A few days ago I read this question about why there is no "autumntime" or "falltime". I added this comment:

We just use fall or autumn in those cases, both as nouns and adjectives. Not really sure why. We just do it that way. That's not to say you couldn't say "autumntime" if you really wanted to.

Yesterday I noticed the comment had been deleted. I'm curious why that was. The comment was not an answer, certainly, but did not pretend to be one. It was germane to the question, which was itself pretty broad ("Why is it so?" questions tend to be broad to the threshold of being unanswerable, in my view). But it certainly was not offensive. (There are certainly plenty of less germane and more questionable comments scattered throughout this site.) If there was a reason for the deletion, I want to know what the reason was, and if that is a policy.

AndrewLeach restored the comment after I mentioned it to him. But I'm still left with more concerns:

Who are the comment police, and why are they deleting comments that are not offensive but offer some value? Is one of the mods grinding for a badge? If so, that calls into question the idea of badge rewards for potentially destructive activities.


After reviewing some of the answers to this question, especially those which attempt to draw distinctions between what is and is not a "useful" comment (some related at great length and with a form of special pleading one normally might associate with legal briefs from the tobacco lobby), I have to say I still am unable to fathom the difference. I just now looked at 50 or so random comments and in all but two or three the "rules" offered here as guidance were about as useful to determine suitability as a magnetic compass would be to find gold.

I see too that the only reasonable answer here (Daniel's) has been pounced on with negative humor.

Hey, do what you like, folks. Just don't call it logical, transparent, or in any way justifiable. Have the dignity or the courage or whatever it takes to own up to the fact that you don't have any ideas on the matter either besides "Because I said so" or "Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time."

Recent Update

Well, the Splenetic Mod strikes again. What was restored has since been destroyed. Haha, what a petty little site you run here.

  • I think there was another one there too. I assumed that you (and the other person - can't remember who) had removed it yourself. I'm just about to remove my suggestion to Peter Shor, as he has added a full answer. – Frank Jul 16 '14 at 11:11
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    Just because a question has an answer doesn't necessarily obviate commentary. In fact, both PeterShor and tchrist's answers deal with archaic and historical usages. My comment speaks to what is currently the case today, namely, that we use fall and autumn as both adjective and noun. – Robusto Jul 16 '14 at 11:16
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    Shouldn't that be an edit to your question? I was only pointing out that I was about to delete mine, so that if you were looking you didn't think 'ha! another one has been disappeared'. – Frank Jul 16 '14 at 11:57
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    Mods don't get badges for deleting comments. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 16 '14 at 18:35
  • I guess the mood who deleted the comment isn't going to own up to it. – Robusto Jul 16 '14 at 21:14
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    This is anger. I did it. – Michael Dorst Jul 16 '14 at 21:50
  • Why would you do that? You don't even work here. – Robusto Jul 16 '14 at 23:35
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    That's actually a weak joke about 'mood'. – Tim Lymington Jul 17 '14 at 15:28
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  • Did you eventually figure out who was Commentzilla ? – Frank Jul 30 '14 at 10:13

A mod should have dismissed that flag. Anyone can see that the comment's on topic, and as for adding "absolutely no useful detail", see @trlkly:

The comment actually adds a bit of information that is not found in the question or any answer. It offers a replacement for the missing (or extremely rare) word "autumntime"--one may simply say "autumn" or "fall." If the comment did only say "we just do it that way," I would agree with you.

KitFox is right about badges not being an issue, which is comforting since we needz all those badges.

I disagree with MrHen in that while comments may not matter much in terms of rep, deleting a comment is telling the poster "what you thought was worth saying wasn't really worth saying", which is OK to a spammer, but not to someone with something legitimate to say.

Obviously the poster thought it worth saying, so don't justify your flag/deletion by pretending comments don't matter. Naturally, the poster deserves the cold shoulder of deletion for being rude or adding absolutely nothing valuable to the thread. And no one will mind an obsolete comment (e.g. please add links) being efficiently thrown under the bus. But a comment which is none of these things should not be flagged, and the mod who sees a flag on such a comment should dismiss it.

I realize there's a gray area for everyone, but if it's in the gray (i.e. "borderline"), you should go the respectful route and at least ignore it. In other words, I subscribe to and believe I can justify the "current ELU pattern of behavior" MrHen referred to.

Even with all that, I'm not sure why anyone is considering Robusto's comment as even borderline.

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    This states my position better than I did myself. Thanks. – Robusto Jul 20 '14 at 13:49
  • I don't understand why you are saying you disagree with me since the paragraph that mentions me isn't really disagreeing with anything I wrote. I also strongly object to your characterization of my post as justifying deleting comments because I am "pretending comments don't matter". The justification for deleting Robusto's comment is that it wasn't a very useful comment. It was undeleted because it really wasn't all that bad, and ELU doesn't really care if comments like that exist. – MrHen Jul 21 '14 at 13:09
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    What I disagree with is "As in, it doesn't really matter much. It's a comment." This sums up the attitude of your post toward the value of comments per se. It can only mean that if comments mattered more, they would be treated differently. And what I'm saying instead is, they do matter more, and should be treated differently, in this case by leaving the comment courteously alone. Calling it "not very useful" is wholly unjustified for the reason I've already noted, and even if it was, a second pause should be the fact that this was someone's idea of a valuable contribution. So respect it. – Daniel Jul 21 '14 at 21:22
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    Of course I'm not saying "respect the worthy spammer". If a comment is definitely against the rules, so be it. That person's idea of a contribution is wrong. But if it's on-topic and adds information to the topic, without being rude or spamming or part of an extended discussion, don't argue why it's borderline and *oh, I guess you can have your comment back if you're gonna be baby enough to beg for it", just say "quick judgement call, fixed it, sorry about that". – Daniel Jul 21 '14 at 21:30
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    +1 for "Even with all that, I'm not sure why anyone is considering Robusto's comment as even borderline." – Marthaª Jul 22 '14 at 2:45
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    @Daniel The point is that comments are near the bottom of the priority list. Comments not mattering simply means that other things matter more. On StackExchange, almost everything else matters more. – MrHen Jul 22 '14 at 3:19
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    @MrHen I see. That wasn't clear. I agree that everything else matters more. But to the extent that comments do matter, I don't understand deleting a gray comment that you're ready to undelete on demand. If it doesn't matter enough to keep deleted, it doesn't matter enough to delete in the first place. – Daniel Jul 22 '14 at 3:32
  • @Daniel: As I've already stated elsewhere, I wouldn't have deleted the comment on my own. I just understand why someone would disagree with me and choose to delete it. – MrHen Jul 22 '14 at 13:46
  • "what you thought was worth saying wasn't really worth saying"... I'm not sure about this SE site, but many other sites are really, uhm, "picky" with comments. If comments start "extended discussions" then they are unwelcome whether or not they were worth saying ("please use Chat", etc.). – user541686 Jul 26 '14 at 11:19

The moderators on EL&U, the community moderators, and community members with > 15 rep are the 'comment police'. They delete commentary at their discretion.

It is true that our > 15 rep users can only delete offensive comments, and your comment was obviously not. However, these users can indicate what comments they feel should be removed by flagging for moderator attention. We see how many of any given type of flag is on a post and that factors into our decision.

With regard to the decision that was made on your particular comment, and because several people have expressed confusion over why it was considered "borderline", and also because it may benefit future users with a similar question, let me review our guidelines for leaving comments.

First let's look at the comment.

We just use fall or autumn in those cases, both as nouns and adjectives. Not really sure why. We just do it that way. That's not to say you couldn't say "autumntime" if you really wanted to.

What's really added here? OP already knows that we use fall or autumn, so we can cross out the first line. The rest amounts to "I don't know. Use it if you want to."

According to our FAQ:

You should submit a comment if you want to:
1. Request clarification from the author;
2. Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
3. Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

Your comment does not satisfy #1 or 2. It might be argued that it contains "relevant but minor" information (use it if you want to), so #3.

Contrast these reasons with:

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:
1. Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit;
2. Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);
3. Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!"); instead, up-vote it and pay it forward;
4. Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);
5. Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;
6. Discussion of community behavior or site policies; please use meta instead.

Of these, #2 or 5 might apply, if you consider "I don't know" an answer or "use it if you want to" to be an alternative solution or secondary discussion.

So according to the guidelines, that leaves possibly-OK comment (maybe some minor relevant information) or possibly-not-OK comment (answer-as-a-comment or other discussion), hence grey area. Whoever looked at it made the decision to delete it, so we can assume that the not-OK outweighed the OK in that mod's judgement.

What is in the FAQ is the policy and has been the policy for quite some time. Mods delete comments all the time, not just your comments. It is part of what we do. If you think the policy needs to be changed, bring it up on Meta.

As for why your comment was deleted, amongst all the comments that don't meet the criteria here, that's because a mod saw it and decided to delete it. So the answer is in fact "because [that mod] said so" and also "it seemed like a good idea at the time." I have yet to fathom why you think this is a big enough issue for Meta.

Comments are ephemeral and will continue to be ephemeral, so if you have something you think is worth keeping around, then post an answer or propose an edit to an existing answer rather than leave a comment.

In any case, your comment has been restored, you have indicated your satisfaction with that solution, and we can all just move on.

  • Can a moderator simply delete a comment directly or do they have to wait for it to be flagged? If it is flagged (once) even with a very mild reason (too chatty perhaps) a moderator could still press the delete button anyway with having to check with other moderators? Is that about right? – Frank Jul 20 '14 at 16:42
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    @Frank Yes, mods can delete without a flag. Yes, mods delete comments without consulting with other mods. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 20 '14 at 18:35
  • Thanks (is too short) – Frank Jul 20 '14 at 18:39
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    I find it somewhat amusing that an explanation of our existing system is being downvoted after Robusto so painfully and frequently requested that the system be explained. – MrHen Jul 21 '14 at 13:22
  • Some may take issue that the comment is incorrectly broken down. "We just use fall or autumn in those cases, both as nouns and adjectives. Not really sure why. We just do it that way. [...] What's really added here? OP already knows that we use fall or autumn, so we can cross out the first line." Actually, OP did not express this knowledge at all. OP knew that we used autumn/fall just as he knew we use winter, spring, and summer. It's the corresponding -time words that he was asking about. And there Robusto helped him out by suggesting that the corollary is simply autumn/fall. – Daniel Jul 22 '14 at 0:59
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    @Daniel I don't see how "OP knew that we used autumn/fall just as he knew we use winter, spring, and summer" is different than "We just use fall or autumn in those cases, both as nouns and adjectives." Are you saying that we don't use winter, spring, and summer as both nouns and adjectives? Otherwise, there is no case for why we use the -time variants for those three and not the fourth, and that is not explained in the comment either (e.g., "winter is an adjective and wintertime is a noun, but we use autumn for both"). In any case, comment-as-an-answer would still apply here. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 22 '14 at 1:16
  • I'm saying the OP didn't specify his understanding of how we use winter, spring, summer, fall. He only said apparently fall has no corresponding word for wintertime, springtime, summertime. I suppose Robusto answered-as-a-comment that part of the deal, but the real question was "why?", and Robusto did not answer-as-a-comment that. – Daniel Jul 22 '14 at 2:29
  • @Daniel If they knew about the words "fall" and "autumn" then they knew that we use "fall" and "autumn" instead of "falltime" or "autumntime". They couldn't ask the question in the manner they did without already knowing everything from Robusto's comment. – MrHen Jul 22 '14 at 3:25
  • @MrHen Fairly put. I agree that Robusto was merely clarifying what was obvious to me, and hence was not helpful to me. I really can't argue further for it. I've +1'd Kit here, since that catch is the only reason I withheld my vote for her systematic answer. The only difference between this and yours is your "personally finding [the current ELU pattern of behavior] to be a little lax". – Daniel Jul 22 '14 at 3:48
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    @Daniel: Sure, that makes sense. "Lax" may have been a poor choice of words. A better phrase would have been "personally finding the current ELU pattern of behavior to be more permissive than the way Meta.SE talks about which comments should be kept around." – MrHen Jul 22 '14 at 13:55
  • @MrHen In that case, I fully agree. ELU policy seems to be much more strict than actual practice, either from moderation or from the community. – Daniel Jul 22 '14 at 21:02

Comments are ephemeral, right? They can and are sometimes deleted with no forewarning. It doesn't matter if the comments are pertinent to the question, any comment can be construed as being non-constructive. A constructive comment might be one asking for clarification, or advising a poster to properly attribute citations. And if the poster does edit the post accordingly, the commenter ought to delete his or her comment. If for some reason they forget, an ELU user can flag that comment as being obsolete.

Many constructive comments; however, contain the answer to the question, and we all know that answers posted in the comments section are frowned upon.

But what about answers which are converted into comments? The massively popular and overwhelmingly upvoted answers by the community, the vox populi answers. Answers whose identities suddenly become ‘a day late and a dollar short’ comments. We are then presented with the ironic situation where an answer is agreed by many as offering a good solution but then rejected by one mod (do they ever consult with each other?) and converted into a plain comment. And if constructive and on-topic comments can be deleted, then maybe one day, they too will be deleted.

The two examples below started life as "answers" (10k rep users can see deleted posts):

  1. What word can I use instead of "tomorrow" that is not connected with the idea of the rising sun?

  2. Polite alternative to the term "bitch" when referring to a female dog

The first comment prior to its conversion had earned 14 upvotes.

The second "answer/comment" had earned an impressive 52 upvotes. As a comment, it now has only six upvotes.

Coincidentally, both answers were the most favoured by the community.

To @Robusto I wouldn't worry about a few random sentences of yours being deleted by a mod especially if they didn't offer a concrete solution. I'd be more concerned with those posts that actually do answer the question, are upvoted, and yet deleted unfairly. My opinion, of course, I accept and expect it won't be shared by many.


It could be that the redeleted comment was flagged as no longer needed by two or more users.

This comment is obsolete, chatty, or otherwise unnecessary.

The OP cannot know for certain whether its deletion can be attributed to a single mod unless he knows something that we don't. Next time, convert the comment into an answer and… let sleeping dogs lie.

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    This answer; like many other answers here and on other SE sites, demonstrates the inexplicably common lack of awareness of the fact that a real human being posted said comment, observed its deletion, and inferred what that deletion meant. As Daniel put very succinctly in his answer, "deleting a comment is telling the poster 'what you thought was worth saying wasn't really worth saying'". ... – Jason C Jul 30 '14 at 4:32
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    ... Simply lumping it as an "ephemeral comment" or "a few random sentences being deleted" (they're not actually random at all) is a cop out that utterly disregards the implications of deleting any content and how the well-meaning person who posted that content interprets that act especially when they are trying to determine policy but view other similar comments that remain undeleted (i.e. "that similar comment remained but mine was removed" can understandably, I hope, be taken personally). – Jason C Jul 30 '14 at 4:32
  • @JasonC did you read Robusto's (now undeleted) comment? The essential message is he doesn't know why autumntime isn't said. The comment is not offensive, and it's not "chatty", but it's certainly not helpful nor constructive. The argument/justification on ELU is, and always has been that comments are ephemeral, (their adjective not mine) that users need to post answers if they think they know the answer. – Mari-Lou A Jul 30 '14 at 7:22
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    (cont'd) ELU wants to avoid having a long page of comments and will, if necessary, revise, and deleted them (regardless of the users' feelings) in order to give more space and importance to the answer posted, although I do believe this is less true for questions. I wanted to point out a contradiction, that even "answers", relevant original ones, are "ephemeral" in nature on ELU, and are also "deletable", I find those instances more worthy of complaint and asking for clarifications. – Mari-Lou A Jul 30 '14 at 7:25
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    I read it. "Not constructive" is valid although I hope you understand my main point that lack of consistency can leave a human defensive. My other point is that saying a comment was deleted "because it is ephemeral anyways" is a non-confrontational cop-out that entirely disassociates from the real reasons, and especially the human aspect. Also, as far as I know, comments are not deleted at random; to say "a few random sentences [were] deleted" strips all accountability from the action. The OP ended the post above with a statement that I interpret as "I accept what you do, but please own it". – Jason C Jul 30 '14 at 7:36

To take the other side of the argument, I don't see why this comment should have been undeleted. I wouldn't have personally deleted it (and I can't, seeing as I'm not a mod) but I am having trouble agreeing with this:

It was germane to the question, which was itself pretty broad ("Why is it so?" questions tend to be broad to the threshold of being unanswerable, in my view).

It wasn't really that germane to the question seeing as you added absolutely no useful detail. Saying "we just do it that way" is already covered in the body of the question (or otherwise it wouldn't have been asked).

Therefore, I can understand why someone would delete the comment as "not constructive".

(There are certainly plenty of less germane and more questionable comments scattered throughout this site.) If there was a reason for the deletion, I want to know what the reason was, and if that is a policy.

So... you are suggesting that we remove these other comments from the site? The policy behind comment deletion, as far as I know, is "comments can be deleted since they are comments." You can find a bunch of interesting discussion on comments, comment deletion and so on here: Help us figure out a way to handle the explosion of comments on Stack Overflow

The current ELU pattern of behavior is to leave comments alone unless they are causing a specific problem but I, personally, find this to be a little lax. I don't see why comments such as the one in question should exist and have little problem deleting them. The only reason I don't flag comments like this is because the ELU community doesn't seem to agree with me and, in the past, the moderators have declined removing such comments. Which is fine in the sense that the community has chosen how to behave. I merely comply.

All that being said, it was probably deleted by a moderator who was going through the comment flag queue and made a quick judgment call. On further examination, the moderator team reversed the deletion simply because this particular comment was borderline enough to side with the user who cared enough to bring it up.

As in, it doesn't really matter much. It's a comment.

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    For the record, I am not personally terribly interested in handling a bunch of flags that are for innocuous comments. If my attention is directed toward a thread, I might go through the whole thing and prune. Otherwise, I tend to ignore ignorable things. I will also often dismiss flags on jokes. These are often "too chatty", but unless there is a lot of it, I don't see the harm in letting it stand, especially since if I delete it, some other user inevitably posts something similar, thinking they are being original. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 18 '14 at 16:55
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    Looks like it mattered enough for you to mount a ~400-word response. – Robusto Jul 18 '14 at 17:07
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    Having consulted with the original deleter, he has said that this answer admirably states the position. – Andrew Leach Jul 18 '14 at 21:02
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    @Andrew: OK, I guess I have no response then. I'm certainly not going to proceed by anal-retentively flagging every dumb comment I see, so it looks like I'd better have all my proposed comments peer-reviewed before posting them. Keerist. This is such a mickey-mouse operation I'm surprised Disney doesn't own it. – Robusto Jul 18 '14 at 23:07
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    @Robusto: You seem to be good at responding to positions no one is proposing. Too bad no one is actually suggesting mass flagging or comment peer-reviews so your oh-so-biting criticisms could be relevant. – MrHen Jul 18 '14 at 23:38
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    Well, either we're going to delete comments arbitrarily or in service to a system. If there is a system, someone ought to codify it. If it is codified, it ought to be enforced. But it is none of those things. What it is is arbitrary, and arbitrary deletions make no sense and are inherently wrong. – Robusto Jul 19 '14 at 0:08
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    @Robusto: In short, there is a codified system but ELU tends to draw the grey line slightly to the permissive side of the codified, subjective ruling. Your comment sat right on that line and so it wibble-wobbled between deleted and undeleted. Pragmatically, the codified system is enforced but it still requires a delete candidate to be flagged. Presumably, your comment was flagged, hence the deletion. This explains both the system and the specific action and the miscellaneous undeleted comments that you feel are less worthy than your comment. Hopefully that resolves any confusion? – MrHen Jul 19 '14 at 0:46
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    @MrHen If there is a "codified, subjective ruling," I don't see it stated in your answer. What is the rule that his post was on the line of violating? That's what I believe Robusto means by there needing to be a "codified rule". He reasonably doesn't like to make pointless contributions that are just going to be deleted, so he would like to know ahead of time what he shouldn't waste his time saying. – trlkly Jul 20 '14 at 0:25
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    I believe this answer mischaracterizes the comment in question. The comment actually adds a bit of information that is not found in the question or any answer. It offers a replacement for the missing (or extremely rare) word "autumntime"--one may simply say "autumn" or "fall." If the comment did only say "we just do it that way," I would agree with you. (And, yes, I know it could be edited into an answer, but which one?) – trlkly Jul 20 '14 at 0:37
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    It's not the case that Robusto's comment was part of a problem, but that we can overlook it since everyone else is doing it. As I see it, we don't have negative repercussions from comments like this. The comments SO (and any SE site) was having trouble with were back and forth discussions, either frivolous conversation (should be in chat), or establishing what the OP meant to say in the first place (should be edited in). The third problem mentioned was sheer volume. On ELU this isn't a big issue, and what overage there is seems mostly to be due to the first two problems. – Daniel Jul 20 '14 at 10:29
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    @Daniel Mine is only one opinion, but I believe you did the responsible thing in this: you reversed your own miscast-by-fumblefingering vote. – tchrist Jul 21 '14 at 3:23
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    So we're supposed to ignore the first sentence of your answer proper and believe what you're saying now in a comment chain? "To take the other side of the argument, I don't see why this comment should have been undeleted" is pretty much a summary dismissal of my whole post, and a condemnation—a fairly snide one, in fact—of pretty much anything I have to say. I guess you and Yogi Berra "didn't say half the things you said." – Robusto Jul 21 '14 at 23:31
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    @MrHen I'm not misunderstanding you. (a) good, (b) I'm saying you (if you were the mod) should have undeleted it with apology since it was fine, (c) right, and here's why, (d) the OP shouldn't have to show strong feeling about his valid contributions being deleted. Deleting a comment either matters (if it's against the rules) or it doesn't (if it's valid). Forcing someone to fight for a comment like this shows disrespect at least to the comment. Like I said, from a mod's point of view, it either deserves that disrespect or it doesn't. There's no middle ground. – Daniel Jul 22 '14 at 0:52
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    @KitFox If it's that big of a hassle to deal with, I should hope that vanishingly few borderline comments are being deleted. I've already said why I think if it's not hurting anything, let it be. Don't delete more than you can defend. – Daniel Jul 22 '14 at 3:37
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    Of course I read the whole thing. Do me the infinitesimal courtesy of at least allowing that much. But the first clause of the second sentence you cite is merely a personal abdication of responsibility for the second, which is an elaboration and reinforcement of the first sentence. – Robusto Jul 22 '14 at 9:09

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