I bring this up with regards to https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/96448, but it is something I have encountered repeatedly on this site, and something that apparently others have also noticed: Heavy-handed moderation.

There is something I specifically object to, with regards to the linked question as well as in general:

  • There's a dispute. (In case of the linked question, whether it is "unbounded" or not, whether it is "generic research" and thus off-topic or something "an RPG expert [would] give me a better/different/more specific answer to" and thus on-topic.)
  • Comments are being made pro and contra the point. (This is not about whether such discussion should be done in the comments or in meta. Bear with me.)
  • Moderator steps in (which is his right), but deletes comments from one side of the argument only.

This is unacceptable. That is, effectively, muting the opposing POV, and turning a community into ex-cathedra teaching of what the moderator thinks is "right".

It is even more unacceptable that this happens without any notification that it happened at all. All that remains are the arguments of one side, undisputed, making it look as if the other side had nothing to say about the matter in the first place. (Which is just inviting serial downvoting, but I that is not the point here, just an annotation.)

Not leaving any notification also means the moderator in question does not identify himself. It is quite possible, even likely, that the moderator who selectively deleted comments was part of the initial dispute. In a "real" discussion, that would be tantamount to one side shouting the interlocutor down, or putting fingers in your ears and go "lalala, your argument is invalid, lalala".

I flagged the remaining comments twice, asking them to be deleted as well. No, the ex-cathedra "we are right and you are wrong, your words are deleted while ours stand" is upheld.

This is quite unlike the moderation on any of the other SE sites I have experienced so far, confrontational, and, I might add, quite detrimental to discussion culture.

To clarify, what I would have considered acceptable outcomes:

  • Removing the comments wholesale.
  • Remove all but the last line: "[There was discussion, but] the author has indicated they don't want to do anything more on this question so it'll probably stay closed." (To indicate that the fact that the question was closed need not be further discussed.)
  • Moving the whole discussion to chat.
  • Moving the whole discussion to meta.
  • ...

The thing I take exception to is removing any indication that there were adults with a well-founded dissenting opinion involved in a discussion, and leaving behind the "you're wrong" part. Either delete both (the discussion was pretty much done anyway, as I gave up on it), or move both to a more appropriate place.

The way it was handled, in this question and elsewhere as well, is a "don't talk back to me, I'm the law here" attitude.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you don't mean to accuse moderators of ill intent, please edit your question to use less accusatory language comparing their actions to papal decrees and playground childishness. (And please do note, appealing to "real discussion" and "discussion culture" hurts your argument that this isn't about "whether such discussion should be done in the comments or in meta" and distracts from what I think is your primary point.) \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW: I don't accuse moderators of ill intent, but I do accuse moderators of ill conduct. As such, my wording stands. And I would consider it ill conduct whether in the comments or on meta, the place is irrelevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related discussion. I still don't know why we tell someone that his post is not good for this site, but at the same time deleting both comments that point him to SE sites where it would be on-topic. That does not compute. Deletion should serve a purpose and I don't see destruction of perfectly good information as a purpose that SE should strive for. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 17:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt As now explained below, but repeated here for the sake of others since it's been asked in two places: because the OP had signaled receipt of the information already, and thus the temporary post-it note purpose of the comments had been fulfilled and they were mildly obsolete. Other considerations during cleanup meant that mildly obsolete was sufficient to remove them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I contest your first bullet. An RPG expert would not give better answers to this question than our friends over at Worldbuilding.SE would. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 7:22

3 Answers 3


TL;DR: I don't see malice or incompetence, just a couple of positive trends about how mods curate comments which came together to look a little weird this time. (1) It's common practice to leave comments which explain the reason a question is closed, and (2) it's common practice to remove extended discussion about whether it should be re-opened because that belongs in meta. (3) We also rarely delete upvoted comments. In this context, that means preserving part of a comment discussion because it fits the first and third qualities while removing another part of the discussion because it fits the second.

I've been vocal about my dissatisfaction with moderator behaviour here whenever I see it, but even in the "darkest" times on rpg.se I've never had reason to suspect a moderator of abusing their moderation tools in the way you describe. Our moderators have a long-standing pattern of NOT using comment tools on threads they've gotten involved with, instead letting other mods handle those flags. They also share deleted comments if asked on meta. (Moderators used to leave more messages explaining why a thread had been deleted, but don't do it so much any more because it just invited more comments heaping personal abuse on them.) I don't see the corruption you describe in this situation, and overall I've seen a marked improvement in moderation recently.

Since you're comparing rpg.se's comment curation to that of Stacks you're also familiar with, please read this meta post and this one. They offer history and context regarding why rpg.se's comment curation policies are more like Christianity.se's than Stack Overflow's--it's not an arbitrary or petty decision, it's not unique among Stacks, and it's rooted in our experience as a specific site with connections to RPG communities outside the Stack (a relationship other Stacks don't have to take into account).

If there was a debate about topicality or listiness in the comments, I can see why they were removed: as you say, that's not what comments are for. The Stack Exchange network is not interested in "discussion culture" on main site pages, only on meta. In fact, discussion culture is exactly the behaviour SE was designed to sidestep!

Given that comments aren't for discussion and it sounds like that's why comments on the question were burned, I agree it'd be mighty suspicious if the remaining comments were still discussion-y. I'm inclined to give the mods the benefit of the doubt, but let's take a closer look at what's still there and why, because --since you clearly already understand that discussion should happen in meta-- that's the crux of your accusation: a moderator is applying the "no discussion in comments" policy preferentially.

Three of the four comments on the question are significantly upvoted. It's common practice here for moderators NOT to delete upvoted comments no matter how frivolous or obsolete. It's a sad truth that when comment threads spiral out of control (I don't know if this one did or not, but it seems likely), useful comments get trashed along with everything else, except highly upvoted comments of whatever kind (so long as they aren't rude, obviously). In this case those comments also explain why it got closed, with meta links, which is a pretty standard practice and seems quite useful to leave in place for now.

So between "explaining the close" and "ridiculously well up voted" I'd've been shocked if those three comments had been removed. Obviously I can't see if any now-deleted comments were upvoted as well, but based on past moderation actions I'd be honestly surprised if well-voted (and non-rude) comments had been deleted (there's a couple pet peeve comments I flag about twice a year but they've got too many upvotes for any mod to trash 'em).

The fourth comment is a moderator comment which ISN'T upvoted--and it basically summarises the comments made by other users. However it does add some additional information from the author's statements, which is valuable. I'm not sure why it replaces the author's statements; often a moderator leaves a comment summarising important content when the original commenter's statement was self-deleted, or had to be removed because of rudeness, neither of which I hope applied here. So it IS a bit weird. However, that's a far cry from eliminating a point of view. Assuming the new comment conveys the original intent clearly (and I assume if the moderator's comment put words into your mouth you'd have said so!) I don't see how it's doing anything except re-stating what other users have already said. I suspect that after the thread was deleted the moderator summarised the bits which he thought would be salient to anyone coming along later and hoping to help.

That's pretty much NOT a moderator inserting his own perspective--and no moderator took part in the closure so I don't see how he'd have a personal stake in the thing anyway. Since the author apparently indicated disinterest in further edits to the question, it'd make sense for the mod to tell people not to bother the author with comment pings giving unwanted advice.

From my distant perspective this doesn't look like muting an opposing point of view, or suffocating discussion: the remaining comments are perfectly in line with the sorts of comments I'd expect to see on a closed question; regardless of their original context they now just explain why it was closed. There's no need for a dissenting opinion on whether it should be closed--while those comments were useful before, the context has changed now that it's been closed and meta is the place for appeals. The closest I see to potential foul play is a moderator preserving something from a deleted comment by making one of his own.

Discussion needs to happen in a place where it'll have room to breath, get a proper audience, and be preserved for the future--and comments aren't that place. This instance of comment deletion appears to be simply enforcing the proper use of the site's tools. As Pokémon Go taught us, not all public spaces are equally suitable for all purposes. If anybody wants to pursue getting the question re-opened, or to challenge to the site's topicality policies, I urge them to take their concerns to meta exactly like you took this concern to meta (for which I thank you).

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    \$\begingroup\$ "There is no need for a dissenting opinion on whether it should be closed" -- Well, I guess we'll have to agree that we disagree. The remaining comments do state why the question should be closed. At least one other user (aside from myself) voiced why the question is not what the remaining comments claim it to be -- unbounded, list-based etc. If the discussion should be on meta, let it be on meta. The whole discussion. The fact remains, one half of the discussion remains on the main page, while the other doesn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ And the fact remains, that does not indicate some nefarious scheme by a moderator to enforce their personal baises. It's basic "don't delete upvoted comments" behaviour combined with "explain the close reason." If the question hadn't been closed for the reasons in the comments, or the comments not upvoted, I'd agree with you. As it is... I think you're ascribing targeted malice where there's just a confluence of existing positive policies. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ At least one of the deleted comments had at least one upvote to it as well. (Can't prove that at this point, obviously.) IIRC, it was the one by me pointing out that I had, indeed, read both relevant FAQ entries and the links from the comments, and that those did not apply to the question because {reasons}. And you misunderstand the intention of this meta -- I do not claim "nefarious" or "malicious" intent, but a too heavy and unevenly applied moderation. It simply does not do to delete one side of the argument, without notice, and not deleting the other even when flagged. \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ (ctd.) The reason for closing the question is given automatically -- "too broad". That does not need any further explanation, and I never challenged it. Note that the remaining comments, from different users, challenge different points about the question, making it look as if I, or the answerers, didn't bother to "read the rules" of rpg.SE. That this was not the case, that we indeed think we were in accordance to the RAW (pardon the humoristic reference), is lost now. If I would be intending to take the discussion to meta, I would have to rewrite those points, find those links again etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ If your concern is insult, I'll point out it's common community practice to link meta regardless of who we're talking to. If you want access to the comments as resources for a meta Q, you can ask the mods to provide them. As for flagging upvoted comments & getting declined, I sympathise; I've been flagging this ridiculously unconstructive comment for years. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 12:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Besw has it perfectly here. After discussion it's clear the question is closed and is going to stay closed, so I summarized some and left some other comments so people happening across the question understand why it's closed. It's not a debate any more, it's informational signpost. The upvoted comments were good and I didn't see a reason to delete them and then put the exact same thing in my comment. Your question isn't all about you, each has didactic value to the community so links to metas about list-q's etc will teach the community in context. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 15:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, note I did this after you expressed your desire to just let the question lie. In cases where there was still debate or a pending meta or whatnot I would have done something different, maybe a move to chat. But that's not the situation, as you yourself requested. So I find the whole "but what if I neeeded them" part of your comments completely specious. Would this have been the wrong thing to do in some other situation? Well sure. But it was the right thing to do in this situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk: I expressed my desire to let the question rest, because both sides had voiced their arguments, and I felt there was nothing more to be said when you brought it up again. Only, next time I looked, one half of the argument was gone. And next time someone posts a similar question, he'll probably be pointed to my question as "precedent" as to why such questions are OT or something like that. Forget it, I give up. If you don't see what's going wrong here, there's no helping it. \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 16:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt I addressed that in my answer before I read this answer and its comments, but for completeness: because the OP had indicated they had seen those comments, they were no longer very useful, only kinda useful. Considering the mess that the comments became though, only very useful comments survived the cleanup. The OP knows Mythology and WB exist, and in service of not having an unnecessary pile of comments, those just didn't make the cut. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 18:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you need a third answer straight from me - yeah, he'd already seen those comments (and said so) so they were obsolete. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the close - I wasn't "involved in the original dispute." The question was closed but some confused folks were voting to reopen. The question is black-letter-law off topic in its current form, so I chimed in to confirm it was off topic and why. If you want to "discuss why" you can open a meta, those comments have no didactic value on that question because they are straight up wrong. Not all opinions are equally valid, sorry. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 18:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ The community did the right thing, the only remaining concern was to instruct a minority that does not understand site rules. Job performed, success is dependent on the readers. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 18:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Someone coming to our site with the same question as the OP will sit in front of his monitor and only know that we are the unhelpful site that shut him down. He could instead have gotten the information where to go instead. That would have been helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt Never fear, that's extremely unlikely to happen. The question will be auto-deleted shortly because it's “Closed+Abandoned”. It won't be found by others with the same question and cause them confusion. Instead, others with the same question will have the opportunity to ask their question, and perhaps do so in a way that is on topic here. If it is not on topic, we can certainly direct them, in way a custom-tailored to their question, to where their exact question may be asked (if anywhere). We mods do take this stuff into account. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 14:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt and regardless of all that, while the general topic of "real-world monster myths" might be on-topic at Myth.SE, I don't believe this question itself is, because most SEs don't like unformed too-broad list questions either. So I'm ambivalent as to whether leaving that pointer for other teaches something correct or not. That's also why 99% of the time I don't migrate questions when people say "migrate it," SE standards do vary and no one likes it when someone migrates over something that doesn't fit their standards. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 22:14

This ended up quite long. Here's the short version:

A lot of comments are noise. We don't expect people who are trying to use the site, or help manage the site with their tool-access powers from high rep, to wade through a swamp of comments to understand what's going on. We doubly don't expect that on a question that's been abandoned by the author. We triply don't expect that when the comments move into argument territory.

When comments are noisy and the post they're on is a “current event”, we remove any that are unnecessary. What comments are necessary depends on context. The context here was 1) the question was closed, 2) the author had abandoned it, 3) there were reopen voters who commented some really wrong things about what's on topic at RPG.se. Comments were all removed, except the comments that served to address (3), or which were informative to maintenance-privileged users about why (1) and (2) were the case. (2) also meant that there was no point in preserving any comments that were part of dispute or discussion about the closure, beyond what was necessary to explain (1) to users who arrived late to the party.

No comments were left that didn't need to be there to serve those needs.

Trying to childishly manipulate the perception of an argument that was no longer even visible was not a motive in any of the decisions to remove or keep a comment. Rest assured, the comments were handled in good faith and adult fashion.

Part of the difficulty with these comments appears to be that several unrelated subjects were all mixed together at once (closure, topicality, sibling sites, voting habits, the nature of comments, the nature of meta, author intentions — to name a few), making it very easy for what any given comment meant to be misunderstood and the responses to deepen the misunderstanding. This is exactly why comment chains that get messy like this are nuked and the participants redirected to start over in a fresh meta question, where there is room to untangle and avoid messes.

Another problem is that the question is clearly off topic according to our precedents. If there is nuance to the question that means our precedents need to be be re-examined, that's something to happen on meta, not in comments. (Note that though we are now on meta, this meta question about comment handling is also not the place to tackle re-examining precedents. If that is desired, a meta on that subject should be asked.)

That's the short version. Read on for the long version.

Foreword: Why precedent makes it clearly off topic

Let's dispense with this quickly. There were definitely misunderstandings in the comments about this point, and I believe that contributed to the volume of comments and well as many misunderstandings and disagreements.

The question is, on its face, clearly off topic. It is a question asking for a vague list, and it's asking for information that is not the domain of RPG experts. It doesn't matter if RPG experts would answer it better than Mythology.SE experts, as one comment contended. The fact remains that we are experts in RPGs, not in South European folklore. We don't have a folklore SE, but the existence of a more fitting SE has never been relevant to whether a question is topical, only the existence of more relevant experts.

Given that it was a real-world folklore question and asking for a vague list, there was nothing to dispute — it's not a question about roleplaying games. Perhaps this is something wrong with our precedents — in which case, a meta about that should be started.

The only thing happening was a fight (based on a misunderstanding) that the mods were called in to break up.

Preface: Behind the curtain regarding comment pruning

When comments are removed, we always weigh the effect that the removal will have on several possible audiences, including: the author of the post; the author of the comment(s); the readers who saw the comment(s); the readers who will never see the comments; any voters; any answerers; and any high-rep users who have taken moderation-tool actions on the post such as edits, close votes, or reopen votes; any high-rep users who haven't yet taken such actions.

The ideal comment-handling choices for each of those groups don't fully overlap, so every time we consider removing comments we necessarily have to make some compromises and try to decide what is the most productive for the question itself and the site as a whole. We also have to make the choices in a reasonable amount of time, both in order to have any useful effect on a comment chain that might need action, and in order to move on to other tasks waiting for us. We get a lot of practice, and are pretty good at making these choices quickly and in a principled way, while knowing perfect action is unachievable.

We do this in good faith, and with an eye for what is best for the site. In case that sentence provokes an objection that we shouldn't be deciding what's best for the site, allow me to ground that a bit in the utter pragmatism that moderation demands: when we say “best for the site”, we have in mind our mandate to prevent the site from going down in flames, not our personal idea of a utopian RPG site. When we are considering what's best for the site, we're mostly working to prevent or interrupt things that are not best for the site: flame wars, edit wars, comment arguments, using the site for discussion, insults, provocation, stalking, serial downvoting, not using answers posts for answers, not using question posts for questions, “fun” off topic questions not being closed, difficult question being closed that shouldn't be, sockpuppeting, trolling, spamming, … and I'm going to stop myself there, because that list could go on for a few more paragraphs.

So in context, when we remove comments, we are always acting to prevent or end a problem that is occurring or about to. “We're right, you're wrong” is so far down the list of motivations that we can't see it from here. We're too busy with more important considerations to get around to personal ones like that.

We take care of those janitorial, maintenance, and site management issues so that y'all don't have to (but with enough rep, can), and can focus on the site's content in a way that moderators aren't able to. Y'all have the ability to get personally invested in a way we don't, because you don't have to first think about site management (but can if you want) before you can think about how many arms a PC needs to be able to use sixteen zweihanders.

And in case it needs saying again: comments are by-design temporary. Removal is the default, and leaving any given comment un-removed generally serves a site management purpose. (Though sometimes that purpose is merely “there is something more important to deal with right now”.)

So, that's the very long version of where we're coming from when we're looking at a bunch of comments.

In this case

What happened is that a lot of comments were written. This automatically flags the question for moderator attention, because the purpose of posts and comments on Main is such that there should never be that many comments on a post long-term, and therefore it's time to do some weeding to get rid of the unnecessary, unconstructive, obsolete, or inappropriate comments in order that the useful ones (if any) remain.

This is my evaluation of the first set of removed comments in roughly chronological order, and my explanation for their removal:

  • Some discussion and suggestions about other places to take the question. The author interacted with these, therefore the information had been received. These didn't need immediate removal, but would eventually be removed as no longer needed.

  • A user relatively new to their reopen vote ability expressed some rather wrong ideas about how the site works. Perhaps their general position about the question's topicality was correct, but their reasons weren't. These were removed because disinformation doesn't serve the site, even if it's well-meant. They were also removed because they were obsolete once the commentors were asked to take it to meta instead. They were also obsolete when the question was abandoned. So they could have been removed three times, but we can only remove a comment once.

  • Comments debating whether the question merits closing, or is okay to have on RPG.se. Those that were removed for being obsolete. I'll comment on this more below.

  • Discussion of the voting on the answers. Entirely out of place in the comments on the question and easily removed.

  • Many comments, including those mentioned already just above, were arguing unproductively. Tempers appeared to be heating. In such cases, comment removal is like digging a firebreak to contain the spread of a forest fire — remove the things that are making people angry and that are inspiring new comments, and the argument will disappear unless it's a very hot fire. (We have other ways of dealing with fires that refuse to be contained by modest means like removing comments.)

The comments debating the close

There were some comments debating the close. All were removed except one, and I want to address why that is, since it seems to be part of the objection in this meta question.

Recall the various groups who are affected by comment removal decisions. Who is the most important group to consider? In this case, it's those users with moderation tool access who have acted on the question and those who haven't yet seen the question, and those users who were involved in the fight. The first need context for what's going on with the question, and need to see the explanation offered for the Too Broad closure, so that they can evaluate it for themselves and vote accordingly. The second group need to not have new inbox notifications to respond to. This entirely explains the comments about the debate that were removed, and the ones that were left.

  • One comment giving context for the closure was left, as above. (This is the only comment that was part of the debate.)
  • Two were left pointing to relevant meta discussions. These help spread awareness of how the site works for users who are new to their close/reopen vote privilege, which was an issue in this case. Leaving these is useful to improve how our collective site maintenance works. (They were in the middle of the debate, but didn't take part in it — they merely provided a neutral resource that disputants could consult and refer to.)
  • One comment that came after the dispute was over was left existing. This was a moderator's comment that did two things: correct a misapprehension about list questions that the author restated in response to the second link (perhaps the author missed the first link in the flurry of comments), and noted for the sake of others that the author had abandoned the question. (This comment overlaps the two sets of comments. See below for more.)
  • Comments that were heating things up instead of calming things down were removed, though mostly this was redundant with the aim of having minimal comments.

Notably, the moderator wasn't involved in the dispute. From a moderation perspective, there was no dispute to get involved in, just a number of users who were correctly applying established precedent on a fairly clear case of an off topic question, who were being given a hard time by users who didn't appear to be familiar with these established precedents.

This isn't picking sides, unless you count “the site” as a side a moderator can pick. This is a moderator breaking up a fight and dousing the flames by removing the comments that were fueling them, while retaining just enough to keep high-rep voters informed about what's up with the closure.

The second set of comments

That's the first set of comments. Fairly tame, nothing too unusual there. The second set of comments is where things seem to have gone off the rails.

These comments started with a pair of comments from a mod addressing the significant misunderstandings that were in the first set of comments.

  1. A comment explaining why the question was closed. Previous comments about the closure were largely missing the point, and this comment aimed to remind everyone of the fairly clear reasons available to close the question: it was asking for a list, and it was a campaign research question that did not ask anything that needed RPG expertise.
  2. A comment explaining that it's not unusual for voters to downvote answers to questions that are obviously off topic. This wasn't to justify, so much as point out that it happens: it's a thing that voters do, and up/down voters can do exactly as they please (apart from serial voting), and objecting is needless use of yet more comments. Explaining that this happens was in response to several previous comments on the subject.

What followed were mostly increasingly heated comments asking what the point of that mod's comments were, and (ironically) strenuous objections that the two comments artificially continued the debate. These comments were largely unconstructive. The moderator's comments addressed a number of misunderstandings, but the number of new misunderstandings that arrived with further comments indicate, to me reading them after the fact, that there were too many misunderstandings to fruitfully deal with in comments. I am unsurprised that the moderator cut bait and deleted the lot of them.

Notably, one of the two comments that began the second set of comments was removed: the one that explained why it was closed and likely to remain so was left to serve as context for other users with site maintenance on the mind. The second comment addressing the misunderstanding about how people vote on answers was removed, likely because that whole tangent had proven fruitless to address in comments. The rest were removed, because comments aren't for angry arguments.

Allow me to address the alternatives you propose:

  • Removing the comments wholesale.

This would have left no context for our community members with access to moderation tools, so would have been inappropriate for a freshly-held question that had been the subject of dispute.

  • Remove all but the last line: "[There was discussion, but] the author has indicated they don't want to do anything more on this question so it'll probably stay closed." (To indicate that the fact that the question was closed need not be further discussed.)

The first half was addressing a point being missed by the author (that we don't do list questions, and it clearly was one). This is important, because it's material context for why its closed and likely to remain so in its current form. I addressed this in more detail above. The second half was addressing the general fact that it's likely to remain closed, because the author indicated they would be allowing the question to remain in its current obviously off-topic form. These two halves only really made sense together.

  • Moving the whole discussion to chat.

Productive discussions do get moved to chat, but arguments never do. That wouldn't serve our function as fire-fighters, as it wouldn't remove the fuel from the fire. We're not here to enable arguments, we're here to prevent them.

  • Moving the whole discussion to meta.

There's no such moderator power. Since there's no site mechanism for converting comments into posts anyway, such a power is unlikely to ever be added.

Instead, we ask that people having a dispute take it to meta. That was done twice by a moderator. Since the suggestion wasn't followed, that was the extend of our powers to move a dispute to meta.

I guess we could have also locked the post against further comments with the “no really, use meta for that” reason, but that seemed unnecessary here. It's often too strong an action to merely repeat the request to use meta for its purpose instead of misusing comments.

Other things of note

  1. “Which is just inviting serial downvoting”

    The term “serial downvoting” seems to have been misused here. Serial downvoting is when someone goes to the user page of a particular other user to find the list of their posts and starts casting downvotes on all their posts. That's an abuse of the system and results in reversal of the votes and possibly a temporary suspension for the abusing account.

    The meaning that seems to have been intended is that “Which is just inviting more downvoting”. Perhaps it will or perhaps it won't. How comments might affect the choices of our voting public is pretty much irrelevant when we're considering whether it's time for a comment to be removed — there are far more important considerations that leave no room for such a minor issue as how others' votes on the question might change based on the visible comments, which isn't even our business anyway.

  2. “quite detrimental to discussion culture”

    Excellent. RPG.se doesn't have, and is designed to kill, discussion culture. As wonderful as a healthy discussion culture is on a discussion site, on RPG.se it's a sign of disease — much like a healthy human gut culture is wonderful when it's in a human's guts, but in another part of the body is a sign of disease. If what we're doing is successfully killing any growths of discussion culture, we're on the right path.

  3. “deleting a question with answers to it can lead to a question ban(from one of the removed comments)

    That's not how question bans work. Someone has to have a really terrible question record to earn a question ban.

    The exact formula for the bans is not disclosed, but users are only banned if they have a significant number of heavily down-voted, zero-voted, or deleted posts.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I especially like how you ascertain that discussion about the topic-ness of the question should be handled in a different meta-question, but have both the paragraph itself lead with, and the big-bold header immerdiately following it shout out loud, the claim that it is clearly off-topic. At which point I stopped reading, and won't even bother pointing out the various issues of constructed reality your post already has up to that point. I give up. \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 18:45
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to try reading it before giving up. There are large parts of the post explaining how we can be involved without taking side, and how it's possible to misinterpret moderator statements as taking a side. I didn't go into detail on them, but your comments in the second set went pretty pear-shaped based on that misunderstanding, which is an error you might wish to study in order to avoid it next time. We'd prefer that you de-escalate your comments so that we don't have to intervene more. We have better things to do than help someone self-destruct. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ But you DID notice that it "went pear-shaped" only AFTER @mxyzplk got involved, in a way that was anything BUT de-escalating? And it starts with half a dozen FALSE ascertations as to what happened, so... \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 19:01
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, it was after mxyzplk's comments. I don't know why you lost your composure and wrote what you did then, though. You seem to have some confusions about how the site works. Again I urge you to bring up in a meta about what you think went wrong with the closure, separately from what you think went wrong with the comments. How you think the closure should have been handled seems to be mingling with how you think the comments should have been handled, and causing difficulty. We can talk about the deck chairs on the Titanic, or we can talk about hitting the iceberg. Which would you like? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ If there are any false assertions, it would be useful to identify them directly rather than just vaguely. I'm not sure what you expect me to do with vague implications. I'm obviously not aware of any errors. Unless you're accusing me of deliberate misrepresentation, but we're all operating in good faith like adults here, as you say. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well. What I thought was wrong with the closure was in the deleted comments. Which is what makes having the claims to OT-ness remain there so chafing. Never mind. I'm done with this. \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ In case you're not actually done here, as it keeps seeming: it's clear to the experienced voters who closed it, and the moderators who have now weighed in with “no, that was done right, let's talk about your comment issue now” why it's off topic. If this question should be on topic, then we as a community need to have a conversation about how our guidelines are wrong. That needs to happen in its own meta. If you don't like policy discussion being removed from comments, perhaps accept that comments is not where to put it? I can get copies for your meta if you've forgotten your wordings. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aside, I would still like to know more specifically what false ascertainments are contained in this meta answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Apparently you have still access to the comments. What are you asking from me now, citing from memory so you can shoot me down? Never mind me, I am just "confused folk" that's "straight up wrong". Go on moderating as you are, it's your community, not mine. I'm out. \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 20:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, remember we're adults acting in good faith, just as you said you are. If you have an issue to bring up, we're here to help. I'm not trying to entrap you or something. If you want to keep bringing up the closure itself and the problem preventing progress is that your arguments have been lost to comment-oblivion, that's fixable. However, persisting in trying to use those comments and now these comments for a new topic is perplexing. We have a tool for that already that we keep reminding you to use instead. Please use it, or let it rest. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ sigh... You really don't understand how it comes off if you're told "you're wrong", in no uncertain terms ("clearly", "blatantly" etc. etc.), you write why you really, honestly, in good faith and after reading relevant information, believe that you were not, and then find that the "you're wrong" including strong verbage is upheld while your reply isn't? Rhethorical question... \$\endgroup\$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 20:29
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ No, I get that. It sucks to hear “you're wrong”. I get that you did research to make sure your second question ever asked was going to be good, and I can imagine that having it closed so firmly after that must sting. Can you accept that the site can't be ruled by that feeling though? We don't expect askers to have perfect knowledge of policy in order to ask — on the flip side though, that means some questions will be closed through no fault of the asker's own. It's not a personal indictment. More knowledgeable users weren't judging you personally. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 20:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What would you have us say when an argument actually is invalid? Not a rhetorical question. Your argument here doesn't seem to be accounting for the possibility, which puts us in some difficulty in trying to engage with you on this. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 22:41
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Okay, so when you were told “please take it to meta”, what part of that was unclear? The moderator on the scene was not interesting in arguing with you. That's clear from reviewing the removed comments. You weren't disengaging and taking the issue to meta though… and the result is that you left a mess in the comments, and we diligently cleaned it up. You can still take your argument to meta. Your argument wasn't removed for being invalid, it was removed for being in the wrong place. You didn't and don't have carte blanche to crud up the comments in your refusal to use meta. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 22:54
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ As a tip, in order to be done with something, you should stop coming back to it. Talking repeatedly about leaving a discussion isn't the same as as actually leaving it, just like talking about talking about your closure objection isn't the same as actually talking about it. That includes passive-aggressively flagging. If the intention is to annoy, we're a bit more resilient than that. If the intention is honest, the ball is in your court to engage productively. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 23:25

I haven't read BESW's or SSD's answers yet--from which I expect to learn useful things--but I want to explain my +1 to the question here:

I noticed the "one side left standing" thread yesterday and had some pretty similar thoughts to OP: the detritus struck me strangely, and I'd have preferred to see something like:

  • one comment left standing, along the lines of "this is off-topic, if you want to discuss it take it to meta"
  • all comments (barring anything rude/offensive) moved to a chat with a note/link

I get that comments should be pruned to the least-acceptable amount: I'm a defender of our (noted-upon by many visitors) vigorous deletion practices. But I'd note that it's not only the end-result of such conversations that inform/educate the citizenry: we can learn a lot from seeing what sort of objections/misunderstandings users are expressing, what reasoning mods are using to explain things, &c.

The way this one was left (at the time) just left me wondering, not any wiser....

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Writing my answer I studied the comments quite carefully. Unfortunately, what became evident only when looking at them all as a set is that were major misunderstandings of how we determine topicality on the “leave open” side, but no single or small handful expressed the whole of the objection or demonstrated its misunderstandings. The whole comment thread would have had to be left. If there is demand and utility, I may post them in a wiki here for information purposes — but again, there were such thorough misunderstandings that a fresh meta is almost certainly needed, if it's to be tackled. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 19:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yeah, now the few comments left on the question look perfectly normal: an explanation of one user's thoughts on closure which has a bunch of upvotes, a few pointers to relevant meta, and a mod-comment about the closure. I think I just happened to see it mid-argument or mid-cleanup, when there was he first comment, then a bunch of mod-comments obviously borne of engagement with a user but none of the context for them. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 4:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Oh yeah, that would have looked terrible. Checking timestamps, it does look like they were manually deleted individually over the span of 21 seconds, plenty of time to see the comments in an incompletely removed state with the right timing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 4:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Serendipitously (or whatever its opposite is!?) it seems OP and I must have looked back on the comment-chain around that same time: in this comment they mention the a "one-sided discussion" that sounds like what I saw and had me wondering about it all day. Let the Lord of Chaos Rule, eh? \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 22:57

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