One of the main purposes of meta is to have discussion. The rules about comments not being for discussion do not apply to meta as you can see by visiting e.g. MSO. However some of our moderators feel that it is fine to remove comments on meta as they please and do so quite aggressively. This is not something I have seen on other SE sites that I participate (cstheory, MathOverflow, Math.SE, SO, etc.).

I don't see why comments on meta posts that are not causing any trouble should be removed. There is no harm in letting them stay where they are.

According to the SE's moderation policy the main point of having community moderators is to have exception handlers in cases where community cannot handle, not janitors. I think it is rather unfortunate if a moderator feels that he has a right or duty to remove harmless comments based on his personal preferences. This seems a clear overuse of moderator powers to make the meta look like as he pleases and I see it as a sign that the moderator is taking the usage of moderator powers lightly.

What do you think? Should moderators use their moderator powers when there is no real need for using moderator powers, particularly on meta? E.g. should they remove relevant and completely fine comments giving feedback to OP just because they please, as in here?

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    $\begingroup$ Are you able to provide some specific examples of comments that you felt should not have been deleted? This kind of thing is probably easier to discuss in the context of concrete examples. The one example I see in your post is this link, but I've looked over all of the deleted comments and I didn't immediately see what you are referring to. I see some comments on that post about centering of titles that were deleted after Raphael split out discussion of that topic to meta.cs.stackexchange.com/q/1214/755. (cont.) $\endgroup$ – D.W. Feb 3 '16 at 3:45
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    $\begingroup$ However none of those deleted comments seem to fit the description you've listed, so I wonder if I'm looking in the right place. Am I looking at the right post, and are those the comments you are referring to? Do you want answers expressing opinions whether it was appropriate to delete those comments? If those aren't the ones you were referring to, are you able to quote the comments you feel were wrongly deleted, or provide some other way to identify the specific comments that raised this concern for you? $\endgroup$ – D.W. Feb 3 '16 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ @D.W., yes, those are the comments I am referring to. This is a general thing that is going on but that is a good enough example for my point. Harmless on-topic relevant comments are being deleted for no reason other than the personal preference of one of the moderators. As I said, this is rather outside the norms of how moderators act and meta works as far as I have seen. The moderator powers are given to community moderators to solve problems not make every small detail of the site be as one sees fit. My goal in opening this discussion is to see how other feel about it and see if we need $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 4:24
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    $\begingroup$ to have set some guidelines as community for how elected community moderators should use the mod powers they are given as well as give some feedback to the moderator who I think is overusing the mod powers. Let me quote SE's moderation theory post: "But what do community moderators do? The short answer is, as little as possible!" In other words, the idea is to use the mod power only when necessary. Going around meta and deleting on-topic relevant politely written comments doesn't fit with that AFAIU. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 4:33
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    $\begingroup$ So it seems that comments were deleted to make vote. Comments AFAIK were supposed to be only temporary. I see many things that bothers me (beauty contest from posts, low policy about kicking out off-topics that got answers and so on, sudden demotion, lack of mobile theme) but deleting comments I would not count as power abuse. No proper polls and low attendence in any kind of community based decisions makes it hard to upkeep. $\endgroup$ – Evil Feb 3 '16 at 7:04
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    $\begingroup$ So comments were taken seriously, so they were placed as new topic with voting option. And there is info about it, so it is visible (I do not know who sees deleted comments, but the split is public info). Summing it up I feel good with this action. $\endgroup$ – Evil Feb 3 '16 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ The title of this post makes several suggestions that have to be proven: 1) Relevant comments were deleted. 2) These comments were not creating any problems. 3) The motivation to delete was because [the moderator's] pleasure. Weirdly, I see none. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 3 '16 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ "no reason other than the personal preference of one of the moderators" -- This suggestion is clearly false. There were other reasons, and so far nobody but you has claimed these comments were not obsolete. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 3 '16 at 7:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael: Can we see those comments that were deleted? Why didn't you cite them in your answer? $\endgroup$ – A.Schulz Feb 3 '16 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ @EvilJS, 1. He could have created the new post without removing the comments. 2. The way comments are used is different on meta from the the main site, the rule that comments are temporary applies to the main site not meta. Have a look at this recent MSE post. The behavior of removing relevant harmless comments on meta posts is very unusual. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ 3. Based on SE's moderation policy, the purpose of mod powers is to handle exceptional problematic situations. There was no problem that needed a moderation intervention here, so at lease this is a misuse/overuse of mod powers. 4. Comments are not just for him, they are for community to communicate with each other. My first point here is that they was no reason for removing them (but I can go further and argue why removing them is actually harmful for the site). $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 12:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Raphael, It seems that you are oblivious to the fact that your decisions are arbitrary, not based on any policy, and simply based on your preferences about how discussions on meta should take place. I understand that you feel you are making the discussions take place the right way you see it, but it is not enough to enforce your view using mod powers. And certainly the comments were relevant and without any issue that would require their deletion. The fact that you started some other discussion is not a justification to remove what others have written on the issue. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ @A.Schulz Knock yourself out. (Rereading I see that there were indeed obsolete comments I removed that were not related to the new thread: those about white background. I understood them as a conversation between two users that had clearly ended and would be of no use for anybody -- obsolete.) $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 3 '16 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ what goes around comes around see also What to do about general comments by non-experts which do not add any new information/knowedgle? / cstheory meta. as far as Rs screenshot in last comment revealing deleted comments, dont understand his rationale, think most of the deleted comments in question are not extraneous & most would objectively agree. agreed SE mods need to be careful not to micromanage SE sites with their disproportional powers. $\endgroup$ – vzn Feb 3 '16 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ 1. We are talking about polite relevant comments on meta here. 2. The way that mod powers are implemented makes it too easy for moderators to forget when they are using them. I decided to step down as a mod exactly because I felt that I was using mod powers too often and was not able to reduce that enough. (I think people generally agreed that the cases were problematic, but felt that they can be handled by community without a mod intervention. Here were are talking about use of mod powers in situations which are not even remotely problematic.) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 20:23

The answer to your titular question is no, but you are not really asking this question.

Tl;dr: Your complaint is based on a strawman. I reject it.

You first complained about this here.

In that entire thread, I removed a total of two comments (besides some I wrote myself). Both because they were obsolete, one by other comments by the same user, the other (yours) by an answer (your own).

So, this thread. Here I removed a greater number of comments -- again because they were obsolete.

The OP specifically requested (emphasis mine):

If you see any CSS/styling bugs, please start a new post and tag it with "design" and "bug".

It quickly became clear from a whole slew of comments that the title alignment was more widely disliked, so I created a new post. That made all comments about alignment obsolete -- both their content and their number/popularity, since the new thread was designed for voting. I removed those and some chat-style comments between the OP and myself in which we discussed how to proceed (also obsolete).
FWIW, I was complete transparent about that.

Nota bene: Before I took action, that question had amassed over 20 comments.

PS: All the comments I removed agreed with my own sentiment. Not that I cared, but the insinuation that I would use my mod powers to control opinion is insulting.

For reference, there is of course a network-wide policy for dealing with comments. It clearly states that obsolete comments should be removed (contrary to what Kaveh claims).

It remains open if I had to remove them as promptly as I did -- the policy uses phrases like "long ago" for their examples -- but the basic reasons for deletion were fulfilled. As a user, I would have flagged "obsolete"; I can not to that as a mod without deleting immediately, so that's what happened.

I stand by removing obsolete comments. It keeps comment threads -- even discussions -- readable. I do delete less aggressively on meta than on the main site, for exactly the reasons you mention. (In discussions, comments rarely become truly obsolete.)

So, in summary, I reject this complaint as invalid.

I may adjust my "pain threshold" in the future and withhold cleanups until the dust has settled (read: nobody will notice) in the future. However, I doubt I will ever see reason not to delete excessive chatting and/or huge numbers of obsolete comments, even if they are relatively new.

PS: The fact that you (Kaveh) have no way to know exactly what comments got removed but your own (a small number, none of which were controversial in any way) makes this complaint even more shaky.

FWIW, some stats (the other mods can verify that I don't make these numbers up):

  • I deleted a total twenty (20) comments on meta this year. 19 of them are discussed above. A sizable portion of them was my own.
  • Since the beginning of this site (almost four years ago), I deleted a total of 79 comments on meta. I have no (easy) way of knowing which and by whom, and I don't know if comments on deleted posts count.

    I see that I dealt with 36 flags (some of which probably comment flags) and cleanups usually involve at about 50% my own comments, though.

  • For reference, I have removed 204 comments on the main site this year (to my surprise, I'm this is the least number among all mods!), and 2.8k total.
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    $\begingroup$ First, it is highly questionable if they were obsolete, the fact that you started a new discussion doesn't make them obsolete. You have removed other people's opinions on an issue and framed them in your preferred way. Even the sole existence of a user's comment has information for others. Second, let's say they were from your perspective obsolete. It is a rather unusual behavior to remove comments as you are doing on meta sites. The rules for the meta are different from the rules for the main site. Meta is for discussion while on the main site discussion is not acceptable. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ The main question is this: was there an exceptional problematic situation that required a moderator intervention in these cases? I think there wasn't. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ ps: I do think that overall you (and the other two moderators) are doing a very good job as community moderators. I am not bringing this up to say otherwise. I have tried to make this discussion about practice of moderation on this site not about you. I think it is helpful for the community and moderators to have some discussion of when and where mod powers should be used where they should not. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 13:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh "was there an exceptional problematic situation that required a moderator intervention in these cases?" -- more than 20 comments under a post trigger an automatic flag, for a reason. Such threads are almost impossible to follow. I decided to cut out one topic. If I could move comments to another post -- which I can't -- I would have. So I removed them and trusted that users who felt that their comments added something beyond "don't like X as well" (now expressible by voting) are able and motivated to repeat their comment in the new place. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 3 '16 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ (Side note: the OP have already read the removed comments, and reacted. So any communication on that channel had already happend. I fail to see what value the removed comments had for anybody else.) $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 3 '16 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ Contrary to the topic title my personal opinion is that moderators are deleting comments too rarely. But if I think that something is obsolete (the reason that comment is offensive, which I flagged once is clean), after flagging I got peer reviewed moderator powers - it should be more aggressive on the other side, but probably just to avoid discussions like this they are not getting frenzy delete mode on. Just in the name of being fair. Maybe there is balance in this, but literally always somebody will receive this badly. If there is more than one user - there will be no agreement. $\endgroup$ – Evil Feb 3 '16 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ recently another question accrued a lot of comments and Gilles apparently moved most to chat. suggest this be the preferred approach in the future. K: suggest you start new meta topic on whatever bigger issue other than comments you think got unfairly sidelined. $\endgroup$ – vzn Feb 3 '16 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Raphael, IIRC it is part of SE guidelines for moderators that as a moderator you don't need to do anything for many flags. The automatic flagging system is mainly for the main site, not for meta. The fact that the tool flagged them doesn't make them problematic. There wasn't really any problematic situation that needed you to use your mod powers to remove comments. As I said, have a look at other meta sites like Meta Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh You keep saying that, but you don't offer any new arguments so i still disagree. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 3 '16 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ OK, we seem to be talking past each other. So let's try a different approach by breaking down the issue to see figure out where we disagree and then focus on that. Do you agree with the point emphasized in the SE moderation theory post that community moderators should use their mod powers as little as possible? $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ Btw, if you look at the bottom of the a guide to moderating comments post that you have linked to you will see that it states that the guideline is for the main sites not the meta sites. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 3 '16 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh If you want to chat, please move it to Computer Science Chat. (I don't see a guide for moderating comments on meta sites, so I'll have to assume the principles carry over.) $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 3 '16 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ The guideline itself states that it is not for meta sites so it doesn't carry over to meta sites. (I think it is clear that the rules for the main site are not intended for the meta which is for discussion and not a Q&A and should be clear for anyone who has participated on meta sites.) It is better to keep the discussion here in one place and not divide it across different places. So do you agree with the point emphasized in the SE moderation theory post? $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Feb 4 '16 at 0:11

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