Today, I needed to search about fitting discrete distributions on my mobile device; I ended up in the thread How to fit a discrete distribution to count data?, which was indeed quite relevant.

Under the first answer, there were (are) these comments from 2013:

enter image description here

As a result, I had to scroll down (and down, and down...) in my phone to see if there were any other answers, which was frustrating. Judging that these 4 comments (the 5th was added later) were conversational and irrelevant to the topic, I flagged all of them as "no longer needed".

A couple of hours later, I saw that all my 4 flags had been declined (and, in the meanwhile, a 5th similarly irrelevant comment was added).

I picked up this specific comment:

I'll try to restrain myself ;-). – gung - Reinstate Monica Aug 1, 2013 at 2:47

and proceeded to raise a custom flag as follows:

How exactly is this comment (and all the rest above, and the one just added below) useful to the topic (had my "no longer needed" flags declined)? I accessed this earlier today in a mobile device, and had to scroll down (and down...) through completely irrelevant stuff until I was able to see if there were any other answers... Please be reasonable in flag handling!

Just a few minutes later, my custom flag above was similarly declined:

enter image description here

According to the flag dialog box, a comment should be flagged as "no longer needed" if

This comment is outdated, conversational, or not relevant to this post.

And I consider that all 3 reasons were applicable here.

Moreover, in the general SE Guide to moderating comments, I read:

  • It's no longer needed covers a wide variety of different comments, including:

    • [...]

    • Chatty comments. They might be polite, friendly, or even informative - but have nothing whatsoever to do with the post! Whether tangential discussions or simply two friends chewing the fat, these are pretty benign - right up until they're being shoved in the face of every reader two years later. Again, don't worry too much about these if you don't see them by default.

    • Jokes, "thank you", etc. - not necessarily harmful in the moment, but distracting and annoying after the fact.

On top of being outdated, conversational, and most importantly irrelevant to the post, all 4 comments I flagged seem exactly that, i.e. "pretty benign - right up until they're being shoved in the face of every reader two years later" (well, actually 10 years later in my case); moreover, the one I singled out for my follow-up custom flag seems to belong exactly to the case of "Jokes [...] distracting and annoying after the fact".

Given the above, why were my flags declined? Why are the personal formatting choices (which, BTW, seem to have just been undone) and jokes of someone back from 2013 still of interest to anyone looking to fit discrete distributions after 10 years?


1 Answer 1


I cannot explain why the concerned mod declined the flags. Instead, let me add my two cents:

Suppose I write an answer:

Let $\rm f$ be a Baire function such that for every $\rm x, $ the equation $\rm f(x, y) =0\tag 1\label 1$ has a unique solution. Then $\rm y$ as a function of $\rm x$ defined by the above function $\eqref 1$ is Baire. ...

Now someone reads the post and leaves the comment:

I agree with the post but am quite baffled at your usage of \rm in typesetting the mathematical expressions; also there is only one relation and you already stated it as the above function, so was it necessary to add a reference to the equation since it is apparent that it has not been referred later in the post? A passing observation only. Otherwise $+1.$

Does it add anything directly to the content of the post?


However, is it irrelevant and is a possible opener of a chat akin to meeting a colleague/classmate after a long time at the bar?

Again no.

Typesetting and formatting play a critical role in any post and should be taken seriously along the same par with that of the content in the post: be it numbering, be it the font style, be it highlighting, be it indentation, et cetera. If someone feels this needs to be addressed, they definitely should leave a comment.

This is what happened exactly here. gung - Reinstate Monica sought a clarification on Glen_b's usage of indenting to which Glen_b clarified their stance, which changed after few years prompting them to leave a comment airing the same.

$\bullet$ Are these comments obsolete/outdated comments?

I don't think so. Albeit being not directly related to the content of the post, it does point to the changes made in the post. One can opine that the changes were minimal. But that is subjective. At least to me, I take typesetting and formatting very seriously.

$\bullet$ Are those chatty comments?

No again. Yes, there is a bit of friendly tone between them as they are two of the old users of the community here. "... have nothing whatsoever to do with the post! Whether tangential discussions or simply two friends chewing the fat, these are pretty benign" - this doesn't apply here as the comments are again, while not directly related to the post's content, is not altogether irrelevant to the post. And this thread isn't even long enough for it to be taken to a chat room or outright deleted.

Now I would have no consternation either if the mod decided to delete them. But I won't agree to this: they must be deleted on the grounds stated.

I had to scroll down (and down, and down...) in my phone to see if there were any other answers, which was frustrating.

I also happen to use my phone most of the time to access the site. You can always check how many answers there are to the question: it is explicitly stated at the beginning of the answer field:

enter image description here

If you aren't interested in the first answer, you can quickly scroll down.


I'll try to restrain myself ;-)

I am not able to comprehend what gung tried to mean by that, that is if there was any inner meaning to it (only they can explain!). Was it a joke? Maybe. Maybe not. They were reacting to the clarification made by Glen_b.

given that, with the last comment (and edit), all the ones above it are now literally obsolete (what they refer to is not there anymore), should one now raise a custom flag on it, suggesting to delete all of them? ... I was already at the end of it, I was just trying to see what more there is, but I found myself drowned in irrelevant clutter...

Surely! Go ahead and raise a flag if you deem it is necessary.

But let me add a brief remark here: raise a flag if it is direly needed. If you dig in, you can easily find many comments which seem to be not that important or trivial compared to the main discussion. Would you resort to raise a flag continuously? I adopt the practice only if it is absolutely necessary.

If the moderator decided to delete those comments, I would have no problem either. But if I were in the mod's position, I would have declined the flag due to the points I already stated above but for emphasis, I feel those stated reasons don't add to them. To that particular comment by gung, it seems to be border line. And finally reversal of the stance by Glen_b does indeed make their earlier comment not necessary but does this warrant raising a flag for them to be deleted? I am not sure but go ahead. I personally would have deleted my earlier comments if I changed my stance and stating it later.

Lastly I would like to allure your attention to this from the Meta post you linked:

Note: don't be too concerned if the occasional comment flag is declined; comment value is often subjective and moderators are encouraged to process flags quickly - in most cases, it's no big deal if comments persist a bit longer than needed. Declined comment flags do not count toward flag bans.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer, but you fail to address the "I'll try to restrain myself ;-)" comment (for which I raised a follow-up custom flag); is it also still relevant, useful, and not chatty, and if yes, to whom? A decision to decline the 3 other flags but accepting this one may make some sense in tne lines you describe (still debatable though), but unfortunately this is not at all what happened. $\endgroup$
    – desertnaut
    Oct 6, 2023 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ And given that, with the last comment (and edit), all the ones above it are now literally obsolete (what they refer to is not there anymore), should one now raise a custom flag on it, suggesting to delete all of them? $\endgroup$
    – desertnaut
    Oct 6, 2023 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ "If you aren't interested in the first answer" - this was not the case, I was interested in it (I even upvoted it) and I was already at the end of it (so what you suggest was not actually applicable), I was just trying to see what more there is, but I found myself drowned in irrelevant clutter... $\endgroup$
    – desertnaut
    Oct 6, 2023 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ See my edit. But to paraphrase: the particular comment by gung seems to be borderline, if I am not missing anything. However, more importantly, I would restrain my using of flags only for dire and absolute places. I won't be raising them whenever I see one or two here and there that is not vehemently hampering the readability, clarity or other attributes necessary for my proper comprehension of the post on question. This is my personal preference and must not deter you to raise flags if you deem it is needed somewhere. $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2023 at 4:14
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your update; the very fact that literally no one can say today what was meant with the "I'll try to restrain myself ;-)" comment makes it obsolete and not useful to anyone else, hence clutter. Restraining flags is another discussion altogether - the issue now is, since they were raised, why they were declined? Following your "dire only" advice to the core, we should not even have a "no longer needed" flag in the first place (dire conditions are adequately handled by the other flags). $\endgroup$
    – desertnaut
    Oct 6, 2023 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ I have tried to articulate my view here. But please wait for any possible clarification by a mod here. $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2023 at 4:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I appreciate your thoughts and time spent to answer my question. $\endgroup$
    – desertnaut
    Oct 6, 2023 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ Also, just ICYMI, I may be a low-rep user here, but I have some substantial experience in SO, where, FWIW, I have raised 4,332 helpful comment flags (vs. 42 declined) in ~9 years... $\endgroup$
    – desertnaut
    Oct 6, 2023 at 4:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I do my research while writing anything (I checked your profile). That's why I didn't begin my post like Welcome to the Meta CV. Thanks for rasing flags and posting the issue here which I typically do for newbies. But now that I said, I appreciate you raising it here. :-) $\endgroup$ Oct 6, 2023 at 4:46
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I was unaware of this discussion; what had happened with me was I recently noticed that answer again myself and decided to fix it as gung had originally suggested; age has softened my thoughts on that formatting issue. I deleted some of the comments that were no longer relevant after the fix but missed that there were more to take care of. None of it was in relation to this post, which I simply hadn't seen. I appreciate the request to fix the comments I didn't address before. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Oct 7, 2023 at 3:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Incidentally, in response to what gung meant by "I'll try to restrain myself" -- I took it to imply "... from editing your answer to look as I think it should look". Gung was probably right to want to change it and to ask about it but probably also right to leave me to my curmudgeonly choice to format in a manner inconsistent with the stackexchange default and leave me to come to my senses on my own. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Oct 7, 2023 at 3:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I won't second guess the moderators. It's a very difficult task, sometimes and it's not always clear what the best option is at the time. I might have made the same choice in a similar context. On your subsequent comment: when things can be reasonably handled between users without involving the mods, they should be; a mod may be less sure of the right thing to do than the person who posted it, who has more context of why the comment was there in the first place. Moderator time should be kept for essential activities; SE is designed so that users can deal with many things on their own $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Oct 7, 2023 at 4:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Glen_b with all due respect, I am an SO user for 9 years with >4K helpful comment flags there (vs. 42 declined), and it is the very first time I hear such a proposal to contact the commenter first... This is not the way (and why the comment was there in the first place is arguably irrelevant today). $\endgroup$
    – desertnaut
    Oct 7, 2023 at 4:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ stats.stackexchange.com/help/site-moderators -- "At Stack Exchange, we believe moderation starts with the community itself, so in addition to all users gaining privileges through reputation earned..." (i.e. users get privileges in order for communities to - first and foremost - self-moderate). It then goes on to discuss elected moderators as a supplement to that process. Further, later at the same link: "Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those exceptional conditions that could otherwise disrupt the community." ... I believe I'm being consistent with that $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Oct 7, 2023 at 4:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'd also add this: stackoverflow.blog/2009/05/18/a-theory-of-moderation ... which I have held to be a foundational document for moderation on the network. In particular "But what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!" and "We designed the Stack Exchange network engine to be mostly self-regulating"... etc. That theory of moderation post is the basis for the above help link. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Oct 7, 2023 at 4:38

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