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As is the nature of role playing games, the rules are very often incomplete and open to interpretation. This can often spawn differences of opinion on answers and lead to lengthly comments over whether a particular point is correct or not.

When this happens moderators are prone to delete the comments and leave one of their own:

Don't argue in comments. Present your opinions in your answer.

I don't hold that against mods, they're following procedure; but I do find it frustrating. Posting two differing opinions in answers leaves no room for discussion on those opinions. It doesn't allow for anyone to point out why an answer might be flawed, except in your own answer.

Is this really the best policy? I'm not saying that comments is necessarily the best place for these discussions to occur, but I feel that valuable content is being lost because these comments are being deleted. Is there a better way we can handle this so that content isn't lost? Can we encourage users to place it in a better place where discussion can still continue and be publicly viewable in the correct context (i.e. linked to the question / answer they are discussing)?

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migrated from meta.stackoverflow.com Apr 4 '14 at 12:03

This question came from our discussion, support, and feature requests site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We're not a discussion forum, we're a Q&A site. Discussion isn't meant to take place in the comments. \$\endgroup\$ – George Stocker Apr 4 '14 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmmm if it's about RPG.SE, it should be posted on their meta. Moderators can wipe out comments, and too many comments became noise. It's not a forum, so there's no place that would actually support long discussions. \$\endgroup\$ – Danubian Sailor Apr 4 '14 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I thought this was RPG.SE meta. I clicked on Meta from the RPG.SE site. Can it be moved to there please? \$\endgroup\$ – Styphon Apr 4 '14 at 11:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does it not invite you to move the discussion to chat? \$\endgroup\$ – RGraham Apr 4 '14 at 12:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RGraham, not that I've seen. \$\endgroup\$ – Styphon Apr 4 '14 at 12:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GeorgeStocker I know we're not a discussion site and I even stated I don't believe that comments is the best place for them. But on RPG.SE I believe valuable content is being lost due to this policy of just deleting discussions. It'd be nice to find a way to keep it somewhere else. \$\endgroup\$ – Styphon Apr 4 '14 at 12:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Styphon If it's good enough to be an answer, put it in an answer. If it's not an answer, and just discussion between two people, then it doesn't belong in the comments. If it's really that good, edit it into the answer that it clarifies. If it's just you and me talking about something related to the question, it shouldn't be in the comments. \$\endgroup\$ – George Stocker Apr 4 '14 at 12:03
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Comments are a tool for getting to the right answer, not a place for answer. You're right we need discussion in comments to suss out the question or improve an answer, but the result shouldn't live there.

What if you see content in an comment? If it's good content, move it to an answer. If we (the mods) see good content in comments we will ask for it to be moved to the answer.

Sometimes I'll even do it myself.

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I have a suggestion for a "don't argue in comments" boilerplate comment that should resolve both the "huh, what is this comment here for?" issue as well as partially address the content-loss issue, while being firm yet inoffensive in tone:

Reminder: comments are for clarifying content, not discussion. Please take any discussion to Role-playing Games Chat. All prior comments have been purged.

  1. The last sentence explains why this comment is here, preventing a "huh?" reaction from anyone who missed the foofaraw.
  2. It kinda implies the fact that this information would have been preserved if it had been done in chat in the first place.
  3. The phrasing avoids any sense of scolding that might make the message harder to receive, while still very clearly including arguing (a subtype of "discussion") as something inappropriate for comments. The firmness of its directions also strongly discourage further comments-for-discussion or -argument.

To give credit, this is taken from Beofett♦ at Parents.SE [↗].

Boilerplate text:

Reminder: comments are for clarifying content, not discussion. Please take any discussion to [Role-playing Games Chat](http://chat.stackexchange.com/?tab=site&sort=active&host=rpg.stackexchange.com). All prior comments have been purged.
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is consistent with The role of chat at RPG Stack Exchange. At least, as long as the comments aren't about improving the answer - but if they were, they likely wouldn't be deleted anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 10 '14 at 23:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suggest changing the link in the Boilerplate to http://chat.stackexchange.com/?tab=site&sort=active&host=rpg.stackexchange.com. This way, only the active chatrooms for RPG SE are shown, rather than the 22 pages of chatrooms for all SEs. \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Jun 17 '14 at 21:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MrLemon Good call, done! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 17 '14 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ On a related note: links to SE Chat are behaving weirdly inconsistent, probably a cookie thing :) \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Jun 17 '14 at 21:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I edited the link some more, the version I initially posted didn't quite work when I clicked it \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Jun 17 '14 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MrLemon Weird, it's working now. I manually typed it instead of copy-pasting; maybe that made the difference somehow. Anyway, good call! (Edit:) Ah, yeah, it was the way I copied it. There were some non-printing characters caught by the text copy for some reason, which were breaking the link. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 17 '14 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ When comments are being deleted from a question or answer, could they be moved/copied into chat beforehand? Losing them entirely is... not good. \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Dec 14 '15 at 7:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ellesedil Moving comments to chat is only really effective for "live" conversations that will use it immediately. It's not suited to being an archive because disused chat rooms self-delete unless they have enough users and messages—using chat to save singleton or a handful of messages doesn't work. Besides, anything useful in the comments should generally be voluntarily moved to a more permanent home (a post), and content not preserved that way is considered to be evidently not worth saving. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 14 '15 at 7:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not looking for a permanent home for comments. I just want to be able to actually spend the time to read them, or even get the chance to read them in the event that they're deleted before I can do anything with them. When the current moderator policy is to delete comments within a few hours, or even minutes of their posting, useful information is lost before anyone can really do anything with them. There's temporary... and then there's fleeting. Comments shouldn't be fleeting, but they often are due to moderator action. \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Dec 14 '15 at 9:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ellesedil Comments that are used for answer-like material will be deleted, because they undermine the social-technical system that is the site's reason for existence. People misusing comments won't persuade moderation to facilitate that misuse. :/ In any case, thanks for bringing this up in its own meta, since this is fairly off the topic of this answer, and only I am seeing these comments anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 14 '15 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was trying to make a broader comment here that applies to deleted comments in general. I might make a more general question about comments, and particularly about preserving them for a set time period somewhere after deletion on the main site, but we already have a billion comment meta questions and considering my level of frustration right now, it might seem ranty. \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Dec 14 '15 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ellesedil These are comments though, and only I am getting any notice that they exist. (They're also not about the subject of this post, so they're not going to lead to any kind of alteration of the post.) If you want to make a broader statement about the topic of this page, you might consider writing an answer here. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 14 '15 at 19:07
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Comments aren't meant to be saved

From our own help page on Comments

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer.

Comments are meant to inform questions and answers, clear up misunderstandings and to ping users to changes being made to answers and questions.

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

What you seem to be describing though is an extended discussion which fits none of the above. Although it may be useful information if it doesn't fit the above criteria its better off being in our chat (transcripts are saved).

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The original policy with extensive reasoning as to "why" is set out in this meta question: Why are site comments being deleted? and revisited once in Can we re-evaluate our comment deletion policy? (or at least have access to the data?) (and How much of an answer/suggestion should be in comments to questions?, and others...)

The bottom line is that comments should be used to suggest an improvement. Comment upvotes help put more weight behind them, and the answerer - or someone with edit privileges - can incorporate that improvement. But if they don't, then comments are not the place to object to their opinion. You write your own answer.

60% of the drama on the site comes from comment wars (the other 40%, from chat wars). We are not interested in being a forum even a little bit. I understand wanting to "get a word in," but we don't support that very specifically because it leads to a different site metaphor than our successful Stack Exchange Q&A site. You see that other-site mods from meta.SE have already commented to this same effect.

Having said that, we don't delete all comments. Comments we think do add valuable information, and especially upvoted comments, tend to stay. Unless they're part of a big comment war, in which case they can be lost in the purge. Of course, everyone's view is that their comment adds valuable information or context, so from their author's point of view 100% of comments are justified, but to the jaundiced eye of a site mod the set of comments that actually qualify is smaller. See the linked meta Q's for a more detailed explanation, no need for me to type it all in again.

As for improving - I'm open to brilliant out of the box ideas, as long as "just leave the comments around" is not that idea.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ thank you for linking those. They were useful to read. \$\endgroup\$ – Styphon Apr 4 '14 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ As for out of the box ideas, how about mini-chat rooms on the side of each question? Almost like a chat box? Discussions could go on in there and any comments that were deemed to be discussion like could be moved into there rather than deleted? Do you think that is something that could be viable? \$\endgroup\$ – Styphon Apr 4 '14 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ All that does is change the site to a forum by another name, which not what it is intended to do. The Chatrooms however, are permanent and any discussions held there are recorded for ever. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Apr 4 '14 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Phil indeed, it's just that discussions in chat rooms get moved up and on. Whereas if each question had it's own room, that wouldn't happen. That was my thinking behind it anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – Styphon Apr 4 '14 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Styphon You can actually create separate chat rooms for a specific purposes. Sometimes when an argument erupts in comments and there appears to be the possibility of reaching an understanding, one party will create such a chat room and leave a final comment inviting the other(s) to continue there. There's nothing to stop someone from doing this earlier in the comment-argument process. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 4 '14 at 19:53

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