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Due to the nature of Workplace questions, discussion and comments are inevitable. Because of this, we seem to be more tolerant of discussion here, more-so than other network sites.

Recently, some questions have had entire in-depth, very relevant discussions totally removed, without a moderator's note, nor a link to the Chat room these discussions were presumably moved to.

I view this as an overreach by a moderator or moderators.

This kind of moderation is supposed to be public, when performed, and certainly not kept silent; made to look as-if nothing ever happened. If there are particular offending comments, those should be dealt with on a per-case basis - not nuke the entire thread wholesale.

This question is the most recent example:

How to answer professionally to coworkers who tease me because I am vegan?

The main thread had numerous comments, majority of which were high quality and relevant. Now, they are gone (either moved to a Chat room I cannot locate, or deleted for good).

I then noticed this particular question was Tweeted: https://twitter.com/StackWorkplace/status/729746121996800000

So it's starting to look like a deliberate cover-up of relevant discussion.

Why is this happening? Who's the rogue moderator? How do we stop this behavior?

The linked-to "duplicate" is not a duplicate, as it does not explain silent moderation.

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    The remaining comment was from the moderator reminding people of the "Be nice" policy. Given the direction the comments had taken, it was completely in line. – Myles May 9 '16 at 22:37
  • @Myles that comment is not from a moderator. And again, the issue is the silent moderation. – SnakeDoc May 9 '16 at 22:47
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    this is one of the worst policies of SO. i understand it's a policy, but i think it sucks. – ell May 9 '16 at 22:47
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    @sgroves Silent moderation is not a policy. It's wrong, and it's lazy. – SnakeDoc May 9 '16 at 22:53
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    @SnakeDoc that's good to hear. i always assumed it was a policy because i see it happen very frequently on every single SE site. – ell May 9 '16 at 22:58
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    Possible duplicate of Reason for deleting comments?. Good comments are often collateral damage when there are a lot of off-topic or rude comments. This is okay. Comments are ephemeral. Important details should be in answers or questions (and may be edited in). If you want "discussion," you're looking for chat anyway, not comments. – jpmc26 May 9 '16 at 22:58
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    @sgroves from my understanding, it's supposed to have a moderator comment say something like: "Comments are not for discussion. This discussion has been moved to <Chat Room>." Perhaps that's the issue, because on Workplace, comments are for discussion... at least until a grumpy moderator takes personal issue and deletes the entire thread. – SnakeDoc May 9 '16 at 22:59
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    @SnakeDoc i've seen that as well and assumed it was only for comment chains that are relevant but too long. if a mod determines a comment is "off-topic", they can delete it, according to my understanding. i hope i'm wrong about that last part, though. – ell May 9 '16 at 23:00
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    @SnakeDoc: don't confuse common practice with policy. Not all discussions are moved to the chat room (not by a long shot, anywhere on SE), and the explanation is a courtesy, nothing more. Would it be appropriate? Sure. Can/should we require it? Not on a system where the admins are very kindly volunteering their time, for very little thanks. Can we encourage it? Certainly, but an attack is not the way to do so. – keshlam May 9 '16 at 23:25
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    Twitter is irrelevant, for whatever that is or isn't worth. – keshlam May 9 '16 at 23:30
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    @SnakeDoc - as far as I can tell, there is no "rule" requiring moderators to leave a comment about their moderation. And if I remember correctly, most of those comments were way, way off-topic from the real issue in the question at hand. – Joe Strazzere May 10 '16 at 0:06
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    Comment from someone who got here from Hot Questions: The top voted answer is based entirely on one of those deleted comments. They were absolutely necessary and not rolled into the question upon deletion. – Izkata May 10 '16 at 14:46
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    If the comment has been incorporated into am Answer, it should no longer be necessary. (Remember, when so incorporating, that comments are transient by design; quote anything necessary, for the same reasons link-only references are bad.) – keshlam May 11 '16 at 17:30
-3

At times, the moderators personal opinion overrides anything else and therefore things get deleted. It's happened to me, but que sera sera.... nothing to be upset about.

You can always come to meta and argue your case if you feel strongly enough about it. That's what meta is for I think.

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    that's what OP did. i am not sure how this answer contributes anything at all. it certainly doesn't answer the question. would downvote if i could. – ell May 9 '16 at 23:04
  • are you going to delete it? – Kilisi May 9 '16 at 23:04
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    @killsi i can't delete answers. also, i'm not sure how that's relevant? you're the mod here, how about you act like one instead of taunting users? – ell May 9 '16 at 23:06
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    I'm not a moderator, I'm just the same as you chaps – Kilisi May 9 '16 at 23:10
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    @sgroves These are the mods, apparently 2 of them only have 100 rep each, no idea how that works meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/users?tab=moderators – Kilisi May 9 '16 at 23:15
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    @Kilisi They are Stack Exchange employees. – Jane S May 9 '16 at 23:35
  • ahhh... oh well, I'd never really looked at who was moderators until now – Kilisi May 9 '16 at 23:37
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    I'd rephrase the first sentence as "at times a moderator might make a mistake and edit based on personal bias --they're only human, after all." I don't think there is any evidence of people editing to suit personal biases except by mistake. You don't have to agree; just a reaction/suggestion. – keshlam May 10 '16 at 0:35
  • Your opinion may be unpopular, but that doesn't make you wrong. To be clear, I am not saying I have any evidence to support your claim, but @keshlam is probably right. When it does happen it is likely not done intentionally, but rather subconsciously. – Lumberjack May 10 '16 at 3:01
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    We're all bigots dependent on who is viewing our ideology, that's just a fact of life. But I agree, probably no malicious motive behind any of it. – Kilisi May 10 '16 at 4:47
  • @Kilisi bug in the system for those two, I think. I will hopefully still have an account after asking this question on the main site meta :-) – enderland May 10 '16 at 12:42
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    moderators personal opinion overrides anything else just a clarification, everything that moderators do is by definition requiring judgment - if the things we have to do could be automated, they would be. Nearly all moderation results in some application of personal judgement - there is not a "formula" for "what to do as a moderator." Oftentimes this is way harder than it might seem and we often consult each other or moderators on other sites as it's non-trivial to know necessarily the best course of action. (cont) – enderland May 10 '16 at 13:17
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    (cont) This is particularly true when there is no clear best course of action - for example, I still wonder about this whole debacle and whether my aggressive cleanup was best (including deleting your answer) though everything there is now deleted, so it's kind of a moot point now. – enderland May 10 '16 at 13:18
  • @enderland I think you did the right thing deleting at the end of the day, my answer while technically correct was absolute rubbish... as was the question... good judgement call :-) I'm not the sort to have sour grapes even if it wasn't. – Kilisi May 10 '16 at 13:27
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Mods are highly trusted users selected by the Stack Overflow staff and/or the community. Often, their selection has something to do with their ability to contribute high quality content (and therefore to distinguish high from low quality). Furthermore, there aren't that many of them.

Part of a moderator's job is to help remove content that interferes with the quality of a post. Long discussions and comments that violate the Be Nice policy do not contribute to the quality of the question. As mentioned in other questions, Workplace is known to have a somewhat bigger problem with these sorts of out of line comments than some other Stack Exchange sites.

A moderator doesn't need to explain everything they do, nor do they have any responsibility to preserve comments that do not contribute to the quality of the post by moving them to chat. The questions and the answers are prime, not all the stuff that goes on around them. Long comment chains actively detract from the post (or maybe I should say "distract"), and rude comments are rude. Evaluating every comment individually when there are 20+ comments is not a worth-while use of the moderator's time; the loss of a couple good comments is a small price to pay for removing a slew of comments that violate the Be Nice policy or stray too far from addressing the question directly. Another motivation for removing everything is that any comments that may have triggered rudeness or off-topic discussion are removed, minimizing further flare up.

This is not an over-reach. It is normal execution of moderator duties. This is how Stack Exchange works, and even though it isn't perfect, I have to hand it to the people who make these decisions for doing a pretty darn good job. If you don't appreciate a model that centers so strongly around the actual question and answers, that's fine; it's not for everyone. But regardless, accusing the moderators of over-reach for executing their routine duties isn't a valuable use of anyone's time.

This is why we so strongly encourage editing important details found in comments directly into the post. Comment chains can descend into these kind of low quality threads very easily, so it's much better to avoid taking the chance it will get deleted later. But if it doesn't result in something that can be edited into the post (question or answer), then it doesn't belong in comments, either.

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    Good answer to a bad question – keshlam May 9 '16 at 23:27
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    "A moderator doesn't need to explain anything" I think this is so wrong. – akostadinov May 12 '16 at 11:18
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    @akostadinov You have a point. My statement was probably too broad, as sometimes it's appropriate for a mod to explain their actions in borderline or unclear situations. This isn't one of those situations at all, but I've revised my answer slightly to be less absolute about that point. – jpmc26 Jun 1 '16 at 4:42
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    I've moderated boards on other sites. IMO, there is no quicker way to get the users upset than to moderate without explanation. While I agree that explaining every last move is annoying, it is often better to err on the side of explaining. – Retired Codger Jun 2 '16 at 16:35
  • I agree that the mods are just doing their jobs, but the criteria is no longer clear. Some questions seem to be incredibly subjective and broad, but do not get flagged as off-topic. Others seem fairly relevant, but are flagged as well. If the rules were followed to a T, then no questions that are open to interpretation would be allowed at all. – Zeejet Jun 2 '16 at 21:07
  • @Zeejet This has nothing to do with closing questions. This is about moderators cleaning up comments. Closing questions as off-topic are typically done by non-moderator users who have acquired the necessary reputation, so there is bound to be some inconsistency. Even despite the variability among users, the general "topic" of the question is not the sole criterion for closing questions; there are also issues of clarity, specificity, and whether the question even has an answer. Yes, there is by design a certain amount of subjectivity in closing questions. You may find the help pages useful. – jpmc26 Jun 2 '16 at 21:11
  • @jpmc26 Thanks for clarifying. I have indeed read the help pages. My impression is that if the question does not have a finite set of answers, it should not be asked. A question with a high degree of specificity might make the question off-topic. The converse would make the question too vague/broad. I've resigned to just letting the mods do their jobs though. – Zeejet Jun 2 '16 at 21:16
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It is possible to answer a question about how to handle something you disagree with without attacking the OP or questioning their beliefs. Possible, yes. Easy? no.

Why is this happening?

Just a note, nearly all comments/comment threads we moderators delete are the result of flags from the community. We are not going out and looking for the massive discussions to delete. Almost always any involvement is directly the result of flags. Sometimes, lots of flags.

When comments begin focusing on the person and not the post, it normally gets moderators involved because the community dutifully flags this sort of content (rightly so - and thank you to those of you who patiently flag stuff like this). Just for reference from that post:

enter image description here

The comment chain on that particular question almost immediately devolved into an attack against the OP and their beliefs. There was a good mix of totally inappropriate comments directed towards the OP too. Plus a lengthy "is veganism true" argument. This is Workplace.StackExchange.com - not Argue.Veganism.StackExchange.com. There's a reason why comments there picked up 22 flags - and it's not because people misused comment flags. The overwhelming majority of those 32 deleted comments either:

  • Discussed why the OP was/wasn't preachy (all ignoring that presumably their native language is not English with potential issues there)
  • Discussed whether being Vegan was a the 1 true way or not
  • Were straight up offensive

None of those are useful towards furthering the goal of helping the OP improve their post, requesting clarification, etc. Additionally whether veganism is 100% the "best thing ever" or 0% has no bearing on how to answer their question. Just read through the actual answers there. Many are applicable regardless of whether veganism is the best lifestyle ever.

Calling the OP ignorant (such as one of your deleted comments which seems to have inspired this meta post) is a quick way to attract comment flags because it's not appropriate and frankly will nearly always be deleted by a moderator. Particularly when it is part of a long debate unrelated to the actual content of the question.

You know why this comment was written?

I would like to remind everyone here to keep our Be Nice policy in mind as they answer or comment. It's fine to encourage the OP to critically reflect on his own behaviour but belittling comments, arguments or debates on the merits of veganism are not what this site is for

Because comments had devolved into belittling the OP, arguing and debating the merits of veganism.

When there is a wall of comments where the majority are straight up non-value add? There's no point in "saving" them. Copying a long list of personal attacks to chat? That's not useful or helpful. If you want to "be right" and have a place to tell vegans how wrong they are -- go to a place on the Internet which is more willing to accept personal attacks, ad hominem "arguments," and a total free reign of off-topic discussion.

There will always be comments that get unfortunately deleted in the crossfire that happens when there's a wall of comments. I wish this wasn't the case, but when there are 25+ comments that are overwhelmingly derailed there will always be comments which could have stood alone. I should make a point to clarify your comments there were part of the problem. They were not innocent bystanders.

If there are particular offending comments, those should be dealt with on a per-case basis - not nuke the entire thread wholesale

Nearly that entire thread of comments was not appropriate. I suppose they could have been moved to chat and then a good percentage of them deleted again. But that seems fairly counter productive.

I then noticed this particular question was Tweeted: https://twitter.com/StackWorkplace/status/729746121996800000

The twitter account tweeting happens due to and my understanding is it is completely automated.

The main thread had numerous comments, majority of which were high quality and relevant. Now, they are gone (either moved to a Chat room I cannot locate, or deleted for good).

Arguing with the OP about their beliefs is not relevant. Attacking the OP is not relevant. Telling the OP their beliefs are not correct is not relevant.

I guess my definitions of relevant seem to differ from yours.

Due to the nature of Workplace questions, discussion and comments are inevitable. Because of this, we seem to be more tolerant of discussion here

Keep in mind the primary purpose of Stack Exchange is Questions and Answers. Not discussion. Not arguing. Not telling an OP their beliefs are wrong. If/when discussions/arguing get in the way of questions/answers or content violates the Be Nice policy expect it to be deleted.

This isn't super popular sometimes (most of the time?). Particularly because people are wrong on the Internet and people have to tell them how wrong they are.

How do we stop this behavior?

Raising the issue on meta is a good step.

Keep in mind too there is a contact us link at the bottom of every page, which sends an email directly to Stack Exchange (bypassing moderators entirely). If you wish to raise a grievance with SE directly about moderator behavior this is the best way to do so.

  • First sentence; answer .. Or ask, which I think was the bigger issue in this case. I'd say typo, but both are valid points; never assume malace. – keshlam May 10 '16 at 14:39
  • Would it be possible for you to give an example of one of the offensive comments? I'm honestly curious as to what was said, and it would certainly help make your point. – Nic Hartley May 12 '16 at 3:48
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    @QPaysTaxes I thought about screenshotting the entire thread, but I don't really want to have to go through the now 59 deleted comments and censor names. A few examples: I mean... from the "facts" you've pointed out, it seems you may actually be the "ignorant" one here. and Stop being vegan, thats the most stupid position ever created and A simple solution - eat him! – enderland May 12 '16 at 11:24
  • @enderland Oh, I see. I was imagining things that were off-topic and a little offensive, but not really -- more like "Why're you vegan? You don't get to eat meat!", not that. Thanks a ton! – Nic Hartley May 12 '16 at 12:06
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    I remember this post vividly. The OP had sooo much misinformation, which was likely a key reason why there was hostile behavior at work. And OP wasn't willing to address that fact. It became quite apparent why the work problems were happening with a few probing questions. The problem was that instead of taking that information and crafting an answer, people took to the comments to solve the problem at its core. It escalated (and degenerated) from there. I'm probably the most pro-comment person on SE, but even I would say that post's comments were getting way out of hand. – corsiKa Jun 9 '16 at 15:11
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The comments on that question were not relevant. Most of them were just name-calling the OP. There was even a comment about vegan pastries not tasting as good as non-vegan ones. These "high quality" comments deserved to be deleted.

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    You missed the point. You may have a personal opinion the comments "deserved" to be deleted, but that's irregardless to how the moderator went about doing so. Silent moderation is not OK. – SnakeDoc May 9 '16 at 22:38
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    @snakedoc completely agreed. the mod was totally out of line here. would downvote if i could. – ell May 9 '16 at 22:48
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    They weren't moved to a chat room either, which may be part of what is confusing the OP. Off topic discussions that are worth keeping may be moved to chat. Noise that isn't worth helping goes to the bit-bucket. Hence no "moved to chat*" link, hence no reason to post one. – keshlam May 9 '16 at 23:49
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    @SnakeDoc - "Silent moderation is not OK". Again, that's your opinion (and you are entitled to one). But that's not a rule. You are free to post something on Meta arguing that it should be a rule. – Joe Strazzere May 10 '16 at 0:08
  • Even if most of them were name-calling, some of them weren't, and now they're gone. – OrangeDog May 10 '16 at 16:30
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    @OrangeDog: Standard and well documented Stack Exchange practice. If it's important, the SE answer is "don't put it in a comment", and has been for years. That's the local rules of the game; it ain't perfect but no set of moderating practices ever is. – keshlam May 11 '16 at 3:32
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    I'm pretty sure I commented asking for clarification from the asker about one aspect of their question, which I understand to be one of the correct uses for comments. Of course I'm not 100% sure because in this case, all the comments were deleted and none were moved to chat, which is the first time I've ever seen something so drastic on any stack. – Todd Wilcox May 11 '16 at 5:41
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Enderland and jpmc26 have already given good, thorough answers. I'm here to address "silent".

Yesterday I left the following comment on the question:

People who want to discuss the pros and cons and facts and rumors and media references and whatnot of veganism should get a room. That way you can have your discussion -- which does not belong in comments -- without it being deleted over and over. – Monica Cellio♦ 17 hours ago

It's been upvoted; it's visible.

Since that time, another 13 comments were posted on the question, and many more have been posted on various answers -- some of which also have chat links, including a conversation that was moved to chat.

A few of the 198 deleted comments on the question and its answers1 are constructive discussion, but comments are not for discussion. The vast majority of the comments that have been deleted are not constructive in any way. Enderland has already addressed this, and yet it has continued since then. There have been, as of the time I started writing this post, 62 flags on this page.

A bunch of those comments are from the OP, responding to comments instead of editing the question, which is also problematic. Clearly a bunch of people want to discuss veganism and what counts as preachiness and other stuff. Fortunately, we have a great place on the site for doing just that. I suggest you use it.

1 Which, by the way, have been deleted by several different moderators.

  • Perhaps this is a clear sign that comments are indeed for discussion... particularly on Workplace, where almost every question is heavily opinion based and there is no single correct answer. When you delete all these comments, instead of moving to chat, or leaving in-place, you lose context of the answers, which are almost always based on discussion from comments. At the very least, Mods need to make it clear when comments are moved to chat, and really aught to never delete comments unless they are incredibly offensive (racism, etc), not just borderline questionable. – SnakeDoc May 11 '16 at 16:56
  • Normal users have a box they must checkmark a reason for flagging something, why do Mods not have to checkmark something similar when performing a moderation task such as deletion of comments? This box/checkmark reason could automagically insert canned responses of "Comments have been moved to chat because of reason X", where X is the checkbox the Mod selected. – SnakeDoc May 11 '16 at 16:57
  • Silent moderation creates problems, exactly like this here. People dont' know the reason things are going away, and it can lead to hostile feelings, or bad assumptions of favoritism or bias coming from Mods directed at users. I know most Mods intend good, but accountability and transparency are good for everyone, and protects both sides of the fence from false acquisitions. – SnakeDoc May 11 '16 at 16:59
  • In addition, discussions in comments with high upvote counts are very valuable to future site visitors. Since Workplace is highly opinion based, most users accept the answer they want to hear, not necessarily the best answer. Having discussion on the permanent record of why people feel the accepted answer is wrong, is very valuable, often times more valuable than the answer itself. I know, people will say those comments should be made into answers, but this doesn't happen and won't happen, since it means risking downvotes on contentious opinion based answers. – SnakeDoc May 11 '16 at 17:16
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    @SnakeDoc Your claim that modes should "never delete comments unless they are incredibly offensive" is absolutely not the way any of the SE sites I've participated in operate. There are countless discussions where comments are declared ephemeral and temporary. – Beofett May 11 '16 at 17:16
  • @Beofett It's pretty irrelevant how SE sites have historically operated... we're discussing why this mode of operation may indeed be bad for Workplace in particular. The traditional SE model really only works for fact driven sites, like SO, where there is mostly only a single correct answer. – SnakeDoc May 11 '16 at 17:26
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    @SnakeDoc thanks for providing such a clear demonstration of the problem. You chose to post four successive comments, ~2000 characters, arguing with an answer instead of supporting your perspective in your own answer. Answers can be voted on in both directions, can be edited, are sorted, and rarely number more than 10. Nobody should have to wade through 200+ comments on a question and all of its answers to figure out what conclusions to draw. Answers go in answers; comments are temporary & secondary and there is no obligation to preserve each one. We are not a special snowflake. – Monica Cellio May 11 '16 at 17:50
  • @MonicaCellio If I had posted my 4 comments in an answer, you would never have seen them or known I was discussing issues raised by your answer. That is the value of comments. And nobody has to wade through 200+ comments, the community takes care of that on their own. Upvoted comments are visible, while others not so important, aren't. Also, what do you make of my suggestion to help guard against silent moderation? – SnakeDoc May 11 '16 at 18:12
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    @SnakeDoc that "value" pretty much smells of trolling / pestering. Especially since most readers tend to ignore comments making it primarily focused on a single person (author of the post). Answers are whole different game – gnat May 11 '16 at 19:12
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    @SnakeDoc you don't like the moderation policy - we get that. You raised it on meta, which is the right thing to do. The community has responded, and the consensus is that we're happy with the moderation policy. Time to let it go. – Philip Kendall May 11 '16 at 19:55
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    @SnakeDoc no, it absolutely is relevant. It's relevant becausetime and time again it has been shown that comments are a poor format for anything of lasting value. As for this site being somehow different because it's not "fact based", and " the traditional model only works for fact driven sites"... Well, for several years, I moderated parenting.SE, one of the longest running "non traditional" SE sites, and I can say unequivocally that comments are best handled on such sites exactly the way you're saying doesn't work. – Beofett May 11 '16 at 21:23
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    @SnakeDoc What you should be doing is posting your answer explaining your point of view -- heck, a copy/paste of your current comments would be perfect -- and then linking the answer in a comment, saying something like "I've addressed a few of your points in [this answer], wanna take a look?" That way, the community is able to vote on your answer to show agreement/disagreement, rather than having to happen to stumble on a series of very, very long comments, read them all, and decide to add their voice to the discussion of your answer, in the comments of another answer. – Nic Hartley May 12 '16 at 3:52
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Comments on StackExchange sites are like drawings in the sand - and subject to deletion or moving to chat at the whim of any mod.

Comments should help clarify, then get out of the way of the answers.

To the mods: I'd appreciate seeing more comment deletion on StackExchange sites, not less.

Cheers!

  • Difficult balance. You need to leave a bit of room for brainstorming -- including digressions -- if you want to find the best answers. At the same time, you don't want to let the brainstorming drive out of hide the answers.. In most. FAQ systems the mod/editor would eventually summarize/synthesize/merge answers and three into a coherent whole. SE, in attempting to crowdsource the whole process, loses that step. Oh well; it is what it is. – keshlam May 10 '16 at 0:46
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    +1 I am also in favor of more comment deletion, answer-like comments in particular . Once they have been read by the OP, they do nothing but detract from the quality of the question. – Lumberjack May 10 '16 at 2:52
  • Mild disagreement. Sometimes something which isn't a complete answer itself (and shouldn't be posted as one) still helps to illuminate the question and answer space and can help lead to an answer. When I have a partial response I'll often post it as comment in the hope that someone else has the other half, or the time and energy to write it up properly. Comments, used well, can add value. – keshlam May 10 '16 at 3:33
  • @keshlam I have wanted a "convert comment to answer" moderator function for a long time. But alas... :( – enderland May 10 '16 at 12:30
  • Personally, I wouldn't object if someone else cut-and-pasted one of my comments into an answer, though it might be nice if they @-cited me as the source of the idea. This is a case where getting the point system is discouraging users/admins from doing the right thing, for fear of appearing to take someone else's points... if I objected to being quoted i wouldn't have posted the comment!!! – keshlam May 10 '16 at 12:38
  • @keshlam I do that when I write an answer and people post suggestions I think are worth including(often I attribute it too like you are saying). – enderland May 10 '16 at 12:55
  • Right. I'm suggesting that the same applies even if the comment causes you to start a new answer. Or should, if people were being reasonable. – keshlam May 10 '16 at 12:57
  • @keshlam yeah... that's a whole other topic. "How to convince the Internet to be reasonable." ;-) – enderland May 10 '16 at 14:04
  • BTW, that sort of useful tool being neglected is exactly why I get annoyed when SE asks for suggestions for more "reward" utilities. Making the system work better will help it more than additional gameification. – keshlam May 13 '16 at 6:54

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