In the last few days to weeks, I've come across multiple cases where someone commented on an answer with e.g. a clarification request, change proposal or other type of attempt to improve an answer. Subsequently, the answer's author or someone else replied, leading to a 3-4 comment conversation. Longer conversations, which are probably best moved to chat, are therefore not relevant to this question.

Anyway, after the changes were implemented, one of the participants deleted their comments, but the other participant(s) didn't, leading to a fragmented, broken conversation that makes little to no sense to other readers.

A specific example would be a conversation between me and NautArch on an answer of mine. He eventually deleted his comments, but I haven't done that so far*. As a result, readers can somewhat deduce the topic of our conversation, but it's certainly suboptimal.

* I would have done so by now, seeing how the remaining comments are more confusing than helpful, if not for this question.**

** They are now deleted.

Hence, what I'm asking is which course of action is more desirable: deleting a comment conversation for the purpose of tidiness, or keeping it for the purpose of documentation.

Note: this question is not about whether or not to keep conversations that already got fragmented - keeping half of a conversation is, in my opinion, clearly pointless. This is more about why the comments got fragmented in the first place.

Note 2: this probably also applies 1:1 to questions, but I've experienced the issue mainly with answers.


4 Answers 4


Please delete your obsolete comments

Comments were added as a site feature to enable temporary communication with the post author, for exactly that kind of use. Emphasis on temporary:

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer.

The temporary nature is deliberate, which is why people can delete their parts of the conversation: continuity of discussions and records-keeping is not a goal of the comment feature.

Go ahead and delete obsolete comments that no longer apply to the post, and aren’t any long part of an ongoing discussion about managing/improving the post. Any comments that actively make it harder for people to find comments that are still relevant should be removed.

Please delete them. :) It’ll save a mod spending time to do it to bring down the noise level of the page.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, please flag comments of other users that you know are obsolete for deletion! Enough user flags can auto-delete a comment, but if not it helps the mods to point out stuff that can be gotten rid of. Deleting comments isn't just a mod power :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 16:25

We delete them for tidiness.

From the comment privileges, comments are “temporary post-it notes”. They don't get archived long-term and are not intended as a form of documentation. They can and will go away.

The exceptions are few, and are mostly “Related:” link comments, or otherwise heavily upvoted comments that aren't of the actionable variety.

When comments are actioned please flag them as No Longer Needed, or delete them if they're your own comments. When an entire conversation has been actioned, please flag it for removal (or whatever parts of it are left): the easiest way to do this is just to flag the most recent comment of the bunch for moderator attention saying something like “comments up to this point have been acted on and be deleted”.


Delete - tidying up is good!

As the deleter in question, I generally approach comments (which I often use) as a means of communication for Q&A improvement. Once it's been determined that a change will or won't be made, I generally delete my part to help keep it all clean.

Posting a comment asking for the other party(ies) to do so as well seems counterproductive (it's posting another comment), but I can see how my abrupt deletion can be surprising.

If you do see the other half of a conversation gone, it's probably best to delete along with it. The comments are not part of the answer in any way and can be mod-removed at any time. Leaving them dangling as full conversations or partial doesn't help the answer in any way.

Unless it's a funny joke. Then it's all good to leave behind if it's getting votes. Keeping things light at times is important, too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My wife would wonder at my desire to tidy up here, but not at home. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Amen your helpful comment on your own answer, my wife likewise. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 22:29

Deleted - once their helpful effect has been applied

As I said here, questions and answers are content, comments are noise (in the long run)

The longer term goal of the SE model of web sites is to have a library of expert answers to good, well scoped, well presented questions. The comments are a tool to enable that, but they are not content in and of themselves. I had to have that understanding beaten into me when I first joined in with SE sites, so please learn from my example.

If you look at the larger objectives of what provides value at an SE site, as opposed to anywhere else on the internet, it's the high quality and low signal-to- noise ratio of the sites. That's the objective. It's also why I bother to visit and participate. If that core value wasn't there, there's a whole internet full of sites that can offer me lots of noise with my signal.

Use the comments as a tool to make the core content, questions and answers, better. Then clean up afterwards.


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