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When I first came to SU, if I flagged a comment, it would vanish. Back then, mods seems to have a deletionist tendency towards flags. Nowadays, mods almost always decline comment flags.

But things went outright outrageous yesterday: I flagged two instances of idle chatter in the comment section of "Is flashplayer25pp_xa compatible with NPAPI?". Both were declined.

The problem is quite clear: The rule of the law does not exist in SU. The core purpose of the law is for everyone to know what is right, what is wrong, what's the punishment for doing the wrong thing, and when the punishment comes, know exactly why it came. And yet, 21 times I have been penalized without knowing why. You know what is the name of a situation when there is extenuating circumstances 100% of times? Anarchy!

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Oh, that was me. As such, let me take the opportunity to explain why these posts were not deleted.

In this case.

  1. The question was closed when I got around to it
  2. It was likely to be roomba-ed.
  3. The comments seem mostly harmless.
  4. I didn't really see any specific point in deleting stuff that would be deleted eventually anyway and were harmless. The flags did seem somewhat redundant in this view of things, and some of those comments felt mildly enlightening.

As far as I know, there's been no change in the general policy in comment flag moderation. We read through them, and decide as needed.

I admit, I had to think a bit before trying to address the new part of this question. I suppose its useful to start with what SE thinks moderation should be. Every new moderator is told to read a blog post called "A Theory of Moderation". I believe the relevant part of it is here

Even with active community self-regulation, moderators occasionally need to intervene. Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those (hopefully rare) exceptional conditions that should not normally happen, but when they do, they can bring your entire community to a screaming halt — if you don’t have human exception handling in place.

With comment flags - its actually a bit of a issue that's a work in progress, and Shog9 has referred to them as stupid in the past.

On one hand we tell users comments are transient, and that any useful information is in a post proper. On the other hand, losing potentially useful information is terrible. In this case - the comments could be useful in fixing the question or it could go away. Deleting it wouldn't reduce the noise level.

It comes back to human exception handlers. You've raised an exception. We're trusted by the community to handle them. Its not always that clear cut, and there's actually a fair bit of thought that goes into them.

We have a certain amount of discretionary powers - we can accept your flag, or dismiss it and that's it (In theory, we can ignore it too) simply because its essential for the process of moderation. Anarchy is the lack of law. When you have laws that are too strict, and too rigid, you end up with harsh draconian rules instead. That feels off to me, especially with how moderation's worked decently here so far.

I'm not sure what I can say that'll make things better. You've mentioned "unwritten rules". We make the effort to help explain things when we can (and I've spent more time on this than actual flag handling or stuff that gets me reputation). Where possible, we're building that 'written rules' into the fabric of this site and no one gets punished for stuff that's not documented anywhere.

At this point, it feels like a lot of effort for not much benefit, but there you go. This is probably the best I can do at explaining the wider, and seemingly "anarchic" way we do things. Considering flags are meant for someone to take a look at something for most part, at least in my opinion, clearly those flags worked well enough.

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  • Bloody unwritten rules everywhere make this place like Shelob's lair. What about the 19 other flags that I raised and got declined?
    – user477799
    May 7, 2017 at 5:21
  • 2
    out of 300, I donno. That's not bad.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    May 7, 2017 at 6:16
  • Ever heard the expression "three time's the charm?" 21 times is definitely the bloody charm. That means I can be sure none of my flags will get accepted ever unless I do something about it. Notify authorities?
    – user477799
    May 7, 2017 at 7:48
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    @FleetCommand What are you talking about. Every flag is judged on the merit of the individual flag not any of your flag acceptance rate.
    – Ramhound
    May 7, 2017 at 19:51
  • I have had over 175 flags declined, some I don't agree with, but nothing I can't understand if I take a minute to understand it from another point of view
    – Ramhound
    May 7, 2017 at 19:54
  • @Ramhound You let it get to 175? And didn't seek to correct your own behavior? Wow! Your reputation just took a hit. Definitely not a role model.
    – user477799
    May 8, 2017 at 4:24
  • @FleetCommand What? I have over 1,200 helpful comment moderator flags and 2,200 helpful post moderators flags. It's 88 declined comment flags not 172 (that's the declined post number) also been around 3x longer then you have? You put to much weight on weither or not somebody agrees with your flag or not.
    – Ramhound
    May 8, 2017 at 11:47
  • Reputation is not like pure math where you deduce the positive number from the negative. Accepted flags represent due diligence. Rejected flags represent disregard for criteria and incompetence. The system in which the positive and negative neutralize each other is when they want to decide whether you are a good-faith editor or a malevolent entity.
    – user477799
    May 8, 2017 at 14:29
  • @FleetCommand - You do understand the difference between accept and reject is a single moderators opionion right? So you indicate that rejected flags is a result of disregard for criteria and incompetence but I don't agree with that conclusion. An example is I flag the comments to this question, as too chatty, and my flag was rejected. The end result, the moderator who handled the flag, didn't agree with my assessmen. I am clearly not incompetent because a moderator didn't agree with me.
    – Ramhound
    May 8, 2017 at 16:25

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