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Is seems like the mods here might be getting a bit frustrated with all the extended discussion going on in the comments. Is this accurate?

This post is mostly going by the assumption that this is a problem.

I think there's also a bigger problem here in terms of how people think of comments as a whole - often useful clarification will take place there by the author with no intention of that ever making its way to the post (which is supposed to be the intention, no?), which often causes it to get lost in the other hundred comments in the case of some popular posts. Comments as a whole also often aren't focused around making the post more useful, but possibly just adding some tangential information. The below proposals could help with this too.

The way I see it, there are, broadly speaking, a few areas that can be improved:

Improve "move to chat" functionality (and/or the chat UI)

Proposals to improve "move to chat"

  • Add a "chat" button on every post (next to "add comment", right above the comments or next to edit, flag, etc.), which would take you to chat.

  • Add a "move to chat" checkbox below or next to every comment box.

Proposals to improve chat UI

I think for the above to be successful, a fundamental part of it needs to be integrating chat into the page itself. When using one of the above, one of these needs to happen:

  • A new light-weight dialog pops up where the chat takes place.
  • There are 2 tabs (below each post): one for comments, one for chat. Chat uses a scrollbar and would hopefully be about the same height as the unexpanded comments.

More extreme proposal: Remove comments entirely, use only chat, the idea being to greatly encourage people to actually edit useful information into chat instead of relying on the comments staying easily visible. Maybe we should start with one of the above and aim for this if it that works out really well.

All of the above assumes persistent chat - I think currently chat rooms get locked after some period of inactivity.

Change how we describe comments

I saw a proposal about this on Meta Stack Overflow some time ago, I think (it might've been an answer to something else).

The basic idea is to stop calling them "comments" and call them "clarifications" or "requests" (as in "request for edit to post"). Those are perhaps not ideal, but that's the basic idea.

I think something like this might be necessary to not confuse people with the chat improvements suggested above.

Building on this, we might have different "sections" of comments, one for clarifications, one for meta (e.g. discussion on-topic-ness), etc.

Change requirements for posting comments

Higher reputation requirement?
Some other activity requirement?
Rate limiting comments (severely)?

This is probably a bit too extreme and overall not a good way to address the problem, as the requirements would presumably be way too high or strict for it to actually work.

Proposal: Ignore the 100 reputation association bonus when determining commenting privileges. This does actually seem like it might do the site good, although that perhaps defeats the point of the association bonus and it probably won't help nearly enough (as chatty users often seem to have a few hundred or thousand reputation).

Improve flagging experience

I assume the flagging experience here is the same as on Stack Overflow, as in plenty of "you can only flag every 5 seconds" and "you can only load the flag dialog every 3 seconds" madness. This generally makes it a huge pain for me to flag more than one comment (but maybe I'm just weird like that).

Yes, you can use a custom flag on the post itself or any comment, but this makes it more work for the moderators to remove individual comments as opposed to just scrapping all the comments.

Would one of these proposals in itself fix all the problems? Probably not.

Proposal P(referred): Allow multi-comment flagging without needing to open the dialog every time. My initial ideas are:

  • Add a "flag comments" button to every post or
  • Add a "also flag other comments" checkbox to the comment flag dialog.

After selecting the reason and click "Submit" or "Flag Comments" or whatever, these would both proceed to allow you to select any number of comments, which will all be flagged for the same reason, with a submit button somewhere (fixed at the bottom of the screen, presumably).

It might be good to allow multi-comment flagging with different reasons, but I can't think of an elegant way to implement this visually currently.

Proposal M(oderate alternative): Rework the comment flag limits, e.g.:

  • 10 flags every 60 seconds (and also show time remaining in error message), or no limit once you get to some reputation.
  • No limit on the flag dialog, presumably also making a dialog open a local operation (I assume it needing to talk to the server is currently the reason for the limit).

Proposal C(an also help): Allow mods to keep individual comments while scrapping the rest in one go - if I'm not mistaken, currently mods can only delete individual comments or all comments, which might make it a lot of work to keep 1 or 2 comments and delete 100.

Notify users when they've been flagged too much

I don't have an exact proposal here, but some sort of "maybe stop posting so many non-constructive comments" message should be sent to individual users, either automatically or by moderators, when a lot of their comments are deleted.

Actively discouraging comments

When a user posts a comment, show a message anywhere from:

There are already X comments on this post, are you sure your comment is necessary and wasn't already mentioned?
Yes, post it No, cancel

To:

Does this comment ask for clarification or add some other vital information?
Yes No, post it to chat Cancel

This might be fairly irritating, but that might be justified as users are way too easy-going with comments currently.

The former suggestion is much like what currently happens when trying to post an answer when there are already a few answers.


If you have any other proposals for how to improve any given part or other parts that could be improved, feel free to post a comment answer.

I can add mockups if necessary, but this post is already seems too long.

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    Oh just forget about it. SE is never going to implement any of those proposals. Another idea: why not just ignore the "problem" altogether? – Masked Man Jun 29 '17 at 20:15
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    "Is seems like the mods here might be getting a bit frustrated" Going out on a limb here, was this sparked by my follow-up comment here? If so don't mistake the excessive formatting for frustration. It typically take some aggressive bolding and links for people to catch and actually read a comment like this. We have several variations we use for this because the standard message is often ignored. In this case I went all out given how popular it got. – Lilienthal Jun 29 '17 at 21:57
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    @Lilienthal That might've been a very small part of it, but it's mostly the fact that every other vaguely popular post seems to have a "moved to chat" comment, sometimes a few of them. Even if it doesn't bug the mods, it bugs me when there's either more than like 5-10 comments on a post (which is probably a low threshold, but anyway) or when useful comments get moved to chat. – Dukeling Jun 29 '17 at 22:20
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    @Dukeling those popular posts tend to accumulate 30-50 comments very quickly (by which I mean hours, not days). It can be really hard for readers, especially the author of the post, to find in that mess the (say) three that are actual requests for clarification. So we move the discussion to chat, leaving the requests for clarification in place as comments, so that comments can do what they're designed to do: improve the post. We don't want to get in the way of people having a productive discussion; we just want to keep them from interfering with the Q&A. – Monica Cellio Jun 30 '17 at 0:31
  • All of these proposals are of the sort of scope that they should be made at Meta Stack Exchange instead of here. – Dan Henderson Jul 5 '17 at 20:34
  • No, you are not weird (unless I am too). I am a stubborn "insert comment reply" editor, then flag as obsolete, so I particularly experience the "you can only flag every 5 seconds" pain. It is a waste of the time I use contributing. If that was reduced to 3 seconds that would already be great. Your 'multi comment flagging' would be a solution too. – Jan Doggen Jul 11 '17 at 15:04
  • I don't know if we actually have a comments problem. I know that this thought has been discussed before: workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2748/… but I don't know if anything has ever been done. I expressed my feelings there, and since then I consistently delete all comments that are more than a few days old, so as not to contribute to the "problem". – Joe Strazzere Jul 31 '17 at 20:46
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Some of this has been proposed on Meta.SE, so in the interests of drawing attention to existing proposals and helping us find gaps where no proposal exists, here are some links. (Disclosure: I've participated on most of these, which is how I was able to find them so quickly. I'm sure there are more.)

Proposals to improve "move to chat"

Let's make it easier to get a room -- shouldn't be hard; the backend work has already been done!

“These comments were moved to chat” doesn't discourage further comments; let's be more direct -- should be easy; it's just a comment template.

And block participants from further comments for a little while

Could mods have “add comments to chat” to supplement “move comments to chat”?

Proposals to improve chat UI
There are 2 tabs (below each post): one for comments, one for chat. Chat uses a scrollbar and would hopefully be about the same height as the unexpanded comments.

I know I've seen an MSE proposal for inline chat (separate tab on the post) but I can't find it. Fastest way to find it might be to write up a new proposal and wait for someone to find the dupe. :-) (I don't have time right now; if somebody does this, please add the link here.)

Change how we describe comments

Change “comment” to “critique or request clarification”

Change the name to not be "comment"

Change requirements for posting comments

Can we add some friction for exploding comment threads?

Can we get a comments only lock? -- one possible solution to the previous request, though I'd like to see velocity-based auto-blocking too so we don't have to wait for a mod to see it.

For protected questions, require local reputation to comment - though I think most of our comment problems are not from drive-bys but from our active users.

Improve flagging experience

I'd like to see a proposal for atomic flag groups -- a way to indicate that several comments are part of the same "incident", with mods able to handle them together. Flagging them individually is tedious for the flagger; flagging the post when not all comments should be purged is tedious for the mods, as we have to figure out which ones you meant. I want users to be able to check off #s 4, 6, 9-14, 17-39, and 42 and tell us "those ones right there should all go", and I want a mod who agrees to be able to click "make it so!" and have it be so. I'm not aware of a proposal for this. MSE proposal

For moderators: How can we make comment moderation one-pass instead of two-pass?

  • "The main problem with comments moved to chat as I see it that this is a relatively recent feature and people are still learning how to use it right... People still have to learn that move is not to shut down the discussion but to give it a more appropriate media. And system is still to be tweaked to help them see that..." (Moving comments to chat: is it just about length?) – gnat Jun 29 '17 at 22:11
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    @gnat People are also still learning how to implement it right. It's hard for users to learn how to use a feature correctly when it only shows up once in a while (with no well-known quick and easy way to get there otherwise) with a message that's somewhat warning-y in nature. The fact that it's not only on a different page, but seemingly on a different site entirely, is also not a small problem. Side note - [chat] really should link to a chat room for the current post, not the front page of the chat site - The Workplace Chat. – Dukeling Jun 29 '17 at 22:37
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    @Dukeling quoting self from the same post referred in my prior comment, '...this feature is not yet mature and system needs some changes to get it right. And of course people need to get used to it and learn how to leverage it (the latter seems unfortunately too hard with the way how it is currently implemented, "Nothing to see there, move along")' – gnat Jun 29 '17 at 22:42
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    Sounds like Dukelings multi-comment flagging could be a proposed answer to your final question. Although I would like it for us mere mortals too. – Jan Doggen Jul 11 '17 at 15:09
  • @JanDoggen yes, I'd like to have something like what I outlined in my last (non-link) paragraph. That would help flaggers and moderators. – Monica Cellio Jul 11 '17 at 15:21
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    I know a lot of people are going to hate hearing this and would draw out their daggers, but here goes anyway: the correct solution is to get rid of the so-called Community Managers, who are more interested in their own entertainment and berating sites for flaws in the SE design (example, if HNQ doesn't work for your site, then your site sucks, and you should manage it better), and replace them with Community Managers who actually care about the community. – Masked Man Aug 1 '17 at 3:52
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    Of course, we don't have the authority to tell SE to fire their own employees, so the next best course of action is to adapt ourselves to their whims. If we stop treating the comments as a "problem", there is no need to do any policing. This, by the way, is the preferred approach of governments across the world to deal with issues that are too much of a nightmare to police effectively. – Masked Man Aug 1 '17 at 3:55
  • @MaskedMan I don't think "fire the CMs" is a constructive suggestion, and "we'll show them by letting our site wallow in comment crap" sounds misguided to me. As a community member I don't want to wade through all that noise, so I want noise-pruning to be easy. – Monica Cellio Aug 1 '17 at 14:49
  • @MonicaCellio You can either strike at the root of the problem, or keep looking for "constructive" solutions that don't achieve anything. You should also avoid using loaded terms like "noise" for comments. The link beneath the posts is still labeled "add a comment", not "suggest improvement" or "ask for clarification". To put it bluntly, if you ask users to add a comment, you cannot then say, "sorry, your comment is noise". Prevention is better than cure, so if you don't want to wade through "noise", make it harder to generate noise in the first place. – Masked Man Aug 1 '17 at 17:06
  • "we'll show them by letting our site wallow in comment crap" This was not necessary, you should not project your bias into your language on the site, especially when you are a moderator. I never said that "comments are crap" and "we'll show them", and that is not even my point. My point was, you stop considering comments as a "problem", and then you won't have to worry about "policing" it any more. – Masked Man Aug 1 '17 at 17:12
  • @MaskedMan not all comments are problems, but you are asserting that none are by saying we should just leave them alone. There are, sadly, a lot of crappy comments that need to be cleaned up. Every site that allows comments either has to moderate them or becomes one of those sites where people warn others "good posts but for heaven's sake don't read the comments". I don't want to see The Workplace become one of those sites. I mean c'mon, people think it's ok to make direct personal attacks -- do you really think that's ok??? – Monica Cellio Aug 1 '17 at 18:48
  • @MonicaCellio No, of course not, rude and abusive comments should be dealt with appropriately, but there is nothing special about comments in that regard, the same applies to answers, questions and even chat messages. I was mainly talking about the (respectful) back and forth discussion that happens between users, which gets promptly moved to chat. If we stop treating those comments as a "problem", then there is much less policing to do. I will write a more detailed response as a separate answer some time within the next weeks, which will hopefully reduce the misunderstanding. – Masked Man Aug 2 '17 at 12:08

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