Why are comments constantly being deleted? Sometimes I write a comment and someone has deleted it less than an hour later. I think people are going overboard with the comment deleting. I don't really like it -- I feel like it's censoring in a way.

As we all know, there are many different types of comments. There is the comment-answer, which I don't like and have protested before. There's repartee between two or three users -- usually meaningless, but I personally enjoy reading and writing such comments. There are interesting tangential comments, such as anecdotes or links or a digression of some sort. To me, these comments make me feel like I'm reading an annotated poem or book. I enjoy reading them and feel they enrich the question.

I'm wondering if people agree that certain types of comments are more valuable than others and ought to be preserved -- in that they're not deleted.


From How do comments work?

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer. You should not expect them to be around forever. Once a clarification has been made, an edit added to the post to include new information, or the issue in the comment is otherwise resolved, it is subject to deletion. In reality, many obsolete or chatty comments remain untouched due to the high volume of comments posted, but this does not mean that they can't or shouldn't be deleted in the future.

Yes, we know that it is off-putting to people to delete discussion in the comments. That doesn't mean that it's the wrong thing to do, especially on a site where a good portion of the community isn't fluent in English and really needs us to vote so they can tell what is credible.

You will notice that it tends to be comments directly under the question that get moderated most heavily, because that's where people tend to put things that seem like answers. Comments under the question also push answers, which are far more valuable, down the page where they are less likely to be read and voted on.

Often comment discussions cause authors to disengage from their question, because what learner wouldn't prefer a one-on-one discussion to an answer written to be useful to more than just one person? Once they have their answer they move on to other things, and ELL still doesn't have a proper answer for future visitors that will show up in a search engine.

Comments under an answer ideally should be addressed by editing the answer to either incorporate the information or address the concerns (as Nathan already mentioned), but that doesn't always happen. Because the comments under an answer can add valuable context or additional information and they do less harm than comments directly under the question, they are often left alone. That should NOT be interpreted as "go ahead and chat in comments as long as you do it under an answer" though.

I haven't checked with the rest of the moderator team, but if anyone would like a chat room set up for discussion on an answer, I am happy to oblige - just leave a flag for a moderator on one of the comments or ping me (type @ColleenV and your message) in ELL's main chat room Language Overflow and let me know.

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    Also worth noting: A good portion of the comments deleted by the mod team are flagged comments. Sometimes it seems like for every one person who is upset by disappearing comments, there is someone else who is complaining that we aren't getting rid of them fast enough. – J.R. Sep 4 '18 at 22:33
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    I dunno, none of the other stacks I use delete comments like this one. – Ringo Sep 4 '18 at 22:54
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    @Ringo What does it matter how well certain stacks do or do not follow the guidelines? Interpersonal Skills is even stricter than ELL when it comes to discussion in comments. What exactly do you think should be preserved in comments that doesn't actually belong in an answer or in chat? – ColleenV Sep 5 '18 at 1:39
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    I believe certain kinds of comments can add a great deal of context and information to an answer. In some other stacks, the comments are often as enlightening as the answers themselves. Not only that, commenting can promote a kinship amongst users, and allow for a small window where people's personalities can shine through. Yes, there's chat, but that's a different space and a different context from the discussion surrounding a specific question. I just don't see the point of deleting comments so assiduously. I don't mean to cause upset in any way -- I'm just trying to be honest here. – Ringo Sep 5 '18 at 5:06
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    @Ringo: If the comments aren't guiding votes or helping to clarify posts, they need to be reworked into the relevant post (or converted into an answer). There is no space in SE's model for comments to give lasting enlightenment about a subject. (Except on meta, of course.) There is also no space in SE's model for comment-facilitated socializing. (Except, possibly, on meta, of course.) ELL is actually, in my experience, among the more liberal of SE sites as far as comment deletion goes: RPG is much stricter, and even SO is a bit sterner. – Nathan Tuggy Sep 5 '18 at 6:01
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    @Ringo One thing we don’t want is for comments to be as or more enlightening than the answers. Getting our content indexed by search engines is an important part of bringing new users to the site. The work that the community does editing and voting on answers is an important part of keeping our content high quality and relevant. Comments left to run rampant undermine those efforts and aren’t good for the site. Comments are necessary for helping an author clarify their post or learn how to best use the site, so they have their place, but they should be temporary. – ColleenV Sep 5 '18 at 12:57
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    I can't say I really agree with some of the things you're saying, but I'll defer to the better judgment of moderators. – Ringo Sep 5 '18 at 15:46
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    @Ringo Which things don’t make sense? I know if you look at it from the perspective of an individual user, the comment policy seems harsh. If you look at it from the perspective of what is good for the site, it makes more sense. Information left in comments is pretty much useless from a site perspective. That content isn’t easily searchable, so it doesn’t help anyone who doesn’t stumble across it. It also prevents some people who may have also thought the same thing from including it in an answer where it belongs because they don’t want to “steal” it from whoever posted it first. – ColleenV Sep 5 '18 at 16:02
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    @Ringo - I don't know if it's fair to characterize this as the "judgment of the moderators" – the collective will of the community is playing an equal part. Personally, I've become more diligent about cleaning up comments after several community members had voiced objections to comment-answers. See, for example, the answers and comments made in meta by non-moderators here and here. This answer is by a mod, but the community upvoted it 25 times. – J.R. Sep 6 '18 at 6:58
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    Well, thanks for encouraging more conversation. I guess my thought is that there are many different types of comments, as you well know. There is the comment-answer, which I really don't like and have protested before. There's repartee between two or three users -- usually meaningless, but I personally enjoy reading and writing such comments. There are interesting tangential comments, such as anecdotes or links or a digression of some sort. To me, these comments make me feel like I'm reading an annotated poem or book. I enjoy reading them and feel they enrich the question. – Ringo Sep 6 '18 at 16:23
  • I understand there are other considerations, such as search engine optimization. And I realize that too many comments clutters the page and obscures the original question. – Ringo Sep 6 '18 at 16:24
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    @Ringo I think that you should add that to your question instead of leaving it buried in the comments down here. I think this is an important topic for the community, and I’m kind of sad that your question is getting a negative score. I think it might be different if you explained that you’re not just complaining about your own comments being removed. – ColleenV Sep 6 '18 at 16:27
  • OK, I added the comment to the question and tried to sound less whiny, haha. – Ringo Sep 6 '18 at 16:55
  • @Ringo I had already up-voted you, but I hope others will change their mind. You might want to update your title as well to better reflect your question as it is now. – ColleenV Sep 6 '18 at 17:01
  • I'm glad you updated the question, but I still don't like the cry of "censorship." That's a strong accusation. I think the mod team strives to preserve comments that stay within SE guidelines and are likely to have added value to future visitors, while removing those that are more likely to either be a distraction or else foster contention. – J.R. Sep 6 '18 at 22:18

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