I wasn't going to post this, but then it happened a second time over the span of two or three days. We have a moderator who keeps wiping out comments that he disagrees with. Two examples:

  • Yes, pile shuffling is slow play
    • Moderator makes a comment
    • Author makes a rebuttal
    • Some back and forth occurs between moderator and user
    • Moderator wipes away the comments except for his original(screenshot)
    • Moderator directs further comments to meta
    • I question the deletion of the comments
    • My comment gets deleted
    • Author makes the exact same rebuttal
    • Moderator deletes the entire answer
  • What is the Infinite Squirrel deck?
    • Community closes the question
    • Moderator makes a huge edit
    • Moderator reopens the question
    • Moderator wipes away the comments
      • Some of these comments explained why the question was closed

I do not have an issue with mods voting on questions. That is perfectly fine. It's not like they can turn off their mod powers and then cast their vote (I think).

I do not have an issue with mods deleting comments that are abusive, obsolete, not constructive, or otherwise worthy of being deleted.

I do have an issue with mods wiping away the comments they disagree with. Can we not do that?

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    Your second sentence has a false assumption. – Pat Ludwig Mar 26 '15 at 6:39
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    @PatLudwig I didn't say you wipe out comments because you disagree with them. Please read the sentence again. – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 13:04
  • You are correct. I move fast and in attempting to explain myself I made a slight parsing error, however I'm not one to spend time debating precise wording. I'll alter my first comment to retain the truth I was attempting to relate. – Pat Ludwig Mar 26 '15 at 14:21
  • @Rainbolt I think it's best to cut to the heart of the issue: do you claim that Pat chooses which comments to delete based in part on whether he agrees with them? Or are you merely claiming that he deletes comments, and that comments he disagrees with sometimes happen to be among those deleted? In the former case, you should come right out and say so. In the latter case, the issue of agreeing with comments is irrelevant, and I would suggest editing out the mention of disagreement so that it's clear what issue you really do want to address. – David Z Mar 26 '15 at 14:33
  • @DavidZ He deleted comments. Among those comments were comments he disagreed with. In one case, the only comment left standing was his own (and it wasn't one of those "I just deleted these comments - take your issues elsewhere" types of comments). I can't prove that he is deleting comments because he disagrees with them. Two cases certainly does not a pattern make. I didn't lie - I just presented the facts and hinted at how I interpreted them. Interpret them how you will rather than asking me to interpret it for you or remove it entirely. – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 15:22
  • The fact of the matter is that you can't see the comments that were deleted and so it is necessary for me to point out that the content of said comments contained information that disagree with Pat. If I had just posted "Our mod is deleting comments." then the vast majority of people would respond, "Ok, who cares?" Heck, I would too. – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 15:27
  • @Rainbolt I didn't ask if you can prove anything, I'm asking if you are claiming (or in other words, you think) that he deletes comments because he disagrees with them. Also let me reiterate that the truth of anything you say in your post is not in question; I never accused you of lying. This is about improving the clarity of your meta question. – David Z Mar 26 '15 at 15:29
  • @DavidZ I very clearly stated in my first comment that I am not claiming it. I do think it. We can argue linguistics all day if you want, but you understand the post and I know you do. Make a suggestion for improving the post, make an edit yourself, ask a question that has not been asked already, write an answer, or move on. – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 15:40
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    @DavidZ I think what Rainbolt is trying to say (and what I want to say either way) is that whatever Pat's intentions were, the end result was that, from the comment thread he deleted, he left his own comment intact but deleted the rebuttal to that comment. And no matter why he did that, it looks bad, and I think it was inappropriate. – murgatroid99 Mar 26 '15 at 15:41
  • To be fair, murgatroid99 was the author of that question and might be biased. I've had a rather snarky disagreement with Pat on meta in the past and I might be biased. If the rest of the community doesn't think it's an issue at all, then great. I'll get over it, and I'm sure murg will too. – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 15:42
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    Imagine if Pat erased this comment thread but left his original comment, "Your second sentence has a false asumption.", totally intact. I'd be infuriated by that. Is everyone else cool with that? – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 15:47
  • I don't think this is exactly analogous, but yeah, I'd be cool with that. It'd be inconvenient, sure, because then we'd have to restart the whole comment discussion from the beginning, but "infuriated" seems like a significant overreaction. @murgatroid99 not to say it couldn't have been handled better, but I don't think it was really inappropriate, for basically the reason Jefromi gives in his answer. – David Z Mar 26 '15 at 16:49
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    @Rainbolt (5 comments up) your first comment clearly stated that you're not saying Pat deletes comments because he disagrees with them, but it wasn't clear whether you wanted to imply it. I'm going to go with your later statement that you're not making this claim, and edit accordingly, per your suggestion. (And no, you do not know that I understand the post. I don't appreciate it when people claim to know better than I do what I am thinking.) – David Z Mar 26 '15 at 16:56
  • @DavidZ Your suggested edit outright stated that I have an issue with moderators wiping away comments and leaving their own. That is patently false, so I rolled it back. I see now that you don't want to understand me, so I suggest you just leave the question alone. – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 17:04
  • @Rainbolt I'm confused now. 7 comments up you explicitly said that you are not claiming that your problem is with moderators deleting comments they disagree with. The only other issue I can identify in your question is that moderators delete comments, but not all comments, while leaving their own comments. Hence my edit. So if it's neither of those you want to ask about, what is it? – David Z Mar 26 '15 at 17:57

tl;dr It's okay for moderators to wipe away comments and leave a conclusion (which they provide) and defer further discussion to meta. Often this will include comments they disagree with (and ones they agree with), and that's fine.

One of the recurring tasks for moderators is the need to clean up a huge chaotic discussion and leave behind a single conclusion. That is, moderators at some point have to make a decision and act; it can't always be discussed to death/consensus, especially not outside of meta.

There are of course gray areas sometimes. When the conclusion isn't entirely clear, moderators still have to pick one, at least for now. It can be further discussed later on meta, and decisions can be changed, but there's not always the luxury of leaving things there, starting a meta thread, waiting for a conclusion, and then going back - by that time you've left a mess in place for days. And it's also not moderators' job to start a meta post for every disagreement in which they're forced to intervene; that's something the rest of us can do too.

So I think broadly the right thing happened here: the comments disappeared, a possibly reasonable conclusion was posted, and there's even a "discuss further on meta" comment. We can debate about whether the conclusion was the right one in this case (in yet another meta question!) if we like, but I'm not too worried about what happened here. The absolute worst case is a moderator made an error in judgment about an honestly not that critical issue.

The sole issue I see here is that there's no short "here's roughly what was deleted and/or why" comment. I do think those are often a good idea, and would've helped a bit in these cases. That said, I don't think we should assume bad faith on the part of moderators: if they delete a discussion that we're all fully aware was too large (should've been on meta) and possibly less civil than ideal, and leave some sort of summary comment and a suggestion to discuss on meta, we can all read between the lines.

Remember, comments are temporary "post-it" notes. If we want a discussion to stay on the site permanently, we should move it to meta as soon as it becomes clear it won't be a simple, short back-and-forth. If we instead have a giant meta discussion in comments, we shouldn't be surprised if it gets wiped away, regardless of whether we happen to share the opinion of the moderator who leaves behind a "here's the deal for now" comment.

  • Hang on a second. The comment that remained in this case was not a "I deleted these comments because Foo. Please take your discussion elsewhere." kind of comment. That one came later, and was posted in addition to the comment that was left behind. I understand what you are saying, but I don't know if you understand the situation fully. Just take a look at the screenshot in the question and you'll see that there are two comments (the one I'm talking about, and the one you're answer was written about). – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 16:45
  • In the other case, the moderator reopened a question (which is a statement in and of itself) and wiped the comments about closing it. So in both cases, the statement left behind was not that of an explanatory "I deleted your comments." kind. – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 16:46
  • @Rainbolt Okay, well, so we can say "please leave a comment explaining deletion" - I agree with doing that in most cases. I'll edit that into my answer. But I stand by the rest as a response to your "wipes out comments except his" question. I think often it is appropriate and correct for a moderator to wipe out all comments, leaving only one of their own. – Cascabel Mar 26 '15 at 16:52
  • You are missing the point. I have said repeatedly now, leaving one mod comment of a certain genre is totally fine. Your response misses it entirely, and you can blame me for being unclear if you like, but you and I both know what kind of comment it was that got left behind, and it wasn't the type your answer addresses. – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 16:58
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    @Rainbolt I'm not missing the point. There's more than one kind of statement to leave in cases like this: there's the "this discussion was insane, deleting, discuss on meta" and there's the "here's the decision for now (can be potentially changed via meta, etc)". I'm saying that moderators are fully justified in doing both. The comments left behind in these cases are the latter, with the former left implicit. Yes, the former could've been explicit instead. But nonetheless, I think Pat's actions here were fine. – Cascabel Mar 26 '15 at 17:03
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    To be blunt: when a moderator cleans away everything and leaves behind a tombstone and/or a decision (possibly to be changed via meta), by definition they will have deleted comments they disagreed with and left one of their own. That's part of their job. We can't just tell them not to do it. We can discuss things on meta and avoid the need to have all those comments deleted in the first place. We're the ones who created the situation where comments needed to be deleted. Let's not blame the moderators for it. – Cascabel Mar 26 '15 at 17:06
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    Pat created the situation that sparked a comment war. He threatened to delete murg's answer in a comment, and the threat was totally unwarranted. You're saying we should bring our questions to meta? It's already been to meta! It has +42 votes. Our community probably can't even hit 42 unique visitors on meta in an entire week. Why should we rehash this? A simple "Hey Pat, here's a post that says I can do this." should suffice. All he's doing is deflecting anyone that disagrees with him. – Rainbolt Mar 26 '15 at 17:17
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    @Rainbolt I don't think it's quite as simple as "this old meta question resolves it"; this isn't quite the same "two different solutions to one problem" people were thinking of in that question six years ago, with only SO in mind. It's certainly justified for mods to ask people to consolidate answers (or do it themselves via edit + delete) when they are confident it's not a case that justifies multiple answers; I don't remember the comment you mention, but if it was that sort of thing, I don't think I'd construe it as a threat to delete, but rather again a moderator trying to do their job. – Cascabel Mar 26 '15 at 17:24
  • @Rainbolt if you're going to appeal to Meta Stack Exchange on the question of whether a person can post multiple answers to a question, you should also see what that site has to say about the appropriateness of poll answers. Though this is getting a bit off topic; I don't think this is the place to discuss whether those answers were appropriate. It'd be a matter for another meta question or perhaps for Board & Card Games Chat. – David Z Mar 26 '15 at 18:12

I'm the moderator in question. You can use my name, it's totally OK! It sounds like you disagree with my style of moderation. That's cool too. I've been pretty consistent over the last four years, but have been known to learn new tricks. I haven't been as active over the last few months, but I'm here now.

What do I do around here? Primarily respond to flags and take the action that I think is necessary. We don't get a ton of flags here compared to other sites, but there are enough to form patterns.

What the types of flags I deal with?

  1. New users generate flags. Mostly very short answers or substandard questions
  2. Disagreeable comments. There have been a rash of these lately. If you saying something that is in the least bit negative about another person, someone will flag it, and I will likely delete it. Please make your points in a positive way, or not at all. Most of these seem to start by wanting to improve a question or answer. That is awesome, but in many cases, people ... keep ... going... I'm totally on board with the original poster becoming frustrated right around the third "helpful suggestion". Soon after that, tempers fray, things are said, flags are raised, nobody looks good.
  3. Too many comments - The system flags any post that gets 20+ comments. This happens a lot around here. Take that for what it is and know that a moderator will show up and likely prune any long comment thread. If you need to have a long discussion, feel free to take it to chat.

The bottom line, when a flag goes off, I'm probably going to annoy someone with the action I take (even if I take none...which happens a bunch too). If you don't want moderation, avoid the situations mentioned above when possible.

What can you do to help?

If you have high rep, please spend some time in the review queue if you're able.

Other than that, if you see a problem, fix it. If you think a question can be improved, edit it instead of commenting. If the poster reverts your change, just walk away, leave a comment if you think the error is egregious. You do not have to "win" every time you disagree with someone.

If you have an answer to a question, post an answer not a comment. Even if its just part of an answer. Answers are not likely to be voted down unless they are factually wrong. Put it out there, that gives other people a dedicated place to comment on your ideas rather than you hijacking the original posters comment thread. Nobody wants to try to wallow through a long comment thread that is really three different conversations interweaved with each other.

Thanks for listening!

  • 2
    Why was this specific comment left alone while the author's response was deleted? I didn't find his response to be negative. He was defending the very existence of his post (which you threw into question) by linking to meta. Seems like the reasonable thing to do would be to either a) delete the entire back and forth between the two of you, including your original comment or b) leave it alone. You chose possibly the only bad option. – Rainbolt Mar 25 '15 at 22:42

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