideas, most of which I can't/won't act on. Clearly I need a web site like cortex's ThinkStank to document them all (but that, alas, is another idea that will never be).

Anyway, I'll post my latest brainfart here since it was prompted by this thread. Wouldn't it be cool if every Mefite could create/install/share their own user-specific plugins that actually run server-side to customize the site in ways that Greasemonkey scripts could never dream of? Every pony request could be granted, but only for the people that wanted it!

I'm not sure if that would mean CFML files making API calls from safely within a walled garden (only allowing certain functions, DB queries, and no access to the filesystem). Or maybe everything would be written in a proprietary Mefiscripto™ language with its own vocab and syntax. This would require a complete rewrite of the site, so it's not even a pony request. Pigs will fly before this happens.

Even so, I think it's a freakin' cool idea and I'd love to see somebody attempt it with a brand new site somewhere. I know that even if it were possible to add this kind of thing to MeFi, the mods are opposed to it philosophically. I think they have some good points. I'd still be interested to see, in the name of science, how that kind of customizability would affect a web community, especially one as big as this site. Just to get some actual data and user feedback, y'know? How else are we gonna find out what the future of the web is gonna be? Web 3.0 and all that.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:56 AM on May 3, 2010


We could call it MyFiSpaceBook!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:59 AM on May 3, 2010


I'm not militant about this by any means. It just occurred to me this morning after spending several minutes looking for Rumple's comment that it happens to me a few times a week and if it happens to me it must happen for others.

we've had people who have emailed asking "hey was my comment deleted?" and if we say "yes" then they want to fight about it. I mean this doesn't always happen, but it happens enough that we don't want it to happen more

I would guess that most-- if not all- people notice if their own comment is deleted whether or not there is a place marker-- either you go back and reread the thread and notice your comment is missing (or some notation of its deletion) or you don't go back and read the thread. In other words, having a notation isn't going to make any difference. It would only make a difference to those who haven't written the comment. I will take your word for it that other people would demand to know why somebody else's comment was deleted.

I'm sorry if invisible deletions seem creepy, but that's how it has worked on mefi for 10+ years now.

Cortex, no offense, but that argument holds no water with me. MetaFilter is constantly evolving and adapting to new ideas. A few years ago I could have said, "MetaFilter has gotten along for 5 years without favorites, we don't need them now."

I have to go do stuff in real life, so I won't be asking any more questions. Thanks for your patience. I think you mods do great work and I'm glad we get to question you guys without getting smacked down! I've seen some very surly moderators on other web sites.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:04 AM on May 3, 2010


I still think it would be cool if the person whose comment was deleted would continue seeing it. And only that person.

It would end stupid MeTa deletion callouts.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:09 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I need a marker for when the serious conversation in a thread has died down and consensus has been achieved so I can waltz in talkin' about unicorn burgers and avoid finishing this chapter.
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter is constantly evolving and adapting to new ideas.

Yes, but this particular discussion is not new; the notion of adding deletion markers has been proposed occasionally throughout the last ten years, and there's been a pretty firm and consistent mod policy on not intending to go there for a long time now.

I don't mean the "that's how it's always been" thing as some magical trump card where we don't have to talk about potential changes or anything. It's fine to talk about it, and I hope I haven't come off as dismissive or whatever. I mean only that this specific issue, this idea of changing our approach to the visibility of deletion markers, is one that we've had a pretty flat and consistent answer to for a long while, and there's been no apparent recent changes to what's happening on the site or how it works that would seem to precipitate a reversal of that take.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:13 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know that even if it were possible to add this kind of thing to MeFi, the mods are opposed to it philosophically.

It's not even that we're opposed to this idea, I think we're all sort of into the idea loosely in an ideal world sort of situation. But I don't think that practically speaking we have any idea how to make this work with the amount of resources we have to give to this. Add to this that there's a lot of personal data available via MeFi [and especially AskMe] that could be pretty dodgy when decontextualized. I think having the Infodump has been nice for giving people some freedom to look at the data in new configurable ways, but even that hasn't been totally without problems.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:26 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk: What's stopping you from doing a ctrl-F for Rumple?
posted by lukemeister at 10:28 AM on May 3, 2010


MetaFilter is constantly evolving and adapting to new ideas.

@ Secret Life of Gravy, it depends on the idea.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:42 AM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm just here to say hello to Crunchland. Good to see you here again! Mods, please don't delete this comment.
posted by Kskomsvold at 10:46 AM on May 3, 2010


I'm just here to say I saved an assload on my car insurance by switching to Geico.
posted by not_on_display at 10:54 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing that hasn't been mentioned here is the concept of reputation. What you have now is a de facto reputation system based around favorites, but lack of favorites doesn't mean someone is untrustworthy. If there were deleted comment tombstones, you might help to give some idea as to who is trolling and who is trying to engage in meaningful debate.

I dunno, perhaps leaving tombstones would lead to a more confrontational environment. I'd like to think that people would behave better with more information than less.

Perhaps tombstones would lead to more confusion and more "what-did-they-say" requests to the mods. I would send back a "we don't comment on deleted comments" form letter, something that can be automated.

Mostly I'd like to see them because they are part of the record.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:12 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I kill three assloads for every one saved by Geico.
posted by carsonb at 11:16 AM on May 3, 2010


the unicorn burger icon by this thread his blinking, anyone else seeing this?
posted by The Whelk at 11:17 AM on May 3, 2010


Fetching [deleted] comment content is outright impossible.

Well, you could continuously download all the active threads on the site and diff them against the last version looking for deletions. That would be a bit extreme for the utility gained, though, and clearly server abuse.
posted by ctmf at 11:21 AM on May 3, 2010


I would send back a "we don't comment on deleted comments" form letter, something that can be automated.

This would be another paradigm shift, since right now we DO comment on deleted comments. We're pretty uncomfortable with the idea of having form letter responses to anything. I think right now the only thing that gets a form letter response is "Hey, we noticed that you and your sock puppet seem to have asked two questions in a week"

I'm not sure if I can stress how strongly we feel that leaving "tombstones" as you call them is going to create more of a problem than the occasional missing comment or cognitive dissonace does now. We already get "what did they say" emails, though fairly infrequently, and we can respond with details and specifics if necessary. Moving to anything that would bring a "no comment" from the mod team is pretty much a non-starter at this point. We've got a short list of "don't go there" topics and we still need to spend efforts policing this sort of thing. If we send a "no comment" email that's just going to, again, focus attention on what went missing from the thread which doesn't help the thread get back on track.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:23 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


For a more decentralized solution, you all could organize a MeFi deleted comment resurrection squad. Volunteers would patrol the site in shifts 24 hours a day looking for comments that look doomed for deletion, then cut/paste them to an off-site wiki just in case.
posted by ctmf at 11:26 AM on May 3, 2010


If there were deleted comment tombstones, you might help to give some idea as to who is trolling and who is trying to engage in meaningful debate.

Or who leaves "ack, typo!" followup comments and flags them as "display error", or who accidentally double posts a comment. Or who replies, however civilly, to something else that merited deletion. A marker just says something was deleted, not why, and using them as evidence of specific kinds of bad behavior would not work and would not be fair to the folks whose stuff gets deleted for more innocuous or banal reasons.

In any case, my general feeling is that someone capable of earning a bad reputation because of their commenting behavior is very, very likely to earn that reputation even if some of their worst comments get deleted. I honestly cannot think of a counter-example, of someone who we've had to delete a lot of stuff from but have never heard negative feedback about from other users. I can imagine an exception to that rule, but it'd be an exception.

I can dig that part of the result of removing problematic comments is some kind of sense of poetic justice denied, but if the choice is delete and help the site be less shitty/noisy/disrupted as a result vs. let stand in order to make sure that everyone has a chance to see every crappy comment at their leisure, we're going to opt for delete in general because we're not that interested in the mob justice angle. We'll talk to the problem user directly and try to work it out that way instead.

I would send back a "we don't comment on deleted comments" form letter, something that can be automated.

This is not something we would want to do. It's robotic and it's opaque. We're fine talking about comment deletions when someone has a specific good reason to want to know, we're just not interested in giving people a new buttload of less specific, less compelling reasons to ask.

Mostly I'd like to see them because they are part of the record.

I feel you. I feel pretty strongly that it's important that we keep them in the db, for similar reasons, and if we didn't have strong feelings that it was important to have deleted comments out of view we'd probably default to having them visible as well. But this is one of the big cases where that general preference for transparency collides with a pragmatic need to make this place work as well as we can make it as a community, and so we keep the nixed comments in the vault and try to work a compromise where that which actually needs discussing gets discussed pretty much whenever someone wants to.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:28 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think right now the only thing that gets a form letter response is "Hey, we noticed that you and your sock puppet seem to have asked two questions in a week"

Exactly, and we only have that because it's actually a fairly complicated thing to communicate that runs for three paragraphs and tries to frame the "this is why this could be a problem, why we're writing, what we need to know from you, etc" content in a civil and non-threatening way, and I got tired of typing it up from scratch every time. And even at that we'll often use it as a starting point but modify the content according to the details of the situation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:31 AM on May 3, 2010


Okay, so I tried to solve the wrong problem with the form letter. And I guess it's clear I (and others) haven't thought through the end-to-end implications of having tombstones. However, I think this is a solve-able problem. For example, you could include which of the flagging options was predominate in the tombstone. Anyway, I'm fine with leaving everything as is. But as someone who is a casual comment reader/writer, I have no ability to remember who is who, and as an engineer I just can't help really wanting to solve this problem.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:44 AM on May 3, 2010


However, I think this is a solve-able problem

Define solve-able. What's the problem, the effects of the problem and how do you proposed to solve it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:47 AM on May 3, 2010


I am hereby aggressively asserting my right to indifference.


meh.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:51 AM on May 3, 2010


The system as it exists rewards good community behaviour. If nobody feeds the troll, a deletion doesn't leave any ripples.
posted by Sallyfur at 11:54 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I'm fine with leaving everything as is. But as someone who is a casual comment reader/writer, I have no ability to remember who is who, and as an engineer I just can't help really wanting to solve this problem.

I totally sympathize with this "hey I have a problem" "hey I have a solution" call/response sort of thing. That said, one of the other things we do at our level is try to triage situations so that we can better ascertain

- Is the person using the site as designed or do they want the site to do somethign it wasn't really meant to do?
- Does the person have a complaint that probably reflects issues than many other people have with the site enough so that it would merit changing something about the site to fix this?
- If not, is there a way the person could get their needs met some other way [via greasemonkey, learning about a site feature they didn't know about, using RSS, etc]?

The problem with fixing one person's problems [and not talking about this topic specifically now anymore] is that changing something to fix one thing often creates a problem or breaks something for someone else. So we have to balance fixes with existing functionality. Sometimes we're really lucky and we can fix one person's problems without making the site lose functionaity for other people. This is definitely not one of those cases both because of mod decisions but also longstanding site habits.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:57 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm just here to tell you good luck. We're all counting on you.
posted by deborah at 12:12 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is a bad idea. I understand the slight itch of curiosity, but really, it is not a problem worth the trouble that would be caused by trying to solve it. Anyone who can't figure out for themselves why the visible marker would cause trouble should just take the mods' word for it; they've been doing this a long time.
posted by languagehat at 12:38 PM on May 3, 2010


You know, sometimes I get a chuckle out of something someone says that's especially snarky or something, and then I look at the username and realize it's some degree of flamebait.

As a casual reader...(some days I'm lurking all day, killing time, other weeks I don't get here at all), it can be a challenge to keep up on the who's whom of what....and we don't really realize or know just how many comments get nuked or by whom they've been made. I think it would be interesting, although perhaps not good for the longterm sociability of the site.

TomMelee (14 Posts, 34 AskMe's, 15 deleted posts, 400 deleted comments) might be fun in the profile, but again maybe that's just feeding the trolls.

I kinda like the idea of disemvoweling the offenders, or somehow notifying us that a comment has been removed...I think many times we get backwash and replies to things long since nuked.

Of course, I also think MeTa callouts that don't post the entirety of an offending comment should be closed and deleted too.

Hmm now I'm envisioning a censorship free space where offending comments get removed (all but the spam and the selflinks) but preserved, with or without space for commentary.
posted by TomMelee at 12:43 PM on May 3, 2010


I just want my kids back.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:01 PM on May 3, 2010


There are a dozen reasons why this is a bad idea. First of all, it seems insane to me, Secret Life, that you seem to think that there wouldn't be any uptick in complaints if deleted comments were notated. In fact, I'm pretty confused by your request, because virtually every single one of your assumptions seems way off to me - no offense, I just don't know how you come to think, first of all, that most people actually check back into threads often enough to notice comments that have been deleted; second of all, that people wouldn't be angry or annoyed when they see "deleted comment" notations all through.

Moreover, it gives people a brand new way to massively fuck with the site. Say I get all pissed off and go on a coke-fueled bender and put up three dozen comments, all of which are terrible offensive and deletion-worthy. The mods can then delete my crap, but they're forced to leave three dozen annoying {deleted} placemarkers that take up a page and a half. What's the point of this? To let people know that I really went nuts? If I was particularly devious or malicious, I could post a bunch of crap that I knew would get deleted, just to take up page space out of spite. Or I might just post one deleteable comment, and then I could complain about it loudly.

However it happens, littering threads with little notifiers every time a comment gets deleted distracts massively from whatever's going on. Suddenly the number of deleted comments becomes part of the conversation, and if not that, at the very least people are focused on what the deleted comments might have said. In a sense, leaving these markers is just as bad as leaving the comments themselves, since half the time you might be able to guess what the comment said if only you knew it was there at one point.

It seems as though the only real solution to your problem, Secret Life, is for mods to post a small, inobtrusive comment in threads where there's been a significant amount of deletion, to let people know why the conversation might not make sense. And... that's exactly what they do. So I don't think there's anything that can be done about this.
posted by koeselitz at 1:28 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is the most politely worded pony request ever.
posted by iconomy at 1:42 PM on May 3, 2010


What's the problem, the effects of the problem and how do you proposed to solve it?

This is just me talking for me, fleshing out what I've said before and changing a few things.

Problems: When problematic comments are removed they can cause confusion. This happens because it leaving behind comments that reference the removed comment which are now confusing, people who saw the problematic comment now wonder where it went. When moderators want to mention that they removed comments they must do so in the thread itself. Also, members who are new to the site don't have a way to become familiar with the removal policy without reading MetaTalk.

Effects: Users who aren't acclimated to site culture feel like they are being censored (here's a famous example), and the sense that the site is collectively owned is diminished. These problems often bubble to the surface; I can't say that the user in the comment I mentioned should be protected, but stopping the occasional blow up is worthwhile. Also, the practice of moderators commenting in the thread about removed comments breaks the flow of a thread.

Solution: A subtle indication outside of the thread itself for when comments have been removed.

When no comments have been removed, nothing shows up. Visitors who are not logged in see nothing as well.

When comments have been, a text indicating this is placed underneath the "Note:..." text between the preview box and the "post comment" button. By default it will read "# comments have been removed. For more information about deletion policy check the FAQ" (by the way, more about how and why comments are removed probably should be put up there) when comments are gone. There should also be a place to put something like "Please stop telling metafilter about your boners. I'm sure they're really awesome boners, but we don't need to know. - cortex" in the line. Something like:

7 Comments have been removed. "early comments that could have derailed the thread were removed" - jessamyn. For more information about comment removal check the FAQ.

I would like this a lot. People wondering where comments went will be able to find them, there will be an indication of why some comments may reference a comment that's gone, and let people who's comments have been removed figure out what's going on.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 1:47 PM on May 3, 2010


A comment of mine was deleted a few days ago, I think. I'm guessing it was because I was commenting on the comment ahead of me, which was a delete-worthy NSFW link. Both comments were gone without a trace within five minutes of having gone up, and the rhythmn of the thread carried on without a ripple. That is as it should be. Placemarkers would have been an needless distraction. Absolutely pointless.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:51 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've left a couple of snappish responses to what I viewed as offensive thread comments, and flagged as well, and am happy when the result is that the thread is free of both the offensive comment and my snap back. It makes for easier reading of the worthy stuff that remains.

I've done the thread check for what a later callout comment like jokeefe's is referring to as well, but as you know, that takes about a second with a "find" command and when nothing turns up, we all know that means the called out comment got deleted.

I prefer our mods' "move on, nothing to see" approach to the thread derailing that visible remnants of deleted comment would otherwise encourage.
posted by bearwife at 2:24 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's a conversation, not an archaeological dig.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:24 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I gotta say, I'm impressed with how you mods continually rehash your policy with the members without getting frustrated or narky, even if you have had a conversation many times. Your explanations never seem cut & paste, and you're willing to really explain in depth (again) why a certain decision has been made. Sometimes (not this situation necessarily), I'd be saying "FFS, this is the way it is, deal with it." This is why I am not a mod, anywhere, anymore. So yeah, kudos to you guys for continuing to be courteous.
posted by b33j at 2:55 PM on May 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


. First of all, it seems insane to me, Secret Life, that you seem to think that there wouldn't be any uptick in complaints if deleted comments were notated. In fact, I'm pretty confused by your request, because virtually every single one of your assumptions seems way off to me - no offense, I just don't know how you come to think, first of all, that most people actually check back into threads often enough to notice comments that have been deleted; second of all, that people wouldn't be angry or annoyed when they see "deleted comment" notations all through.

Yeah, I mean I think I'm probably one of the most active readers of the site and I almost never notice deleted comments, and the few cases where I've seen a partially cleaned up thread I assume the mods deleted something worth deleting and get on with my life.
posted by empath at 3:04 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN DELETED!!!
posted by Sys Rq at 3:16 PM on May 3, 2010


It was simple snark that was rightfully deleted, someone else was getting their knickers in a twist about how their post on the same topic from the previous week had fewer comments and someone else was giving really, really ignorant and foolish and complacent opinions about marine ecology and basically saying the oil spill was no big deal cuz the ooze on the seafloor doesn't matter and in the middle of one of the worst environmental and potentially social disasters in recent memories then I was so fucking mad and depressed reading the whiney self-centredness and smug ignorance that I just snapped and told one of them to shut up or take it to MeTa and told the other one they had no idea what they were talking about, so consider this an apology, I don't get deleted very often but having said that I don't think deleted placeholders are at all a good idea and I am going to take a breath right now.
posted by Rumple at 3:19 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just don't know how you come to think, first of all, that most people actually check back into threads often enough to notice comments that have been deleted; second of all, that people wouldn't be angry or annoyed when they see "deleted comment" notations all through.

I was trying to address one specific part of jessamyn's response: "Basically, the actual reason why we don't have a deleted comment indicator is that we feel that people would then want to know what was deleted, or ask us about it, or want to argue about it and we don't have enough hours in the day to do this."

My point is, how do people know that their comments are deleted now? They look for them, right? They go back to reread the thread or look for their favorite count or whatever. The comment is deleted. Either they have a hissy fit or not. Having a marker is not going to change this. The person who wrote the comment will still find out from reading the thread or they won't reread the thread and so won't know. So in that particular situation having a marker is not going to make any difference in how many complaints the mods get. The only difference I can see is that other people will now know that a comment has been deleted. My question was, do you think that there will be an increase in complaints coming from other people (i.e. people who did not write the offending comment)? I find it hard to imagine, but I am not as familiar with the actions of this crowd as the moderators are because I am not privy to all the emails that the mods get.

Say I get all pissed off and go on a coke-fueled bender and put up three dozen comments, all of which are terrible offensive and deletion-worthy. The mods can then delete my crap, but they're forced to leave three dozen annoying {deleted} placemarkers that take up a page and a half.

Or they could do what they do now and leave a message saying, "half a dozen comments removed." I think that would be a very reasonable response.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:43 PM on May 3, 2010


At the last meeting of the cabal, we…

I’m very surprised to see you write this, since my understanding is that officially there is no cabal.
posted by found missing at 3:53 PM on May 3, 2010


I trust the mods implicitly. I may not know when I'm being an asshole, but I'm sure they will.

Delete any of my comments as you see fit. Including this one.
posted by JaredSeth at 3:57 PM on May 3, 2010


consider this an apology

!
posted by Mid at 3:59 PM on May 3, 2010


My point is, how do people know that their comments are deleted now? They look for them, right? They go back to reread the thread or look for their favorite count or whatever. The comment is deleted. Either they have a hissy fit or not. Having a marker is not going to change this.

Actually, I think it will and here is why. Having a marker makes it clear to other people that you had a comment deleted [depending on how such a marker would be implemented] Anything that links username to a deleted comment is a non-starter because it goes against our general Brand New Day idea here [maybe you had a bad day, maybe you said something you regretted, who knows] and would make people feel that not only was their comment deleted, but that they were being singled out somehow, so instead of their comment [which they'd often insist wasn't deleteworthy] there was something that just said that they said something deleteworthy. Not great.

I honestly think that a lot of people who say deleteworthy stuff are either having a bad day or are drunk or intoxicated in some way. I don't want to have morning-after conversations with those people about what they said that got deleted. In fact, generally speaking, I don't want to spend much more time than I already do talking about why comments were deleted. We'll explain it to people who are having a hard time understanding, but we really don't want to make it into a major part of our job description. We think the way we do it now allows us more flexibility in this regard, same with people who have stuff removed from AskMe, we sometimes email peopel and let them know and sometimes don't.

The only difference I can see is that other people will now know that a comment has been deleted. My question was, do you think that there will be an increase in complaints coming from other people (i.e. people who did not write the offending comment)?

Yes. Yes I really do. A lot of what we see in MeTa is people upset on someone else's behalf and I believe a system like this would only increase this phenomenon.

I'm sorry that a lot of this sounds like "take our word for it, this will not work" but at some level that's really what we think, strongly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:32 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


My point is, how do people know that their comments are deleted now? They look for them, right? They go back to reread the thread or look for their favorite count or whatever. The comment is deleted. Either they have a hissy fit or not. Having a marker is not going to change this.

I disagree on two points:

1. Seeing an explicit note that they've had a comment removed has a chance of motivating someone to take some followup action to it (email, in-thread complaint, metatalk thread, etc.) in cases where otherwise they might not have had enough of an investment in the comment to notice and respond to its tacit absence. So there's a new source of discussions-about-deleted-comments work thanks to markers.

2. Other people may see a deletion marker and take some followup action (see above, adding third-party curiosity to the list) in situations where they wouldn't have noticed there had been a deletion at all without a marker to point it out to them.

I'm basing this on the behavior we see based on current unmarked deletions and square-bracket admin notes, and on what I've seen take place on other sites that have visible-deletion approaches. Lowering the bar to entry on discussions about deletions means more work generated by having to deal with low-stakes cases that otherwise wouldn't have merited on-going attention. That dilutes our ability to use our time and energy on the rest of the stuff that happens around here; we don't want that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:41 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is this the moderation thread? Because my record on the internet as a whole with regard to moderation threads is absolutely stellar.
posted by Justinian at 4:45 PM on May 3, 2010


I honestly think that a lot of people who say deleteworthy stuff are either having a bad day or are drunk or intoxicated in some way.

*cough* Or have badly screwed up their own post and need the html coding fixed by someone with the power to do so. Thanks, by the way... *cough*
posted by zarq at 4:47 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


While we're all here discussing deleting comments, I had a thought a couple of days ago to flag a comment as probably offensive, and I realized that I don't know how to flag. Where do you go? (In the end, someone else must have flagged is because it was gone in a hurry.)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:19 PM on May 3, 2010


the !, to the right of the favoriting +
posted by radicarian at 5:33 PM on May 3, 2010


Oh, hey! I never would have figured that out. Thanks, radicarian. I'm ready now! Look out!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:40 PM on May 3, 2010


"I kinda like the idea of disemvoweling the offenders"

Um, fuck no.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 5:41 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


[corny "self-flagulation" joke deleted]
posted by not_on_display at 7:15 PM on May 3, 2010


UNICORN BURGER AHOY
posted by The Whelk at 7:17 PM on May 3, 2010


Mods please delete this comment.
posted by shii at 7:24 PM on May 3, 2010


I won't.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:28 PM on May 3, 2010


....will do anything for love, but I want delete that.
posted by The Whelk at 7:32 PM on May 3, 2010


wont!
posted by The Whelk at 7:32 PM on May 3, 2010


I shoot myself in the foot so many times I should get an ER discount.
posted by The Whelk at 7:32 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think a better solution would have been to delete jokeefe's comment, too. Problem solved.

Just for the record, I would have been okay with that. The rest of my comment was just "Limbaugh said what!?" which doesn't need to be repeated, really.

I think what might have happened is that I managed to catch the thread in the middle of some deletions of toodleydoodley's complaints about the already opened thread (see the Metatalk thread regarding this). So all I saw was one pretty innocuous remark from TD and then what seemed like an overreaction from Rumple. In the future I'll try to leave the chastisement to the mods, but it was a WTF moment, and I responded to it. Sorry to contribute to confusion.
posted by jokeefe at 7:33 PM on May 3, 2010


Gee Whelkerlers!
posted by Burhanistan at 7:50 PM on May 3, 2010


I honestly think that a lot of people who say deleteworthy stuff are either having a bad day or are drunk or intoxicated in some way.

or sometimes we just shouldn't open metafilter until our medications have kicked in :-P
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:02 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older Double your posting; double your fun   |   May Meetup in ABQ: Round 2 Newer »

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