# Definition of a valid comment

I'm noticing that my comments are getting deleted, and I'm wondering what the feel is here for that. According to this, it seems as though the purpose for comments is for asking follow-up questions and not "comments" per se? Perhaps the one common element to my comments are that they are 'comments' and not 'questions'. Am I understanding that correctly?

Over on Security.SE, comments and even min-debates are valid, but I know and respect that every community is different.

• Are you sure that comments as discussion forum on Information Security is a stack policy, and not just lazy mods? – Tritium21 Nov 19 '14 at 0:34
• Worth noting: RPG.SE very firmly and actively enforces Stack Exchange's comment policies. Many other SE sites do not do that so much: Security for instance allows debates whilst on RPG.SE the comments would probably be destroyed and asked to be moved to chat. On other SE sites, discussions or even arguments in comments are commonplace, but destroyed here. – doppelgreener Nov 19 '14 at 0:34
• Indeed, it seems that on Information Security comments should be used in a similar manner to here. The comments not being monitored is likely either the decision of the mods on that site, or a sign that they are misinformed. – That_Knight_Guy Nov 19 '14 at 0:40
• @That_Knight_Guy Since mods are not omniscient and comments are actually really difficult to monitor, it also means there is not so much community buy-in on how comments should be used: if they did have buy-in, other community members would be flagging those debates as too chatty or not constructive to allow mods to swoop in, and they would be less likely to have them in the first place. (Comments being really difficult to monitor is also why comments are restricted to certain privilege levels, to help prevent misuse by new members and spam) – doppelgreener Nov 19 '14 at 0:42
• This is a duplicate of a FAQ question: meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/1174/… – mxyzplk Nov 19 '14 at 0:45
• @doppelgreener True. Information Security moves quite a bit quicker than RPG, so it is entirely possible that the mods can't keep up, so rely on the community to flag any relatively inappropriate comments. – That_Knight_Guy Nov 19 '14 at 0:45
• The community sets policy. If the community uses comments for discussion on Information Security and don't flag the comments as not constructive than discussion in comments is the de-facto policy of the site. We might disagree with that policy, and the IS mods might disagree with that policy, but SE is run by us users. – Please stop being evil Nov 19 '14 at 22:59

Comments are for a brief request for clarification or improvement, and they can be deleted after the querent or respondent performs appropriate edits. If sufficiently sure of yourself, a witty Bon Mot can be added, though it's likely to be swept up in general purges if not highly upvoted.

Comments can be unhealthy so they tend to get cleaned up quickly — arguments are very easy to have about role-playing games. Responding to a comment is almost always not worth it, as it takes effort that can otherwise be used to improve a votable resource.

Especially unhealthy usage of comments includes: starting an argument, leaving a comment on an answer only to tell them they're wrong and/or their answer's bad whilst suggesting no means of improvement (just downvote, and if you can, provide a better answer), or thanking someone for their help (just upvote), or asking them about entirely unrelated problems in comments (this is help vampirism; you should start a new question instead so people can use the proper answer mechanisms to respond).

Invite people to chat to have debates, so that only people who want to voluntarily subject themselves to the argument can see. (You can use [chat] in comments, make your own room, or link to the main rpg chat room.)

The intention here is to focus on improving question and answer quality. Conversation is for chat or a forum. And unfortunately, comment policing isn't something that can be done halfway, as hanging comments tend to attract arguments and discussion and thereby decrease quality.

It's also worth noting that much of our deletion prompts come from commendable user flagging of comments that have become too chatty, argumentative, or correctly have been edited into their respective posts.

• The asker mentions followup questions as a use for comments. Might be worth distinguishing between: "This answer is good, but what did you mean about X? Could you be a bit clearer?" (good), and "Thanks, that's perfect. Also, what about {completely different question}? Could you help me out with {entirely different issue}?" (bad, the point where you begin to engage in help vampirism) – doppelgreener Nov 19 '14 at 0:24
• Edit that in? Having a set of good/bad templates is worthwhile, and I'd encourage community brainstorming of them. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 19 '14 at 0:26
• I edited some stuff in about that, though it isn't yet at the point of listing good/bad templates (which I agree is worthwhile). – doppelgreener Nov 19 '14 at 0:32
• So perhaps a good rule of thumb for me is that comments are meant to be disposable once addressed? – schroeder Nov 19 '14 at 2:17
• Yes. Don't say anything in a comment that you would want around tomorrow. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 19 '14 at 2:31

In case Brian's answer isn't quite clear:

Comments are for providing feedback on questions which allows questioners or answerers to improve their question or answer. This can take the form of suggestions for improvement, requests for clarification, or constructive criticism (such as pointing out a mistake or error, not just saying "this is bad"). They'll generally get deleted sometime after the clarification or improvement is made. If a mod is active, and they have their eye on the question or users are flagging comments for cleanup, that could be very quick.

If your comments are comments which don't provide anything that can be used to improve what you commented on, they are likely to be purged by a mod. Note that even if they do provide this kind of information, if the poster edits their post to take your comment into account, your comment is also likely to be purged. (It's served its purpose by helping the poster improve, so it doesn't need to be there any more.)

Note for clarity: This all applies to the main site. On meta, in many cases it's almost the opposite. Discussion in comments is perfectly legitimate on meta and rarely, if ever, gets deleted.

• "Concealed within his fortress, the lord[s] of [the stack] see all. [Their] gaze pierces cloud, shadow, earth, and flesh. You know of what I speak, Gandalf: a great Eye, lidless, wreathed in flame." – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 19 '14 at 0:27
• Could always flag the comments for quicker action – Tritium21 Nov 19 '14 at 0:28
• @doppelgreener I was actually writing that edit before I saw this comment. Ironically enough, given the topic at hand. – Miniman Nov 19 '14 at 0:28
• Oh, and to be comprehensively clear our policy is the opposite on meta. We try to preserve comments here, to better understand intentions and nuance, as meta explores policy, rather than simply and optimally answering questions. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 19 '14 at 0:29
• @BrianBallsun-Stanton Thanks for the clarification on meta - I was a little confused on the difference. – schroeder Nov 19 '14 at 2:19
• Commenting on comments seems to me occasionally acceptable e.g. if a request for clarification is itself unclear. I've definitely seen them used that way on this site, and in a productive manner, very often by high rep users. – Please stop being evil Nov 19 '14 at 23:03
• +1, clearer than @BrianBallsun-Stanton's answer, although there may lurk the hint of the false suggestion that we can expect the content of criticism to eventually improve the posts upon which they live. This expectation would not be grounded in human nature. – Alticamelus Nov 29 '14 at 0:06

Something to note, although the mods may not agree: a comment can be useful even if it's soon deleted. I find it perfectly appropriate to make a comment that I know will be cleaned up sometime if it serves a greater social purpose.

For example, I just had a comment exchange that went like:

"You beat me to the answer! I was surprised there was an answer in the book for this."

"Me too! I had the 'up to the GM' answer all written out before I double-checked!"

This exchange enhances comradery among potential answerers and turns what could have been a grumpy "sniped" feeling into a little moment of shared wonder. Should/can those comments be deleted at some point? Sure. But I think it's worth the small amount of moderator effort required in exchange for a better community.

• You could also come back later and delete these comments yourself so as to not cause extra moderator effort. – doppelgreener Nov 20 '14 at 21:19
• @doppelgreener - Touche. I will try and do so. – Gregory Avery-Weir Nov 20 '14 at 21:41
• You can review every undeleted comment you've ever made on RPG.SE here. I periodically go through a few pages of my own comments and cull the weak from the herd. – BESW Nov 21 '14 at 9:42