I've noticed a few users who feel it necessary to scold others for their comments. For example, admonishing people for answering questions in the comments section.

The comments section on this question in particular.

Is this something people feel is flag worthy?

To my mind the comments section is for:

  1. Requesting clarity
  2. Adding information or suggestions to people's questions/answers
  3. Clever quips that are not answers, but add to everyone's enjoyment of the site.
  4. Answers that are not quite worthy of a full answer, but might set the OP on the right track or provide fodder for someone else to do a properly researched and cited answer to the question.

4 is something that I've seen high level users and mods do quite frequently, so it's clearly an acceptable practice.

Should we remove the statement from the comment box telling people not to answer in the comments so we don't have to be admonished by people?

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  • 1
    Just flag it as “no longer needed” and move on.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 16, 2019 at 22:11
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    Which "statement" about "not answering in comments" are you asking about? [Of course, if comments should only be used for (1), (2) or (3), then using them for admonishment is even more wrong than (4) because it's completely useless to the question. I might flesh this out in an answer when it's not quite so late and I have the time.]
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Sep 16, 2019 at 22:45
  • @AndrewLeach it's in the comment box grey instructions.
    – David M
    Sep 17, 2019 at 0:46
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    @AndrewLeach can one flag an edit summary? I recently saw this gem of superciliousness by a British user: “Edited the title to use the most precise word, rather than the absurd US euphemism, adding some Anglo-Saxon as befits the site.” Is that comment, albeit hidden in an edit, in contradiction with the CoC?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 17, 2019 at 8:05
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    @Mari-LouA Hahaha! Classic! I love this site.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 17, 2019 at 11:34
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    @Mari-LouA - You brought up a great point (and also it gave me a good laugh) -- but wouldn't it be more helpful to write a separate question about that? Sep 18, 2019 at 16:43
  • @DavidM - If I'm understanding you right, you are asking several things: (a) Let's make the Help text match our practices on this site; (b) Am I right about our practice on this site, that sketching out an answer in a comment is not a priori a cardinal sin; (c) Was the following comment over the line and therefore flaggable. If so, that's a lot to squeeze into one Meta question. Could you simplify your question, or at least break it down into its separate parts, please? With the goal of eliciting a more productive discussion, and concrete results. Sep 18, 2019 at 16:50
  • It's impossible to remove the "avoid answering questions in comments" when SE explicitly states it on the "comment everywhere" privilege help center: "When shouldn't I comment? ... Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one)"
    – Andrew T.
    Sep 23, 2019 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


Regarding the titular question, the code of conduct forbids "subtle putdowns", "unfriendly language", "Name calling", "personal attacks" (which "includes terms that feel personal even when they're applied to content [e.g. 'lazy']") and "harassment", so generally speaking, the answer is going to be yes, that scolding a user is a flaggable offense, and the flag that best matches a code of conduct violation is unfriendly or unkind.

The flagging guidance for the unfruendlly or unkind flag even provides a link to the code of conduct:

It's unfriendly or unkind. This comment is rude or condescending. Learn more in our Code of Conduct.

However, it needs to be noted that there is a way that conducting yourself in a polite manner to advise users with constructive criticism is not necessarily the same thing as scolding. An American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster defines scolding as:

  1. Railing with clamor; uttering rebuke in rude and boisterous language.

Therefore, how the sentiment is expressed is important, and this sentiment is reflected in these slightly reformatted examples taken from the code of conduct:

Unfriendly: “You could Google this in 5 seconds.”
Friendly: “This is called Invariance and Covariance. If you Google it, you’ll find tutorials that can explain it much better than we can in an answer here.”

Unfriendly: “If you bothered to read my question, you’d know it’s not a duplicate.”
Friendly: “I don’t think this is a duplicate. My question is about cement board, while the question you linked is about drywall.”

Unfriendly: “Are you speaking English? If so, I can’t tell.”
Friendly: “I’m having trouble understanding your question. I think you’re asking how to add a swap after system installation. Is that correct?”

Unfriendly: “I came to get help, not to get my question edited.”
Friendly: “Thanks for trying to help, but your edit isn’t what I meant. I’ve removed your edit, and have updated my question so it’s clearer.”

(The quotations are verbatim, but I can not textually sort them into columns)

  • Well put. But, read the exchange in question and see if you feel it would warrant such a flag.
    – David M
    Sep 18, 2019 at 0:11
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    The comment flags are no longer "rude/abusive" - they've been separated in to "unfriendly/unkind" and "harassment, bigotry or abuse". The help probably needs to be updated to match meta.stackexchange.com/a/237980/273494, I don't know that there is an automatic penalty for comment flags yet. These posts seem to indicate there isn't, and I'm having trouble finding anything that contradicts them meta.stackexchange.com/q/321966/273494 and meta.stackexchange.com/a/17365/273494
    – ColleenV
    Sep 18, 2019 at 13:27
  • @ColleenV Heh, thanks, I forgot about that change and when I was checking flags, I used a question as the basis of my answer. It's a minor error that is easily fixed. Regarding the reputation loss, I'm going mostly off memory, but it is also worth noting that the help center suggests that the penalty is applied when any of your "posts" receives six such flags. Granted, that might only be meant to address questions and answers, and even if it does include comments, it might be outdated. I'll need to look into it further.
    – Tonepoet
    Sep 18, 2019 at 14:32
  • Comment flags are a bit of a special case. They don’t have the same workflow as other flags mods work with. It’s very easy to mark them helpful without realizing there’s a flag.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 18, 2019 at 14:41
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    @ColleenV - I don't understand. How can a flag be marked helpful without realization that the flag is a flag? Also, where can I read about penalties? I have always been confused about the whole concept of flagging. In school, hurtful behaviors generally happen in the less supervised areas, such as playground, lunchroom, bus. At SE, I guess most hurtful behavior occurs in comments. But from what I've seen, when a flag is deemed helpful, all that happens is that the hurtful comment simply vanishes into thin air. Much of the time, the offender doesn't even realize. So, there was ... Sep 18, 2019 at 16:37
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    ... no teachable moment used as an opportunity to help a participant learn better behavior. Often, nothing was learned. So, I don't understand how the flagging system is supposed to help shape participant behavior. Can you help me understand how the system is supposed to work, and share any workarounds you have discovered to make it more effective? Also I'd be grateful for links to pages that will help me understand the system better, e.g. what are automatic penalties? Thanks. Sep 18, 2019 at 16:40
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    @aparente001 Deleting a comment marks any flags on it as “helpful”. If we want to mark a flag as helpful on a comment without deleting it, we have to delete and undelete (for example, if we wanted to edit the comment instead of deleting it). It’s not always apparent when we’re looking at a comment that it has been flagged unless we navigated to it through the dashboard. If we need to intervene with someone, we do it through a private mod message. I’ve suggested letting users see flags as feedback: meta.stackexchange.com/a/313780/273494 without much success.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 18, 2019 at 19:34
  • The flagging system isn’t about changing behavior, by the way, it’s about moderating content. The only automated “penalty” of comment flags (I think) is moderators getting notified of too many of them, similar to the way we’re notified about too many comments. I think there’s an indirect penalty in that you get fewer “bonus” flags to use if you have too many declined.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 18, 2019 at 19:40
  • @ColleenV - Thanks. I like your proposal and I upvoted it. How about posting it separately as a specific feature request to bring it to the forefront? // What's youir recommended procedure for a SE user who sees unkind behavior in a comment, assuming that the goal is to get the comment removed AND shape the behavior of the author of the unkind comment? Maybe that's too big a question for a comment? If so, where would be good to post it? Sep 18, 2019 at 19:51
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    @aparente001 If you see something that violates the CoC, flag it. I don’t recommend that users try changing other people’s behavior other than being kind, respectful, and constructive role models. If something isn’t flat out hateful, assume that the author didn’t intend to be rude. If you see a pattern, flag for moderator attention. Discussing irrelevant stuff (like the tone of a comment) under a post can be annoying to the author (sorry Tonepoet!) and should be usually avoided. I shared a few thoughts here: ell.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4940/9161 on users scolding other users.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 18, 2019 at 20:32
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    The -100 rep penalty only for spam/rude flag on a post. Comment flags do not incur any penalty at all. They only annotate the commenter on the mod's dashboard, but there's no such feature as comment ban... until a mod manually suspends them.
    – Andrew T.
    Sep 23, 2019 at 15:28

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