When you downvote a post, a popup appears urging you to explain in a comment why you downvoted.

Now this happened:

Wow, can I ask the reason of the downvotes? – Vereos 46 mins ago

I downvoted, explained why in a comment, and that comment got deleted... then the user who wrote the answer noticed the downvote, and was wondering why he got downvoted.

Guys, I'm not sure what you think you are accomplishing by this comment-nuking, but I really think it has gone too far. Calm down, you are not doing a service to the community when you do that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This has been said, many times and many ways, but so far we have yet to convince the moderatorship. I suggest you read through the existing discussion and try yet another tack to see if it will stick. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ What were the (approximate) contents of the comment? After all, if it was an offensive comment ("This answer makes me want to claw my eyes out!") then I don't see a problem deleting it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 19, 2014 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I remember some mod mention that "-1 because" comments are unwelcome, but the search on this site can't find that phrase. Could that be the reason for such speedy comment deletions? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 19, 2014 at 19:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's entirely possible your comment was deemed as opinion based (I think you should not give this answer because I don't feel it's the right one), which is better solved by answering the question yourself and providing a votable alternative. I think this should instead get you a comment telling you that instead, so you could reconsider your downvote. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PaulMarshall That would be silly. As I understand it, (constructive) criticism is the purpose of comments on answers. "It would be better if..." \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 19, 2014 at 19:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes it feels like comments are a feature that nobody is supposed to use. It's pretty annoying in a case like this, as a comment is far better than a bunch of down votes with no explanation what you did wrong. Negative reinforcement without explanation doesn't produce better answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 20:11

3 Answers 3


You've run into a historical mismatch here.

Some history: that "please consider adding a comment" was added back in July 2009, because of exactly what Vereos commented for: a lot of people didn't like getting downvotes without understanding why. The popup is about the best anyone could think of.

That feature was added just three weeks shy of five years ago, when Stack Overflow was just over a year old. A lot has changed in five years, and that might include our comment guidance (I haven't been checking), which currently says this:

When should I comment?

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).

When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:


  • Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);

  • Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;

A reminder of this appears in the comment field itself:

"use comments to ask for clarification or add more information. avoid comments like '+1' or 'thanks.'"

I saw last night some of the comments on the question you linked, and I'm not sure what yours was like, but at least one of them (not necessarily yours) amounted to "-1 this is a terrible idea" which is not constructive criticism. If your comment can give the author something to work with, then it might be ok, but bear in mind the clause that wasn't bolded above:

  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post

Your comment must fundamentally provide guidance or an avenue for improvement. "This could be improved by {specific change}" or "Your answer is good but weakened by basing it on X; you should drop that and focus on Y", or so on are more constructive comments.

If you are only leaving a comment to express fundamental disagreement with the answer, the author has nothing to work with and it won't be constructive.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow, sticking strictly to these guidelines would see 90% of comments removed (including this one). I think the guidance has gone too far \$\endgroup\$
    – user4075
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 7:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments on meta don't follow the same guidelines, so these ones are fine. As BESW pointed out in his own answer, if you feel the comment guidelines should change, I suggest you bring that up in a separate meta question, as that's a separate issue to this one. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 21, 2014 at 7:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, whilst I think 90% is [citation needed], the idea is that 99% of comments eventually do get deleted. Their purpose is to convey transient information, they're supposed to go away eventually. Certainly, a lot of things you could use comments for would get your comments deleted, but... you shouldn't be using comments for those things. They're not for permanent retention of information, nor discussion, etc. If you want to debate that they should be changed on some basis, to allow certain comments that are currently prone to deletion, do open a meta thread about it and argue your case. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 21, 2014 at 11:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ClaraOnager Happily, the meta side of Stack Exchange is about dialogue, so comments like these are expected and generally stick around. The "main" side of SE sites, however, are expected to follow the guidelines Hobbs outlines above unless/until a specific site changes its own policy based on experience showing that the trial-tested SE standards don't work for that site's needs. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 12:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't "This could be improved by {specific change}" be better handled as an edit? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 1:51
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Weaveworker89 Sometimes. I don't always have the expertise and comprehension necessary to handle the edit well, or the energy to do so. Or sometimes {specific change} is something I cannot do or takes disproportionate amounts of energy: "This could be improved by going into your position on {thing}" (I cant do that for them), or "You've mentioned {some option} off-hand, I think this answer would be way better if you explained more about that" (they should make the several-paragraph edit necessary, if they want to take that on, and if I were happy to write so much, I'd make my own answer.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 5:13

That comment was flagged "comment flag: too chatty" by a user. It was indeed too chatty and didn't provide constructive criticism. I deleted it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. Same thing with the other question (drunk retconning) you're complaining in the comments on about deletion - the comment was flagged by a site user as not constructive and deleted. There's a lot of other complex site rules about comment deletion, but this is basic 101 stuff - if your fellow site users feel a comment is junky enough to bother flagging, we go look at them and if they're not providing value then they go away (how the flagging system is supposed to work). This isn't a case of proactive moderation and site cleanliness, this is basic flag-and-handle at work. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 0:22

So, I think there are at least three concerns dovetailing here.

First, I'm not sure who you're intending this to be addressed to. Only moderators can delete comments, but from what I've seen and heard the moderators are not going out of their way to do so without provocation. Moderators aren't that bored: they respond to issues that have been flagged for their attention (by non-moderator citizens such as ourselves) much more often than they go looking for moderation work.

This means that comments which get deleted usually have at least two people who think they ought to be deleted: the flagger, and the responding mod. Not a lot of unilateral deletion going on.

Second--and more specifically to this issue--there's often a fine line between explaining "why I don't like your question," and "how you can edit your answer to get me to upvote it." The former is not constructive, and the latter is only useful if the edit wouldn't change the answer entirely. We are encouraged to comment about downvotes only if we think the post could be improved.

In the case of your comment (I'm assuming this is reasonably close to your original deleted sentiment), I can't tell how that comment--nor the poster's responding comment--could be used to improve the answer. It's simply a conversation in which you say "I disagree," (your downvote expressed that just as effectively) and the answer responds, "Agree to disagree." Comments which boil down to "I disagree" are noise, and dilute this site's primary function as an efficient conveyor of good answers.

And yes, that is a rather hard line to take. It reduces the human interaction factor and that can make an environment less friendly--but then, the first time I ever downvoted someone, I left an explanatory comment which got an angry response that I "have a case of the doesn't-get-its." Explaining downvotes isn't a universal balm to ease the wounded hearts of the downvoted--often it's an invitation to comment battles.

If you want to propose changing the kind of critical comment which is accepted practice on rpg.se, that should be its own meta post. I'd be very interested in the discussion, and I'd be happy to help track down the existing debate about it both here and on meta.se so you can build on that instead of re-treading old ground. Until then, comments aren't for making people feel better, though I firmly believe we SHOULD be friendly and humanising in the comments we do make.

Taking these two points together, it looks like someone thought your comment wasn't going to help the answerer improve their post, so flagged it as chatty because--well, frankly, it kinda was. And a moderator saw the flag, agreed, and so the comment was removed.

And that brings me to the third point: the general deleting of comments. How often, how fast, what kind, who can, if it should happen at all... there's a lot of discussion about this already, both here on rpg.se and in the wider SE community. It's a rather contentious issue among citizens--but the moderators and site owners across SE have a LOT of experience which shows that tightly controlling comments is necessary for the Stack Exchange to retain its unique "answer-giving" position (as opposed to the "discussion-having" position of most online communities).

Again, if you would like to weigh in on changing the established policy, make a meta post here or on meta.se (depending on the scope of the change you propose), and base it on the existing discourse so we aren't re-inventing wheel. Unfortunately, simply saying "Doing this is bad" won't get any traction unless/until the community can be shown the ways in which the policy is harming the site more than it's helping.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Responding to the "First", no, that isn't true. Yesterday a comment I wrote was deleted few seconds (less than 10?) after writing it, this means that the moderator instantly "just deleted it" without even stopping to consider what was he doing. \$\endgroup\$
    – o0'.
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lohoris That occurring doesn't make what BESW said untrue. The moderators do use the site, and do act on their own initiative. A significant proportion of their actions are because of citizens flagging stuff, though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 19, 2014 at 23:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lohoris If you've been experiencing a pattern of comment deletion that you feel is not in line with current site policy, you should make a full meta post about it because that needs to be addressed. If you feel current comment deletion practices adhere to site policy but the policy should be changed, that's a totally different post. Maybe you feel the need to make both. But don't try to address two very different yet similar-looking problems with one post, or it'll probably just get ignored as "confused user doesn't understand," whether that's justified or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 0:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW There used to be a high-rep tool that auto-flags any post (not exactly "flag", but effectively) that has a lot of comment activity in a certain period of time. If that still exists on the moderator side then the "First" won't always the case. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 20, 2014 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Being an effecient conveyor of good answers requires getting good answers. You get more good answers if when people make mistakes, you can tell them what they're doing wrong. Getting 5 downvotes with no explanation of what you did wrong might be nice for not having comments, but it doesn't tell me anything about what's actually wrong with my answer or how to do better next time. It's extremely discouraging and detrimental to getting better answers in the future. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 23:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus That's great, and I do myself provide such explanations if I think it'll be useful. Almost always it involves a way the answer can be improved, or at least something actionable on the person's next post. But "I disagree" provides no more useful feedback than the downvote itself, and the specific comment being talked about right now was exactly that. Nothing was wrong with the answer; there was nothing the poster could do better next time to avoid downvotes for the same reason. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 0:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Fair enough. I didn't see the offending comment, but I do want to make sure that we keep the useful comments as they do serve a purpose. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 2:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus SE culture is a subset of internet culture. Internet culture has nuances and norms. For whatever reason, SO/SE has established a norm that promotes participants taking on the role of a passive aggressive Anonymous Coward (AC)... even though any of us is encouraged to make a constructive comment. I don't think that this was necessarily intended, but it is a side effect of the way that SE/SO operates via up votes and down votes. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 21:04

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