I came across this question and noticed there were four comments stating the current number of deleted answers.

However, as none of them were up-to-date, I decided to flag them as obsolete.

But here's the weird part: When I later went to see my flag history, one of the flags had been declined.

I went back to the question trying to find the comment for which the flag had been declined. Currently, the only comment that deals with the number of deleted answers is this:

Now 16 answers, all deleted.

That's not obsolete (I assume; because it says "all deleted", unlike the obsolete ones), but this comment with this text was not there when I flagged the four comments.

Proof: See the Comments.xml file in MathOverflow data dump (from August) and search for 458314. Which is the id of this comment. The original content of the comment (as can be seen from the Comments.xml) is this:

Now 16 answers, 14 deleted, the other two downvoted to minus 2.

That's clearly an obsolete comment.

Why was the comment flag declined? I can think of a couple of reasons:

  • It's impossible to approve a comment flag without the comment getting deleted. So a moderator saw my flag, agreed with it but decided to update the comment and decline the flag.
  • A moderator saw the flag and decided to edit the comment. Then just after that, another user sees the flag and the updated comment. Well, that comment is not obsolete anymore, so the user had to decline the flag.
  • 2
    Thanks for flagging the comments. I entertained the idea to do so myself recently. – user9072 Nov 4 '15 at 23:39
  • 7
    Well, I was the moderator who handled those flags. Yes, I credit and thank you for the observation that all those comments were obsolete. But, the comments were clearly a running tally of the situation, and there was clearly a very good reason for that tally, so it was entirely logical for me to delete all but one and simply edit the last. I could have deleted all of them, adding another to reflect the updated situation, but that would have robbed due credit to Gerry Myerson who had the good sense to have that tally in the first place, and would have made it instead seem due to me. – Todd Trimble Nov 5 '15 at 1:56
  • So I hope you see it is not so strange or weird after all. :-) – Todd Trimble Nov 5 '15 at 2:09
  • @ToddTrimble Yes, your action makes sense. Thanks for confirming quid's answer. :) – Smi Nov 5 '15 at 9:16
up vote 13 down vote accepted

In essence it ought to be this:

It's impossible to approve a comment flag without the comment getting deleted. So a moderator saw my flag, agreed with it but decided to update the comment and decline the flag.

The comment was edited, and only a moderators can edit a comment that old. Handling of comments flags is quite restrained and, yes, it is more-or-less impossible to mark the flag as helpful and preserve the comment. (It is not strictly impossible, I think, but one would have to jump through some hoops and somewhat work around the system.)

  • 10
    Yes, that is a correct reading. As I said to quid privately not long ago, I've been meaning to write a meta post about the various flags and how they look from the moderator end. There is not a little confusion about this. – Todd Trimble Nov 5 '15 at 1:58

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