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Sometimes people post jokey comments under questions and answers. Sometimes they're funny, sometimes not.

What should we do about them? It seems (based on this conversation) that moderators are obliged to delete them if they flagged as "too chatty",1 which apparently has been the case recently.

What should the procedure be?

  1. Flag all "jokes" and let the moderators delete?
  2. Leave all "jokes".
  3. Flag only seriously unfunny (and genuinely offensive) jokes (partly judged on votes).
  4. Something else I haven't thought of.

Responding to Michael's comment, I 'm asking both:

  • what should normal users do (flag or leave) and
  • what should moderators do (accept or reject the flag)?

1 My understanding was that the "too chatty" flag was when a discussion goes on too long or is off-topic.

22

We have a culture here that involves a certain amount of light-hearted joking. So, I don't instantly delete any joke comments when I see them. However, the joke doesn't need to stick around forever, after a post's been around for a while, not many people are seeing the post or the jokes. And since comments aren't supposed to be permanent, there isn't a need to maintain them for eternity.

Usually, what I do is delete joke comments that are 6 months to 1 year old minimum. This covers stuff I randomly see from browsing the site and things that are flagged as 'too chatty' or 'non constructive'. I delete jokes earlier on if they're part of a really long comment thread, as sometimes posts accumulate dozens of comments quickly, most of which are tangential discussion. Those discussions belong in chat, not comments, so I am a bit more heavy handed in deleting all kinds of comments in this case.

This then maintains our culture while enabling old posts to be clean of cruft.

  • What do you do when a recent (last day or week) jokey comment is flagged as "too chatty"? – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Feb 11 '15 at 15:49
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    @Wikis I dismiss it (i.e. reject it; comment flags are more limited than question/answer flags). We're a more playful SE site than the serious business ones, so some joking is fine. – user1027 Feb 11 '15 at 15:53
  • I'm glad, but this is not consistent with @Richard's response (please correct me if I am wrong, Richard). – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Feb 11 '15 at 15:55
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    I favour a stricter interpretation of the rule. Feel free to post jokey comments but don't get bent out of shape if a friendly moderator comes along and sweeps them away. – Valorum Feb 11 '15 at 16:18
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    Do users go back to an old comment thread solely for entertainment purposes? I have never gone back to read a comments thread. I'm going to guess that many others don't go back to read comments either. Just a guess. But, anyway, if a mod is sweeping away humorous comments after a certain period of time, I wouldn't know, and even if I did know, I wouldn't care. The joke was then; this is now. I prefer focusing on the now. – Slytherincess Feb 11 '15 at 16:34
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    @Slytherincess The comments strewn through the site does help set the tone of the stack though. Deletion could alter that perspective for new users. (This, of course, assumes any of them actually read comments.) – phantom42 Feb 11 '15 at 18:19
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    @Slytherincess I read all the comments, no matter how old a question/answer is – Izkata Feb 11 '15 at 23:56
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    @Keen Any leniency if the joke comment got a lot of upvotes? I remember seeing one quite a while ago that was at +54, I think on a LotR question – Izkata Feb 12 '15 at 0:00
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    @phantom42 -- I get what you're saying. I personally think what sets the tone of the site is quality questions and answers, and users behaving decently toward each other. I don't mind humorous comments -- I've left my fair share of them. But humor isn't particularly why I come to this site. When I'm looking for humor I watch John Oliver or hang out in chat or something. :) – Slytherincess Feb 12 '15 at 19:14
  • @Izkata Not really. Comments aren't meant to be permanent, popular comments are still just comments. – user1027 Feb 12 '15 at 19:32
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    @Slytherincess I also read all the comments when I'm reading an old post, and the jokes are part of why I do that. – MissMonicaE Mar 1 '17 at 17:56
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First off, the "too chatty" flag really sounds like it is meant for comments that have diverged into a side conversation. If anything, "joke" comments would fall under "Non-constructive", as they really are not helping improve the question/answer.

We definitely don't want to go the #3 route, as that would require our moderators to suddenly become the final arbiters of what is or isn't funny, and we all know @Richard has no sense of humor or spelling.

For normal users, I think this is just one of those things where we leave it up to the user to decide for themselves. I don't see any reason to tell users to actively flag jokes (the way we are asked to actively flag spam, dupes, etc.). But, at the same time, I don't think we can really say that humor is sacred and we must never flag a joke. If I don't mind them, I won't be bothered by them. It likely even depends on the exact questions at issue: Doctor Who fans are more likely to play fast and loose with humor than some other fandoms because the show itself is extremely humorous.

As far as moderators are concerned, though, there isn't much room for debate. The purpose of comments is to help improve the questions and answers, and jokey comments (that don't also serve that purpose) are off-topic. They are non-constructive. I think there is a benefit to them as they make the questions and answers more enjoyable to read, but strictly speaking, they don't make the questions or answers any better. Since that is ultimately the reason that all stack exchange sites exists, I don't think there's any justification to change that policy just to keep more humor around.

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    The problem is, it's not the community that decides. It's currently any one individual. As soon as any one person flags any joke, it goes (as @Richard implied in chat). Asking this question is my attempt to get the community to decide. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Feb 11 '15 at 15:07
  • My understanding of @Richard's comment was that moderators always remove flagged jokes, they do not use any discretion. So what you're written is not correct. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Feb 11 '15 at 15:09
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    I'm downvoting this because of the "@Richard has no sense of humor" comment. Also, that's not how you spell humour. – Valorum Feb 11 '15 at 15:16
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    Fair point, I will update the question. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Feb 11 '15 at 15:18
  • @Richard You spelled "hammer" wrong! – Möoz Feb 12 '15 at 20:52
  • @Mooz - The humour is my... well, you know the rest... – Valorum Feb 12 '15 at 21:14
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    +1 "I think there is a benefit to them as they make the questions and answers more enjoyable to read..." What's wrong with letting people smile once in awhile? Stackexchange is my break from 'real work', so sometimes I appreciate a good guffaw in the midst of all the seriousness. – Canadian Girl Scout Feb 15 '15 at 23:57
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Here's my own answer to this question (to see what the community thinks). Similar to Keen's answer, I'm happy for old jokes to be deleted. But not recent ones - that's just killing fun which is part of the appeal of this not-too-serious site.

One difference though is with heavily up-voted jokes. As Izkata mentioned, those I think should be left, to preserve the fun. I don't have a specific number in mind, but I'd say +5 or +10 votes would be enough to leave comments alone.

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    Red ten, let it been, lest someone else say it 'gain. – Mazura Oct 11 '15 at 23:36
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As you say — actually, as the now–departed user1027 said, — comical or jocular comments can provide some color and ambiance to the place. That can go to an extreme, of course; we all should know how obnoxious is the local color in some places. (BTW, please, don't limit yourself to construing that as an ethnic remark; we are all mostly the same color.

That being said, everything here should be viewed in the light of posterity.
Often a comment provides ancilliary information which doesn't quite fit in to an edit of the answer — though you could certainly attempt to do so. Those can be maintained.

Consider this: would a newcomer, viewing the page via a websearch, find the joke humorous in 5 years? If so, then keep it, why not.

Now, obviously there ought be a limit. I'd say one, maybe two, per every few Questions or Answers is plenty — unless it were an especially tongue–in–cheek topic. And too many of those becomes sickening, like a belly full of pure sugar.

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As the original flagger, let me try to clarify the point I was trying to make.

First of all, from time to time I go through my comments and remove the ones that are no longer relevant, for whatever reason (including silly jokes I found very funny and smart at the time). I also flag surrounding comments if they no longer make sense, or if they too seem irrelevant.

I happen to disagree with the consensus that welcome messages that contain no information beyond that, are to be discouraged. One of the arguments against them, in the accepted answer, was that

They encourage other low-value comments.

In chat, in a conversation with the user who wrote that accepted answer, I wanted to point out that low-value comments can arise regardless of a welcome comment, and used two jokes as an example. I deleted a joke I made and flagged those two for deletion as "not constructive". He agreed and deleted them.

The points I wanted to make:

  • Almost all comments older than a couple of months should either be deleted, or edited into the post they're commenting on and then be deleted.
  • Throwaway comments, such as jokes and welcome messages, make sense at the time but should not linger. They do provide value, be it levity or an attempt to lead a new user on their first steps towards becoming a valuable member of the community. But their time of usefulness is much shorter than other comments. After about a week, they're up for deletion as far as I'm concerned.

And that second point answers the question posed here.

What should we do about "funny" comments?
After about a week, we should delete them.

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