I've read some posts here on RPG Meta about comment deletion and it seems the overarching goals are to reduce clutter, diminish distracting information on the site, and maintain the focus of SE as strictly Q&A. This strategy is applied to both helpful comments ("You should add...") and to conversational comments ("this is so cool").

It appears from this policy that SE is not interested in providing a view into process. Questions and answers are regularly developed in a collaborative environment with plenty of back and forth between users in the comment section. However the historical value of this process is not appreciated in the tenets of SE. SE sees these comments as a disposable byproduct of its main function - a clear Q&A.

At the same time, however, SE does provide a view into question and answer edit history. Presumably, this is to provide transparency to the user about how a question or answer was edited.

Why does SE value transparency and the historical significance of edits, but does not value transparency and historical significance when it comes to comments?

I do not think visual clutter is a solid response here, because comments can easily be hidden, as they already are when there are more than ten or so of them, and as edit histories already are.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You will probably get some very good explanations of Stack policy here, but RPG.SE is unable to enact changes in the site's design. If you'd like this standard to potentially get changed, Meta Stack Exchange is where you'll get an audience of people with the power to get design-level changes made. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Mar 10, 2019 at 8:52

2 Answers 2


Users being able to see deleted comments has been discussed a few times on the main Meta Stack Exchange, such as:

You see the revision history because you need that ability in order to moderate posts as a community member. Like you said, it's there so that you can see if recent edits are appropriate, so that you can see what a post was like before someone vandalised it, and other reasons like that. It also holds people accountable for their edits.

As for comment moderation the only thing people need to be able to see is what comments are still present—then flag it if it shouldn't be present. Diamond moderators can see deleted comments only because the kinds of moderation we do sometimes necessitate that, but since non-diamond users aren't doing that kind of moderation, they don't need to see those comments. (In fact even diamond moderators couldn't see comments for the first ~3 years of Stack Exchange's history.)

Honestly, at least half of the deleted comments you'd see on any given site are going to be abusive or just heated arguments. They're gone and there's a good reason they're gone.

Stack Exchange isn't providing these features so you can learn about process, they're there for moderation, so learning about process isn't a reason to show you deleted comments. Meta sites (like here), help documents, and interaction with the community are how you learn about process.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Aren't edit histories maintained indefinitely? I can see edit histories on posts that are 8 years old. Seems like there's more to it than reviewing recent edits. Also I can't find it, but I'm certain I've read some official thing on the site that talks about the value of the democratic process and transparency on SE. How valued are those actually if the process that creates questions and answers is deleted? I've noticed recently that even chat room convos are deleted eventually. \$\endgroup\$
    – lightcat
    Mar 10, 2019 at 16:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, edit histories are maintained indefinitely. I am giving summary examples of reasons we have them, not a comprehensive overview. Chat room conversations remain available to be reviewed by 10k+ users. You're placing more importance and value on comments than they warrant though. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2019 at 16:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see, so it's more of a tiered access system than I'm aware of since I'm still below the threshold for that particular privilege. I do value comments and that's my value judgment to make, however I don't think a discussion on the value of comments is worth having on this post as it has been covered many times on other posts. My main point here is that there seems to be a disconnect between how edit histories are handled and how comments are handled. It sounds like you're answer is that comments are not valuable and edit histories are, am I reading your words correctly? \$\endgroup\$
    – lightcat
    Mar 10, 2019 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ The edit history is also necessary for legal reasons, to comply with the Creative Commons license the site exists under. The comments aren’t. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2019 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Is that standard operating procedure for a CC license? \$\endgroup\$
    – lightcat
    Mar 10, 2019 at 20:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @lightcat No, the license requires us to attribute, but doesn't tell SE what technical setup to use to track and display authors. The particular setup for edit history here is such that it fulfills the attribution requirement, among other design needs for the system. (E.g., it's also necessary for community oversight when anyone can edit a site: who does what needs to be tracked.) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2019 at 21:09

Answers are content, comments are noise (in the long run)

Granted, in the process of getting a question or answer the comments are (in the ideal case) helpful in improving the content.

Once the content is brought up to scratch, the comments should (in theory) go to the four winds so that all that is left is content. High quality content, low noise level, is a core value of the SE model.

So why is the edit history kept?

So we can see how the content was improved, and what was removed/edited out. Learning by seeing how others solved a problem can be of value.


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