Deleted comment notification? December 30, 2004 5:13 AM   Subscribe

Would it be possible, when comments are deleted, to replace them with a [comment deleted due to offensiveness] rather than delete it altogether, and have 100 people all scratching their heads going, "huh?" at the apparently non-sequitorous responses?

(Phrasing partially stolen from wackybrit)

(Caveat: This is not me bitching. Just a question. If it's a bad idea, just let me know.)
posted by Bugbread to Feature Requests at 5:13 AM (59 comments total)

i suspect there's not enough time in matt's day. personally, i'd rather he were coding if he's got time to spare.
imagine having to trawl through the whole site deleting crap regularly. not just when you're bored at work, but all the time. even a little more hassle has a big cost, i would guess.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:19 AM on December 30, 2004


Andrew: Just to clarify (I doubt you've misunderstood, but I can certainly imagine someone misunderstanding, now that I reread my post), my suggestion/question doesn't necessarily include providing a reason. That was bad phrasing by me. I guess a better phrasing would just be placing [comment deleted] instead of [comment deleted due to offensiveness].

Of course, people would then ask for reasons to be stated, but I think at that point you would definitely hit the "not enough time in a day" wall.
posted by Bugbread at 5:27 AM on December 30, 2004


It seems that Matt has deleted a lot more comments than usual in the last month or two.
posted by caddis at 5:39 AM on December 30, 2004


oh, ok - i did misunderstand (i thought you were asking for a justification in each case).

i's a good idea, imho, although the same arguments i gave apply to it being implemented.

to get it to happen, i think you need to convince matt that it would encourage self-policiing. should it contain the person's name as a kind of shaming? or will that be taken as a badge of honour by - picking some examples entirely at random - angry modem and keyser soze?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:49 AM on December 30, 2004


I have been wanting this for years. I vote yes on this particular brand of equine goodness.

A little indicator would make it clear when comments have been removed. It's so disorienting to go into a thread and no be able to follow it because Matt's removed some insanity by whomever (quonsar) and everybody's responding to it, but we can't tell. His original comment has disappeared without a trace.
posted by zpousman at 6:57 AM on December 30, 2004


I think there are more reasons than just offensivness. Some are snarky, some are mean, some don't help, some might be offensive, and some might just give bad or illegal advice.

In the Scarface thread on AskMe, Fishfucker's post as well as my first one were deleted. I suspect it wasn't because they were offensive, but because they didn't really help to answer the question.

FWIW, I thought my post was a legit answer and not meant to be racist or offensive. Though I don't blame Matt for deleting it.

I do agree that it would be nice to see some sort of placeholder when something is deleted, just so it's obvious that the flow is disrupted. "This post deleted because Matt said so" would be good enough.
posted by bondcliff at 6:57 AM on December 30, 2004


How about a discrete note at the top of the page: "This thread has been edited for content."
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:07 AM on December 30, 2004


I was going to start a MeTa thread on this very topic. I find it kind of disturbing when comments just vanish into the ether, irrespective of any subsequent confusion the absence causes. An unfakeable bit of text saying something like "deleted comment" would be excellent.
posted by kenko at 7:35 AM on December 30, 2004


i wondered about the unfakeable bit too. i think the best compromise might be something added to the "posted by" line. so it might look like

deleted post by andrew cooke at 5:49 AM PST on December 30

(i'm not sure that will post correctly. here goes...). although i also think these are the kind of obsessive details that are completely irrelevant to whether this gets implemented or not.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:41 AM on December 30, 2004


It's really not that hard to decipher deleted offenses...by utilizing the complimentary comments adherent to the context of the thread.

...or maybe it'd be preferable for Mathowie to brand scarlet letters over the pseudonym of the offender? ;p
posted by naxosaxur at 7:47 AM on December 30, 2004


I like this suggestion overall, bugbread, and think andrew cooke's suggestion of adding a notation to the 'posted by' line is great. If comments are going to be deleted, I would appreciate a marker indicating that a comment existed.

btw, I would like to go on record as saying that I favor the lightest of light touches when it comes to deleting comments. Personally, I don't think comments should be deleted unless they are potentially very hurtful to a member.

Matt, it does seem as though you have had a heavier hand post-election, I dunno. Me, I favor free speech. If someone is an ass or a creep, I would rather be alerted to that fact by leaving the person's comments intact.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:57 AM on December 30, 2004


I'm confused about it too. In Seth's weekly complaint about MetaFilter, my gut reaction to his request that we all install spell checkers was "Jesus tap-dancing Christ." So I said that, and Matt deleted it, even with "I agree" comments following it.

My guess was that Matt thought it was an arbitary comment, but it was a legitimate statement of feeling on the entire matter and others responded in kind.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:02 AM on December 30, 2004


For better or worse, what occurs in comments is discussion. That means that there's give-and-take and the whole is greater than its parts. In that context, there has to be limits on speech that is disruptive to the process, regardless of content. In other words, I don't think Matt has been deleting more comments recently so much because he finds them offensive prima facie, but because he rightly anticipates that certain kinds of comments have a very bad influence on the subsequent discussion. In this sense, I don't think this is rightly described as a "free speech" issue (even in the casual and vulgar use of the term that applies it everywhere and anywhere).
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:03 AM on December 30, 2004


Also, "comment deleted by moderator" in place of the original is what they do on right-wing hate sites like FreeRepublic and LGF; I'd really hate to see that on MetaFilter.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:03 AM on December 30, 2004


They use HTML and the English language on right-wing hate sites like FR and LGF. It's unfortunate, I suppose, that so too does MeFi.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:06 AM on December 30, 2004


Oh stop it, EB, you know damn well that's not my point. MeFi works well because 90% of the time stupid comments are policed by the community. 99.44%-free speech works better than censorship by a single moderator based on personal opinions. If Matt deleted every thread that went against his political opinion instead of allowing occasionally-awful political posts to be argued by MeFites, the site would be as ignorant, and as shitty, as those right-wing sites are- because it would be a site where people went to read what they WANT to read, not read what other people want to write.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:12 AM on December 30, 2004


"If Matt deleted every thread that went against his political opinion..."

Who's advocating that? Where is the evidence that the comments he deletes he deletes for this reason?

Anyway, yeah, I see your point but you made it in a poor fashion.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:20 AM on December 30, 2004


It's been a bit of a free-for-all lately, so I appreciate the deletion of derails. Otherwise, the new blood is breathing some new life into the joint. (sorry about the mixed metaphor)
posted by theora55 at 9:01 AM on December 30, 2004


The deletions are getting wacky, too. As witnessed in this AskMe thread. Very, very arbitrary. But hey, it's his site.
posted by xmutex at 9:04 AM on December 30, 2004


In Seth's weekly complaint about MetaFilter, my gut reaction to his request that we all install spell checkers was "Jesus tap-dancing Christ." So I said that, and Matt deleted it, even with "I agree" comments following it.

Yeah, and he deleted my comment agreeing with you and adding some lorem ipsum for jokey effect ("look, it's got capitals in the right places!"). Me not like. It's Matt's site, blah blah, but our comments were not against the mores of the community. I agree with madamjujujive about this.

EB: "he rightly anticipates that certain kinds of comments have a very bad influence on the subsequent discussion" is a bad, bad theory. It's right up there with the preemptive callout of a thread that didn't exist yet ("I'm sure the comments are going to be awful!"). The risk of a derailed and/or unpleasant discussion is a risk inherent in this kind of site; free and open exchange is the reason we all come here.
posted by languagehat at 9:04 AM on December 30, 2004


I don't know about the rest of the site, but I think a heavy hand is often needed in the Green. Someone recently asked anonymously about whether she, as a virgin who had never had sex, should see a GYN, and suddenly someone posted offering to deflower her. While I could see a give-and-take discussion about the pros and cons of abstinence in the Blue, it was WAY inappropriate in AskMe, no matter how "friendly" it was meant.

So maybe a better solution would be to stop being quite so flip in AskMe? Or has there also been a deletion upswing in MeFi, too?
posted by occhiblu at 9:08 AM on December 30, 2004


It should also be said that although you might not want snarks on the site, he deletes them at the point where sometimes conversation has built around them, and that many subsequent comments have been made in reference so that when BAM! the lightning bolt is unleashed, the thread looks really bizarre to newcomers.

The effect is more irritating than the original snark.
posted by xmutex at 9:11 AM on December 30, 2004


As occhiblu points out, deletion is really really necessary in AskMe, and I support Matt in all the deletions there.

I'm one of the people who feels like Matt has been deleting more than I would like in MeFi and MeTa, though. And I do agree with the people who feel confused when a comment that has been taken up down the thread has been deleted.

So Matt, if you're reading, that's my vote on that topic.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:17 AM on December 30, 2004


I agree that some sort of notation of a used-to-be-there comment would be helpful in making sense of some threads. I don't think its necessary for the front page for deleted posts because of Lo-Fi but within threads, yeah, that would be helpful and it shouldn't be any more difficult than deleting the comment in the first place.

And I had the feeling of being a mouse in a maze while reading this thread.

Maybe Matt's trying out an auto-comment-delete program on us?
posted by fenriq at 9:41 AM on December 30, 2004


[deleted comment]
posted by languagehat at 9:53 AM on December 30, 2004


[restored comment]

It also makes me crazy, especially if I've commented in a certain way based on what has come before, because then there's the possibility that I look stupid, and I don't think any of us want that.

So, a [comment deleted] would actually be helpful, I think.
posted by taz at 9:59 AM on December 30, 2004


Er..."don't try to thread-manage a thread you started", etc., but:

I think if we switch this discussion to whether deletions should even happen, or if they're too frequent or too infrequent, we're going to end out with lots of smoke and bluster but little practical discussion. That's cool and all for free-form discussion, but I thought the gray was a bit more oriented to practicality. So, that said...

My initial question/suggestion was based on the fact that deletions are happening, but [comment deleted] does not appear, making for some pretty funky discussions unless you realize a comment is missing. I'll thus rephrase the original question to be:

In the case that a deletion happens, would it be a good idea to put in something to the effect of [comment deleted]?

Hopefully, that can narrow the scope of discussion for improved practicality, and forestall questions like "Should comments be deleted in the first place?" or "Should more comments be deleted?"
posted by Bugbread at 10:06 AM on December 30, 2004


as one who perhaps has had more comments deleted than most, i don't expect this opinion to carry any weight, but this has driven me wild for years. not the fact that mine get deleted - but that i fail to understand the perceived benefit of deletion most of the time. some things are obvious - shock images and the like. but most anything else getting deleted is inane. who is being protected? what are they being protected from? is matt protecting his own self-image? that of the site? the community? most often the effect is akin to removing a random rung from a blind guy's ladder. i think virtually no comment should be deleted ever, but since apparently, in matts view, some must be culled, putting in a clear indication that the thread flow has been diverted only makes sense.
posted by quonsar at 10:22 AM on December 30, 2004


most often the effect is akin to removing a random rung from a blind guy's ladder.

But quonsar, that's such fun!

Oops... that wasn't nice, was it?
*awaits deletion*

posted by languagehat at 10:49 AM on December 30, 2004


Blind guys shouldn't be on ladders in the first place. If they fall, it's their own goddam fault. Removing a rung is merely hastening the inevitable. And for that, Ms. Entropy thanks you.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:54 AM on December 30, 2004


but that i fail to understand the perceived benefit of deletion most of the time.

Benefits are two fold. One: patently offensive stuff like occhiblu's example gets removed. Two: it reduces/eliminates the effect of "first post", "hot grits", "boobies", and related noise that contains no signal what so ever with out pulling out the banimmer. Every fair system needs varying degrees of punishment.

I imagine it can also curb the truly incoherent though I can't recall it being used that way.
posted by Mitheral at 11:46 AM on December 30, 2004


"first post", "hot grits", "boobies", and related noise

i beleive you have this site confused with slashdot.
posted by quonsar at 11:56 AM on December 30, 2004


HOW ABOUT IF THE MAN STOPS CENSORING ME WHEN I RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE???!?
posted by The God Complex at 12:15 PM on December 30, 2004


In the joint causes of fairness and clarity the site should absolutely have this feature. But we've been made aware for a long time now that it would require too much time/effort for a hobbyist site so lightly managed, so why ask for it now?
posted by rushmc at 12:19 PM on December 30, 2004


Rushmc,

Sorry, I've been a longtime reader, but only reading the grey for a year or so now, and definitely not every post/comments, so I wasn't aware it was discussed. I knew that providing reasons for every deletion was discussed and found way too labor intensive, but I didn't know reasonless placeholder deletion comments were also too time/effort intensiveness.

Or, to answer your question more directly, "because I'm a newbie" ^_^
posted by Bugbread at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2004


It seems like it would be somewhat tricky to implement because, from what I can tell, the comment is removed completely from the site -- I don't think it counts toward a user's comment count once it's deleted, for example -- and so a placeholder would need to be put in manually. I don't really know how Mefi works, though.

Matt would have to, instead of just deleting it, put it somewhere else and code in an automagical placeholder. It could be done, but all those deleted comments would take up server space where they presumably don't now (also probably not really an issue). Or he could allow them to count towards a user's comment count and just change the comment's text to "comment deleted".

I may be completely and utterly wrong about how Matt manages deleted comments, though.

I like the idea of a placeholder for comments, if comments have to be deleted at all, so people know something was there before.
posted by tracicle at 12:32 PM on December 30, 2004


I've had a bazillion comments removed lately, including ANYTHING reflecting on new posters as being inexperienced louts.

It's very annoying.
posted by u.n. owen at 1:16 PM on December 30, 2004


Yes, a bazillion comments reflecting on new posters being inexperienced louts is very annoying. I'm proud of you for recognizing that fact, and for resolving to provide more constructive participation in the future.
posted by Danelope at 1:56 PM on December 30, 2004


I'd really hate to see that on MetaFilter.

So, you'd really hate to see an acknowledgement that comments were deleted? Or you'd really hate to see comments deleted?

AFAIAC, the "honest" thing to do (coding time permitting) is to have the "delete" function replace the comment with a notice that it had been deleted. Andrew Cooke IMO has the right idea on teh modality; just make a firm practice of not explaining them or anything. (None of these should ever be explained, AFAIAC. Explanations of the reasons for deletion are a waste of time.)

I don't particularly care about the reason why; since I can't see the comment, I can't verify or debunk that reason, so IMHO it's better just to not have it.

I'd also like to see the same kind of thing for FPPs: Just replace deleted FPPs with a placemarker. (Better yet, a link to the deleted FPP, but that would be a non-starter with the bulk of the Olde Guarde, so I won't bother making the case.)
posted by lodurr at 2:06 PM on December 30, 2004


I've had a bazillion comments removed lately, including ANYTHING reflecting on new posters as being inexperienced louts.

Excellent. You inex...nevermind.
posted by rushmc at 3:39 PM on December 30, 2004


"first post", "hot grits", "boobies", and related noise

quonsar: i beleive you have this site confused with slashdot.


This kind of anti social silliness has been a problem since at least the BBS days and is hardly confined to slashdot. Any community that doesn't either restrict access or enforce minimum standards can not maintain a high signal to noise ratio. There always seems to be someone/group out there that has more time than social skills and the massive free time to disrupt the commons. Classic example from usenet were those alt.syntax.tactical yahoos.

"grits" is a /.reference however "first post" garbage and variants predates the web and "boobies" is a fark reference.
posted by Mitheral at 4:21 PM on December 30, 2004


Understand first that, in all seriousness, I would never ever compare Matt to someone like Dave Winer. However, if I had a few spare chunks of time, and I was curious to see where the deleted posts and comments fell, I would probably throw together something like Mark Pilgrim's (now defunct) Winer Watcher.
posted by majcher at 5:05 PM on December 30, 2004


[comment deleted due to inanity]
posted by neckro23 at 5:32 PM on December 30, 2004


btw, I would like to go on record as saying that I favor the lightest of light touches when it comes to deleting comments. Personally, I don't think comments should be deleted unless they are potentially very hurtful to a member.

Or off topic and way, way too long with much small type--as my last deleted comment was. Man, I wish I had left that in preview--in fact, I thought I had. But a big me, too on the lightest of light touches part.
posted by y2karl at 5:47 PM on December 30, 2004


This kind of anti social silliness has been a problem since at least the BBS days and blah blah drone on woof woof i'm so online savvy blah drone etc.

i get a boner when you lecture me, Mitheral.
posted by quonsar at 6:37 PM on December 30, 2004


i know i'm chubby.
posted by squirrel at 8:31 PM on December 30, 2004


My own take is that comments which are very hurtful to a member should be preserved - censorship because someone's FEEEHLINGS might get injured seems a pretty ignorant way to act on the face of it, at least to me. Part of maturity is learning to cope with people brow-beating you and developing positive methods of dealing with their behavior.

I also think that quonsar - and everyone else here - should be able to tell other people to "fuck off" once in a while without it being removed. There are a lot of people both in the greater world and on this website who could stand to be told to "fuck off" with some frequency, in my opinion (someone possibly should be telling me to "fuck off," for this comment).

That said, quonsar's right on the topic of shock images - unlike an especially long and brutal flame directed against your person/ideology, you can't just decide "this is crap" and stop reading goatse midway through - the impact is immediate.

As regards [this comment has been removed] - I'm in favor of anything that helps make conversation function more smoothly around here - communication is a difficult enough act through a pure-text medium without intentionally limiting ourselves.
posted by Ryvar at 10:00 PM on December 30, 2004


I guess I don't pay close enough attention. I can't recall ever noticing that a thread was missing comments. Maybe I just assume everyone else's synapses misfire as frequently and randomly as my own.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:41 AM on December 31, 2004


You know... Now that I'm thinking about it more, the [comment deleted] thing may not be so good. Sometimes there are threads that get disrailed and a whole heap of comments are deleted. It wouldn't be so fun scrolling down a page with 30 "comment deleted" lines.
posted by taz at 12:50 AM on December 31, 2004


[30 comments deleted]
posted by languagehat at 6:34 AM on December 31, 2004


I can't recall ever noticing that a thread was missing comments.

This is why we need notification!
posted by kenko at 7:19 AM on December 31, 2004


I don't know; I can see why Matt doesn't have a deletion placeholder. It fits with the Tread Lightly doctrine; any deletion notice at all risks sidetracking a thread.

Still, it's kind of stalinist to have posts just disappear. Maybe a notice that you have to go into Options to see would be best.
posted by Tlogmer at 7:41 AM on December 31, 2004


Maybe Matt should just wikify threads, and then we can all delete each other's comments. Problem solved!
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:52 AM on December 31, 2004


Glad I could be of assistance quonsar. Tell Mrs. quonsar she's welcome.

I'd love to see the wikify system (someplace else) but I'd doubt it would work with much more than a couple hundred members.
posted by Mitheral at 10:44 AM on December 31, 2004


[30 comments deleted] is fine, but it would require Matt to count the deletions and type in a specific number, as opposed to an auto-insert when a comment is deleted, so it's probably not workable.
posted by taz at 6:18 PM on December 31, 2004


[Multiple comments deleted]?
posted by Bugbread at 5:18 AM on January 1, 2005


[This thread has been edited for content] seems like a good idea. Vague, but at least an acknowledgement. Sounds like a movie cut down for TV though.
posted by tracicle at 11:24 AM on January 1, 2005


I'm really completely at a loss to understand people who think that leaving a placeholder is a bad idea. Especially if the arguments amount to "because it will help derail threads" or "because we see those on teh freep".
posted by lodurr at 12:28 PM on January 1, 2005


[This thread has been edited for content]

I don't want to see this unless a comment has been edited to reflect the fact that what one user meant to call another user is a 'gosh-darn melon humper' and not a 'goddamned motherfucker'.
posted by trondant at 12:29 PM on January 1, 2005


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