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On the RPG Data Explorer ... I've made a query of the number of comments per user.

The results, especially done as a ratio of comments over posts is fascinating. At this point, I will simply encourage users to contemplate their comment activity versus their more productive activity. Refer to the site comment policy here: Why are site comments being deleted?

Are there any ways I can improve this query, to help members of this site self-moderate?

Other queries:

Dont:

enter image description here

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  • \$\begingroup\$ one of the things that doesn't appear there is deleted comments (which aren't in the dataexplorer). The other thing is that it may be more productive to look at tags that attract more comments than others and work with people active in those tags. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Apr 10 '14 at 12:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ What are the ideal ratios? Does that question even make sense? I'm always nervous equivocating social behavior with simple metrics. \$\endgroup\$ – F. Randall Farmer Apr 10 '14 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is no "ideal" ratio. However, it's reasonably obvious that the higher the ratio and the higher the absolute number of comments, the less likely it is those are in compliance with the comment policy. We're not saying we're going to sterilize the top 10, we are simply making the metrics transparent and asking people to self-police. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Apr 10 '14 at 20:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW as one of the most proliferous commenters (it's startling to see this in perspective), I've been trying to limit my use of comments to what they're intended for - but given the quantity of comments I leave, a relatively small % of noncompliant comments turns into a not insignificant absolute quantity. I'll accept this request to contemplate my comment activity and see if there's room for improvement. Thanks for posting this. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 10 '14 at 23:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow, right at the top. I should probably stop commenting so mu- Oh, drat, I did it again. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Apr 11 '14 at 5:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Eh, Enjoy commenting in meta. (What happens in meta stays in meta, unless it doesn't). But yes, I recommend self-pruning and flagging obsolete convos. Also, when you get the urge to reply, see if editing your answer won't be more effective? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 11 '14 at 5:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is useful info. I know I leave a lot of "here's a note, here's a relevant link" kind of comments; but I also leave a lot of the other kind... Perspective is the best cure for that. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '14 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton For tracking down obsolete comments: do we have any tools for that? I can't think of how to approach tracking down all those 2000+ comments, let alone how to find the trimmable ones effectively. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '14 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can I just say: The 5-second "flagging" delay also applying to self-deleting comments is annoyingly stupid. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '14 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Wrote a query that gave me some of my stinkers. Let me know how I can change it to be better for you. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 12 '14 at 5:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Brian Much better. My comment total has dropped from 728 to 623! \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 15 '14 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI, I made a tweaked version of your "worst comments" query that links directly to the (first) comment, rather than to the question/answer it's posted on. \$\endgroup\$ – Ilmari Karonen Dec 24 '15 at 4:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose not sure if you ran the query, but I wasn't sure if it is limited to the date this was posted. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 22 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I did run it briefly, and it didn't seem to be date restricted, but I am far far from a SEDE expert. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 22 at 22:28
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I don't think comment metrics mean that much. Commenting lots doesn't necessarily mean you're ruining the site. Commenting a little doesn't necessarily mean you're not misusing the comments.

I put B&CG SE into the comment-counter and the numbers didn't seem that different from RPG SE's, yet that site really doesn't have a comment problem.


So, more so than how much you comment, consider why you comment. There's a whole page about it, but I think it's helpful to rephrase it in terms of the problems we actually have.

  • Do comment seeking clarification. For example:

    • Comment to ask a question's poster to add a game tag.
    • Comment to point out that a question doesn't spell out the actual question being asked very clearly.
    • Comment to request references from answers citing rules.
    • However! If you just know the clarifying information already (e.g. you have your game book handy to add a page reference, or you can identify a game based on the specific terminology in a post), then just edit the post instead of commenting.
  • Do comment suggesting improvements that you can't make yourself. For example, if someone just wrote a kickass expert answer and you really want to see a bit more discussion on one point, ask them to elaborate. I've seen a lot of good answers become great ones as a result of these kinds of comments.

    • If someone asks you a question like this, do your best to answer in an edit rather than more comments.
    • If there's a lot more you want to learn, write a new question instead.
  • Don't use comments to leave drive-by mini-answers. If you don't think your response merits a full answer, it's probably not insightful enough to be worth posting in the first place.

    • Especially don't use comments to leave drive-by mini-answers to questions you think are malformed. You are actively polluting the stack when you do this.
  • Don't use comments to refight the same argument each time a question comes up. RPG SE posts aren't an excuse to post your special spiel every time you see some pet-peeve keyword show up in a question or answer.

  • If you find yourself repeating yourself in the comments, just stop. Write your arguments into an answer, or move the conversation to chat, or go express yourself off-site somewhere (may I suggest starting your own blog?).

TL;DR:

Comments are a good way to request more information.

Comments a second-rate way to share information with others. Use sparingly!

Comments are not a space to express your opinions just because you feel like it. Don't try to sneakily turn RPG SE into a forum.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an excellent answer. The site would be better if people followed this and this was re-affirmed as policy. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 11 '14 at 0:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Don't use comments to leave drive-by mini-answers" -- I'll often leave suggestions on how one might go about obtaining an answer. (e.g. "I think this can be found in Complete Divine, but I've lost my copy.") I think that's pretty reasonable, and certainly wouldn't make sense as an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – starwed Apr 17 '14 at 17:40
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So I just wanted to point out that if you realize a discussion is getting out of hand, or is resolved, you have a way to do your part here.

Delete your own comments.

This is something you can always do. If the discussion is over and the comments are no longer relevant, hit delete on yours and flag the others as obsolete. This lets a mod know they can come by an clean up, and they will be that much happier if you've already taken care of yours.

This is something that it's really easy to get into the habit of doing and shows that your committed to trying to use comments for the right purpose (not to have long drawn out discussions but to clarify post information, point out correctable errors etc).

If you want to go diving to clean up your own comments you can hit up your profile under the activity page there is a tab for comments.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This was originally it's own post (sorry for the inbox notice mods) and I realized after I posted it that it was a better answer than a question on it's own. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Apr 11 '14 at 0:26
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To amplify the other answers:

  1. If you're responding to a comment on your own answer, try to edit your answer first, then flag that comment for deletion.
  2. Comments are temporary. Mods spend quite a lot of time on janitorial duty. We'd be delighted if people took an idle 15 minutes or so and policed up their own comments, ones that are outdated or which no longer make sense. You don't have to do this in huge blocks of time, but making a habit of "picking up after yourself" will dramatically improve quality without much effort.
  3. Stop using the "Edit:" syntax of forums. We have explicit revision histories on everything, so everything should read as if the best version was the first version. if you see Edit: X hanging around, edit it out to make the content flow more smoothly.
  4. If you're tempted to reply to a comment, assume the commenter won't be persuaded by it. Is the temptation still there?
  5. If you simply must argue (https://xkcd.com/386/) don't. If you cannot resist the siren call, look to see how academics argue in journals. Discuss common misconceptions as an addendum to your answer and address how those misconceptions are wrong. (Don't call names or point to specific wrong answers, that's what downvotes are for) just show how the misconception is a misconception. And this way you get to cite resources, so that you're not just engaging in empty rhetoric.
  6. Corrective comments can be cleaned after it's obvious that the target has read them or after some time has passed. If you see my old comments on something, feel free to flag them.
  7. New users tend to want to respond to every answer with a comment-as-discussion. Try to nip that behaviour in the bud with a educational comment like: "Hey, comments are for clarification only. If you want to thank someone for their contribution, upvote them. If you want to discuss things, go to a forum. If you have follow on questions, we welcome them as new questions, or as clairification on your original question."
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    \$\begingroup\$ To find your comments: User Profile -> Activity -> Comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Apr 11 '14 at 0:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Brian that "stop using edit" bullet should be it's own seperate meta advisory, but yes, it annoys me to no end. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Apr 11 '14 at 2:16
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This is really cool maths, and I did take some time to reflect. It led me to think about a few points of confusion and lack of skill I suffer from (maybe some others do too?), and I'd like to share them in case it's helpful to anyone else. I think some of these might be worth expanding into their own meta posts if I'm not the only one who suffers from them.

  • I often have trouble pulling out the useful bits from comments and editing them into a question; I really try, but sometimes I feel totally inept and it seem like leaving the comments is preferable--but then of course, they're cluttering things up and will probably vanish eventually so the value is lost entirely. There might be room on meta for a question about how to effectively edit useful comment stuff into answers so more comments can get flagged as obsolete. I think part of this is because when comments turn into dialogues it's harder to pull useful info out of them, which leads me to the next point.

  • The citizens who frequent the chat rooms recently got a (entirely justified) chastisement about overusing the ability to invite users to chat in order to help improve questions or answers. But now I, at least, have stopped doing that pretty much altogether. I try to use comments instead--and again, I try to flag as obsolete once the work is done, but it flies in the face of what a mod on another site once told me: "If you go back and forth more than once on a single post, take it to chat, you've basically exhausted the usefulness of comments at that point." That does seem accurate. But it leaves me either misusing comments, misusing chat, or leaving low-quality posts lying around that could really shine with a bit of dialogue on how to polish them. (The last time I felt comments of this sort were going to run into a conversation, I instead flagged for a mod hoping they'd leave some pithy and edifying "how to follow guidelines" comment as I've seen them do expertly in the past, but they thought I was asking for it to be deleted. That was awkward.) I have no idea where to find a "best practices" guideline on this, if it exists. If it doesn't, maybe we can work on that.

  • Recognising if a comment is useful and appropriate is not always easy or obvious to me when I'm in the thick of it. I really appreciate Brian's point above that "If you're responding to a comment on your own answer, try to edit your answer first, then flag that comment for deletion." This is an example of what I'd like to see more of: instead of just telling me what's bad, help me recognise symptoms of that behaviour and offering explicit alternatives (and I'm totally cool with "take a deep breath and close the tab while you make some tea" as an alternative). AlexP's "comments are for requesting, not sharing, info" is also a great bit of advice along these lines, as it helps me recognise whether my comment is suited to the medium. I'm not all that great at self-examination and some pointers would be good--maybe this could be the subject of another meta post where citizens can offer what they've learned through experience?

  • Comments as rules clarifications. There's a whole subcategory of comment which seems to consist of "you're not SEing right." And the comment is usually true, and polite, and helps the person figure out how SE works and become a better citizen. They seem to improve the site's quality and I don't know of any more appropriate way to convey that information. IS this an appropriate use of comments? If not, what alternative behaviour should we have when we see someone with a simple misunderstanding of how SE works? And if so, these don't need to stick around forever, so when do I flag them as obsolete? The person who needs to see it won't respond if they're using comments right. I suppose I could start a bookmark folder with my comments to come back to flag as obsolete after a month, but I'm sure I'll forget. Maybe a whole new meta post on 'educational/corrective comments' would be good too--I know they're not inherently wrong because I see mods using them, but they do seem like a corner case which could use some clarification.

I will be going through my backlog of comments (slowly) and reviewing them, editing good stuff into posts as needed and then deleting. I hope this will give me some new insight into the comment environment and my place in it. (And I'll try not to spam the "active" page with a lot of old questions.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ If we're overusing comments to improve answers, and can't use chat instead of comments to improve answers, then effectively people are saying "don't talk to people to try and improve answers." If you make it hard, nobody is going to do it at all. That is not going to result in better answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Apr 11 '14 at 1:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus I think it's a matter of degrees rather than hard "do/don't," but I am honestly unsure where that fuzzy line is. I know we were overusing/misusing chat for that purpose in the past, but I don't know how drastically to scale back so it's not misuse. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 11 '14 at 1:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re bullet point #2: I just do a lot of back and forth. That sometimes takes up to 6-8 comments total between myself and another, but we get there. I think the "more than once" guideline your'e referencing is a bit extreme, based on experience. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 11 '14 at 1:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Back and forth is not... necessarily bad (just usually). It's bad if it ossifies. When a conclusion is reached, immediately clean up the comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 11 '14 at 1:28
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I think on this site the comments are often better than the questions and answers and that comments are cleaned up too aggressively. Most of the this question and it's answers proceed from a far different premise and so can't really be evaluated by anyone who disagrees with that premise as I do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's because this is operating within the site's policies on commenting. If you'd like to challenge those, there are other meta questions to contribute to. Why are site comments being deleted? would be a good start \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Apr 14 '14 at 19:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle - I'm aware of that. \$\endgroup\$ – psr Apr 14 '14 at 19:21

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