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  1. A comment was deleted from the 'latest changes' discussion thread. The comment was completely irrelevant to the discussion. It was either simply facetious or was intended as a trial of guest posting. Since the 'latest changes' discussion is an important topic and there are other threads that are purely for testing guest posting, the comment was deleted (had it had any actual content, it would have been moved to another discussion).

    As this has been the first comment deleted, there has not been need to formulate a policy on when it is acceptable to delete comments. Now that anonymous posting is allowed, there is a higher potential for "noise" and thus a need for a policy on deleting comments. This is a first step to formulating such a policy. Discussion is, of course, welcome.

    Here are three possible rules:

    1. Comments from people logged in will only be deleted if they contravene the terms of service. Specifically (but not exclusively), the line:

      You agree not to post irrelevant or damaging material or any content that may endanger the other users or providers of this service.

    2. Guest posts should be relevant to the discussion in which they are posted, and guest discussions relevant to the category in which they are started.

    3. If a guest post is "signed" and it transpires that it was posted by someone else, it will be deleted regardless of content.

    In addition, the message for "guest posts" should be a little more relevant (and link to the terms of service). Suggestions are welcome.

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeSep 22nd 2009

    Do you happen to remember or have logged the text of the deleted comment? That would prove to everyone that it really was irrelevant. More generally, if moving comments is something that the software has good support for, then you could create a Trash thread and move all such comments there. That won't work if we start getting inundated with spam (which the ReCaptcha is supposed to keep out instead), but it means that any future complaints or cries of censorship can be dealt with.

    Technical problem: deleting (or moving) a comment that is not the last in its thread will mess up links like this one.

    Yes, I agree that Guest posts need to see the same Terms of Service as when applying for an account.

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorEric
    • CommentTimeSep 22nd 2009
    Other forums I've participated on all had a "Trash" thread. Sounds like a good idea to me too.
    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeSep 22nd 2009

    Moving comments is tricky as it would involve either manually changing the ID in the database or writing a plugin to do so. Whilst I am not adverse to writing plugins for this forum, I think that others are of higher priority than that. However, what I have discovered is that deleted comments are not truly deleted but are merely hidden. Thus someone with sufficient privileges can view them. For example, as admin I can see the comment deleted from the 'latest changes' thread and so quote it here (via the magic of being sort-of logged in twice):

    Has anybody seen my brother, Anon?

    Noel

    Not particularly informative, I hope you'll agree.

    My concern with a 'trash' discussion is if it is public. One of the reasons for deleting comments is if they contravene some law. Merely shifting them to a trash would, I think, be insufficient in a court of law.

    Options are:

    1. To give members the right to view deleted comments (it would be an option that you could switch on or off at your leisure, thus most of the time you would have it turned off and then only turn it on to check that things are being done correctly). As access to this forum is fairly unrestrictive, I'm not sure if that is sufficient protection. If someone posts something libellous, it being still accessible to any member may not be enough.

    2. To give a trusted group the right to view deleted comments and to publically log the fact that comments have been deleted, giving sufficient details but not contents where such are inappropriate.

    Given that I have direct access to the database, I could of course simply expunge comments altogether and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. Of course, if someone thinks that I am abusing my position in doing so, then there could be a coup and the n-forum could be moved. However, whatever system you have there will always be a select few who have direct access to the database and you have to trust them. You all implicitly trust me already since I have direct access to the n-lab database. I implicitly trust the sysadmins at rails playground and here at my department since between them they have access to all the data. Saying that everyone should be able to verify that the deleted comment was worth deleting is thus missing the point. If you don't trust me to be honest then you've got bigger problems than a missing comment on the forum!

    But it is still important to be open and transparent which is why I started this thread.

    (In the interests of full disclosure, I've just deleted another comment. However, that was because I mistakenly posted it as admin rather than as myself and I simply reposted it as myself.)

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeSep 22nd 2009

    Saying that everyone should be able to verify that the deleted comment was worth deleting is thus missing the point. If you don't trust me to be honest then you've got bigger problems than a missing comment on the forum!

    No, it's different. I trust you to be honest in what you say; I even trust you to be open and transparent. But I don't necessarily trust you not to make errors in judgement.

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeSep 22nd 2009

    My concern with a 'trash' discussion is if it is public. One of the reasons for deleting comments is if they contravene some law. Merely shifting them to a trash would, I think, be insufficient in a court of law.

    To give members the right to view deleted comments. As access to this forum is fairly unrestrictive, I'm not sure if that is sufficient protection. If someone posts something libellous, it being still accessible to any member may not be enough.

    That depends on the jurisdiction of the court of law. In the UK, I think that you would be in trouble. In the U.S., it looks like it would be enough to have a hard-coded message at the top of the Trash thread (each page) that it consists of archives of material that was deleted, may be irrelevant, damaging, or dangerous, and should not be trusted. (Even Wikipedia doesn't bother with this in its edit histories, although some edits have been expunged from the database entirely in extraordinary cases.) Of course, the relevant jurisdiction here is Norway, so I don't know!

    Actually, it would probably be wise to have a hard-coded message at the top of every page that content may be added by anybody and may be irrelevant, damaging, or dangerous. Then if you go with option (1) (second quotation above, no Trash thread), add that deleted comments are particularly not to be trusted in this regard.

    All that said, I would be satisfied with option (2) (not quoted here).

    Also, thank you for your openness and transparency!

    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeSep 23rd 2009

    No, it's different. I trust you to be honest in what you say; I even trust you to be open and transparent. But I don't necessarily trust you not to make errors in judgement.

    My original statement didn't convey quite what I meant. Of course there should be procedures to cover such eventualities (errors in judgement) but what I meant was that these procedures only work because you trust me to be honest, open, and transparent. Thus someone who doesn't trust me to be that won't trust the procedure and that's what I meant. My personal vote would be for option (2) but then as we don't yet have a decision-making procedure that doesn't count for a lot!

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