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Traditionally, MathOverflow moderators only delete comments that are highly problematic. Even in that case, we copied the entire deleted comment thread to tea.mathoverflow.net. Since migrating to the Stack Exchange network, moderators regularly get requests to cleanup comment threads for reasons that are not highly problematic. For example, users can now flag comments as 'obsolete' or 'too chatty', neither of which is highly problematic. Should there be a change in policy regarding comment cleanup?

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    $\begingroup$ It might (or might not) be relevant to add that now (in contrast to old MO) moderators can easily see deleted comments, though not undelete them. [Hope this is right but I am fairly convinced.] $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 17 '13 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: Moderators can undelete comments, as long as they weren't removed by their original posters. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 17 '13 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: thank you for this information, I was not aware of this distinction. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 17 '13 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: It's a new feature. See the recent changes log, it was deployed about two weeks ago. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 17 '13 at 22:32
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I don't think MO should change any policies just because we're part of a network now.

Yes, we are going to get a handful of edits, flags, and otherwise suggestions from SE users which have little to no clue about MO and its community, but that shouldn't really bother anyone.

MO worked out just fine, and even better than fine, and it should keep up its trajectory. At least for the time being.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with this. I had a good sense of community from the old MO, and we ought to be cautious about maintaining continuity. (Already I fear there has been attrition, and that we're in danger of losing some of the most valued contributors we had before.) $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Jul 17 '13 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure if you saw my answer before writing this, but: a) would you be against the deletetion I recommend? b) not rarely the copies on 'tea' were in the end not relevant at all, why continue doing this, when the practical constraints changed? $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 17 '13 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble: not to disagree, but to add something positive: I am quite positively surprised by the move (having raised various concerns before, some having been taken into account, others at least so far not haing materiliased). And, I noticed two top 50 contributors returning from a long break (likely not really because of the move in a strict sense but still). It is true one important contributor was likely lost (but the relevance of the move to this was rather circumstantial I think, by contrast it seems it was "the community"). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 17 '13 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: Who was lost? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 17 '13 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ The user that was too generous or perhaps rather too playful, that is in some peoples opinion, with bounties. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 17 '13 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ Asaf, if it is indeed the user referred to by quid, look at the end of this thread, and then here. $\endgroup$ – Andrés E. Caicedo Jul 18 '13 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ I agree very strongly with Todd Trimble. And I fear that this new meta is not a good place to discuss this... I'm not sure where is though. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 18 '13 at 1:29
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielMoskovich: why not on the old meta, now at tea.mathoverflow.net ? Seems like a reasonable (likely also only) alternative place. (It works just as before.) $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 18 '13 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ +1 quid. I didn't realize it was still up! $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 18 '13 at 3:12
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    $\begingroup$ @quid While the old meta is certainly a reasonable place, there is an alternative place where these discussions could take place, namely chat (either in the main room or in a specially dedicated room). I'm not making any claims regarding which is better, but it may be worth trying out. $\endgroup$ – Logan M Jul 18 '13 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ @LoganMaingi: true, one could try this (rarely I am there and somewhat more frequently check the log). It depends a bit on what Daniel Moscvich envisages and why this meta seems unsuitable to him in the first place. But anyway it is certaonly good you mentioned this option as I assume it is not ye that much on some people's mind (including meto soem extent). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 18 '13 at 19:48
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I would immensely prefer if nothing were removed which is not explicitly problematic.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you elaborate on why you do so. In particular, in the situations darij grinberg and I sketched out. Also, IIRC, you are in favor of deleting certain types of questions (that are off-topic but not what I would call 'explcitly problematic' given the usage of 'problematic' in OP). It is not evident to me why you are in favor of doing the one yet seem to have strong feelings against the other. However, as an math.SE mod you should have some experience with this, so your opinion seems quite relevant. But as is, it is difficult to infer much from what is written. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 20 '13 at 12:49
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I could imagine the following:

  1. In my mind a main purpose of copying things to "tea" was to have it readily available if a discussion regarding who said what should arise. If you do not clearly anticpate this happening or the comments are part of an already ongoing disucssion, I would suggest you just delte them without "back-up" on meta, on the grounds that now (and this is new, AFAIK) you could still do so latter (or even undelete them if the need arises). (So the doing so 'just in case' seems not needed anymore.)

  2. Complete conversations should stay (chatty and obsolete or not). [Except I am not really sure how this moving to chat works, so I might revise my opinion regarding for very 'chatty' if some information on this should come up.]

  3. Conversations that are already incomplete (due to parts being deleted) and obsolete should be deleted completely. To give an abstract example of what I have in mind (strike-out means already deleted):

User 1: I do not understand the question. As written this is clearly wrong.

User 2: @User 1, I guess p^2 is meant instead of p also, it is likely assumed p is prime.

OP: @User 2, yes this what I meant. I edit the question. [Edit gets performed.]

In this case I see I no merit at all in preserving the remaining comments, and thus they should be deleted.

I have no strong feelings regarding this, but would rather be careful regarding deletetions, as the risk of upsetting soembody outweighs the benefit of having a 'cleaner' site [this for the chatty and obsolete type]. Also, as opposed to edits, these deletions are not transparent for everybody considerable more restraint seems appropriate.

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    $\begingroup$ For the record, deleting comments that got incorporated (completely!) in the base post (most often, "you've got a typo there") is something I've done a lot over at AoPS, and I don't remember anyone complaining. Particularly when they are confusing (by referring to outdated versions of the post) such deletion actually adds some value. Other than this, and complete nonsense comments, I wouldn't like to see anything deleted (in particular, "too chatty" seems like a very bad reason for me to delete anything, nor seems incompleteness without being obsolete). $\endgroup$ – darij grinberg Jul 20 '13 at 9:03

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