Today I commented on an answer to How should I deal with a player who wants to dictate loot distribution?, asking the answerer for clarification (and implicitly suggesting an improvement at the same time).

A few more responses were posted after mine, including a direct reply to mine. As I was typing up a second comment (which I've since deleted, as it makes no sense now), the additional responses, including my request for clarification from the author, were all deleted.

My comment to OP was not addressed by them via reply or edit to the answer (and likely not even seen by OP, given that only survived for such a short time), so it certainly didn't fall under the 'obsolete/no longer needed' reason.

Why? The comment box description says:

Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements.

This is what my comment was doing, to the best of my knowledge.


Intentions aside, the comment does not actually read as a request for clarification. Here's the comment:

So you don't think Vanessa's behavior is at all wrong or problematic (since you didn't mention it at all here), and the blame lies 100% with the OP? Or, for that matter, with the DM? – TylerH 2 hours ago

This isn't actually requesting the author clarify their post, and it isn't requesting an improvement to the post. The measure of a good request for clarification or suggestion for improvement is that it is actionable. As in, I can tell if it has/hasn't been acted on, or there is something in there inviting me to do something which I can either do or decline to do. It's not enough for such a request to be implied, it must be actually said.

It looks based on your other deleted comment like you wanted the author to comment on Vanessa's part in this.

That wasn't how it came across. Regardless of your intentions, the way this comes across is criticising the author through accusation of something they didn't say. Comments aren't for nonconstructive criticism. Further, this kind of discourse generally comes across as a verbal attack, regardless of what we might have actually meant by it. This is the kind of comment that can and did start an argument.

The following comment would've been a clear, reasonable, actionable suggestion for improvement which would not as likely have been deleted (until of course it was actioned or declined); it's paraphrased based on your thoughts expressed in your most recent self-deleted comment:

I feel adding some commentary on Vanessa's part in this is appropriate too. Even if the OP did something wrong, it's also clear Vanessa was doing something wrong, and other answers are commenting on this as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Asking an answerer for their stance on a key piece of the Q they omitted is a pretty clear-cut 'request for clarification'... one that is also easily actionable--the answerer can take action by responding in the comments or editing their answer. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Jan 30 '19 at 19:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH asking for their stance on something is actionable. Your comment doesn't do that. The construction of the question makes it read like its rhetorical - you are telling the OP what they (didn't) think and implying they are wrong to have (not) thought that. This might be perfectly fine in a verbal conversation where tone of voice and body language can moderate the plain meaning of the words but it comes off as accusatory in writing - especially in a short comment without any clarifying context. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Jan 30 '19 at 22:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH Just a note, but I think if you had worded your comment like "Do you think Vanessa's behavior is at all wrong or problematic (since you didn't mention it at all here), and the blame lies 100% with the OP? Or, for that matter, with the DM?" it would have been more clear that it was a request for information. The way you phrased it assumed it and used a common construct for rhetorical arguments to make. I can see where you are coming from, but it also reads as confrontational to me. On the other hand, the new wording isn't really more or less actionanable either. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mod Feb 12 '19 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose It's still a request for information, just a more nuanced one: my phrasing hints at my opinion/assumed conclusion. Such mildly leading questions should be totally fine, as this is not a court of law. The point of asking about the elephant in the room in a leading way is intentional, because the answer was completely ignoring said elephant (and it'd be perfectly acceptable for OP to reply "no I don't."). It saddens me that folks here seem to have adopted such a defensive interpretation of language so as to read every inquiry as confrontational (w/ a negative connotation). \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Feb 12 '19 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH All I was doing was giving you a suggestion going forward for improvement with the knowledge that what you say has to be interpreted by other people and could (rightfully or not) get removed if interpreted wrongly. Generally our guideline is to assume best intent on the part of the person with whom we are communicating, but it is always best to use the best language to fit your intent. Regardless the wording the doppel suggested is better than my suggestion and I didn't intend this to be an argument. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mod Feb 12 '19 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Why is this an argument? This is exactly my point. Can't this just be a discussion? When such civil debates are framed so negatively, it works to stymie participation; a chilling effect for a Q&A site that purports (from mods' own words) to struggle for activity. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Feb 12 '19 at 17:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH Indeed I should have chosen my words better. I should have said "extended conversation" it was not my intent to imply that we were disagreeing. Even though meta is more lenient in this respect, we still should not chat in the comments. If you wanted I'd be happy to talk to you in Role-playing Games Chat though. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mod Feb 12 '19 at 17:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ultimately in a text based medium like this one it's on the communicator to ensure they find a way to communicate that can be reliably understood. "So you think (thing that is clearly implied as unreasonable)?" is a confrontational communication pattern that puts people on the defensive — the insinuation they believe something unreasonable means they feel the need to defend themselves. That causes arguements, so away it goes. It's up to you what you want to do with the advice you're getting, but we'll continue moderating these comments based on what we see. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 12 '19 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener But they can be understood just fine. You guys just have issues with the tone of the comment. There is no possible interpretation that they are not asking them to clarify what they said, seeing as they asked questions about what they said. The problem seems to be that they took a normal conversational tone, like I would if I were talking to my friends, and it is being interpreted as argumentative. This is, of course, making the person who was not being argumentative angry at the accusation. \$\endgroup\$ – trlkly Feb 13 '19 at 9:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @trlkly Correct. We have issues with comments that are predisposed to be read as having an argumentative tone, because they create arguments and trouble which then need cleaning up. In this case the comment in question already provoked an argument before we intervened and it was deleted. If we wish to request clarification we can and should do so using patterns which are not predisposed to creating argument first; I have suggested one example in this post. Although we may say these words in person kindly, in text we don't have the benefit of tone of voice and body language to clarify intent. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 13 '19 at 11:17

We delete comments that start arguments. When a comment can be read both ways — as a fair question, or as rhetorical fighting words — we delete because those regularly end up as fights instead of improvement to the post, no matter what was intended.

Even when (we don’t get to it and) the author handles the charged comment smoothly and it results in improvement, these kinds of wordings significantly degrade community experience. Nobody wants to deal with aggressive comments on their posts, that sucks. Which is why it’s a chore passed up to moderators instead.

Commentors who want their objections taken seriously by the author need to be conscious of that dynamic and stay far away from wordings that seem aggressive, dismissive, condescending, etc. — all the many obvious to subtle ways of offending the listener that we humans have devised.

As a practical matter, a comment has usually already failed its purpose of improving a post if it’s worded such that the author is less likely to listen.

Your comment was a firestarter, whatever your intentions for it were. It was an easy case to decide.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A firestarter? Sorry, I fail to see how my comment was at all contentious. It literally just asked for the answerer to confirm whether they considered either "Vanessa" or the GM from the question's scenario to be at any level of fault. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Jan 30 '19 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH If your comments are being deleted, it means they’re materially different from comments that get left. We can’t make someone accept and learn from that, but in the meantime we can continue to manage all comments and delete the ones that raise valid community flags or our own concerns. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 30 '19 at 20:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem is, deleting a comment without explanation is also likely to create an argument, as it will come off as a hostile act. The reason why this current argument is occurring is because this comment was deleted, when the author did not see any reason it would be, and now objects to your characterization that there post was trying to start an argument. You're having an argument now. The OP is clearly insulted by the implications. \$\endgroup\$ – trlkly Feb 13 '19 at 9:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @trlkly That seems to say we shouldn’t moderate comments in case someone gets unhappy. No, people might take normal moderation as an insult, but taking insult at a comment deletion won’t get their inappropriate comments left alive. Moderation will be done regardless. Further, an argument is not happening now: they dropped it two weeks ago, ergo no argument is happening. Besides, the goal was preventing an argument between two other users on the main site, which was also accomplished; even if there was a new argument here, the goal of protecting the main site was still accomplished. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 13 '19 at 15:36

Actually besides the merit of your comment - once comments have been moved to chat, you are expected to use chat. There is no “move later comments to chat” option, so they get deleted.

Once a comment thread has gotten heavy enough to go to chat, additional comments not in that chat will be deleted without warning.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm interpreting this to mean "once some comments have been moved to chat, you're not supposed to leave any other comments for any reason under the post". Is this interpretation correct, and if so, is it documented anywhere? This is not the policy on other sites. Also, what if the author of the post does not have enough reputation to talk in chat, and thus cannot respond in chat even if you ask them a question there? \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Jan 30 '19 at 19:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH That is part of why other sites have so much noise in comments. (SFF / History, I am looking at you!) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 12 '19 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Any chance I can get some clarification on the questions in my prior comment regarding your answer here? \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Feb 12 '19 at 21:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's how I do my comment janitor work and have for some time. Seems obvious to me; why move it to chat if everyone's going to keep it up in the comments anyway? It's documented here now I guess. I think there's complicated rep exceptions for comment chats but the author doesn't need to respond, they can edit their question or not just like they should be doing in response to comments, not comment-arguing. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 13 '19 at 3:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because the "extended discussion" going on in the chat is a separate entity to comments which are there to help improve the answer. Extended discussions get moved to chat because they never should have been comments in the first place--comments aren't for discussion (outside of meta). Of course if I'm going to try and improve the Answer, I'm going to make a comment, not go to a chat room (which may even be expired if it's old) where the Answerer won't likely see the suggested improvement. I've even done so and been told that my comment was useful by a mod (doppel) and didn't get removed. \$\endgroup\$ – trlkly Feb 13 '19 at 9:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're effectively discouraging all attempts at improving an answer once the inevitable move to chat has occurred. It won't be seen in the chat, and it will be deleted from the comments. I very much ask that you reconsider this. Only delete that which was clearly a discussion--and, better yet, move that to chat as well. I've seen multiple moves to chat on other SEs in one comment exchange, so I know it can be done. \$\endgroup\$ – trlkly Feb 13 '19 at 9:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ The mod I mentioned may have been SevenSidedDice instead. I have a weird issue remembering which is which. I actually thought I replied to the same mod twice up there. I now realize it was two different people. \$\endgroup\$ – trlkly Feb 13 '19 at 10:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here, if they shouldnt have been comments in the first place they are deleted for cause. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 13 '19 at 18:02

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