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Deleting comments on your own instructable. Good or bad? Answered

I met one of our contributors at Maker Faire in Austin and he had a concern about people posting comments on his own instructable. He wanted to be able to delete comments that he thought were off-topic or rude.

We have a flagging system and we do check the flags as often as we can, but there are a lot of comments out there and as Instructables continues to grow it gets harder to keep up.

So the question is whether or not we implement our own comment deleting system that some other sites, such as youtube, employ. Is this a good idea or not?

Here's how I see it break down:

Pros: Dumb or off-topic comments are spotted earlier by users since they get notified of comments on their own instructable. They are also more knowledgeable of the topic and will then know if the comment is correct or not.

Cons: Users can squash dissenting opinion. While most Instructables will be speaking from a knowledgeable point of view there are some, it's true, that make Instructables with faulty instructions or are not giving enough information. In these cases it's important to have extra information in the comments. If the user is able to delete objections that are valid, then the result is a weaker compilation of information.



Since this has been bumped .... the current (2009-2010) flagging system is working pretty well.  Perhaps if the FT could volunteer to receive notifications of flags, and then decide whether to "re-flag" or not?  I don't know how complicated it would be to dynamically modify the flagging-system's notification method.

.  Do you mean something like:
  • User flags iBle/topic/comment.
  • Robot and FT are notified.
  • If FT member agrees that post should be removed, (s)he flags to let Robot know that a FT member has looked at it (assuming flags have user info attached).
.  That sounds like a great idea to me. I'd add "If user "owns" post, it becomes 'invisible" - not deleted, but doesn't show up in any listings." to the first step.
.  I don't think it's a good idea to let any user delete something. All deletions should be reviewed by Robot before being carried out.

Yes.  We already have functionality in place where if an FT member flags something, it gets pulled off and then sent to Robot.  There can be a delay in this due to the server caching, but that's about it. 

What I'm proposing is to make that functionality active rather than passive:  rather than waiting for an FT to notice something and act on it, they could be notified to take a look at something questionable.

.  OK. Just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.
.  Yeah. I forgot to add the invisibility part to the last step.

I would think the pros far outweigh the cons here.  It works very well on Youtube, why not here?

I would call the comment areas of youtube the armpit of the internet at best and unrepeatable things at worst...  

Found this while looking for a way to delete innappropriate comments.  I really would like a way to delete comments that turn into off-topic conversations.

The comments could have a rating system, like uTube, with comments with a rating of -5 and less getting hidden. And/or you could let the author hide bad or off topic comments.

YYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! WHEN WAS THERE A MAKER FAIR IN AUSTIN?!?! OFJKFUGHCNMK!!!!!!!! Flagging's good enough for me, but deleting from the orangeboard could be helpful (ask Eric, my computer froze when i tried to get on his page)

do you need more mods? i might be able to help a little.

Flag sys seems to work for me... no complaints... ;)

I think we should just keep the flagging system. I really do see people abusing it. And I really like chooseausername's idea about the flag threshold. That makes a lot of sense... so many people flag a comment, and it becomes invisible until someone comes along and decides it should stay or be deleted. This way that comment isn't picking up additional trolls and causing arguments. :) I'm voting for moderators, really. That is the best way to deal with this sort of thing.

Yes, I think Mods would be a good idea, provided they could be trusted and reliable.

"Those who crave power should be denied power."

I was just trying to think of some trusted and reliable people..

...moat obvious...

What, aloof, crumbling and isolated by a big ditch full of algaed water?

That effectively shoots down anyone running for office, and anyone that is of the "royal family" :-) Not that I disagree

2nd, I would so volunteer, but I have posted some rude stuff in my past :(

Actually... I'm sort of against it...
At first, it seemed logical, and I was for it... but I've seen really bad things happoen in the past. Granted, not all of these things could happen, because theres a physical company out there behind all this (unless everyone's just a really really good liar) -- but the things I've seen are *terrible*.

As in moderators going on power trips? Things like that? Examples?

No no, not power trips... Moreso... just... corruption >_>

I know what you mean about that. IGN FTW. But I really do think the community here is much more mature than that.

I've only seen moderators cause problems when they are anonymous. The other forum I (in)frequent ( Science File - currently down for software update) started with one owner / moderator. Being a good site, it grew until it reached a point where that one man ("Andy Da Boss") couldn't deal with it all, especially with time-zone issues.

Fortunately, there were a group of regulars who were known to the whole community, and had shown themselves to be trustworthy. Not all held opinions that were agreed with by all, but they had shown themselves to be reliable when it came to the site rules and policies. Andy made it known he was looking for volunteers, who PMed him, then Andy asked a select bunch to help.

The Science File forum is split into various topics, and two or three volunteers were given "global moderator" rights, and now take general responsibility for the state of each board. They kept their user-names, but had a "global moderator" tag added to their name, and each board has the moderators' user-names clearly displayed.

In theory, members who disagree with a GM's actions can appeal to Da Boss, although I have never seen it happen.

The only "power trip" I have ever been on involved with involved JOLT cola, strong coffee and late night driving LOL

i do wish that when you flag something you had a place to put the reason you flagged it. if its there, then sorry i dont remember what happened when i flagged something.


A bigger (secret Ninja meter maid style) moderation community - perhaps with access to the flag list? Then log as much as possible.

With flag access that comes a little extra work for the dev. team though (giving a moderation group full site admin access could be bad - privacy is a good thing)...

I do recall one, now banned (for a different reason), member that kept republishing his project to get rid of all comments that disagreed with his opinion.... the DMCA dude. There's very good reason for contradictory comments. Situations like that would likely become more common and transparent - people love their own ideas, regardless of the implications.

Whomever is dealing with flags... I feel your pain :p It can suck up so much time and flag maintenance catch up can bring on negative feelings about the psychological condition of the human race :p Okay, maybe not that bad - but bad thoughts of kittens and caged bunnies perhaps....

Other ideas of overly complicated flag threshold systems (think Digg) coupled with admin input could work... But it still comes down to the necessity of admin input.

The downside of that... The morally questionable items.... How many flags do you get for the marijuana projects? Even though they're very old... Then there's opportunity for one group to suppress another...

Then there's a more robust flag system... Perhaps with user rating? Certain users have flag credibility - so their flag carries more weight? If I saw certain members flag something, I knew it had to actually be something. It doesn't take long for the human doing the maintenance to figure out who those members are...

Lastly.... How many people use the flag system? Is it a quasi limited group (the "regular" flaggers)? The "moral" items, people rally around -- but the gray zone items... members might just accept and move on, while a select few might just flag....

I like the "(secret Ninja meter maid style) moderation community". That would work well if we didn't know who the mods were, and thusly didn't change our behaviour when communicating in one of their threads/iBles, as I have seen some members act very differently when they know a member of the iBles staff is reading the thread/ they are replying to him/her.

, as I have seen some members act very differently when they know a member of the iBles staff is reading the thread/ they are replying to him/her.

That's generally what's trying to be avoided.... Over the summer it worked well for me, for awhile. Until I did a lot of flag catchup and my presence became more obvious....

At the same time, however, there were noticeable benefits of visible moderation (not necessarily knowing who is doing said moderation though).

BUT, as mentioned by kiteman makes a good argument against a secret mod team :p

Yes, that is a good argument. I guess either idea has it's drawbacks, I just liked the phrase secret Ninja meter maid style too much ;-)

Well can't that be solved by my previous idea, to send any flagged message to another page for community review/vote? However in the review page, all post for review has the poster's name removed. It's like digg, but you cannot directly down vote the message. It can be used to argument a normal staff deletion policy, but this time poster now has to contend to the fact that the community may just hate their type. Blind justice FTW

Hm..I'd say that you should have the aforementioned "meter maids" who can decide whether or not a post is kept or deleted, only once a certain number of flags have been made.

. Without some system of checks & balances (I see a lot of good ideas already posted), the potential for abuse is too great. From what I can tell, Instructables just doesn't have the resources (man-hours) to implement an effective/fair system - it would take a LOT of oversight. Even selecting/supervising a group of volunteers would probably be a full-time job.
. The current flagging system works well for me. There have been times when I thought it would be nice to be able to explain why I was flagging something, but I figure if it ain't pretty obvious to whomever handles the flags, I'm probably being too picky. Sometimes they are a little slow to delete SPAM, but I chalk that up to growing pains (ie, the site has taken off and staffing has temporarily fallen behind).
. I imagine that the staff already has unofficial lists of Good Users and Bad Users. Looks to me like most of the ppl that have responded here would be on the Good User list. ;)


10 years ago

I'd keep the current system. Some changes would be OK (trebuchet03's superflaggers, for instance.)

--I can think of one frequent poster (doesn't partcipate in the forums, so it's not you) who contributes some really nice projects, but is very argumentative and cannot abide any criticism.

And wouldn't most of us delete negative comments if we could? That wouldn't make the site more useful, IMO.

--The web already suffers from too much sanitizing and retroactive editing. Grateful for all the cache sites, so we can read what was really posted by politicos, etc.

And wouldn't most of us delete negative comments if we could?

Most of us - the active addict? Probably not based on the response in this thread. When I had the power to, I didn't :p

Most of the occasional contributors, iono :p

You're right. Few of us, and the majority of posters wouldn't.

But it seem likely that those instructables that need the most correction, feedback, etc., are the ones that will be censored.

Heres a funny idea: Keep the flagging system... however... flagged post are put on a side bar in certain page, in which people can view and vote to have it deleted. The twist in this system however, is that the flagged post doesn't display the poster's name. This means you cannot vote people down out of spite, without wasting time finding the actual post.

Thanks for the responses! I appreciate you all taking the time to weigh in on this, it's great. We're unlikely to implement such a system, but I wanted to hear your opinions. If you do have ideas or suggestions feel free to send them to us. We love the feedback.

If there is a delete system, I can easily see people abusing it. I can guarantee that there will be one guy who thinks that deleting everyone's comments is really fun, and delete even the most constructive comment.

I think that an ible maker's flag should be prioritized, but not just deleted.
I don't flag unless they go *way* out there... but I flag 1 or 2 times a day.

No deleting comments on your Instructables! It'd lead to less discussion and more arrogance.... I'd leave it to the flagging system.