Across StackExchange, I quite often use the commenting function when I want to add something that I feel may well be relevant to the poster, but doesn't answer his question (as asked) so will probably not be too relevant for future visitors.

However, recently, such a comment was removed from this site by a mod, which makes me feel this is not accepted commenting behavior on this site. I am not quite sure what to do if this comes up again. Let me expand on the example, as that will probably make it clearer.

The question was What to do when players bypass plot hooks and the poster described how the plot hook he was having trouble with involved a drug user. I, then, commented on drug use with a small comment that I felt would possibly help him with this very plot hook he was having trouble with. However, it never attempted to deal with the larger issue or the general question, which was about plot hooks.

My comment (along with a number of other comments) was removed and replaced with this comment:

Please don't leave "lite" answers in the comments. If you feel you have material that should be preserved for the ages, either make a comment on an answer suggesting its addition or forge it into a proper answer — even a short one.

Another (meta) example would be Should the metric system be avoided when referring D&D 3.5? where I would like to add a note explaining that an edit does not mean the original was wrong or should be avoided. It does not answer the question, nor request an edit to the question, but it does help the general understanding of the situation.

In neither case I tried to answer the question, so it wasn't an answer. It wasn't something that should have been in the question, so it wasn't a request for an edit. Then, should I not try to be helpful in situations like this?


2 Answers 2


If it's neither a question nor an answer, nor moving toward improving one of those things, the main-site Stack Exchange's formal Q&A structure doesn't really have a place for the idea. This is by design: the Stack sees that discussion and brain-storming are already done well by traditional forums, so this site wants to offer a form of interaction that they don't do well: structured, searchable, sorted-by-value Q&A. Part of doing that well is making it the only kind of interaction that's easy to have, so the value of the Stack Exchange model isn't drowned out.

RPG.SE does get a bit more strict than some other Stacks about enforcing Exchange-wide comment policies, for a variety of reasons ranging from population size to citizen education and topic-specific experience learning. (There's a lot of history on the meta you can delve through if you're interested. In a nutshell, we've learned that tangential asides get out of hand really easily, bypass the Stack's sorting-and-searching mechanics so they can't help other in similar situations, and clutter up the page to obscure actual answers. There are a TON of great traditional RPG forums out there, so we should assume folks who come to us want the experience only the Stack offers.)

However, there IS a place on the Role-Playing Games Stack for citizens to give each other free-ranging advice about their campaigns: RPG General Chat. The chat exists in part as a pressure valve for activities that, while pleasant and constructive, don't fit the Stack's streamlined vision or purpose. The specific querent you were hoping to help hangs out there semi-regularly, and we do consider it acceptable to leave a comment inviting a user to the chat--just delete the comment after they show up in the room.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hm.. checking the user's activity (and chat activity), dropping a link to come to a chat, sticking around till the person shows up, then interrupt what I am doing at the time he does show up to tell that one line and finally deleting the comment seems like quite a barrier. In fact, for me personally, it would be enough not to try to help instead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasper
    Apr 24, 2015 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jasper That's fair. SE can't be everything for everyone. Whenever you wish to offer your experience and insight to the RPG community in a less Q&A-structured format, there are many great traditional forums to choose from. A lot of RPG.SE's citizens frequent them, as you can see in that link. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Apr 24, 2015 at 11:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ SE has been quite a good place for me in the past 6 years. It's just RPG.SE that feels quite a bit more hostile of an environment to me. Even if it's the same rules, but a different interpretation/enforcement strategy, it's just RPG.SE and not any other site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasper
    Apr 24, 2015 at 12:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jasper Most of the RPG-sphere is regularly full of flames and favourite-thing wars in a way that some other SE topics are not. We're more "hostile", as you put it, to chatter for that reason. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2015 at 21:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jasper It is true that RPG.SE aggressively moderates content, and by its nature content moderation can, unfortunately, come across bearing unintentional hostility. RPG.SE is, in my opinion, more on top of it than other SE sites, which would likely result in what you're feeling. \$\endgroup\$
    – user8248
    Apr 26, 2015 at 11:14

This case is pretty illustrative of why we have the site comment policy we do.

  • Why are site comments being deleted?
  • Definition of a valid comment

    1. Your comment ("Hey, people relapse") was duplicating information in a preexisting answer. Comment-answers are frankly often left by those not bothering to take the time to engage with the question, read the other answers, etc. and means that often their "helpful ideas" are of lower quality than the contributor thinks.

    2. There were 15 comments on that question already, most of them "giving ideas." This is Stack Exchange, we don't want "ideas," we want answers. Stealing screen real estate (an entire page, in this case) from real answers is bad form, so we delete them.

The inclination to "help someone" is laudable. Here, we expect that help to be done in a quality manner according to our format. Therefore, for a variety of reasons (see the links, not going to list them all again) we do not encourage idea generation, partial answers, etc. in comments, it's not what they for and in many cases they end up degrading the eventual answers in some way.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the comment added something new, my point was that a relapse doesn't have to be or feel like railroading. And that's my problem, a single person (mod) interpreting the comment in a different way from how it was meant, making assumptions about my behavior and then deleting the comment while giving a vague reason (while in actuality the type of contribution was unwelcome) seems rather unwelcoming to contributions. Besides, I have seen plenty of answers that don't answer the question, but just give ideas, but nothing seems to be done about that... \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasper
    Apr 24, 2015 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then don't comment, add an answer. Bad answers get downvoted. And when we have to delete 15 comments because everyone isn't doing the right thing, you can't expect a custom response to everyone's special snowflake. If you wanted to add a bit about relapses, you could have suggested it as an addition in a comment to the answer that already mentioned relapsing, or you could have taken the time to write an answer yourself. Most of the conflict here is "but I just want to spend 20 seconds giving a thought"; I'm telling you we don't want that kind of help here, we want something more considered. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 24, 2015 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I honestly don't like adding answers that do not answer the question (but might be helpful) and will not be very helpful to future visitors. Perhaps that's the conflict, because this site does seem to like such answers. And perhaps the we have to delete 15 comments because everyone isn't doing the right thing attitude is what makes RPG.SE feel rather hostile. And yes, I don't like to spend 15 minutes to write an answer that doesn't add anything new except that one footnote (or longer to research the topic if nothing is there yet, just because I wanted to add that one footnote...) \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasper
    Apr 24, 2015 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ We have found that the value of "helpful" comments is lower than the value of ensuring we have clear questions and comprehensive answers. It's what differentiates us from forums. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 24, 2015 at 16:43

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