I recently flagged the following comment

Are ruler and compass allowed? User64494

to this question.

However, it was declined by the moderators which leaves me wondering when a comment is "not constructive". This comment is the one which adds nothing to the post and in fact even seems a little insulting.

EDIT: So all the people agree here that the comment was "not constructive" in the literal sense of the word but also opposed the idea of deleting the comment. So would I be correct in concluding that a comment is "not constructive" if and only if it is "disruptive"?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are frequently used here as a place to make jokes that are somehow related to the post or to otherwise showcase one's wit, e.g., several of the comments to this question. Is this "unconstructive"? I guess. Does it matter? No, not really, other than possibly cluttering the comment area. If that's what you're taking issue with, I guess I see merit in your concerns. Other than that, I'm not sure I see the point in taking a very strict interpretation of the rules at the expense of levity. $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ Casual communication is already pretty narrowly restricted here, so it feels like we have to be lenient with some off-topic comments, as long as they aren't disruptive. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ Ok. If you people feel so. But then could you give me an example of some "non-constructive" comment? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ Ha! Trying to eliminate the dissenters, @Vishal? ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Macro
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ I am just trying to know what constitutes a "non-constructive" comment. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ As you are implicitly demonstrating, the danger of a catch-all category defined by a subjective negative (non-good, non-constructive, non-useful, non-compliant, non-helpful, non-communitarian) is that it becomes a generalized "I don't like it" flag. $\endgroup$
    – zyx
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ +1 because this discussion is certainly worth having. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Vishal So far, I think all the comments I labeled as nonconstructive were deleted, so that would be hard :S Just imagine something short of blatant insults (perhaps thinly veiled ad-hominem comments that aren't about the content of the question.) $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe I'm dense, but I really don't see the big deal with this comment...I think flags like this, if honored, could become a slippery slope to the flag button being an effective downvote or "I don't like this comment" button. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Ataraxia Yeah. Another thing worth mentioning is that slight sarcasm isn't always a sign of antagonism: sometimes it's supposed to be a good-intentioned provocation to get a point across without sounding like you're lecturing ("That requirement is unnatural and unnecessary and you shouldn't include it blah blah blah.") $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ This is an example of a non-constructive comment. Or is it? $\endgroup$
    – treble
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ I would flag a comment only if I perceived it as unequivocally abusive in some way. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ "So all the people agree here that the comment was "not constructive" in the literal sense of the word". This certainly does not summarize what "the people here" said. Read again. $\endgroup$
    – Did
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps we need a new flag to be added so we can identify comments as "not constructible". $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott: I don't want to know what you intend for the compasses. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 1:48

2 Answers 2


I declined the comment, for a reason not dissimilar to what zyx stated

Considering all the comments together, "ruler and compass" is a way of saying that the restriction to do it without L'Hopital is (in one user's opinion) unnatural, unnecessary, undesirable, or un-somethingelse. That is one answer to the question about this on the meta site.

It is unfortunate that you didn't understand that intent, but from my point of view that user is asking you for clarification why you don't want to use l'Hopital's rule, to which you have not provided a response. It may be a slightly cryptic way of stating his opinions, but not something that moderators should delete. (Note that for a comment flag, the only two options for moderators are "delete" or "decline". There is no middle ground.)


I know I use "not constructive" flags on disruptive comments that detract from the discussion at hand.

I think I mainly use it mainly for bad comments that don't really qualify as "offensive." That's a really broad category, and I think I would be hard-pressed to find any examples that are very representative. (And generally pointing to comments that deserve to be deleted will probably annoy the poster.)

For the comment you mentioned, my "assume good faith" sense says that this comment is rather harmless, and maybe was made with good intentions. While I don't really see that the comment is useful, it's always possible that there is an approach that I don't know about.

This comment in isolation certainly doesn't look insulting to me, but I guess it could be depending on your history with the user. I guess that anybody looking at the flag and comment would probably have similar feelings.

  • $\begingroup$ I certainly do not have any history with the user. This particular user has made many similar comments on the post I mentioned and I have no idea what he intends to achieve by this comment. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Vishal I think another feature of comments that deserve deletion is that you can't bring yourself to ignore them. This one seems ignorable :) $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ Ok. It is ignorable, but isnt it adding noise to the site? what is the point of keeping this comment? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Vishal Well, two things: A) As a general rule, a comment you don't get right now might actually have a really great idea in it. B) Striving to eliminate all the fluff from the site would probably be a futile task. I'd rather have our mods blasting really bad comments. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ I agree on both your points. But this comment does not seem to contain any deep ideas and I am not assigning anybody the job of removing all stray comments, but just saying that if some one takes the trouble of flagging a comment, and it is really non-constructive, it makes sense to remove it. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Vishal The "deep idea" is that it doesn't seem like a good use of moderator time to clean up the 'lightweight' non-constructive comments like the one you mentioned. There are more anticonstructive ones that deserve more attention. But hey, I agree with you that it would be better for the comment to go away - ideally self-deleted, here... $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 19:49

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