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 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
  • 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
  • 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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    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. Surely though, this would not mean comments being deleted within minutes, on a question less than an hour old, with no accepted answers? Shouldn't the Asker get at least a few hours to check back and see if they need to clarify their question, or incorporate any info from the comments into it? – Smock Jul 11 at 16:08
  • @Smock Comments that look like they are attempting to answer the question could be deleted regardless of timing. In the past we would let them stick around for a bit, but then we ended up with many questions with 15+ comments under them and no answers. It’s not good for the site to have people writing comments instead of answers, which is exactly what was happening. For this site, it is better to have a lower quality answer that can be voted on and improved than comment threads. Maybe in the future people will be writing enough answers and we can ease up. – ColleenV Jul 11 at 16:14
  • @ColleenV I agree with what you say regarding answer style comments (And I may even be guilty of this - but I'm also 100% happy for them to be deleted, along with irrelevant chit-chat). However comments that are asking for clarification or offering critique or suggestions for the Asker to try a certain action (maybe not so relevant in this SE) surely need to stick around for more than a few minutes? Otherwise I don't see the point in trying to improve a Question. (which is a situation that surely wouldn't be good for any SE) – Smock Jul 12 at 10:38
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    @Smock - It's pretty rare that we delete comments within a few minutes, unless they are redundant (someone else has already asked the same thing), or unfriendly to the point of running afoul of SE's code of conduct. As for comments asking for clarification, we'll often check to see when a comment was left and when a user was last active on the site. If the comment indeed raises a legitimate issue, we are unlikely to delete it before a user had a chance to see it and chosen to ignore it. Also, sometimes I'll delete "suggested edit comments" after I've read, agreed, and made those edits myself. – J.R. Jul 12 at 14:19

There's repartee between two or three users -- usually meaningless, but I personally enjoy reading and writing such comments.

It's worth pointing out again an underlying philosphy of the Stack Exchange:

We're a little bit different from other sites. Here's how:

Ask questions, get answers, no distractions

This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat.

This is found on the first page of the Tour on every Stack Exchange.

For everyone who "enjoys the meaningless repartee between two or three users," there are other users who find these side conversations to be distracting clutter if not downright annoying.

Many of these comments get removed after fellow members of the community have flagged them for moderation attention. There are three preset reasons for flagging, and one of those three reasons is:

This comment is outdated, conversational or not relevant to this post. (emphasis added)

If you think moderation team is getting too heavy-handed with their deletion of comments, there's a good chance that the root of that mentality is other members who are getting more persistent in their flagging.

Remember, for many in the community, part of the appeal of the Stack Exchange is its free-from-distractions directness. You may not agree with that mentality personally, but it's an important part of what helped SE grow into what it is today.

  • Hi, what I was trying to say last year was that I don't like comments that are answers; that I enjoy idle chit-chat but understand if those comments get removed; and that I enjoy reading certain comments that add richness and context to a question or answer. The last of the three should be preserved, in my opinion. I realize that is probably at odds with guidelines, and I've made peace with that. I think I was wrong to suggest "censorship" was happening before. – Ringo Jul 11 at 19:26
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    @Ringo - I can assure you, we aren't mere robots who ruthlessly and thoughtlessly remove every bit of commenting. If a comment truly does add richness and context to a question or answer, I think I'm more inclined to upvote it than remove it. In the end, some comments get removed, but most endure. Not everyone will agree with every judgment call we make, but the mod team will continue to strive to find a good balance as we endeavor to keep the site tidy as a whole. – J.R. Jul 11 at 19:51
  • Thanks for clarifying. I think you guys do a great job, and your work is much appreciated! – Ringo Jul 11 at 20:42

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