Reading the answer by SuperCiocia to this question Should we flag comments like "Thank you"?, I learned about the comment flag for "no longer needed".
I thought this was interesting because, from time to time, I stumble on dead-end questions that are being kept alive from Roomba solely based on having more than one comment. Specifically that it meets the criteria for being "abandoned" except for having 2+ comments. https://physics.stackexchange.com/help/roomba Many times these comments have no real content that advances the archival value in general, and especially not after many years. (After 9 years, I think it's safe to say that the OP is not going to respond to a request to add details.)
I picked out a couple of examples that I thought were particularly egregious to see how they'd be handled. Most were declined, which didn't really surprise me except that the mods had just weighed in on the meta question linked above indicating that such flags were appropriate. I don't necessarily care about these specific comments, but I'd like to get some community sense about why or if we should be keeping some of these questions on life support by keeping these types of comments in place.
Examples (obviously these may become out of date if the comments are eventually deleted, so keep that in mind if you come around later):
- First comment here is link-only. Moreover it doesn't link to anything other than a search engine, so it's essentially spam. I raised a custom flag with comment "Dead link / spam link. There's nothing useful on the other side of this link in any case." Experimental realization of Quantum Teleportation of Spin, not polarization, not ions or atoms
- First comment here says nothing except that the person commenting knows "nothing about" the topic of the question but that the person might find someone who could answer. In what environments can a dipolariton form? The second of two comments, which I didn't separately flag, just says thank you to the first person. So this is a closed-loop of two comments that at best is out of date and, arguably, had no chance of long-term value from the start.
- Last comment here is a thank you, which is essentially the topic of the meta that I linked above as an example of the type of comment that should be flagged under the policy plus a request to post an answer. (After 10 years, I think we can assume that request will not be met so the comment is "no longer needed".) Is this a known entropy formula?
- Last comment here is a request that a comment above be turned into an answer. This flag was marked "helpful" but the comment wasn't deleted. At almost 9 years, I think we can assume the request will not be met and so the comment in question is "no longer needed". Folded and/or compacted dimensions in M-theory?
These are 4 examples, but there are many on the site where "chatty" comments that either could not or, with hindsight now available, did not advance questions toward answers. Having tried to use the site over the last few months to find information rather than just answering new questions as the arise, I'm confident that this noise is reducing the archival value of the better questions that do have answers.
Doing a question-by-question search for this situation probably isn't a good use of our time, but to the extent that they are found during normal use:
- What's the community's view on cleaning up some of these older comments?
- What criteria are the mods using to handle the flags?
I had forgotten about this part: I also flagged a couple of questions for closure rather than flagging the comments as a control in the experiment. I went back and checked those, and most were ultimately closed in review. Interestingly, in each case they were closed by a moderator casting a binding vote. There's no way to see who handled the comment flags, so it might be a difference in approach between mods. Given that the comments are definitionally ephemeral though, and the questions get more a presumption to be preserved, it strikes me as odd that the mods took decisive action only on the closure of the questions themselves.
In this scenario, closing also puts the questions in line for Roomba, just in a different category, so either by approving the comment flag or agreeing to the closure they effectively decided to delete the question. For some reason there seems to be a preference for path over the other.