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This isn't a question.

In this question I left a comment which I think went exactly like this: "This is horribly written and doesn't even make sense", obviously referring to the 'proof'.

I understand that comments are supposed to be useful to the matter at hand and any unnecessary remarks, according to the rules, should be avoided (and perhaps deleted), but this isn't what happens here (at MSE). Unnecessary comments are everywhere and are well accepted.

Having said this, I now claim that my comment was useful because the 'proof' doesn't make sense and that's relevant in answering the question.

I probably don't have any right to demand to know why it was deleted, but I feel like I'm being targeted by whoever has the power to make these comments go away, let it be mods or regular users who simply flag.

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    $\begingroup$ I see nothing wrong with your deleted comment. Perhaps someone read it as if you were referring to the actual question, not the horribly written excerpt from the textbook. $\endgroup$ – mrf Sep 22 '13 at 9:25
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    $\begingroup$ @mrf That's one possibility I'm considering. Hopefully whoever took a part in the comment deletion will come forward in that respect. $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Sep 22 '13 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ Whenever I see the word "obviously" when someone is talking about an argument I say uh oh... $\endgroup$ – treble Sep 29 '13 at 23:13
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I was the moderator who deleted the comment after it was flagged.

My thought process was as follows.

  1. A close inspection of the question made a couple things clear. The original version of the question (to which the comment was posted) consisted of two parts: the question (which was devoid of any mathematical typesetting), and a "proof" which seemed to include quite a bit of mathematical formatting.
  2. Before this meta-thread began, I had to question what the target of the comment was.
    1. If it was the plain-text question, then some other user had subsequently edited that so that it was at least using standard notations. As I could not see how this part would still be "horribly written", the comment would then be obsolete in this case.
    2. If it was the proof (which I now know to be the case), then I noticed that it was simply an image taken from some other source. If that part was "horribly written" one can hardly blame the OP for it. And simply pointing out that to you it was "horribly written and [didn't] even make sense" wasn't going to help anyone answer the question. This started to feel like shades of "not constructive". Furthermore, as there was then a perfectly suitable answer which also addressed the (to me possible) concern of the proof being "horribly written", I could also judge the comment to be obsolete.
  3. Since everything I thought of lead to the conclusion that the comment should be deleted, I deleted the comment.

You are absolutely right that there are many (thousands) of questionable comments out there that probably ought to be deleted. I don't go around looking for these, and I doubt any moderator does. But when they are brought to our attention via flags we do look into them and make a decision. And, speaking for myself only though I'm sure the other moderators would concur, it is never a robotic reflex to just delete them.


As an added note, my decision to delete had nothing whatsoever to do with you, Git Gud. If the author of the comment turned out to be Asaf or Did or Georges Elencwajg I would have made the same decision. I honestly have a quite good opinion of you, though it appears we have found ourselves on opposite sides of such a meta-thread a couple of times now.

Finally, I welcome you (or anyone else) to flag any comments of mine that are deemed unworthy of keeping. I now try to delete them when they have served their purpose, but I fully admit that there are certainly some obsolete, or chatty, or even non-constructive comments of mine still floating around that would be best deleted.

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  • $\begingroup$ GitGud: If you feel that strongly about the comment under discussion, flag the original question for moderator attention and one of us can restore the comment. But be aware that even then the ephemeral nature of the comment will remain. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Sep 22 '13 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer. As I said in my question, I couldn't even begin to answer the question because the text book proof made no sense. My comment could have been rewritten as 'unclear what you're asking', with no blame to the OP, of course. It's the source that is unintelligible. I agree that T's answer makes my comment obsolete. What I didn't realise is that the unnecessary comments being deleted policy was being enforced (by anyone) and that's what led me to create this thread. $\endgroup$ – Git Gud Sep 22 '13 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ @GitGud: The main purpose of comments, as originally envisioned by Jeff Atwood, was to request clarification, and suggest improvements. Once clarifications are given and suggestions taken, these comments serve no purpose but to take up screen space (which I am sure we can agree is best reserved for the meat and potatoes of questions and answers). As such, comments are quite easily deleted, and until recently they simply could not be undeleted. To be honest, the moderators receive about as many flags on comments as on actual posts, making our job akin to that of a janitor. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Sep 22 '13 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ For more information about commenting see these MSO threads: 1, 2. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Sep 22 '13 at 11:52

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