I flagged a few comments on this answer as obsolete, and one not constructive. All were declined. I flagged them because:

  • one suggested another removal card in addition to the one I mentioned, now mentioned in the answer. (flagged as obsolete)
  • two discussed whether exile was the only viable strategy; it's pretty reasonable that one got confused since both recommended removal cards involved exiling. Someone else responded to settle that confusion. I updated my answer to settle the confusion as well. (flagged as obsolete)
  • one was secondary discussion. It wisely pointed out that one of the involved cards was helpful against another card entirely, though that's entirely tangential to the question at hand, and the involved card is helpful against a great many cards. (flagged as not constructive, on account of being discussion, however constructive it was in terms of general MtG strategy discussion)

I totally appreciate these comments. I flagged them because they no longer needed to be around, though. I mainly use an SE site where comments are rigorously enforced as being a means for suggesting improvements or requesting clarification, and once we make those improvements or clarifications, the related comments get flagged and cleaned away. Comments engaging in discussion also get cleaned away. So I'm experiencing a culture difference on this site, or I'm missing something.

Why were my flags declined? Is there something more I should be doing? A custom mod reason with an explanation, or something?

  • 1
    I wasn't involved in handling those flags, but my two cents: none of those comments seem to be causing any problems, so there's no reason to take any action on them. Specifically, the first comment is no longer relevant, but there's no harm in showing who suggested the idea. Regarding the exile discussion, again there's no harm in leaving the comments that led to the current state of the question. And the last is only one comment, and it is relevant to the question. Basically, in my opinion, unless the comments are harmful or really chatty, there's no reason to do anything to them at all.
    – murgatroid99 Mod
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 8:06
  • 1
    Sure, but they don't serve a purpose any longer, either. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 8:15
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    I agree with that; I just don't think it's worth moderator time to verify that when the comments are completely harmless. There are cases where obsolete comments are misleading misleading, and where not constructive comments are belligerent or insulting, and those are the comments that I think are worth dealing with.
    – murgatroid99 Mod
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 14:09
  • Hi Jonathan, I'm not sure but I would think @murgatroid99's explanation in the comments is why your flags were declined, even though I don't think they were unhelpful (you handled this case perfectly in my opinion). (I did not talk with the other mods on this topic yet.)
    – mafu
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 19:09

3 Answers 3


Sorry for the late reply - somehow I missed this.

I was the one that declined the flags. The reasons were several, and mostly correctly guessed by others:

  • I don't like deleting comments during the active phase of a Q/A. I personally find it weird and disturbing to come back and find my comments gone. And I take pride in my good comments, and like to occasionally check them out and see if they got voted up. An alternative, also valid point of view is that cleaning up comments keeps the site clean and focussed on the essentials. From a moderation perspective, I take the same position as Pat - I remove old comments that are no longer necessary, but I give them a grace period. Since I personally don't see a lot of value in comment removal, I don't put a lot of effort into it, but if I see them, and they're uncontroversial, I remove them.
  • When the content of the comments has been fully incorporated into an answer, or an issue has been unambiguously resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, then I tend to delete them immediately.
  • Removing comments sometimes upsets the commenter. It then takes more time to explain why the comment was removed, and deal with the upset. So if the situation is relatively neutral, I err on the side of retaining comments.
  • Comment flags are prolific, and they aren't all that important in the greater scheme of things. I'm sympathetic to the discussion here. The main points are 1) there are a lot of comment flags, 2) they take a surprising amount of work to resolve correctly, 3) they aren't a huge value add.
  • Sometimes it's not easy to tell whether a comment is truly obsolete. Although I am a Magic player, I don't play with modern cards. It's significant effort to prove the flag, and in my opinion, value judgements like this quickly enter a murky world where moderation can overstep its authority. See for example my discussion of the not an answer flag.
  • Accepting/declining is a way of giving feedback to you, the flag raiser. By declining, I am suggesting this flag was not worth raising. In my opinion, although there is nothing technically wrong with these flags, they are not worth the time for you to raise, and for me to understand, arbitrate and manage.
  • 1
    Thanks for your response! Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 0:46

Good question!

Here is one possible answer:

Deleting a comment string such as the one you pointed to should probably be done at some point. I'm not sure the right time to do it is minutes after you edited your answer to incorporate the comments.

Deleting comments could confuse users, particularly new ones, who were either participating in the conversation, or even just observing it.

I tend not to delete useful comments unless they've been around for a month or so. At that point, I figure everyone who was active on the question has moved on and cleaning up the comments will improve the experience of future visitors.

  • Thanks for the input - I'll bear in mind to leave it a while before I flag this stuff. (Now if only there were a time-delay feature or somethin'...) Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 6:52
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    "I tend not to delete useful comments... " If they were useful, they weren't obsolete. I think your point is valid, but your "Here's what I tend to do" paragraph could probably just be removed because it detracts from the point you were making.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 8:32
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    @Rusher - "if they were useful, they weren't obsolete" is not accurate. One does not preclude the other.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 1:18

Your flag may have been declined for one of two reasons.

The moderator involved disagrees that the comment was obsolete.

This is the only legitimate reason to deny an "obsolete" flag. The comment may be obsolete to you, but the moderator may have reason to believe that the comment may still be useful to a future visitor. "Useful" is very subjective, so don't be surprised when the explanation you get make little sense.

The flag reason carries more weight with some moderators than others.

Some moderators attach extra baggage to flag reasons. Here are two examples:

I declined your obsolete flag because the comment wasn't harming anything.

I declined your obsolete flag because the comment was less than one month old.

In my opinion, the only explanation for not deleting a comment flagged obsolete is "It wasn't obsolete." No arbitrary restrictions. No month old time limits.

This is an example taken from another similarly low-traffic site that I am active on. I understand that every site is different, but I don't feel like those differences are relevant here. If you think they are, leave a comment and explain why.

On Programming Puzzles and Code Golf SE, we address comments by editing the post or by pointing the user to a specific part of the post (because they didn't read it very thoroughly). Shortly afterwards (within a few days sometimes), the comments are purged by a moderator. If another user asks the same question, then we improve the post to make that part more clear or more visible. This kind of continuous improvement is what Stack Exchange is all about. Stale comments and discussions taking place in the comments is not what Stack Exchange is all about.

I would encourage the moderators on B&CG SE check with moderators on other similar traffic sites to see if their arbitrary practices are consistent with Stack Exchange practice.

  • I'm not sure an answer like this is entirely appropriate for this question, given it seems to mainly exist to criticise the moderators for their stance on handling obsolete flags. If you have an issue with that, I suggest you open a separate meta question to address the matter. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 8:00
  • @JonathanHobbs I edited the answer so that some (but not all) of the aggressive wording was removed. I also divided the answer into two parts, of which the latter is clearly more subjective than the former (although they are both subjective because the topic is subjective). I welcome more comments, or even edits, from you explaining which parts are still too aggressive or extraneous, but please don't just dismiss the entire answer. If you disagree with a particular piece, then explain why. If I can't address it neatly, then we can open a discussion or just agree to disagree on a point.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 16:47
  • If you want to change policy, though - which it appears you want to do from the very last paragraph - you're better off trying to do that via opening a [discussion] question to address the issue. An answer to a support question is less likely to have effective results. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 4:06
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    @JonathanHobbs I never called for a "change of policy". I asked the moderators to follow existing practices. It's one thing to disagree with my answer, but it's another thing to dismiss it entirely, especially after I politely asked you not to. It is very clearly an answer to your question. Why were your flags declined? Because the moderation here is inconsistent. I could discuss the validity of this claim in a separate meta topic, but that would imply that I have doubts about it. I don't. I've seen the way two moderators handle flags here, and it's wrong to me.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 20:04

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