I've seen a good bit of chatter about flagging comments more and more as part of the effort for some user to get the Deputy badge before the Community user. It was suggested that flagging comments was one of the main source of flags for users with higher rep since most of their actions on questions become close votes rather than flags. This suggests to me that I should be flagging comments more than I am now (read: almost never).

The mouseover indicates that a flag should be used when something is "noise, offensive, or spam". Offensive and spam are easy enough to determine. What about noise? What constitutes noise for the purposes of a comment?

There was a closed question where I decided to flag a few comments that fit my personal definition of 'noise'. The next day, I had a higher flag weight than before. Some might say they have a purpose because they are "funny", though, which makes me wonder if "non-informative comments made purely for the sake of 'lulz' qualify as noise in comments.

I'd appreciate input from other people on what qualifies as noise from a site policy perspective.

Actually, our most common sources of comment flags come from users with less than 3000 reputation. Users with at least 3000 reputation actually tend to flag answers more. –  Grace Note Mar 10 '11 at 16:38
Oh, heh. That explains the "competes with me" line. Removed the quote. I'd still like to know what we consider "noise" for comments, though! –  Shaun Mar 10 '11 at 16:40
For current statistics, our best flagger is one flag away from Deputy status. Community needs 4. So all we need is just one flag. –  Grace Note Mar 10 '11 at 16:56
@Grace Yeah, it's surprising how long Community has been floating in the 460-490 range; I swear I've tried to be objective when reviewing its flags without thinking about badges. :) –  badp Mar 10 '11 at 17:06
@badp Hey, I had to do something to make up for padding it upwards. ♪ –  Grace Note Mar 10 '11 at 17:08

2 Answers 2

Keep in mind, flagging a comment does not guarantee action. Keep this in mind because as moderators, we will do the same. Flagging a comment does not come with an explanation (or even the name of the flagger), all it tells us is that one or more people think that a comment classifies as offensive, noise, or spam.

If it not a particularly egregious case of offensiveness, noise, or spam, then it may simply be left to community decision (i.e. more flags). Remember, that's one of the things about comment flags - it's a way for the community to clean up comments without needing the mods to intervene. Note that deletion in this method does not affect your flag weight, nor will it be affected if the flag ages away.

If there is a real problem in comments that you really think needs to be addressed, especially if it is not directly clear what the problem is, please flag the post itself for moderator attention with an explanation. The lack of context to comment flags means that we will assume that any such flags will be for things that should be clearly offensive, noise, or spam.

Noise in comments, to me, usually comes in one of the three following fashions.

  • The comment is expired in purpose. It may suggest an edit that has occured and rendered the context of the comment no longer relevant. Or it could just be a simple "Updated post" comment. Usually, this is more for really ancient comments moreso than someone confirming a fix they did in the past few days, and only if it's barebones.
  • The comment contributes absolutely nothing. It does not provide anything to readers of the conversation, not even in context. It's something that less useful than a quip, in essence.
  • The comment is incredibly irrelevant to the current context.

Again, this still won't guarantee action. But they're the kind of things I'd flag as noise. It's something which very strongly detracts from the signal of the thread.

Eh, comments are meant to be the place where "noise" is. –  badp Mar 10 '11 at 16:57
@badp Comments are a place for non-answer... comments. If they were intended to put worthless noise, then we wouldn't have "noise" as a valid flag reason. ♪ –  Grace Note Mar 10 '11 at 17:01

Comments are second class citizen. Comment moderation is thus only a minor concern. If a comment isn't actively bad, we won't touch it.

So far, I haven't touched flags on comments that aren't bad enough to trigger immediate action. Now that I see they're being seen as an easy way to buff one's weight, I might have to change that, and default to marking them invalid. ;)

Suddenly, I no longer think I'm the bad cop to your good cop... –  Grace Note Mar 10 '11 at 16:53
@Grace One thing is flagging posts for reasons that some agree with ("comment is no longer relevant") while I don't; another thing is abusing comment flags to game an arbitrary number. –  badp Mar 10 '11 at 16:56
Well, if you note my flag weight, you'll clearly see that I haven't been gaming anything. This was my attempt to learn the proper way to flag comments before I even started. ;) Also, it would seem that, in your eyes, I've been using them properly all along in that I rarely flag a comment at all. –  Shaun Mar 10 '11 at 17:02
@Shaun Did I mention comment flags, like spam flags, are completely anonymous? I don't know who posts what flags. I don't know how you flag comments. All I know is we have been getting "meh" comment flags by somebody. –  badp Mar 10 '11 at 17:03
Sure, but presumably you can check my flag weight and get a rough idea of how often I've been flagging. :) –  Shaun Mar 10 '11 at 17:05

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