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I noticed just now that a comment on my answer was removed (before I had the chance to see it, but the notification was still showing in my inbox). The comment was removed with the entire comment thread. In a similar action, other comments were removed from another thread (in part by a moderator, and in part by the other participant).

In the first thread the comments were going nowhere (and in fact the deleted comment seemed semi-apologetic for a previous one, but I'll never know...), but in the second thread the comments were of mathematical nature. I believe that at least one of the comments removed in that case should have stayed there, even if the other user has deleted his comments from that thread.

Also relevant are the two recent meta threads:

  1. My comment was removed and I don't know why
  2. Missing comments

These recent events raise the question,

Are the moderators removing comments too aggressively?

As Martin points out in the comments, this may be due to users flagging comments as obsolete, or chatty, or otherwise. Which raises another question

How aggressively should the users flag comments? And what sort of considerations should the moderators make before acting on these flags?

True there are good reasons for deleting comments, but there is no notification that such action took place. Furthermore, it means that if you want to recall something that you'd written in a now-deleted comment it is impossible.

Should we start a habit of taking screenshots whenever we add "non-mathy" comments somewhere? Or, as past experiences indicate, even if they are relevant to the mathematics in the post?

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd say that more effective way than taking screenshots would be downloading the comments from the activity tab. (I have done it in the past when I was looking for a particular comment - searching in text-files on my hard drive seemed to be a reasonable solution after I had failed to find it using Google. But I do not do such backup regularly.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jun 7 '13 at 7:29
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe it is not only moderators but also regular users - I was unaware of the fact that I can flag a comment as obsolete until I saw this (relatively recent) question. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jun 7 '13 at 7:30
  • $\begingroup$ Martin, perhaps. In which case it is up to the moderators to decide whether or not comments are worth removing; or for the users to flag less comments as obsolete/chatty/whatever. In any case, the moderators could shed some light on the reasons when they respond to this thread. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 7 '13 at 7:41
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    $\begingroup$ The most effective way would be to post answers and make edits instead of commenting if one has something worthwhile to say... $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jun 7 '13 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie: Generally I'd agree, but sometimes it's not something I find worth bumping a post. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 7 '13 at 9:00
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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of moderators acting as a Chaos Monkey, randomly deleting comments here and there. This may be the only way to teach users not to answer in comments. ... Re: "not worth bumping" -- considering how quickly items scroll on the front page, what's the big deal? If you are bumping something you found worth reading, you are increasing the average quality of questions on the front page. For a short time... $\endgroup$ – ˈjuː.zɚ79365 Jun 7 '13 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ @user79365: What I'm reading? Sure. What I'm writing? That's something else. I don't know if this is an incentive for me to edit things, and it upsets me that one of the values that I had grown to appreciate (restraint in self-editing) is now suggested to be tossed out of the window, especially because the time on the front page is so short. If it's something substantive, sure I'll add it in. If I found it to be worth only a comment, I expect that others would value my judgment and let me keep it as a comment. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jun 7 '13 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ @user79365, I came to the conclusion recently (from indiscriminate deletions on meta and main site) that moderation and user flagging are a Chaos Monkey, and the only thing missing is to officially warn all users to retain copies of any comments they would miss if gone. $\endgroup$ – zyx Jun 7 '13 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ Most of the comments I've been deleting lately are flagged as obsolete. They are usually either discussions regarding the content of the post that has since been corrected ("did you mean (xxx) instead of (yyy)?") or personal arguments that are resolved at the end and do not in my opinion have any value for posterity. I remove extraneous clutter comments of this type for the sake of the "wiki-ish" aspect of SE, so that it is easier to use as a reference. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Jun 7 '13 at 21:26

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