I've recently noticed that posts tend to have one or two "unbuilding" comments. I think these are not only unnecessary but also semi-rude: a premise has been set and should be believed in for as long as suspension of disbelief can hold. While these comments are certainly useful in the context of reality-check questions, they are also likely to be partial answers in comments in that situation. These "umbuilding" comments usually run either two ways:

"It's not possible." That can go two ways:

  • Useless, since the question in question isn't really a reality-check.
  • Useful, since the question is a reality-check . . . but it's unclear because it doesn't specify how, so it's not needed. If it does specify, it's an answer in comments

Or:

"If you are handwaving this, then why don't you handwave that?/This is unrealistic and it doesn't matter what you do because you're already handwaving/and so on."

Which borders on the edge of rude and isn't helpful at all. With this in mind:

Should we have a unbuilding/failure of suspension of disbelief/snarky/unhelpful comment flagging option?

And what should it look like?

Some extra reading that might be helpful:

And this Meta Meta featured announcement:

Let's hold language in comments to the same standard as posts

  • 7
    I find that such comments, challenging the premise of the question, can often be helpful for improving the question, or provide follow-up questions that I hadn't thought to address before. However, I agree that snark or rudeness in such comments is uncalled for. If a comment is rude, flag it as such. Otherwise, I don't believe that such a special flag reason is required. – Gryphon Jun 30 at 21:28
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    Do you have examples? – dot_Sp0T Jul 2 at 8:47
up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you see comments that are rude, please flag them as such. If you see something that's non-constructive but not outright rude, feel free to use either "no longer needed" or a custom flag.

If you see an answer in comments, consider leaving a comment (particularly if the user is not a veteran of the site) suggesting an answer instead. I usually try to give a newer user time to harvest that comment before nuking it, if its presence isn't causing a long conversation in the comments. We sometimes see custom "answer in comments" flags for these; that's fine.

The flag categories are set system-wide and sites can't override them, so even if we think we need this kind of flag (I'm not sure we do), there's no mechanism in place for us to get it. Fortunately, there's always "other", i.e. custom flags.

Finally, please bear in mind that moderators can't reply to comment flags (unlike post flags where we can). If you use one of the standard flags and it gets declined, it might be because we didn't understand what you're seeing. If that happens, feel free to use a custom flag to let us know what's up.

Thanks for helping to maintain our site.

First let me address this :

"If you are handwaving this, then why don't you handwave that?/This is unrealistic and it doesn't matter what you do because you're already handwaving/and so on."

Which borders on the edge of rude and isn't helpful at all.

I don't think that it is unhelpful and certainly not rude to say that.

It's an observation that is quite appropriate for many questions where posters have chosen to create arbitrary handwaved scenarios for which they want (often for unexplained reasons) to impose a non-handwaved aspect to one or two parts of the situations. In creating this handwaved scenarios they often make it impossible to construct the non-handwaved parts.

For example, it's not unusual to find someone has used magic liberally to construct some scenario and then wants to force a non-magic "bolt-on" explanation to one thing which can't, under any science we understand, happen without the magic.

You simply have to make that clear to a poster.

And it's in no way rude to express that. It's potentially very helpful to the poster and may help them rethink their approach.

Which leads me to :

Should we have a unbuilding/failure of suspension of disbelief/snarky/unhelpful comment flagging option?

Short version : No.

We have a flag for real rudeness already, we need nothing else for that aspect of it.

But I think you're fundamentally wrong to consider these comments (when not actually nasty under existing rules) as being negative. I think they're perfectly reasonable observations and something users should be doing sometimes.

I'd go a little further.

Writers and others developing fictional scenarios need to accept that they will have other people make comments which criticize aspects of their ideas. It's frankly unfair to people reading your ideas to expect them to say nothing but things the author regards as helpful. Life just doesn't work that way.

Sometimes authors need to be told that the basic concept is flawed or too vague or, in these cases, often constructed in ways that make what they ask for impossible or implausible.

It's not a disservice to do that. Authors are free to ignore these opinions, but it's inappropriate to try and suppress them by allowing them to be flagged as some if they were some kind of attack, when in fact they're not an attack, just an expression of a reasonable opinion which the author of the original post may not agree with.

I think such a flag would potentially be abused by authors who don't accept criticism of any kind or simply have no patience with broader or different interpretations of their questions than they intend.

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