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What should we do with comments that do not meet the standards of politeness expected from high-quality discourse, yet are not bad enough to be tagged as offensive?

One example:

My own opinion about his whole approach is that it's madness and so far fetched that whoever believes such a thing has no desire to know the truth and lacks all reason.

Another one:

And these [people I am criticzing] are not some out of the way haredim. If I told you their names, you would immediately recognize them. It's real, it's sinath hinam, and it's disgusting.

Here is a new one:

"[Quote from question]" Did you make this up? How do you know that? I would think...

To add one more wrinkle to this discussion: what if most of the comment is useful but a line or two is offensive - which is the case of the comments the quotes above were pulled through. How can we acknowledge the useful information while discouraging the offensive speech?

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    Fwiw, I personally think the first of those is offensive. – msh210 Nov 27 '15 at 13:59
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    I think that the third is very contemptuous – kouty Aug 4 '16 at 13:12
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For guidelines on what counts as "rude or offensive," one of the categories of comments we're encouraged to flag, take a look at the Help page that explains the "Be nice." rule of interaction on Stack Exchange. If you see a comment that you think any part of is

  • rude
  • belittling
  • name-calling
  • bigoted
  • vulgar
  • harassing
  • bullying

or the like, you should flag the comment, either with the standard reason "rude or offensive" or, if you think more detail is needed for a moderator to evaluate your flag, with "other ..." and your explanation.

Moderators have the ability and responsibility to delete flagged comments that they agree are worthy of deletion by these standards. If part of a comment is truly valuable and still needed (e.g. if it suggests an improvement to the post at hand that hasn't been made yet), and part is offensive, a moderator could edit the comment to remove the latter. If that's the course of action you'd recommend, I suggest you use the "other ..." flag reason and say so.

Don't forget that comments are distant second-class citizens compared to question and answer posts. They're generally not meant to be part of the permanent knowledge repository, so their authors and readers shouldn't be surprised if they disappear when they either aren't contributing to the actual content or when they are in any way harmful.


For what it's worth:

  • I agree with a comment left by msh210 that your first example is offensive, because it is rude and belittling to the author of the approach it's attacking.

  • Depending on the context, your second example may be rightly called name-calling and/or bigoted.

  • The third example, in my opinion, may border on rude, depending on the context, since "Did you make this up?" may be taken as pejorative and accusatory, and may unnecessarily cause its object to take offense and concentrate on personal defense rather than on the content. It would probably be more constructive, there, to say something like "Do you have a source for this, or is it your own idea? I would think ..."

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    A+ to all of this. Comments have a somewhat limited use case (they should aim to clarify/improve the body of the post). If comments (or any post, but especially comments) start to run askew of our Be Nice policy, moderators (and flaggers) have broad discretion to simply remove them summarily. – Robert Cartaino Nov 30 '15 at 15:42
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    Often, I find that people (myself, included) have a hard time distinguishing between a rude comment regarding the content or a rude comment regarding the author. E.g., regarding one question, a moderator commented something like, "In all my time here, this is the most ridiculous question I have ever seen." (not exact words, but the context is.) A neophyte, esp. may find this offensive or rude, but the comment is regarding the question, not the person. Is there any way we may be able to flag such comments, or is it out of scope? – DanF Nov 30 '15 at 16:19
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    @DanF, as you've reported it, the comment you describe looks flaggable, per the following line from the "Be nice." page: "Name-calling. Focus on the post, not the person. That includes terms that feel personal even when they're applied to posts (like "lazy", "ignorant", or "whiny")." – Isaac Moses Nov 30 '15 at 16:22
  • Thanks. I know that there have been a few (thankfully, minimal) situations where moderators have flagged someone who was outright rude, and a newcomer. I think he got the message immediately, as I haven't seen him return to our site since then. Maintain the great work. – DanF Nov 30 '15 at 19:21
  • @DanF "rude comment regarding the content or a rude comment regarding the author" אין הביישן לומד ואין הקפדן מלמד nasty tone is not adapted to a Jewish website. – kouty Aug 4 '16 at 13:22
  • we need to add an other category: ontemptuous, cavalier, haughty, impertinent and offhand – kouty Aug 4 '16 at 14:32
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I don't see why such comments can't be flagged as offensive if they're thought to be offensive. Otherwise, you can flag them as too chatty or as not constructive if they're thought to be such. As far as I recall, we haven't developed criteria for any of those flags, so flag at will.

In other words, my answer to your question — What should we do with comments that do not meet the standards of politeness…, yet are not bad enough to be tagged as offensive? — is that there's (as yet) no such thing as "not bad enough to be [flagged] as offensive".

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    If I think a comment is not appropriate but doesn't go so far as "offensive" to my eye, I usually flag as "not constructive". That seems appropriate for something that is not in accord with high-quality discourse. – Monica Cellio Nov 27 '15 at 5:28
  • @MonicaCellio an offensive comment may be constructive. p.e. "you are completely misunderstanding... it is... " may be two views, the view supported by the offender may be constructive but he just cannot contain his wickedness. It is constructive, it is not rude, he don't say "you are a complete idiot" but an attitude of superiority is even worse – kouty Aug 4 '16 at 13:43
  • @kouty not all comments perceived as negative are "not constructive". People have to apply their own judgement when flagging (or deciding not to). I'm just suggesting another option for cases of "bad but not quite rude/abusive". – Monica Cellio Aug 4 '16 at 14:08

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