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On the linked post, a comment was made addressing me with words that might be considered mildly rude by some. I had absolutely no issues with the comment (and thus, I didn't flag it). And yet, the comment has been deleted--it might have been deleted by the commentator themselves but I suspect there is a good probability that it was deleted by a moderator. The whole point of refraining from rude comments is to not make the addressed person uncomfortable. But if the addressed person has strong convictions against censoring speech and doesn't object at all towards the existence of the rude comment, should it be deleted? In the past, I myself might have flagged a rude comment addressed to a third person--so I am not complaining against anyone in particular, I am just questioning the practice. Thanks.

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    $\begingroup$ I flagged it for deletion because it is rude, regardless of whether you took offense to the statement. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 3 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos I didn't claim the fact of it being rude dependent on me taking the offense. I claimed that the action upon something rude might better be dependent on whether or not the addressed is bothered or not. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 3 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ I'm saying that what is rude should be deleted, regardless of what you think about the statement. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 3 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ I would say "no" if it is productive, and not too rude (e.g.F-words), "yes" - if it is useless comment. $\endgroup$ – Shing Apr 4 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ Not deleting it leaves the rude comment available to be downvoted-- $\endgroup$ – S. McGrew Apr 5 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ @S.McGrew We cannot downvote the comments--we can only either upvote it or flag it, the feature of the downvote for comments is simply non-existent on the site as of now. But I agree that it would be a great way to demonstrate that such behavior is not welcome without censoring any speech. Great idea--I hadn't thought of it. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 5 at 16:42
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I haven’t seen the comment, but...I don’t view this as a free speech issue, while generally being fairly close to a free-speech absolutist myself.

The reason is that comments are ephemeral by design. And one that is rude is going to be addressed to a particular person, which makes it obsolete and useless as soon as it has been read. If I call you a great poopy head, you know I don’t like you, but that doesn’t really help anyone else who is reading the question/answer. Likewise if I say thanks, that was tremendously helpful and you are an awesome person.

Unless the comment addressed a problem with your answer in a useful manner, it should be deleted.

If the comment is useful, it can be upvoted which will make it slightly less likely to be deleted.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ironically enough, I would comment that this is a really nice answer. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 13 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ This is a great point. It's also a commercial site, so free speech is somewhat trumped by trying to remain in business by keeping the environment looking good to investors. Seeing/allowing people to post about why they don't personally like each other will likely not be the kind of environment people want to invest in. $\endgroup$ – JMac Apr 13 at 16:29
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Absolutely

My take on the Code of Conduct (AKA the Be Nice policy) is that it is not just a matter of what the two people directly involved in the conversation think about the language used.

It also has the purpose of making our site look welcoming and consistent to readers. If someone isn't familiar with this site, and they read a question and see people calling others names, they will likely get the impression that such behaviour is appropriate on the site. It isn't, so the policy should apply even to posts where the two users don't feel that the posts need to be removed.

Fun fact - I know exactly what comment you're talking about, and I totally flagged it. Although I usually don't care either when users say such ridiculous things to me personally, it is best to keep it off the site. I found the comment a bit amusing; but for all the wrong reasons.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is basically what I would have written, had you not beaten me to it by 40 minutes. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 3 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I knew that the Code of Conduct wouldn't care about whether someone was bothered or not but my point was if it should care or not. I mean I am a free-speech absolutist so I don't approve of deleting a comment even if the addressed takes an offense but that is a discussion for another time. When the addressed doesn't take any offense, it seems illogical to take any action--if the website is to be made into a "safe space", let's just ensure that a comment will be deleted if it is rude and is complained against by the relevant users. That much should be more than sufficient. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 3 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijMankad This isn't meant to be a "safe space." It is meant to be professional and civil, though, and both of those things preclude rudeness. $\endgroup$ – Chris Apr 3 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijMankad I feel like most of this is what I was addressing with the part about being welcoming and consistent to readers. It doesn't necessarily matter if the addressed doesn't feel offended. The point is, other readers will see that rude behaviour, and it will reflect on the site. Having comments where users call each other names does not present a good image of stack exchange, even if the users being called names aren't bothered by it. $\endgroup$ – JMac Apr 3 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Chris I would buy the "professionalism and civility" argument. While I have issues with both of them and I think that academia is supposed to be more organic and freedom-friendly than the typical professional world with its etiquettes, I never imagine (or imagine significantly trying to having) those elements removed from academia. I would be glad to accept this argument of yours as an answer. Because in some sense, it simply states that this is a "non-optional social convention" and is not based in rigorous logic--of course, no offense. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 3 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @JMac I get your point about "welcoming" but it might be more emotionally hurtful for some people to get to know that they are wrong than to hear some name-calling which they can shrug off as just name-calling. So the consistency of a generalized welcoming-ness of the environment is lost right there. And even if the addressed is not hurt by hearing that they are wrong, "such tone of talk" might feel other people uncomfortable! I mean honestly, I have physically met people who think that PSE is rude just because they got told without sugar-coating that they were mistaken, etc. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 3 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijMankad Telling people they are wrong on a Q&A site is an entirely different situation than being unfriendly, as the policy as addressing. Addressing the content (in a respectful way, obviously) is completely fine. This site's content is community driven, so feedback is a necessary part; but the feedback has to relate to the content and not attack the person who posted the content. Yes, some people may disagree about what is and isn't rude, and there will be some small form of judgement call being made; but most of the time, it's pretty obvious when the line is crossed. $\endgroup$ – JMac Apr 3 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the answer, I would chime in that I think of making the site look welcoming to readers as an equally important goal to dealing with situations where individuals feel offended or insulted. Maybe even more important. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 4 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ So you found it amusing, but yet you flagged it? What about all the others who would also like to be amused, but now they can't since the post got deleted. That's a pity, I'd love to know what that ominous posting was about $\endgroup$ – Yukterez Apr 14 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Yukterez Amusing for all the wrong reasons. They were essentially just trying to call someone else stupid. It was amusing because the person they were insulting was just trying to explain something to them, but it didn't fit with what the other person believed so they went to personal attacks instead of trying to understand the concept. $\endgroup$ – JMac Apr 14 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijMankad "Free-speech absolutist" is an interesting term - you need to invite me to your house so that I can tell you how wrong that is. (Sarcasm aside: rude behaviour is a much wider problem than just the single person being addressed. SE has no obligation to rude people that compels us to publish their abusive comments.) $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Apr 14 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty Haha, bookmarking that--and you're welcome (-: Yes, I think I very much agree with the answer by jmoreno that we can posit that comments are expected to be useful in the context of physics--here, we bypass the free-speech issue (as long as a very good physics comment is not clothed with profanity) by the very nature of design and free-speech absolutists are also not "offended" xD. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 14 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ Apart from that, I still don't feel that it is really needed to remove profanity for the sake of it (as we do under the "Be Nice" clause) but I am not saying that PSE is under obligation to publish everything. I am just saying it would have been nicer (to not remove profanity for the sake of it) IMHO. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 14 at 14:18
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I saw that comment. Even if it didn't bother you, we don't want stuff like that hanging around. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory

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    $\begingroup$ We can just make sure that a rude comment is deleted whenever it is complained against by the relevant user. That should be sufficient for all the symbolic things like "setting the example" and so on. $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 3 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ And again, with all such issues of free-speech, where do you draw the line? Is calling someone an idiot rude? Mostly, yes. But is calling someone deeply mistaken rude? I don't think a whole lot would agree that it is rude but I am sure it hurts some people very much. Are sarcastic and snide remarks rude when made in a language with no profanity? $\endgroup$ – Dvij Mankad Apr 3 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijMankad a general rule which you could use is this: anything which criticizes the person who wrote an answer/comment/question (by calling them stupid, idiotic, misguided, or whatever) is probably out-of-line. But criticizing the post content should be OK as long as the language is civil, even if it's done harshly and directly (like "this post is completely false" probably isn't be a violation of the Be-nice rule). $\endgroup$ – user191954 Apr 4 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ @chair I mostly agree, although IMO saying someone is misguided is a borderline case, since it's not directly attacking the person, it criticizes the person's beliefs. I suppose that can be expressed in a way that makes it clearer that you aren't attacking the person. OTOH, some people will take it as a personal attack when you disagree with them, no matter how you phrase it. $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring Apr 4 at 6:38
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    $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring Eh, I would say that saying someone is misguided actually does count as attacking the person. One could say that the post is misguided instead, which would be better. (Although there are better ways to phrase it than "misguided" too.) $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 4 at 18:26

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