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This site has serious issues, core issues. Some of them could be solved. I wonder if the community is developed enough to correctly deal with them.

As comments have become a hold place for (permanent) opinions.

The first issue is that we should have a rule like:

No (long-term) comments.

As explained in this meta post:

Comments are second class citizens on the Stack Exchange network, not designed to hold information for all eternity. They may get cleaned up at any time. Generally, truly important information should be incorporated into an answer anyway (either by posting a new answer, if the information answers the question at least partially, or by editing an existing answer, if the information is a minor complement or clarification of that answer).

  • second class citizens: So, question and answer content should override comments.
  • hold information for all eternity: So, they should expire: When? In three months?
  • may get cleaned up at any time: Then, do clean them, no problem.
  • truly important information should be incorporated into an answer: Great idea, let's enforce it.
  1. Comments should be incorporated to question/answers or will be removed in 3 months.
  2. If the question/answer doesn't incorporate a comment, other users are invited to edit the question/answer to incorporate them.
  3. After 3 months any comment will be erased.
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    FYI, this sentence: "I wonder if the community is developed enough to correctly deal with them." strikes me as unnecessarily condescending. As part of this community, let's work together to find common ground and improve the site, not question its ability to come to your "correct" conclusion.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Jul 26, 2020 at 18:33
  • 1
    Are you aware that any user can suggest an edit to a post? And that users above 2k can immediately apply edits? Both of which show who did what and when. Beyond that, comments that no longer serve any purpose are candidates for removal. Are you lobbying for an automatic removal of old comments (#3)?
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Jul 26, 2020 at 18:36
  • (1) I have not stated which is "the correct way". Your qualification of unnecessarily condescending is placing your (pre?) judgement on the issue at hand.
    – user232326
    Jul 26, 2020 at 18:55
  • (2) Which part of asking for a discussion of an idea is not: work together to find common ground and improve the site. Is that not implied in the effort of writing the question? Sincerely ... think again.
    – user232326
    Jul 26, 2020 at 18:58
  • (3) Yes, users can edit, and many edits get reverted, then users tend to avoid edits out of fear of getting into an edit war. A comment is usually a softer way to hint of an error. But when a comment remains not included, it should either be erased or actually included.
    – user232326
    Jul 26, 2020 at 19:01
  • (4) Are you lobbying for an automatic removal of old comments (#3)? I do not really know, I guess I am.
    – user232326
    Jul 26, 2020 at 19:02
  • (5) And, frankly, plain downvoting (rejecting that actually there is a problem) is just the first step of denial You avoid talking about the issue.
    – user232326
    Jul 26, 2020 at 19:13
  • @JeffSchaller Why didn't you suggest an edit? You could remove/modify what you don't like !!! An example of the core problem?????
    – user232326
    Jul 26, 2020 at 19:15
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    I just have to agree with Jeff here. Starting with a mention of serious issues, in plural, then doubting the level of development of the community (and by implication, everyone in it) before even mentioning what those serious issues might be, does sound rather condescending to me. Reading the rest of the post, that whole introduction paragraph seems unnecessary for the discussion of comments. You're saying there are multiple serious issues, but only mention one here?
    – ilkkachu
    Jul 26, 2020 at 20:07
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    But about comments... what is it that's actually a problem with them? I mean, is there an example of a case where comments are really harmful or such?
    – ilkkachu
    Jul 26, 2020 at 20:10
  • @ilkkachu Even well intended Easter eggs could become harmful. Seek and you shall find.
    – user232326
    Jul 26, 2020 at 20:28
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    @Isaac, I can't tell what's problematic with that post or the comments to it. I'm also not interested in going looking for something someone might find problematic. It's your post, your argument, you get to supply the references and examples. If you can't do that, well, I suppose you also can't expect to get much support for your suggestion.
    – ilkkachu
    Jul 26, 2020 at 20:45
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    @Isaac my intention was to get past a possible language / translation issue by pointing out one person's interpretation of: "(serious, core issues), I wonder if the community is developed enough to correctly deal with them", followed by a 3-point feature request, implies that you don't think this community can handle your truth. I wouldn't edit your post to put words in your mouth, so I left a comment alerting you to one possible interpretation in the actual, positive, hopes that I misunderstood you and that we could find better wording to better represent your position.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Jul 27, 2020 at 0:06
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    If you're unsure that this community is able to handle discussion, I would suggest that you simply leave that unsaid, and let the discussion go where it goes. If, instead, you do intend to criticize this community, then I would suggest a separate Meta post to discuss that issue -- separate from a feature request regarding comments.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Jul 27, 2020 at 0:08

3 Answers 3

6

I don't think comments are a problem on unix.SE.

It seems to me that they're deleted less aggressively here than on other sites, which IMO is just a good thing. There's nothing inherently wrong with clarifications, anecdotes, additional perspectives, or even mild jokes sticking around.

I also don't think they should always be incorporated in posts or deleted. I've had comments under my posts clarifying some issue, in which case I'm happy to edit the information in. But I've also had comments, which while not wrong, would take the answer somewhere I don't intend to go. Either by making the post unnecessarily complicated, when I wanted to keep it simple (lies for children); or by presenting a viewpoint I don't agree with.

In those cases, I'm not happy to include the comments with my name, and would be irked if someone tried to force that. But I also don't want to prevent anyone from presenting an alternate or opposing view, especially when they think I'm wrong. And with the system we have, comments are the only way for that. Having to write an answer just to say "ilkkachu's answer is wrong" would be worse, for various reasons.

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    ilkkachu's answer is not wrong ;) -- but just to clarify your position: you may not want to edit a comment into the post yourself, but if it was an improvement, do you object to others editing the post to incorporate it? (Recognizing that edits are stamped with the editors name)
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Jul 27, 2020 at 15:02
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    @JeffSchaller, in the situation I was thinking of, the edit would not be an improvement, at least not from my point of view. For example, if I left something out to simplify the matter on purpose, then editing to add a detailed description would go against my intent, regardless of who edited it in. I don't mind if someone leaves a comment pointing out some missing details, or downvotes me for oversimplifying. Then again, if someone were to add a note in the post about how details had been skipped, I should probably accept that (though knowing me, I'd be likely to rephrase the note anyway).
    – ilkkachu
    Jul 27, 2020 at 16:20
  • (and no, I don't have a link to such a case.)
    – ilkkachu
    Jul 27, 2020 at 16:24
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Comments can be difficult, in my opinion. Some people use them to educate the owner of a post about something that the owner missed or possibly doesn't know, in the hopes that the owner learns and improves the post on their own. Others here simply edit the post directly to make actual improvements -- for robustness (standards) or safety (quoting), for examples. Still others use comments to make positive or negative statements about the post, all of which have varying degrees of value.

That is to say, comments are a mixed bag and I have trouble seeing success with a rule that simply says "delete all comments after (X) time". Stack Exchange has developed some measures to handle a variety of comments. Useful information can be edited -- by anyone -- into a post. Useless (or now-outdated) comments can be flagged as "no longer needed" by those with 15 or more reputation points. Comments that are in between these -- ancedotes, additional perspectives, etc -- tend to stick around. On 187,000+ Questions and 278,000+ Answers, there are currently 767,000+ comments. Are all of those comments utterly useless? I doubt it.

I fully support the idea behind the other two points, that (useful) comments should be incorporated into questions & answers.

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This is a terrible idea.

Comments are the only sane way to warn others of a dangerously bad answer where:

  • Others haven't spotted the problem
  • The OP refuses to accept there is a problem.

Well up-voted answers are sometimes wrong. Provably and dangerously wrong. When you find a wrong answer you are explicitly disagreeing with the OP. If the OP refuses to accept they are wrong, then what?

An answer can be wrong even if there is no "right" answer, so simply posting a new answer isn't always possible. Sometimes too many others really don't spot the problem so a simple down-vote isn't enough. Explaining why an answer which works is bad is vital for future readers.

We can't let individuals who disagree with the content edit it. As Wikipedia found, that results in edit wars.

The solution that stack exchange has come up with is the best I've seen anywhere. That is leave incorrect content up and let the community vote on it, including voting on which comments are important... and keep the discussions describing the reasons for voting.


This site has serious issues, core issues. Some of them could be solved. I wonder if the community is developed enough to correctly deal with them.

[Professional] disagreements happen; this is both normal and healthy. Long standing disagreements also happen; people are not required to agree with one another.

We can't fix that with technology. All we can do is offer the community technology that will present future readers with a sort of collective community opinion; attempting to present more important information first and less important information after.

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  • Well, there's also the method of editing a sufficiently large warning in the post itself, possibly with moderator authority. Whether that counts as sane or insane is of course up to personal opinion.
    – ilkkachu
    Aug 1, 2020 at 8:40
  • That's an effective way to start for an edit war. Moderators cannot be expected to decide what's true or not. Such edits are discouraged by the community and fall under the "vandalism" category for rejecting edits. The problem is that people disagree. Aug 1, 2020 at 12:00
  • well, that's why you may need a moderator, to give the authority, and to have the ability to enforce it. Editing to add a warning isn't optimal, but comments only show up below the post anyway, and can get drowned among other comments. Anyway, see this discussion in the chat and the following edit. Which was done by a non-moderator in the end, but discussed by moderators, too.
    – ilkkachu
    Aug 1, 2020 at 12:31

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