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Let's imagine a situation:

Mr. X posted a question in Math SE. He's a beginner, and the question may seem naive for many of us. Let's suppose his question still meets the rules of MSE.

Now, Mr. Y reads the question, laughs out loud, and writes in comments:

Your question is stupid, dude.

(of course, Mr. Y is not a beginner and writes the sentence above in such way that his comment won't be flagged).

The question of Mr. X is then sawn by many individuals. Some of them are encouraging, try to find easy ways to explain the problems. Others, (I think about Mr. $\mathcal{X}$, Mr. $\mathcal{Y}$ and Mr. $\mathcal{Z}$), are less benevolent and upvote the comment of Mr. Y.

What will be the first thing Mr. X sees when he logs in in MSE the next time ?

(+3) Your question is stupid, dude.

Even if other commenters have been kind to him, or even reproach Mr. Y his unkind comment, the impression of his upvoted message won't be negligeable.


What I would like to be able to do, is to downvote some wrong/unkind comments. There are many reason why we can dowvote questions/answers. Souldn't we be able to do the same with comments ? Why can we only upvote them ? It is impossible to see if a reaction is biased if you can only express your agreement. And everybody won't take the time to write a comment contradicting the first one. What do you think about this ?

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    $\begingroup$ I think that would affect all the Stacks, not just Maths. Have you checked on meta.stackexchange.com to see if this has been brought up there before? This (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3615/allow-downvoting-comments ) seems relevant, for example $\endgroup$
    – postmortes
    Dec 21, 2022 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't see that post, thanks $\endgroup$
    – user1107523
    Dec 21, 2022 at 9:13
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    $\begingroup$ By the way the flagging of comment is not in control of Y, irrespective of how they write it. Users who read comments can and should flags comments if they think it needs to be flagged. In fact I have seen (many times) the opposite scenario where any comment requesting improvement in question is flagged by asker. Wrong and unkind comments are usually flagged and I think flagging would be more suitable compared to down votes for unkind comments. $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    Dec 21, 2022 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ @ParamanandSingh where could I find the rules about flagging in SE ? I thought it was only for serious problems $\endgroup$
    – user1107523
    Dec 21, 2022 at 10:36
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    $\begingroup$ Being rude is a serious problem. $\endgroup$ Dec 21, 2022 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ By "Mr. Y is not a beginner and writes the sentence above in such way that his comment won't be flagged", I meant that he would find a way to say this politically correct $\endgroup$
    – user1107523
    Dec 21, 2022 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ Comments are, by design, ephemeral. Every comment on the site is five seconds away from being deleted. If you think that a comment is rude, flag it. If you think that a comment is just a little bit snarky, flag it. If you think that a comment doesn't hep to make a question more clear, flag it. If you think that a comment is mildly off-topic, flag it. The idea is that comments are temporary, so there is no need to downvote them---they'll just get deleted soon, anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Dec 21, 2022 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ The reality is that we don't delete most comments, but you can and should be free with flags on comments. They are not meant to be a permanent part of the site, so feel free to help get rid of them. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Dec 21, 2022 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ You can find details of flagging at math.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/flag-posts $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    Dec 21, 2022 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ And don't worry about whether a comment is politically correct or not. Just flag it if you sense something is not right there and let mods take care of it. $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    Dec 21, 2022 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ @ Jean-Claude Arbaut wrote”Being rude is a serious problem”. I agree. I’m a new user of Math SE, I am an economist, so I participate more frequently to Economic SE. The problem of being unfriendly is real. In EconSE often contributors make unfriendly, and often specious, critiques and I’ve rarely seen an encouraging or appreciating comment. Criticism is welcome, but it could be made in a kinder manner. New contributors, in particular, are welcomed by a hail of criticism. Even immediately closing their questions without a word is surely viewed by the new OP as frustrating. $\endgroup$ Dec 23, 2022 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ Unkindness is not a good service to a site, because discourages participation. This is not a big problem for a larger site as Math SE, but for smaller sites as Economic SE yes, because they need more questions and users, and these ways lessen participation. $\endgroup$ Dec 23, 2022 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ Being rude in comments is a problem, and the solution is to flag. But your title seeks an answer as to whether we should also be able to downvote comments. @D.W. failed to address that, as did all commenters here, including two mods. There is absolutely no reason to downvote comments. Flag those that are rude, or irrelevant (not needed). If you disagree with a point in a comment, your option remains, pass it up. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Dec 29, 2022 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for asking. I was wondering the same thing. Flagging the comment from removal is different from downvoting. Different implications. +1 $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2023 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ Some related older posts on this meta: Why can't we downvote comments? and Ability to Vote Down Comments (from 2010 and 2013). $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2023 at 16:15

1 Answer 1

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In a sense, there already is a way to handle such comments: flag the comment.

If the comment literally says "Your question is stupid, dude", flag it as "It's unfriendly or unkind". I'd consider such a comment as a violation of the Code of Conduct.

If the comment doesn't violate the Code of Conduct and isn't unkind, but it just doesn't contribute in a useful, positive way, flag it as "It's no longer needed.". Comments are intended to be ephemeral. If they are not usefully contributing, then they should be deleted. I encourage you to use "no longer needed" liberally.

Flagging is the way to cause the comment to disappear. Mods will take a look, and I expect they will delete any such comment that is going to have a negative impact on others. Moreover, if enough users flag a comment before a mod gets to see it, then I believe the comment will automatically be deleted.

I know comment flags are not the same as a way to downvote, and it's not what you are proposing, and I can understand why you might be thinking that a downvote would be even better, but I think we do have mechanisms to handle these situations, even if they are imperfect, and I encourage everyone to use them.

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