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mdy's avatar

Can Fluther let me delete comments I've made to others?

Asked by mdy (1152points) May 20th, 2008

I don’t use the Fluther comments feature much, so it’s only now that I’ve noticed this – it seems that I can delete comments people have sent to me, but I can’t delete comments that I’ve made to other members of the collective, even though I can still see the comments I’ve written when I view the other member’s profile.

Since I’m the one who made the comment, shouldn’t I be allowed to delete it, even if it’s addressed to someone else?

[ Side note: this isn’t really a big deal to me right now, but I was curious as to the rationale behind the design. ]

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17 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

Well, this way you can clean up your inbox. I do “spring cleaning” often so it is easier to find stuff when I need to. I do occasionally look for a comment that is a few months old.

And you shouldn’t be able to delete stuff you send. I could make a death threat and make it vanish ten minutes later after I know you have read it. That would be bad. I have talked to them about allowing people to correct typos in personal comments and they seemed OK with the idea. Like you would have a few minutes to fix a typo.

And I would he very surprised if comments ever actually get deleted. I bet the are just marked as “visibility == false” in the database.

I have had a few that were completely nuked but that was an accident.

mdy's avatar

If you’re right about comments not actually getting deleted, but only being marked as “visibility == false” in the database, then shouldn’t that already cover the ‘death threat’ angle? Meaning, if needed, Fluther admins can easily reproduce the entire ‘death threat’ comment down to the exact date, time…?

I guess it’s more a question of – do I own my words? And if yes, can I delete them if I want to? I suppose the answer is in the Terms of Service somewhere. I think I should just go and read that right now…


EDITED TO ADD: Okay, I just checked the Terms of Service and it doesn’t say if I own what I contribute to the site.

jrpowell's avatar

Think of it like an e-mail. You can’t delete one you send. And as of now you can’t delete what you posted above. You could asks and the mods probably would but there isn’t a mechanism in place for you to do it after your five minutes are up..

edit :: yours should read mine.

mdy's avatar

Email is certainly a valid metaphor, thanks.

There is a minor difference with Fluther, though, since Fluther actually lets me see the contents of the other person’s inbox. That’s actually what led me to ask this question in the first place. ;-)

jrpowell's avatar

Well, you can only see what you sent and what others sent after unchecking the box that says to “make this private.” Just because you see it doesn’t mean that anyone else can. Only you and the person you send it to. (I hope that made sense.. I’m getting ready for work)

I just visited your profile and didn’t see any comments. Having a record of what you said is sometimes helpful if someone is responding a week later and you don’t know what they are talking about. I can go to their profile page and see what I said.

jrpowell's avatar

And there is a chat room for Fluther related stuff. You can talk to mods there if they ever show up.

mdy's avatar

Yes, there are no comments on my profile because I habitually delete public comments made to me when I’ve already responded to them. As you said – spring cleaning. :)

And yes, your explanation of how private comments work was clear, thanks.

marinelife's avatar

This question actually brings up an issue probably not yet settled by law. I suspect when it gets settled, it will probably transcend User Agreements. There is some precedent, although the medium is different. There is law regarding who owns a letter. According to a column by Joyce Carol Oates in the New York Times in May 1999:

“The issue of private writing and public writing, and the distinction between them, is fundamentally an ethical one, and like most ethical issues in this Era of Law it’s become a legal conundrum. Under American copyright law you own the words you’ve written in a personal letter, but the letter recipient owns the physical piece of paper and the symbols typed or written on it.”

Lacking a solid legal opinion to the contrary, I think you could argue that you own your words based on this precedent.

jrpowell's avatar

But you don’t own the letter once you hit the “send” button. And your comment, question, or answer is the letter.

Really. If you can’t handle what you say on the Internet sticking around forever you should turn the computer off. Or stick with playing solitaire.

mdy's avatar

johnpowell, may I ask—are you speaking for yourself or as a representative of Fluther?

If it’s the former, then your point is well taken, but I respectfully would rather wait for Andrew or Ben to respond officially, since this is a question about the way Comments work in Fluther. Thanks.

jrpowell's avatar

As myself.. I am only a mod in the chat room. And that is why I posted the link to it above. You can ask them there.

My comment was more of a general overview of how forums on the Internet work. It wasn’t meant the be specific to Fluther. But I could understand how it would be seen that way.

wildflower's avatar

Data protection act might argue that the sender owns the words of the message, the recipient is entitled to it and anyone mentioned or discussed in the content has the right to disclosure of the content.
– of course, I doubt you could stretch data protection act to cover private messages sent between individual users on a website like this.

soundedfury's avatar

According to the Terms & Conditions, both Fluther and you own a perpetual, non-exclusive right to anything you post. The relevant info:

Any content posted on this site may be used by Fluther for any purpose.
You may redistribute, reproduce and/or display any posted content on this site…

While it’s not spelled out in legal terms, this is a pretty standard agreement throughout the web and has plenty of precedent.

Before you ask, no, I’m not speaking in any official Fluther capacity.

mdy's avatar

Pardon my ignorance of legal terminology—does saying I can redistribute content with attribution mean I own it? I’m not a lawyer, so when I read that part of the TOS, I did not get the impression that right to distribute also meant ownership. (Now I’m confused)

jrpowell's avatar

Any content posted on this site may be used by Fluther for any purpose.
*Think advertising or t-shirts. Once you post it you don’t really own it anymore. If they want to make a shirt that says, “Is it cool to urinate on my houseplants?” I can’t sue. Even though those are my words I posted here.

You may redistribute, reproduce and/or display any posted content on this site, provided:
1. You prominently mention Fluther.
2. You attribute the original author (unless they are anonymous) as they are listed on Fluther.
*Basically, if you want to post something posted here somewhere else you need to let people know where you found the info. You can’t just copy and paste and pretend you wrote it.

These terms are completely normal.

Edit :: And I am pretty sure they would never use stuff without your permission. But they could according to the TOS.

andrew's avatar

Our initial thoughts about not allowing users to delete comments they send would be that it would encourage careless grafitti-style commenting… post a message, don’t care what it says, remove it. It also raises an interesting conundrum for the people receiving comments if their comment page is always changing—do people start not trusting their comments?

Also, what happens if I decide to do some spring cleaning on the comment page and delete a bunch of my comments on Ben’s page, and he goes to check to reminisce about that really nice comment I gave him last year and it’s gone?

For better or worse, we’ve designed comments as a sort of email/PM/public wall hybrid, and I think that has a lot to do with the confusing paradigm of ownership—especially since comments exist both in the public and private spheres.

That said, you bring up some great points, @mdy, and as we make our next pass on the comment system we’ll keep them in mind.

mdy's avatar

Thanks, Andrew! I really appreciate you taking the time to elaborate.

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