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History On November 8 came this question Mimsy were the Borogoves - why is “mimsy” an adjective? for which I provided an answer that I consider was fair to good. Over the course of the next two days came a series of comments directed at various parts of the answer, comments that led me to sharpen my presentation, add necessary missing information, and provide citations for the argument.

The comments were then moved to chat by @tchrist. My request to restore the comments from chat was ignored, and the comment itself deleted. Two further substantive comments were deleted on the grounds that once a comment thread is moved to chat, further comments cannot be moved there.

Another mod contacted me privately to admonish me for violating the "Be Nice" in my objection to tchrist's action. I rejected the charge and asked whether it might be possible to see this admonishment as objectionable. Let me be clear that the private communication was couched in the mildest possible terms and was accompanied by flattering comments about my contributions. (I would prefer that all mod actions be public, but this communication was private, so I will neither identify the correspondent nor quote the correspondence without permission. I don't believe my public comment in any way violated this site's etiquette, but I won't repeat my words. No matter of principle is involved in such forbearance, and to do otherwise would be a gratuitously insulting rejection of a polite request.)

The Commentary I am going to detail as best I can how the commentary improved my answer. I do this for two reasons. First to demonstrate the nature of the contributions and their importance in improving the answer. And secondly, to give contributors due credit, the documentation for which is now either missing or sidelined to chat. Anyone not sufficiently interested in the question itself may skip this section.

  • Unknown. (Sorry, I can't find this in the chat transcript.) My discussion started at the lexical level, describing the formation of adjectives from nouns with the suffix -sy. The suggestion is instead to start at the syntactic level to demonstrate how English grammar dictates the possibilities. This emendation starts with At the suggestion of a kind commenter and ends with the first list of adjectives.
  • @PJTraill. Who notes a missing discussion of the word all in the line beginning All mimsy. The addition is an explanation of all as either a universal determiner or an intensifying adverb, and you may find it following At the prompt of a second kind commenter.
  • @Andrew Savinykh, @paolo. Who take issue with my argument that mim must be the noun precursor for the adjective mimsy, noting that words in the adjective list may have no such precursors. This prompts me to make the following necessary changes: note that I'm arguing for the weight of the vocabulary evidence, note every adjective that has either no precursor or only an obsolete one, describe how I came up with my lists to assure readers that I haven't place my thumb on the scale.
  • @echristopherson. Who notes the rarity of nouns ending -ms. I haven't incorporated this observation.
  • @paolo. Whose comment allowed me to note the difference between fluency and knowledge. Also unincorporated.
  • Unknown. Sorry, dropped or never made it to chat. This was a note about the possibly anachronistic use of all as an intensifier. The response in the answer appears at Note the ambiguity.

Thanks to all and sorry for any omissions.

Why restore?

  • There appears no necessity for removal. Extended commentary appears scattered about site unmolested. Go hither, thither, and yon. Yeah, comments shouldn't be relied on to track useful contributions answers, but that's not the case here.

  • This is exactly what commentary is for. Discussions of specific points raised in questions and answers.

  • This is exactly what chat is not for. Chat is for extended and discursive ramblings peripherally related to a question or answer. I find chat utterly useless -- hard to use and hard to read. I doubt I'm alone in this opinion. It's a place where substantive discussion goes to die. And so it was in this case. (Sorry @Malvolio.) In addition, commentary goes astray, either in the move or during the after-the-fact deletion.

  • This commentary provided an exemplar of the kind of collaborative and informative work involving posters of varied rep levels and seniority. I submit visibility for that kind of effort helps encourage the process of providing for that supposed valuable repository of answers so cherished by some here.

  • This commentary allowed me to credit contributors without cluttering the answer with asides or further footnotes. For all practical purposes, that's gone.

What I Expect

After perusing the site during the composition of this post, I am somewhat surprised to find that the answer is nothing. (Well, nothing beyond the customary.) I do, however, wish to renew one further objection. Commentary on mod actions is clearly off topic, but mods should realize that summary deletion of such is a serious conflict of interest. For holders of power come responsibilities, and one of those is to forbear the erasure of criticism directed at oneself no matter how ill-founded that criticism is felt to be.

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medica wrote an excellent response here already; I'd just like to emphasize one thing: in years past we just deleted comments like these, removing them permanently with no record whatsoever so as to make room for new ones...

THAT is the alternative here: permanent deletion. That a moderator took extra time to archive the comments is nice, but quite honestly if you make too much of a fuss over that they'll probably go back to just wiping the threads and moving on since it's a lot less work. OTOH, if you don't like chat, then fine, don't use it - pretend the comments are gone and move on with your life. You've already made the necessary edits to your answer and the comments continue to exist only as a dusty file in an archive somewhere.

The important bit here is that you don't relegate critical information to the comments, where readers may well ignore them, where they can't be searched or updated, where new bits of feedback become increasingly buried - because that's how most other forums work, that's why it's so tedious and error-prone to do any research on the 'Net, and that's specifically the problem all of this was created to get away from.

See also:

  • Then it would be nice if the mods here were consistent and relegated to chat (or deleted) the extremely long conversations found in comments to several of the answers to english.stackexchange.com/questions/291007/… – Alan Carmack Nov 18 '16 at 15:36
  • Well, looks like your flag was acted on to me, @alan... – Shog9 Nov 19 '16 at 0:12
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There is a lot to address in your post, and I will address points as they come. My opinion is derived from my years as a member here, and my time serving as a moderator on another site. I believe the problems mods face are pretty similar from site to site.

Two further substantive comments were deleted on the grounds that once a comment thread is moved to chat, further comments cannot be moved there.

Mods have a way of moving comments to chat with one action (it used to be a bit harder.) But there is no way to move additional comments to chat once the conversation has been moved initially except by copy-pasting, which I've done as a mod on another site (I'm a softy) but no more; it's too labor-intensive even for a slow site. This is not a slow site.1

I would prefer that all mod actions be public, but this communication was private, so I will neither identify the correspondent nor quote the correspondence without permission.

The mods are under obligation to keep communications private, but you are not. You are actually free to shout it from the rooftops if you want to do so. Most people don't; some people do.

I am going to detail as best I can how the commentary improved my answer. I do this for two reasons. First to demonstrate the nature of the contributions and their importance in improving the answer. And secondly, to give contributors due credit, the documentation for which is now either missing or sidelined to chat.

The reasons to move a long comment thread to chat are many; there may be an argument in the comments that distracts from the answer, there may be comments unrelated to the post, there may be flags on the comments, etc. Or, the thread is simply too long (mods get a notice once a comment thread reaches a certain length) and it becomes something that detracts from the answer. SE prefers answers to be self-contained, which means comments can be incorporated into the answer, can be expanded into an answer, or they can simply disappear.

Most people don't like their comments to simply disappear, which is why comment threads are moved to a chat room created for that purpose. But to ask for a thread to be reinstated is to ask that a detraction from a self-contained answer be reinstated, and I have never heard of this being done before.

There are people whose comments disappear, and who want to take it up in meta. In that case, they go to chat and ping a mod. The mod is usually happy to copy the deleted comment to chat for the commenter to use to build their case.

Extended commentary appears scattered about site unmolested.

This is true, because mods don't go around measuring comment threads (or even reading them.) But once flags have been raised calling the attention of a mod to a particular comment, the mod usually takes action on all comments that need action. They will delete obsolete comments, remove rude or chatty ones, leave pertinent ones, or move a too long thread to a chat room. But unless a mod is made aware of a problem thread, they are usually left alone not because they deserve to be there, but because the mods are unaware of them.

I will not address your fine points of attribution, etc., as Tonepoet has done that justice in their comment above.

Commentary on mod actions is clearly off topic...

It is, as it has little to do with the post. But had you served as a mod on an SE site, you'd be aware that people complain in comments and on meta about mods all the time (likely on some sites more than others.) People complain not only in comments [2] and on a site's meta, but on Meta (<- a complaint about me.)

For holders of power come responsibilities, and one of those is to forbear the erasure of criticism directed at oneself no matter how ill-founded that criticism is felt to be.

This is nonsense. Comments aren't for criticising anyone. If they don't fulfill the purpose of a comment, they are subject to deletion, period. No need to keep that on the main site at all. That is what Meta is for.

Also, you don't know which mod removed the offensive comment(s). When a disagreement breaks out, the custom is to get other mods involved exactly to prevent conflict of interest and poor judgement from prevailing.

I was not involved in the question/answer in any way except to enjoy it. I hope you can appreciate this answer as from someone not involved at all, but who knows the SE model pretty well.

[1] This is a site feature which has been requested exactly for the reason that users would rather see their comments somewhere - even in a chat room - rather than deleted. I want that too, and from the number of upvotes the proposal got, so do a lot of others.

[2] Personally, I have never removed a complaint about me in comments; this is when I ask fellow mods to review the entire comment thread or post and thread. In meta, I feel a mod has the responsibility to answer complaints about themselves, but sometimes other mods do so when the complaints are clearly egregious. I don't have the same expectation of all mods. That's just my opinion about how I should handle complaints for the sake of transparency.

  • 1
    I believe deadrat was saying that "Commentary on mod actions is clearly off topic" for a comment beneath an answer. As you say, people are free to complain about mods on Meta. – sumelic Nov 14 '16 at 21:48
  • @suməlic - I'm not quite sure, considering the rest. "Commentary on mod actions is clearly off topic, but mods should realize that summary deletion of such is a serious conflict of interest. For holders of power come responsibilities, and one of those is to forbear the erasure of criticism directed at oneself no matter how ill-founded that criticism is felt to be." But I'll clarify. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Nov 14 '16 at 21:58
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Explanation of typography here.

@tchrist managed to cite ten supposed dupes. (Only nine unique ones though. I guess to emphasize the duplicated nature of my question). He claim that he’s not “at liberty to override SE network policies on comments”. Here’s a lesson for us all: don’t assume that cites for a claim support the claim. We can all learn from an answer found in his first cited dupe, commenting on the site’s “Theory of Moderation”, which says in part, “The ideal moderator does as little as possible”:

This is not the theory underlying the practice of moderation on ELU. Moderation is a constant and [‡]intrusive presence, with moderators closing questions as fast as they can type, scrubbing comments they deem unsuitable, and handing "timeouts" to questions and posters alike. I have never seen a moderator explain anything.

Now there’s some damn fine writing, and TFMMPFM, if indirectly.

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Explanation of typography here.

Only one response was unexpected, and that was the answer from @Shog9, informing me that they used to delete comments, period and that if I didn't stop making "too much of a fuss", maybe they'd go back to doing just that. If I may paraphrase

STFU, and if you don’t, we’re gonna wipe out your comment threads. In other words, nice little chat room you’ve got there, Colonel. It would be a shame if something happened to it. And did I mention that you should just STFU?

Now, I’m used to the ‡derision and ‡contempt routinely directed at users of ELU, but I’ll have to say the ‡aggression here is a ‡disgrace. And the fact that 20 people approved of this response is an even greater ‡‡disgrace. There’s simply no excuse for anyone, but especially a mod, responding to a dissent in this ‡manner.

And let me mention in passing that this ‡inappropriate response makes absolutely no sense as a threat. I’ve already made it clear that I consider that chat has no value, but at least it’s hard to use. How does it work as a threat to take away something I don’t use and in fact, don’t consider useful?

Three more things. First about the lecture on understanding the “important bit” of not relegating critical (I suppose you mean substantive) information to comments. That’s not what I did and not why I considered the thread useful. WIHKYTRWIAW?

Secondly, thanks for the life coaching, but if I had a life to “move on with”, I wouldn’t be posting here.

Lastly, @Shog9 cites an essay “A guide to moderating comments” in which we find this gem:

Don't worry about cleaning up benign conversations that don't appear on page load.

And who wrote this guide? Why, @Shog9, of course. TFMMPFM.

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Explanation for typography here.

Thank you for your reply, @medica, both for its content and for the evident respect with which it was delivered.

I wish you had addressed the point about attribution instead of admiring the justice of @Tonepoet, who pretty much missed the point entirely. To be fair, @Tonepoet wasn’t obligated to read the Mimsy answer, but if he had, he would have seen that footnotes for attribution would have interfered with the multiple substantive footnotes. And yeah, inline cites for unquoted material aren't necessary, and yeah, attribution could be buried in the revision history. But either of those choices would have undermined the reason for keeping the thread as an example of the cooperative effort that I claim goes into making good answers.

A few secondary issues:

I understand the vow of omerta undertaken by mods, allegedly to protect the privacy of users. But there’s little privacy to violate, as most people here are anonymous, and everybody can choose to be so. I say that I would prefer all mod actions be public, because I think the secrecy is ‡deleterious. For the case at hand, if a mod has the unaccountable power to ban me for violating the organization’s rules, that mod shouldn’t ‡falsely accuse me violating those rules. When I reject the accusation, the proper response is a retraction or a proof. Silence is ‡unacceptable and an ‡embarrassment to the site. Or it would be if things weren’t cloaked in secrecy.

I wasn’t clear when I was talking about commentary on mod actions being off topic. @Sumelic was right when he figured that I meant such commentary under questions and answers. You’re certainly right that these comments aren’t for disputes. But there’s an issue that overrides this consideration and that’s the ‡conflict of interest that a mod has in removing criticism of mod actions. Such comments should be treated like red-hot iron bars — perhaps out of place, but not to be touched until they cool. It doesn’t matter which mod disappeared the comment into the memory hole.

Lastly, as I write your answer stands at +17/-1. The driveby downvoter has struck again. It wan’t me.

  • I can't easily tell when you're being serious vs. when you're being sarcastic; I think you are often rude to me. So I don't know if I should be thankful that I was respectful or to wonder once again why you said what you did. Moving on, I actually agree that some mod actions should be much more transparent. I also believe that it's wrong of any mod to hide behind "privacy"; as uncomfortable as it might be, I believe if a mod action is brought up in meta, that mod should address their action and reasoning. Finally, I disagree with the statement that one cannot 'override' SE policy... – anongoodnurse Dec 1 '16 at 20:48
  • (cont.) SE policy is a guideline. Mods can and do override policy/custom all the time, because they can and they are human. For example, if I'm not mistaken, Mary-Lou was unsuspected before her year was up. Good! The guidelines aren't all written in stone. I once suspended a user using a Fibonacci sequence, not the usual sequence of suspensions. The greatest of mod responsibilities in my mind is to assure that a site is running itself well, and when it's not, to take action. Privacy of the user is also very important. But meta is here for explanations. – anongoodnurse Dec 1 '16 at 20:56
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To keep and communicate the proper perspective, I find the need for a prefix to English pejoratives that indicate a theoretical violation of standards that in practice doesn’t matter because of the small stakes involved. I don’t know of any such construct, so I’m going to use the symbol ‡. For instance, when my newspaper delivery service consistently throws my paper in the swale adjoining my driveway instead of on the driveway itself, I might write, “Its a ‡shame that I can’t get my paper delivered properly.” Yes, the delivery people should do the job I’m paying them for, and it’s too bad they don’t, but a real shame would be say, the treatment of Syrian refugees. My newspaper delivery problems are only a ‡shame.

Additional notes:

TFMMPFM = Thanks for making my point for me
WIHKYTRWIAW? = Would it have killed you to read what I actually wrote?

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