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In the context of this now-closed and deleted question, there were a couple of comments by the OP that I thought merited flagging for moderator attention. Much to my surprise, as soon as I flagged them they seemed to disappear.

Is this new behavior associated to "trusted users" (20K+ rep), or did my flagging just happen to coincide with a moderator deleting them?

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    $\begingroup$ I couldn't find much detailed information on meta.SO, but according this thread sufficiently many flags cause the deletion of a comment and I guess your flags were simply the ones causing the deletion, independently of your status as a "trusted user". Jeff Atwood mentions some "heuristics" that make it easier for a comment to be "flag[ged] away" and I would say that the language used in those comments I saw should fall under all sorts of such heuristics. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 17 '11 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ For the record the original question, also deleted, is here. $\endgroup$ – Gone Aug 17 '11 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Theo: Okay, that explains it. Just coincidence, then. Actually, I like it better that way (i.e., me not having amazing delete-comment powers) $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Aug 18 '11 at 3:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Theo: Since your comment did essentially answer my question (my flags just happened to put the comments over-the-top and get deleted), could you post it so I can accept it? $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Aug 18 '11 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Arturo Hmm... polysigns raised to superpowers, imagine how much nicer that would turn out here than sci.math! $\endgroup$ – Gone Aug 18 '11 at 23:38
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According to this thread on meta.SO a certain number of flags causes deletion of the comment. Your flags just happened to be the flags that caused the deletion, independently of your status of a "trusted user".

So the answer is: it was just coincidence.

Unless you are a moderator, you cannot unilaterally delete a comment by flagging.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! And thanks for posting this. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Aug 19 '11 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Arturo: No problem, I simply wasn't sure if this would be a satisfactory explanation, that's why I only commented first. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 19 '11 at 2:55
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You are listed as the "deletion user" in the moderator view of the comments, so apparently it was your flags that did it. However, I don't know what reputation endows this "super-flag" ability.


Deleted comments from the second question:

Theo: Voting to close as not a real question. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermat's_Last_Theorem

Theo: See also: http://www.simonsingh.net/books/fermats-last-theorem/

Theo: @Brian: I'm having a hard time believing this is real. How does one come up with one of the most famous questions in mathematics and be unable to parse the eminently readable first paragraph of the wikipedia article?

dsadsa: Theo you are a shining example of math elitist. Spouting about your bulls*** of simple concepts and ideas of math and how only a complete idiot wouldn't understand what a modularity theorem is. Well f*** you, I am so sick of elitist f***s like you. I work so f***ing hard at math, but it just doesn't come easy to me like it does for you.

dsadsa: Actually I am not done, I can't stand pieces of s*** like you Theo. You were probably picked on a lot as a kid so now hiding behind the internet you can say whatever you want. It is pathetic, and you are just as bad as them.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't either, and that's the first time it's happened (though I haven't flagged comments in a while). I did a quick attempt at searching in meta.se but did not see any similar questions when I typed "flagging comments". $\endgroup$ – Arturo Magidin Aug 17 '11 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I have no qualms about deleting the user after his comments on the second question, although I would have to agree that deleting his original question was a borderline decision. I think that the phrase "fancy math elitist word" is a pretty good indicator of a trouble user, so when another user suggested the possibility of deleting the question, I was already pretty open to the idea (the responsibility is mine, of course). In the future, I will wait longer for feedback. But I think we would gotten a similar outburst from the OP on the original question if it hadn't been deleted. $\endgroup$ – Zev Chonoles Aug 18 '11 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't see the first question before commenting on the second one. I didn't buy it from the beginning. So somebody comes along and wants to find a solution for a "simple question" and says "it must be an integer, I believe". Both joriki and I posted a link to FLT, and I said that I voted to close. Then the OP comes back a minute later and says he didn't understand (= no effort). I expressed my puzzlement and was called names in return, thus I decided to remove a link to Singh's page and my other comments and left it at that. I think deletion was completely justified. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 18 '11 at 1:56
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    $\begingroup$ Zev: if you think there's need to display the whole exchange in the comments, feel free to do so. I admit that yet again I haven't acted with enough sensitivity, but I did nothing that would have warranted anything close to such a reaction. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 18 '11 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ Somehow the impression I got from reading the now-deleted user's comments is that he's a poor sport... $\endgroup$ – J. M. isn't a mathematician Aug 18 '11 at 8:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: As I said, I'm aware that I could have been more sensitive and I'm taking responsibility for part of the outburst. However if this particular question was triggered by the 410th then the question would probably have been phrased differently, like "I don't understand what it is about" or whatever. But this guy said "simple algebra question" and pretended he came up with it himself. I just don't buy it. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 19 '11 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Zev I hadn't seen the deleted comments. Wow, that degenerated exponentially quickly. It appears that the closing/deletion of the prior question left the OP with a big chip on their shoulder. My impression is that it was a serious question. Perhaps we should strive to be a bit more sensitive when a layperson posts such questions. There are indeed lay folks who've never heard of FLT and such folks may turn here for help when they encounter such. There was another FLT-related question a few hours later, and there may well be more. Surely we can tackle such questions without appearing "elitist". $\endgroup$ – Gone Aug 19 '11 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: Yes, I do agree with that and I think I made that sufficiently clear and I'm aware of my deficiency in that respect. What else can I say? My comments prior to the ones of this hour addressed only what I saw in the second question and yes, I've been a bit unwelcoming and maybe even rude. My gut feeling still is that the guy was simply out for a fight. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 19 '11 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Theo On sci.math lives a crank who composes endless math word salads on "polysign" numbers - e.g. see the sci.math link here to one 670-post thread. The cranks' extremely disingeneous behavior managed to raise the ire of many folks on sci.math. So, my remark was merely a joke about how such superpowers could have proved very useful there (and here too, once he arrives). Alas, the joke was not surreal. I've yet to encounter a surreal crank, but surely one will arrive sooner or later now that there are accessible expositions on surreal numbers. $\endgroup$ – Gone Aug 19 '11 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill You write "Surely we can tackle such questions without appearing "elitist"." Yet, it has been pointed out that the OP came to the site, convinced that it was populated by "math elitists" and wrote it in his very first post on this site. Personally, I think that he got the reaction he deserved, and in the unlikely event that he has more wit than his contribution here suggests, he just might learn something useful for life. Theo is completely blameless and shouldn't think that it was him who created this "math elitist" image in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Alex B. Aug 19 '11 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex: Thank you. I don't think I was unreasonably rude and I don't blame myself or hold myself responsible, but as Bill pointed out many times already one can't be too careful with new users. One needs to wear kid's gloves is an expression he used somewhere. The incident is not as clear-cut as it seems, I think. I'm trying to support Bill's pleas, even if I sometimes fail to do so in practice. It is all-too-easy to rub new users the wrong way, and it is at least the second time I was involved in such an incident. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 19 '11 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Theo Alas, problems mentioned in that thread still exist, e.g. see the comments here where a new user had his faced rubbed in the mud not once, but three times for the huge sin of questioning imperatively. That's quite sad. This is a math forum, not a Miss Manners column. What's even worse, are the unfounded personal attacks that continue to be directed towards folks who point out these problems. It's no wonder that Math.SE is being widely branded as elitist. If we can't keep such elitist behavior in check then we deserve that badge of shame. $\endgroup$ – Gone Aug 19 '11 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill My point was that I don't regret alienating someone who comes here to ask whether something is a "fancy math elitist word". If he doesn't return, that's fine by me. I don't like it when people come to ask for help with a sense of entitlement, and I regard is as a fact of life that by doing so, they risk being told to get lost (usually not by me). If they come to a new place with this attitude sufficiently often, they'll learn this fact of life eventually. Also, I read your comment as blaming Theo, albeit in slightly veiled terms: "I think we could have avoided reaching that point if...". $\endgroup$ – Alex B. Aug 19 '11 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: I would most welcome if you followed up on your earlier intentions (expressed e.g. here) and opened a separate meta thread on this global issue instead of end- and fruitless debates in comments here and on main. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 20 '11 at 9:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: You misread me. After rereading I don't think I made any such implication. I'm not particularly fond of these endless imperative-complaints and I tried to acknowledge at the same time that I'm guilty of insisting on comparable pet-peeves. I also tried to suggest that an explicit discussion of this specific issue would be a more effective way to go. I've seen many exchanges between you and Arturo (and others) as the ones as you linked to. However, I think that clarifying the positions in a focused meta-thread instead of long exchanges in comments might be a more effective way to go. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 20 '11 at 23:33
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There are some heuristics that change the number of flags needed for deletion of a comment, I remember comments about the accept rate to be one category that is easier to delete. I can't find the original meta post and I don't think the details are public.

I'm pretty sure that there is no 20k privilege for that, only moderators have the supervote.

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