I was reading It seems as though my employer wants me to come into work when I'm ill. Am I missing something?, and when I clicked on the "more comments" link the comments all disappeared, leaving 0 comments.

Then, after reading one of the high-rated answers, I was again reading the comments and clicked on "more comments" only to have the same thing happen again.

There was no explanation comment left behind, not even a "Moved to chat" or "Deleted: canned explanation". If the comments were all off-topic, or terrible, or otherwise useless perhaps that could be understandable. But I know that at least some of the comments were specifically appropriate comment uses, such as explaining a down-vote - specifically what comments are for.

Were these comments all deleted? If so, were appropriate comments simply and unfortunately swept up in a mass delete because of other lesser quality comments?

I understand completely that "comments are transient and should not be expected to be permanent entities," but neither should we expect them to simply vanish without a trace, especially at the whim of a drive-by deleter, so I am not sure if this was perhaps a bug that lost comments or a deliberate action. So the tag might get changed to bug depending on how the discussion goes.

This question received the "possible duplicate" banner for me, suggesting it is the same as Reason for deleting comments?. I have clicked the "This is not the same question" link since the answer to that question would not sufficiently answer this question. Someone stating the guidelines for what comments are and what comments are not would by itself not answer my question at all, and what is left of the answer for that question addresses the specific issues of that other Q&A thread which, by definition, do not address the specific issues of the Q&A thread questioned here. Since reading that other answer would not have answered this question, I have marked it as "not a duplicate".

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    Have in mind that comments can easily derail a good answer to tangential cases or situations... comments should be restricted to ask for clarification, not to critique (if you want to why not leave your answer instead?) nor debate on the answer given. Chat is better suited for those situations where comments would be too noisy to use on the main site.
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Jan 25, 2018 at 21:02
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    See also all of these questions.
    – David K
    Jan 26, 2018 at 13:02
  • @DavidK I have selected "not a duplicate" in response to the banner I received. Despite the similarity of answers, if this question had no answer and merely linked to that other one as a duplicate, I could read that other question and its answer and still not know the answer to this question and would feel that I was left with no answer and I would not know why the comments disappeared. Information has been lost due to bugs in the past, even if that is a rare occurrence.
    – Aaron
    Jan 26, 2018 at 17:37
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    @Aaron What the answers on nearly every question David's search contains tell us is that comments are regularly cleared off posts. This is perhaps unfortunate, but it is necessary. I don't think it's... efficienct? for us to have a bajillion meta questions asking about all the times this happens. Since this is a normal and well documented occurrence, what aspects of your question are not answered elsewhere?
    – jpmc26
    Jan 27, 2018 at 2:01
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    Comments are almost always useless, we don't need no comments. Just get rid of them all. Comments are being predominantly used for pointing out some one-in-a-million scenario where the advice given in the answer would lead to less than ideal outcome thus letting the commenter feel like he is oh-so-clever, and sometimes to demonstrate the commenter's stupidity because even that one-in-a-million scenario is addressed in the same answer two sentences later.
    – Masked Man
    Jan 27, 2018 at 5:59
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    @MaskedMan but what about comments that actually suggest improvements to the posts, are adopted by the querent or respondent, and contribute to the stack? Hmmm? hmmm? hmmm? Aren't I clever? Jan 27, 2018 at 14:02
  • @jpmc26 The best response to that is "bug". As I stated, content has been lost in the past due to bugs. A bajillion meta questions is not efficient, I agree. Is leaving the comment "chatty comments deleted: please see (link to one of our resources about commenting)" every time you delete comments inefficient?
    – Aaron
    Jan 29, 2018 at 14:47

2 Answers 2


I just shoveled all the comments on the answer, including previously-deleted ones, into a chat room. You can decide for yourself what of it is of value.

SE does encourage explanations of downvotes. The problem is when the explanation itself asserts a position -- which somebody (the post author or otherwise) then feels the need to respond to, and then somebody responds to that, and then we have a discussion or argument in the comments. If we leave the explanation we get accused of bias ("you kept his opinion but not mine!"). If we flush or even move it all we get accused of censorship. (Yeah, I've lost track of the number of times I've been accused of censorship for relocating comments to publicly-visible chat.)

The best way to ensure that your downvote explanation remains is to focus on improving the post. Instead of saying "you're wrong because (300 characters of strong opinion)", try to ask questions like "how do you account for (problem)?" or "what is your source for X?", or request changes ("can you explain that part about X more clearly?").

Comments are not your soapbox for opinions and arguments. That doesn't mean you can't raise issues with a post, though -- just be sure to focus it on improving the post, not winning points for your side.

In an ironic twist, the comments on Lilienthal's answer to this meta question are out of control and attracting flags. I'm just gonna let that stand as an object lesson for now.

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    the voice of reason, as always. Jan 26, 2018 at 20:24
  • @TheSnarkKnight: Sadly, not so. It assumes the post can be improved. By the time I downvote, it usually can't be.
    – Joshua
    Jan 26, 2018 at 21:03
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    @Joshua most can. I edited a rant out of one post and it went from -7 to over 25. Jan 26, 2018 at 21:36
  • @TheSnarkKnight Meh, that's not so much of an improvement. If you have an example of a post going OVER 9000!!!, then we are talking. 😉
    – Masked Man
    Jan 27, 2018 at 6:01

Were these comments all deleted?


If so, were appropriate comments simply and unfortunately swept up in a mass delete because of other lesser quality comments?

There were no appropriate comments there as far as I can see. While I didn't delete them, I would have done the same.

Comments are intended to request clarification from the OP and little else. We might give very useful comments that are in a gray area a pass but typically when comments reach critical mass we either Move to Chat (and delete) or just delete ("purge") all the comments. Sometimes we undelete useful comments. Very often there's nothing worth keeping. Very rarely we forget to undelete something useful or delete something that had value. But that's not what happened here.

Comments on answers are a bit different, as are our reasons for why we might decide to purge a thread. Typically we do so when a comment chain has devolved into bickering or has otherwise become unproductive. On the answer you were looking at a few users disagreed with the advice given and a discussion followed that seems to have had run its course and where we all that could really be done by the users involved is agree to disagree. At that point we typically purge threads to avoid things spiralling (further) out of control.

A good place to start reading up on comments on Workplace is: "What comments are not..."

I understand completely that "comments are transient and should not be expected to be permanent entities," but neither should we expect them to simply vanish without a trace

Well, that's exactly what "comments are transient" means. They vanish without a trace. No one except for moderators can see deleted comments.

especially at the whim of a drive-by deleter

Well, those "drive-by deleters" are community-elected moderators like myself. We aren't hacking away at comments for the fun of it. Comment cleanup is the mod task that we on Workplace probably spend most of our time on. This site tends to get rather verbose. We delete comments en masse to avoid turning this into shouting match or forum.

when I clicked on the "more comments" link the comments all disappeared, leaving 0 comments.

That's due to how Stack Exchange handle page updates. While you get a notification that new answers or comments where added, there's no such immediate feedback for deleted questions. While you were looking at the post a moderator purged the thread so as soon as you try to load the comments they'll disappear.

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    Yep, only Mods can delete those, so not exactly any drive-by person...
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Jan 25, 2018 at 21:03
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    @Aaron The Workplace gets a lot of comments that are not about improving the post. I don't have easy access to stats on the number of threads, but in the last month mods have deleted more than 900 comments. That's actually a little low (probably due to the holiday slump at the end of December). We're not going to leave comments explaining comment deletions (also, irony) everywhere; it'd be too much work. Jan 25, 2018 at 22:07
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    In fact, when I downvote I get a message telling me to explain why I’m down voting in the comments. Deleting a comment doing just that seems a little disingenuous.
    – Tim
    Jan 26, 2018 at 0:16
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    @gnat it was the first comment that anyone saw with 11 upvotes. They deleted it with no message.
    – Tim
    Jan 26, 2018 at 11:47
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    @Tim comments are not a popularity contest. They are there to improve questions or answers. I can put some witticism or snark on some Q or A and get it upvoted to the stratosphere, it doesn't mean it should stay or that it's right,or that I shouldn't be raked over the coals by the mods for doing so. Jan 26, 2018 at 12:34
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    @TheSnarkKnight what a hideous straw man argument! I never said comments with snark or witticism should be left alone because they’re highly voted. In fact, if you look carefully at what I said, I never used the score as a reason to keep it. Please, take a careful look at my arguments and explain why you think it’s fine for moderators to silently delete a comment that the system tells you to post. I’m happy to address rebuttals to my comments, I’d rather not change the argument to be about highly voted, snarky / witty comments.
    – Tim
    Jan 26, 2018 at 12:59
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    @Tim There is no reason to become abusive because you don't like the answers you're getting. It doesn't matter if something gets eleven upvotes or eleven hundred upvotes. It doesn't mean that the comment is worth keeping around. If a question or answer gets a good number of comments, the likelihood exists that they will all be deleted. It is unreasonable to expect that the moderators of this site stop and explain why every last comment is removed. Jan 26, 2018 at 13:24
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    @TheSnarkKnight okay 1) I’m not getting abusive, I’m getting annoyed by your straw man argument 2) I never said the value of the comment was in the number of upvotes. I didn’t even mention the score in my first comment. I do not think that, so please - read the reasons why I think the comment should have been kept. 3) it’s standard practise that lots of comments are moved to chat. 4) it’s unreasonable to expect the moderators to explain their actions? No, no it’s not! Moderators should be held accountable.
    – Tim
    Jan 26, 2018 at 13:30
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    @Tim moderators are accountable to the community as a whole and ranting is not the best way to get their attention, neither is reposting points that have already been removed by moderators. It puts you in a rather unfavorable light. It is at the moderators discretion, not yours, to move things to chat or delete them outright. Comments do not have a right to exist. SE is not a collection of forums, it is a Q and A site. As such, comments are to improve a question or answer, and then deleted when appropriate, AS PER THE MODERATORS DISCRETION Jan 26, 2018 at 13:52
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    @TheSnarkKnight if you would point out my “ranting” I’ll remove it. I reposted the point because I feel it added a great deal to a potentially inaccurate answer. Of course it’s at the moderators discretion to delete items, but normally they do not do that, so it seems strange that they did, out of the blue - hence this meta conversation! “...deleted when appropriate” - I feel it was not deleted appropriately. Have I done something wrong? No, I’ve added information I feel was lost without a good reason. Have I been abusive? No. Have I ranted? No. Only one of us is resorting to uppercase text.
    – Tim
    Jan 26, 2018 at 14:59
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    @TheSnarkKnight no, the communities feelings do, and I am part of the community. Ergo I am allowed to express my disagreement with the moderators actions and I am allowed to comment according to site guidelines. I have done nothing against the sites guidelines.
    – Tim
    Jan 26, 2018 at 15:20
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    Being a member of several StackExchange communities for a few years now, I find this shift in comment policy to be saddening and generally bad practice for fleshing out quality answers. Yes, bad comments do exist but even bad comments contribute to the conversation (if only to show divergent trains of thought). I think it is appropriate for moderators to dump large comment threads into chat but deleting the records outright runs counter to the goals of this site. StackExchange is slowly moving towards moderators dictating content rather than the community and the site is poorer for it.
    – user48276
    Jan 26, 2018 at 15:25
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    @DanK the shift in policy here is due to a rather repugnant practice of people putting contrary answers in the comments of existing answers. Jan 26, 2018 at 15:37
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    @TheSnarkKnight mmh the dictionary definition of the two would completely disagree with you I’m afraid. Anyway, if you prefer, change wherever I said feeling to opinion and my sentiment holds.
    – Tim
    Jan 26, 2018 at 15:51
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    @TheSnarkKnight The moderators are not accountable to the community. There is the illusion that they are because of things such as the elections and the argument that "We just do what the community decides in meta," but it is not that simple. That is made evident that Tim is trying to hold you accountable and you brush it off with an argument that appears contradictory to me, appearing essentially as "the moderators are not accountable to you." It is a lot like national politics; SE politics are just as harsh, maybe more, just over something of less importance.
    – Aaron
    Jan 26, 2018 at 17:50

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