Some site users have noticed old comments being deleted. This is correct - site comments are meant to be a mostly temporary means of improving questions and answers. Here's an explanation of the process we use.

Argumentative comments or extended discussion comment threads hijacking an entire question/answer will get deleted semi-immediately. Take it to chat or meta. What is "extended discussion?" If the comment thread takes up a whole Web browser top to bottom, you're definitely there. If you can't see any answers from the bottom of the question - you're there. Comments criticizing the content of a question/answer are fine; point by point rebuttals are not on topic here. If you want to write something really long, write your own better answer.

Answers in comments - on the question, normally - get deleted immediately. Posting an answer as a comment is simply an end-run around the usual community voting, editing, etc. system and is inappropriate. (Further reading: Should users refrain from answers (or partial answers) in comments?)

Obsolete comments - like "What about X?" "Good question, I edited that into the answer" get deleted as they are seen, as they have achieved their purpose. This is a happy deletion - job done, time to tidy up. Comments suggesting changes get tidied up after a while too if the post author rejects the suggestion.

Trivial comments - like "+1! I like that idea!" get deleted eventually. My preference is to let comments like that stand as part of the collaboration around a question, as they do provide helpful feedback around the whole process. I don't touch those until initial activity on the question has dropped off and it's clearly become part of the long tail of questions. Then, I'll delete a comment like that when happened upon. When an old question pops up or I'm going to it, I'll delete comments that fit this criterion. (Needless to say, this is what voting is the persistent implementation of.)

Irrelevant or pointless comments - like most jokes - same thing; deleted once a question quiets down. Happy to let them go while the initial stampede is on, but no sense burdening posterity with them. If there are so many that it's taking up a page of real estate and hiding real answers, they may go quicker.

Lengthy discussions, similarly, are discouraged and will be cleaned up once a question quiets down. Important information or clarifications should be rolled into a question or answer, not left in ten back-and-forths. I sometimes put comment-notes at the end of these saying something like "Please incorporate any useful info from this into your answer, for this comment thread will be cleaned up soon."

Of course comment deletion (and editing valuable info from them into the real question or answer) isn't just up to mods, please do it with your own Q&As, with others' if you have enough rep, and if not you can flag comments for attention. Like so...

Flag dialog as of 2017

If we get flags on comments, we will act to delete more quickly than usual because it's clearly bugging a site user in a non-hypothetical way.

Needless to say, comment deletion isn't binary. If comments seem to have lasting worth, and lots of upvotes on them is part of that, they get left. We don't get charged by the comment so we're not obsessed with deleting them all. We do, however, want questions and answers - individually and as a whole thread - to be easy to read and understand, and extensive commenting hinders that. So the best thing is for valuable info in comments to make their way into the Q&As, and for low value comments to be deleted.

As some explanation as to why this is a SE practice and not just "the Man trying to keep you down," I submit for your approval a statement from Robert Cartiano, Director of Community Development for the Stack Exchange Network, who says here on an equivalent question:

It's no wonder users are taken aback when Stack Exchange works against their spirited debate and conversation. Before Christianity SE, "traditional" discussion forums taught us to jump into the fray of the witty and insightful discussions where you could bounce off off into ever-branching sub-conversations as easily as you could click and type.

The problem is that most online discourse reaches noise levels reminiscent of a group of friends at a spirited get-together. Stack Exchange specifically discourages that type of debate and on-going discussion. That is by design — but to understand why comments are so transient and expendable, you have to understand the core purpose of Stack Exchange's behavior. Stack Exchange in a Nutshell

After someone asks a question, members of the community propose answers. Others vote on those answers. Very quickly, the best answers rise to the top. You don’t have to read through a lot of discussion to find the best answer. If an answer can be improved, users can edit the post.

Comments help facilitate that wiki-style editing by allowing us to ask for a bit of clarification or otherwise help improve that post. That's what comments are for. Period.

When users start adding important, useful, and interesting information in the commentary, you break down that structure of "one question, best answer." You have to comb through all the commentary for import addendums and corrections and partial answers and important bits of information spread throughout. That entirely defeats the purpose of having a Stack Exchange site on Christianity.

It's not enough to say that your comment is just harmless banter that isn't hurting anything. Users will imitate what they see, so when they see conversations posing as answers, they'll follow with their own… and the problem propagates.

There's nothing inherently wrong with communities that that want free, open-ended discussion and back-and-forth debate. If traditional forums are your choice, there are certainly enough of them out there.

But on Stack Exchange, routine cleanup of comments helps enforce the purpose of comments. Comments are there to discuss improvements to the post. When their purpose has been served, they are deleted. When comments drift into conversations, they should be deleted. It's all part of discouraging comments from becoming mini chat systems…

… and for users who have been around long enough to see how well this system works, it is a welcome change.

Is this practice clear and understandable? Is there any additional guidance we should take into account when handling comments?

Addendum: Comments on meta are not deleted (except for cause); meta is deliberately more discussion-y than the main site. This seems to be causing confusion for many posters here so I thought I'd address it directly.


10 Answers 10


The 5 minute window is a pain - but note that the deletion limit is much longer.

The propensity of mxyzplk to delete comments on the basis of simply being "too forum like" in the absence of actual complaint... it's bad form.

Many times, comments clarify what's in the answer, and should be incorporated.

In others, they are tangential information. Information that adds value to the site, but not to the answer itself. But it's this very role which mxyzplk seems bent upon prohibiting. A role, which, if one looks on stackexchange.com itself, is not only not targeted, but often of more long-term utility than the answers themselves.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Information and clarification should indeed be incorporated. Otherwise - yes, I'm "bent" on upholding SE-wide best practices. I'm a mod, that's my responsibility. You do see the "too chatty" reason in the comment flag popup right? Or am I just making that up? And I will clarify that all the mods are deleting comments, I'm just posting this on our behalf. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Dec 15 '11 at 0:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're the only one I've seen doing so on any of the SE sites I'm on. Your personal threshold is too low, IMO. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Dec 15 '11 at 1:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pat's actually tied neck and neck with me on comment deletion. Perhaps you should consider why you choose to blame me. Am I giving too much warning or communicating too much? Perhaps I should cut back on that. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Dec 15 '11 at 2:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't always agree with @mxyzplk, but when I do, I will post to defend him! Sometimes I'll edit in information, but that's usually not needed. If you want comments to persist, edit them in. After a month or so, they are prone to disappear when I stumble across them. \$\endgroup\$ – Pat Ludwig Dec 15 '11 at 3:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are deleted regularly network wide. They are considered by SE staff and moderators as disposable. Christianity, Gardening and others are far more stringent than RPG typically is. If information is relative to the question or answer it should be integrated. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Dec 15 '11 at 3:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ And Programmers and Sci-Fi are far more lax... there are multi-year-old comments on some of the Programmers.SE questions. Interestingly enough, the two downvotes at present are two mods who are trying to lead the vote in the direction which they are predisposed to... a sure-fire sign of bad moderation, IMO. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Dec 15 '11 at 23:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a fellow mod on Literature, I understand why they're doing this. The intention of the entire stackexchange network is to get answers as canonical as possibly. if the information exists in a comment then, as part of the entire process, it should be incorporate in the answer. Not doing so is bad form on the answerer, and the community at large. \$\endgroup\$ – DForck42 Dec 20 '11 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ TLDR: it's easier to read one answer than several comments \$\endgroup\$ – DForck42 Dec 20 '11 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then why are these nearly 2-year-old comments still here? shouldn't they have been incorporated into the answer and then deleted? The first one can't be incorporated into the answer - it's opposite to it. The others are all just argumentative. They should all go away, the persistent version is the voting on the answer, No? But the people who regularly delete comments, are the ones who disagree with the answer, and agree with the comments (by definition), so in this instance they've left them here. THAT'S bad moderation, not just IMO, but pretty much by definition, again. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryno Aug 18 '13 at 4:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Most of them are tangential - they are not an actual part of the answer, but are of value, Ryno. It's interesting to note a net 0, but a +9 and -9 vote total on the answer as I type this. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Aug 18 '13 at 22:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ryno We don't prune comments on meta (except for cause) as meta is by design more discussion-y. Again, same best practice as the other SE communities. Also, perhaps you should consider that it comes across as kinda belligerent to show up on a question that predates their arrival on this site and immediately tell the mods they're doing a bad job. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Aug 21 '13 at 22:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk - yep, because there's no reason a more recent issue would link here. Because all my experience with managing online content and communities can only come from SE. And perhaps personal insults (jack-ass-ish?) is behavior unbecoming of a mod, whereas discussion of moderation behavior is exactly what meta is here for. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryno Aug 22 '13 at 0:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ The length of this discussion is actually quite ironic in a question about appropriate commenting... \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Apr 12 '14 at 8:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o Meta's different; that's why there is a [discussion] tag here, even though discussion questions are forbidden on Main. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 24 '14 at 20:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is a higher likelihood of RPG-related comments turning into acrimonious arguments. Hence, the lower the bar for a comment to be deleted here. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 22 '14 at 0:00

In the interests of visibility, I'll say I'm (part of) the reason comments are being deleted.

In my year on the site I've flagged comments ~230 times for deletion. I'd estimate based on my "helpful" rate and the number of times I'm flagging as "obsolete along with successors", that I've probably triggered the deletion of over 500 comments.

Often the mods come under fire for "zealously" comment-hunting, even though they repeatedly tell us that they've got better ways to spend their time and that they're largely responding to automatic and community flags. The problem is: the mod deleting the comment is visible to those concerned. The user throwing a flag isn't.

I've poked around in some other rather-active users' profiles, and it seems most have also thrown hundreds of flags. I can't see any other's breakdown of flag type, but even if I'm the outlier at 78% comment-flagging and others average only half that, we're still talking thousands of comments being deleted on the prompting of a few dozen people.

If I see a comment that's been edited into the post or that's off-topic, I flag it. I also flag comments that are constructive and on-topic if they've been sitting around for a few years and it doesn't seem like OP's interested in incorporating the feedback.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That last sentence is interesting to me. I would leave such a comment alone, considering the only other approved way to include what may be important corrections or caveats for posterity would be to write your own answer, possibly identical except for one line, which seems silly to me. Is there established consensus on this point? Does meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/6230/… need tweaking? \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Sep 12 '16 at 22:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are for suggesting changes to an answer. If your changes are declined by the author, then yes, your recourse is to write your own answer. Unaccepted suggestions are indeed deletable. Except for lots of upvotes; see agrandine's answer and comment discussion on this question. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Sep 12 '16 at 23:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec I'll sometimes poke OP with a comment to ask if they ever intend to take the suggestion, or will poke the commenter with a comment to point out that "OP's not taking your suggestion, perhaps you could work it into your own answer, the site's best served by having more high-quality answers, blah blah blah." In that case my habitual cleanup of my own comments will often pick up a case where that sort of comment's moved nothing and I feel fine flagging the original comment (and deleting my own). \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 13 '16 at 0:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ OK, I can kinda see that... but without any notification system, you have to review every comment you make periodically (assuming there's some way to do that) and either delete it because it was accepted or decide they're not going to and write your own answer, all before your comment gets deleted (automatically or otherwise) by someone else. An automated system saying "yo, it's been six months and the post hasn't been edited, if you really care about this put it in an answer but either way I'm deleting this comment soon, sincerely comment cleanup bot", strikes me as much more practical. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Sep 13 '16 at 2:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec I garden as I wander, not systematically. A mentor of mine called it "administration by perambulation." Hopefully if enough of us do it, we have a nice, clean park to play in. And to mix our metaphors in. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 15 '17 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec You don't need OP acceptance if it's years old. If the comment's a suggestion you agree with and the OP didn't disagree, just go ahead and edit it in. If someone objects, they can roll it back later. Then, since the comment's in the post, you can hit it as obsolete. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Apr 19 '17 at 3:40

Sorry for the very late answer, but this is trending topic recently on rpg.SE, and one that has been bothering me recently.

I agree that a lot of comments should be deleted. While I don't mind reading interesting comments or good jokes, I understand they are not really appropriate on SE.

On the other hand, the ongoing "comment hunt" is disturbing. I hesitate more and more about using the comment box, no matter the situation, because of the looming "Please refrain from using comments for..." It happens pretty often on the same day. On the long term, questions and discussions that could have triggered valuable comments will disappear. Then valuable comments themselves will disappear.

Extremism in one direction or the other is never a good thing. I understand comments are pointless for posterity. But posterity takes time. So let's aim for a middle ground: let's delete comments... after a probation period. Comments are allowed while the question is active. After two weeks of inactivity, comments are hunted and cleaned, as it should be.

I understand this means more work for us, but this is the only way we can have our cake and eat it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We try to wait on comment deletion unless a) the comment's obviously been incorporated already or b) the comment is not, indeed, relevant to the question/answer at hand. There is a lot of this, unfortunately. Ask yourself, "is this comment really helpful here or is it debating some tangential point", and "am I being way too chatty?" Also remember that upvotes on comments cause us to hold back on deletion - a line of 12 non-upvoted comments is almost always 100% junk. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Apr 23 '14 at 1:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pruning comments that are misusing the comment system (which is what "please refrain from using comments for..." indicates) is a lot different from removing useful comments prematurely. The answers on this question have lucid discussion of appropriate and inappropriate use of the comment system and more importantly they provide alternate actions to take when a citizen wants to contribute something which shouldn't be done through comments. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 23 '14 at 7:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wish I could upvote this answer 100 times. \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Dec 14 '15 at 7:19

A tidy site is safer from trolls

Another, way less obvious reason to ruthlessly remove comments used for anything other than managing Q&A posts: innocent but chatty comments would provide “weeds” that give cover for trolls and other bad actors to better blend in with our good users.

By contrast, removing everything that's not focused on improving Q&A quality makes trolls stick out like a sore thumb compared to acceptable uses of comments. If the only way a troll can use the site is by asking good, on-topic questions and providing thoughtful, well-supported answers, they're effectively unable to achieve their mission and end up achieving ours instead.

This is a major reason why SE in general and RPG.se in particular isn't overrun with toxic accounts. Cutting out the grey zone between productive and destructive uses of the site means people who use the site have to declare for one or the other purpose: work together on Q&A, or out themself as here for trouble. Since eliminating the in-between stuff creates a fairly bright line between welcome behaviours and unwelcome ones, everyone with community moderation tool privileges can tell when someone is here to make trouble, as they stand out clearly from our good-faith users.

This clear space between also gives us much more room for our established good-faith users to be human and imperfect, to err without making anyone suddenly wonder if, wait, have they really been a troll all this time? It gives us a clear basic level of mutual trust that is very valuable for productively tackling conflicting views.

It's like keeping the land around a castle clear of scrub: there's nowhere for an approaching army to hide, and it gives a lot of clear space to easily see how people present and conduct themselves.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So... is this also one reason meta can get so squirrelly? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jan 11 '17 at 21:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Possibly. It's a bit wilder and woolier in here, mostly it seems because it's both the support location for new users and the place where RPG's conscience argues with itself about the thornier questions of life, the universe, and everything. I suspect that would give trolls more cover, except that traffic is naturally lower, and anything untoward back here provokes a much stronger vote-based immune response from the community, even for regular users. It's an interesting observation, though, and worth filing away… \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 11 '17 at 21:55

You, Dear Reader, are deleting many of the comments!

The last few years SE staff have provided us with Year in Moderation summary statistics. (Recall that "moderation" includes both elected moderators' activities and the use of moderation privileges and tools by high-rep users.)

From these we see that roughly one-third of all comment-deletions are at the hand of "regular" users, the other two thirds coming from elected moderators.

Two things I think are worth noting there:

  • Note that when you delete a post of yours all of the comments below are also deleted, so that shows in the "Community" count of deleted comments. Depending on your perspective, you may feel like that overcounts deletions. Or maybe not.

  • Having served as an elected moderator, I can testify that almost all of our comment-deletions come from us responding to a flag on a post. Frankly, we're not going around looking for comments to delete. But we get a dozen or more posts flagged a day, and the majority are for comment cleanup. So even the comments we're deleting, you're the ones aiming that diamond.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When you say that 1/3 are at the hand of regular users, are you saying that the 1/3 is at the request of flags or that the regular users are self-deleting 1/3 of their own comments? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 17 at 14:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ The stats don't break out those two. So 1/3 is self deletions of individual comments, self-deletions of posts that have comments on them, and flag-deletions by the casting of many flags on a comment. (Thus flags come into play two ways: if a comment gets a bunch of flags the system deletes it, and it's in the "community" count of the summary. Or if a flag gets us to a post before many flags accumulate and delete, that's in our count.) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 17 at 17:30

Just to ask a question that I think I know the answer to, but what is the preferred method of responding to comments that are critical of your answer? In the past I've incorporated critiques I've agreed with into my answers and responded to critiques I've disagreed with in comments of my own. Some of these have been left alone and others have been deleted as "argumentative" and I don't know exactly what the threshold is. I get that this isn't a forum and long discussions in comment sections shouldn't happen. Is the best way to respond to critiques (even the ones I disagree with) not with comments at all but to incorporate those into edits in my answers? For instance, inserting a section like: "Some might argue X, but I believe Y, and here's why".

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    \$\begingroup\$ Correct. If you think the critique is valid, respond in your answer. If you don't, or don't think it's sufficiently material to bother, let it ride. Unless it gets a lot of upvotes (indicating others believe it's a valid critique) it'll go away eventually. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica May 16 '14 at 19:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Err, that easily leads to questions like "Blah and blah and also blah, and furthermore blah. Finally blah." That's just as difficult to read as a bunch of comments. In fact, I'm likely to just skip the answer entirely, because it's way too much. \$\endgroup\$ – Travis May 21 '14 at 20:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Edit better so it reads ok? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica May 21 '14 at 21:16

I must say some comment removing is over-zealous.

A while ago I had a question, about pathfinder, which I'm very new at. Being a GM when you never played a RPG can be challenging. A comment came on that, and I answered it asking for more information, and half an hour later both of these comments (and perhaps an answer I never could have known if it were given) were deleted. The question was less than 24 hours long at that moment in time.

Sometimes the answer isn't clear, but might look that way to people more familiar with the subject material. Comments about this got deleted. Since there's no recourse or restoration for those comments, there's nothing you can do about it and it feels inhibiting.

This is a bad thing

I think that with new questions, mods should restrain themselves a lot more. Sure, if you look it over a week after posting and the comments are three days old, move them to chat or delete them - but not half an hour after being posted.

Sometimes you NEED a tangent to clarify and answer or question. You cannot always edit the answer/question right away, because at that moment it's not clear to anyone what the correct edit is.

Therefore, please do not remove comments as eager on active questions. Unless it's clear abusive, keep them around for like 24 hours as a minimum. Don't put them into chat right away either - unless it's really growing at chatbox speed. Chat is an extra click away, and already makes it feel as if that conversation cannot be had - it's basically deleted-light.

(Note: it was on my other account - my personal instead of with work email. Question was: Brawler fighting against Undead, for those interested.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm unclear on what events you're describing in your first paragraph. (You can't “answer” comments for example.) Was it that you asked a question, someone provided solutions in comments, and you requested more information from them about their solution they provided in a comment and it was deleted before they could? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 13 '18 at 10:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am answering your comment right now. So yes, I believe I can. There was some uncertainty about what would be a suitable answer, and I didn't quite understand all concepts mentioned. Comments were deleted before they could be explained. \$\endgroup\$ – Gloweye Sep 13 '18 at 11:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm trying to investigate and understand. Please take on board that the words you're using to describe the incident may be unclear taking into consideration the scope of Stack Exchange terminology. I actually cannot find any questions from your account on this site, nor have any of your comments been deleted, nor have you left any comments on questions where those comments actually received any response, so I genuinely do not understand what incident you are describing in your opening paragraph. If we don't understand we can't self-correct. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 13 '18 at 11:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hence why I clarified what I meant by "answering a comment". I also linked the question, which I asked, as I noted, under another account. Comments under that account have been deleted. All in all, this answer is mostly a plea to be conservative with which comments get deleted, especially early on in the comment's lifetime. The case itself, while I linked it, is not actually that important - we got through it after basically restating the deleted comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Gloweye Sep 13 '18 at 11:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, thanks. I see now: you made a clarification in a comment that was removed but not edited into the question. I believe we may have mistakenly interpreted that it was actually edited in, since it was only removed after some edits were made—for that purpose I'd emphasize the importance of not clarifying solely in a comment if it's material to answers the question may receive. (If the comment asking for this information needs to know, they also need it said in the question so that everyone can see that info was stated.) I agree the mod team deleted things too fast in that situation though. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 13 '18 at 11:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Besides dopplegreener’s guidance, that thread moved to chat has 30 messages most of which are arguing about the word build, the question had 15 total (deleted and not) and so on. That is well beyond the level of appropriate commenting on the site even with a 100% new guy margin built in. Instead of wanting more comments, learn from the community how to always edit clarifications into your posts, not make low content comments, and so on. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Sep 13 '18 at 12:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ "learn [...] how to always edit clarifications into your posts" - like by commenting to ask how to do so ? Also, at least half or something of that chat post was put in there later. \$\endgroup\$ – Gloweye Sep 13 '18 at 12:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Right, because I’ve done this long enough to know when something has turning into a large comment thread and can get it to chat proactively so people can go back and forth with impunity. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Sep 13 '18 at 17:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just pointing out that voting on Meta is different than on the mainsite. Here downvoting often means that we disagree with proposal no matter how well-written it is. It does not mean that your feedback is not valued though. So, honestly thank you for taking the time to drop your suggestion here and for engaging and conversing with us. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 14 '18 at 1:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thats fine, I guess. At this point, all that's left to me is to agree to disagree. Because nothing I heard changes my opinions yet, even though I get your case, and I believe you got mine. \$\endgroup\$ – Gloweye Sep 14 '18 at 7:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this post, and moving to chat isn't a good solution, most people can't sit in a chat room and having time to read, digest and respond to comments is important, especially in the early stages or for new people to SE. People asking a question or making an answer deserve the time to review those comments for themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Nov 26 '18 at 12:42

Hiding legitimate concerns with an answer gives readers a false sense of security.

Hiding and deleting comments whenever there is more than a few makes it seem like an answer is more reliable than it may be.

For example anyone reading this answer will be immediately aware that are unanswered questions and debate surrounding it. The reader will beware and perhaps check out some of comments to find out what problems exist.

If the comments were moved to chat, or worse removed entirely, then a reader would probably not be aware of any problems. Although an experienced user may decide to go read the chat, I doubt the average user would.

Unresolved issues should be left on the comment until they are resolved by being explained or merged into the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "Unresolved issues should be left on the comment until they are resolved by being explained or merged into the question." I disagree with this mainly for these reasons in comments under Nitsua's first answer: "Comments are for suggesting changes to an answer. If your changes are declined by the author, then yes, your recourse is to write your own answer. Unaccepted suggestions are indeed deletable." and "I'll sometimes poke OP with a comment to ask if they ever intend to take the suggestion [...]" The reliability of an answer comes from its votes/score compared to other answers, not comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jan 17 at 7:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I disagree with that, an answer may look ok and receive votes, but only because every time someone raises an issue with it the comment is deleted. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Jan 17 at 7:42

I am seeing an obsolete comment often; namely some variation of "do not answer in comments.".

Please stop leaving these pointless comments behind when you remove comments.

To clarify, @mxyzplk, I'm not trying to be a smart-alek here, it's a serious comment. To me, those "Please do not use comments for answers" had no purpose; they seemed to be a waste of screen real estate telling me something that (hopefully) I already know.

Thanks for explaining why you are leaving those comments. I hadn't thought about someone who sees their comment gone thinking "oh, the system ate my comment" and reposting it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We leave those longer because since there's no trace of deleted comments, people are otherwise tempted to resume their commenting without indication that someone's already got eyes on the misbehavior. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Apr 26 '14 at 15:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't like the poke-in-the-eye nature of those comments when it's the only comment either, but they do have a point. Making them less brusque/abrasive but still useful can be discussed on this meta if you have any ideas. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 26 '14 at 17:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ They're not telling you what you already know - those comments are addressing the people who were answering in comments. If someone's doing that, safe to say they either don't know or need a reminder. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 29 '14 at 2:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ And generally a question or answer that generates a big ol' string of comments has something in its nature that'll cause other people to do so again regardless of whether the initial offenders are chastened or not. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Apr 29 '14 at 14:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be honest, those comments irritate me severely because they indicate hey gatherer, you missed something on this question/answer that you clearly find interesting because I don't read through comments on posts that don't interested me and it is gone forever. Get here sooner next time. I get the reason for leaving the comment; I'm not arguing against leaving the comment; I'm just saying the comment makes me want to kick something. \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Feb 1 '16 at 0:47

IMO the practice of allowing users to delete comments is not defensible except when comments get nasty, contain profanity, etc. Following comments has never been a hassle on this site. I see them as funny bon mots, helpful observations, and polite responses to questions.

Why is there a perceived need to tidy up the place? By what right can someone censure your words? Who cares if the forum is a little messy. Big deal. It's disconcerting to discover someone has been rummaging through your posts & deleting your comments.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The issue here is that the site specifically states that it is not a forum \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Apr 24 '14 at 20:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, the "right to censure your words" is held, in its entirety, by the people who built the site and pay for its upkeep and maintenance. They delegate this right to community moderators and to trusted users. \$\endgroup\$ – lisardggY Apr 24 '14 at 20:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding censorship, freedom of speech is widely misunderstood. (Ignore the name-calling there, which is not applicable to this circumstance [usually]. The principle is the same.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 24 '14 at 20:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding messiness: that's exactly why comments get deleted. We're not a discusion forum, we don't host discussions, so leaving comments undeleted would be undermining the fundamental raison d'être of the site. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 24 '14 at 20:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ and to be completely clear, comment deletion is moderator only. So it's not like general users are going through your comments, people who were elected by the members of this site for that very purpose are. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Apr 26 '14 at 0:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle I think multiple obsolete flags can auto-delete comments too? I know spam/offensive flags can do that. (I recall a sockpuppeteer who abused that to interesting effect.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 26 '14 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ So I vote for changing the site rules so forum-like discussions (or perhaps a separate forum page attached to each question) are allowed in the comments. I'm fine with giving moderators power to delete negative comments - profanity, name-calling, etc. Also consider this: once you give someone the keys to the kingdom they can anonymously delete comments of someone after a disagreement. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Apr 28 '14 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie - Well I'm arguing against deletion of comments by saying censorship is bad (and not citing all the reasons why censorship is bad). I think that's a little different from defending some kooky position like the Earth is flat with the free speech card. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Apr 28 '14 at 14:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's proposing something that isn't up to us. See this SE network FAQ for the official position on comments being temporary: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/19756/how-do-comments-work \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 28 '14 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ This blog entry is also relevant, as the design and moderation considerations for "popular" but off-topic posts applies equally to forum-style discussions in comments: blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/01/the-trouble-with-popularity \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 28 '14 at 15:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ (Re censorship, you asked what right anyone had to censor—that is playing the free speech card, so a different turn of phrase might be more useful if playing that card wasn't the intent.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 28 '14 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Following comments has never been a hassle on this site. I see them as funny bon mots, helpful observations, and polite responses to questions." I'd point out that what you've seen is the environment given that mods do delete tens of thousands of comments. We're glad that you see comments as positive, because that means that the ones we're leaving are nice to have. You're not seeing a lot of dreck that gets deleted, though. The mods can click a button and see all of the deleted comments (shaded red) on posts in their posted-sequence. I've seen that site, and I prefer this one. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 17 at 13:41

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