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EDIT: I have asked the moderators to close this question (by flagging it.)

We shouldn't ban a user because of his/her hair color. A meta post on this topic would be pointless because no one is banning users based on the color of their hair. If I want to discuss the practice of banning users for being blonde or redheaded, first I must prove that it is happening.

I have provided no evidence to prove that rules ARE being selectively applied. No one who has joined the discussion has shared any anecdotal evidence that it is happening. In my own recent question the some answer-like comments were deleted because of user flags. They were not removed through any sort of moderator bias.

A philosophical discussion about how to conduct yourself is only useful when it addresses areas of actual concern. It seems that this is not a helpful question, as the community does not seem concerned about this particular (non-)issue.

The original question follows.


What "comments" are not . . .

After reading the post above, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what comments are not. I'm not sure I agree with all of the points there, but judging by the votes, it seems like the community has some consensus about how comments should and should not be used.

The greatest area of debate hinges on whether brief answer type comments are OK. Some people feel that short "helpful" comments that aren't fully fleshed out answers are OK, but judging by the votes they seem to be in the minority.

The "When Shouldn't I Comment?" section of the Workplace help page for comments leaves very little to debate on the subject when it states:

"Comments are not recommended for any of the following.... Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one.)"

For the purpose of this discussion, let us then take as a given that "answer-like" comments are frowned upon when applied to the original question, and may be subject to deletion.

The question I would like to ask you all today is: should we apply the rules selectively to delete answer-like comments we don't like or disagree with?

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    Relevant: meta.stackexchange.com/q/199302/131956 – Jim G. May 7 '16 at 22:02
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    You're making an implicit assertion that rules are applied selectively. If you think they are please bring that up rather than a question that boils down to "is it ok to cheat?". – Monica Cellio May 8 '16 at 4:01
  • @monicacellio Your comment assumes that selective application of the rules is cheating. My question doesn't discuss particular examples of where this behavior is evident, because the purpose was not to debate the rightness of any one application of the practice, but rather the justice of the practice in general. – Lumberjack May 8 '16 at 17:27
  • @monicacellio We shouldn't ban users with red hair. A meta post on this topic would be pointless because no one is banning red headed users. If I want to discuss the practice of banning redheaded users, first I must prove that it is happening. That is the crux of your post, yes? – Lumberjack May 8 '16 at 17:40
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    Either you are asserting that this is happening, which claim you have not supported at all, or you want to have a conversation about something that is not happening. Which is it? I see no point in responding further until you clear that up; I disagree that it is happening and I'm not interested in a hypothetical conversation. – Monica Cellio May 8 '16 at 17:58
  • I believe it is happening, but I recognize that proving it will be an involved and difficult process. I believe this to be true for the following reasons. Comments that are deleted leave no trace. There is no historical record I can point to as a source to support my claim. I can point you to my own question which has had some but not all of the answer-like comments have been removed, only some. I don't know who deleted the comments, or why, so it would be speculation for me to say why, however ... – Lumberjack May 8 '16 at 18:07
  • however I do believe we can agree that each moderator uses his/her discretion when deciding which comments to delete and which to leave. One might define discretion as the application of an individual opinion or bias. – Lumberjack May 8 '16 at 18:08
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    In the end you are complaining about something which is a design feature of SE: comments are not guaranteed to persist, moderation unavoidably requires judgement calls, we have multiple moderators to crosscheck each other, we have an appeals process, but a decision can still go against you and that's just the nature of the beast. We can't change that here, the central SE meta won't change it, it is what it is. Next time there is a need for a new moderator you can vote for someone whom you think will better match your style, but you may lose that too. No Trouble Found; Working As Designed. – keshlam May 8 '16 at 18:40
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    @Lumberjack I am confused here as to what you are trying to discuss. On the one hand you seem to be talking about moderator misuse of power (or something like that) with respect to your question, but on my answer here which addresses that you told me you want to talk about the generalized case. But it leaves me confused as to what the real topic here actually is - are you just saying moderators shouldn't delete any comments as answers? Do you want moderators to read every question in detail and actively remove any answer-as-comment? I'm not really sure what you are proposing (or lamenting). – enderland May 8 '16 at 20:11
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    I think this would be much clearer if you edited it to be either "moderators are selectively removing comments they disagree with, is this ok" or "why are answer-comments sometimes deleted?" or "why were only some comments on my question deleted?" Right now it's a mix of all those but not really clarified or clear which you are actually asking. – enderland May 8 '16 at 20:16
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    I'm very close to using that very rare meta vote to close (as "unclear what you're asking") due to the mixed up nature of the question and underlying assumption of bad faith. – Philip Kendall May 9 '16 at 8:16
  • @lumberjack has effectively withdrawn question; see his own answer. I think VTC is, in fact, in order at this point. – keshlam May 9 '16 at 16:21
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This sort of feels like a loaded question (presumably addressing your specific situation?), rather than an attempt at a generalized discussion about whether comment answers should be deleted.

Note that on your question (which is where I assume this post originated from), all comments deleted by moderators were flagged, except one I just deleted after looking more closely.

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  • I'm sorry you feel that way. I made an effort to intentionally exclude any discussion of my question, as I felt including it would detract from the discussion of selective application of the rules. – Lumberjack May 7 '16 at 14:07
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    In doing so, you created a non-question. – keshlam May 7 '16 at 17:39
  • This is not a non question, it is a meta discussion about a general topic. I am of the opinion that not every meta question needs to directly correlate to a particular question. I feel that there is some intrinsic value in considering the way in which we conduct ourselves here. – Lumberjack May 8 '16 at 17:35
  • It's a question about a hypothetical, with a trivial answer. – keshlam May 9 '16 at 15:25
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You forget: all comments are subject to deletion. They may be deleted at any time and for any reason as they were never intended to be permanent. The only people who can actually delete comments are the moderators and they have yet to give me any reason to not trust them with that power.

From what I've seen, deletions are typically reserved for comments that:

  • only add noise ("+1, I agree")
  • are disruptive or insulting ("What do you know you %#$@&")
  • are part of a comment thread that spiralled out of control and are not worth moving to chat

As far as I know the mods don't make a habit of deleting "answers as comments" on that criterion alone. They are far more likely to reply to that user and ask him to convert his comment to an answer instead.

Your premise is confusing ("we" don't get to delete comments, only moderators) and I don't see a problem that needs solving here. We comment too much on this site (and every other site in the network) but the quality and monitoring of the comments is fine.

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    In my experience, normally "comments as answers" that get deleted are either 1) specifically flagged (often as "too chatty") or 2) part of a long chain of discussion comments that gets deleted/moved to chat. – enderland May 7 '16 at 13:32
  • I ask that you please take as a given that comments are subject to deletion, and that they have been strictly forbidden in the help pages. Would it be fair to read your answer as endorsement of selective application of the rules, based on the trust you have in the moderators? – Lumberjack May 7 '16 at 14:15
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    @Lumberjack If you mean that I support moderators deleting comments at their discretion and, as enderland points out, based on flags from the community, then yes. Is that what you're asking? Your mention of "should we apply the rules" is why I questioned your premise as only the mod team is included in that "we". – Lilienthal May 7 '16 at 21:23
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should we apply the rules selectively to delete answer-like comments we don't like or disagree with?

I personally don't care about answer-like comments, and I don't think we should delete comments with which we disagree.

If someone would rather write a comment containing an answer, rather than write an answer, that's okay by me. Certainly comments could get deleted any time, and thus one of these answer-hybrids might disappear at any time. But, if the writer doesn't care, I certainly don't care.

It would be rather foolish to attempt to delete comments where we disagree. This is a pretty wide community, with quite a number of differing opinions. Thus, attempting to delete such comments would mean every comment gets deleted.

I would prefer to see all comments disappear after a certain age - perhaps 3 months or so. Since presumably comments are intended to be fleeting and of short duration, this would make it so across the board. I currently go back and delete all of my comments that are more than a few days old.

And to answer the title question - I'm all for selectively applying rules as long as I agree with the selection! ;-)

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No, we should not.

We should strive to enforce the rules uniformly. While we recognize that as humans we will have a bias, we should do everything we can to objectively apply the rules, regardless of our feelings and opinions.


We shouldn't ban a user because of his/her hair color. A meta post on this topic would be pointless because no one is banning users based on the color of their hair. If I want to discuss the practice of banning users for being blonde or redheaded, first I must prove that it is happening.

I have provided no evidence to prove that rules ARE being selectively applied. No one who has joined the discussion has shared any anecdotal evidence that it is happening. In my own recent question the some answer-like comments were deleted because of user flags. They were not removed through any sort of moderator bias.

A philosophical discussion about how to conduct yourself is only useful when it addresses areas of actual concern. It seems that this is not a helpful question, as the community does not seem concerned about this particular (non-)issue.

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  • As an asker who has been forced to defend first the originality and then the veracity of my question, it is frustrating to see the rules applied selectively in support of one viewpoint over another. – Lumberjack May 7 '16 at 13:10
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    Should we? No. Do we? Not that I have seen. This answer is trivially correct, but the question it replies to is not helpful. – keshlam May 7 '16 at 17:38
  • I completely agree and think that anyone who posts an answer comment should be banned permanently from the site. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 9 '16 at 14:49
  • As revised -- acknowledging non-issue -- upvoted answer but voted to close question. – keshlam May 9 '16 at 15:27
  • @keshlam Me too. I would delete the question, but the system won't permit it. – Lumberjack May 9 '16 at 15:30
  • Generally, Stack Exchange doesn't like hypothetical questions in Meta much more than it likes them elsewhere. If you see evidence of a real problem, raise it -- asking, rather than assertng, will be received better in many cases. But there are an infinite number of things that might happen and until they are an immediate or impending problem is usually better to just let the moderators do their job without trying to micromanage them. – keshlam May 9 '16 at 20:33

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