Today there was a highly active question posted about an individual facing HR consequences at work due to a ill advised racial / gender remark made in response to another coworker. One of the answers to the question was this, that I felt was reasonable, but apparently many others in the community did not.

Ignoring the unrelated comments on the answer that caused the answer to be locked, I agree with the message of the person who answered, namely to avoid inflammatory personal attacks , as such tactics are non productive and disruptive in a professional workplace. I feel the answer can be refined a bit such as softening the tone while not changing the meaning of the OP's answer, which I believe is correct along with several others such as that from Kilsi or Flexi or Mario.

In cases in which a good answer suffers from distracting comments, can we be less aggressive in locking the question to allow others who may want to comment with the aim of improving the usefulness of such a question?

Edit in response to answers

Reading through the responses so far, it was most certainly not my intention to give people with malicious motives a platform to spout derogatory and offensive language against what may be legitimate experiences of discrimination. My intent to asking this question was to see if there could be a way to separate the problematic comments from constructive comments without preventing comments altogether

4 Answers 4



Comments can affect votes on the question in a negative way.

There was a time when this site was extremely active and I witnessed a massive swing of voting when the comments started getting nasty. A popular post had picked up 50 down votes, and then when the bickering in the comments was removed, it shot back up again.

Also, moderators cannot be here all the time. People with less than pure motives know that, and tend to go on the attack when they know that the mods are not likely to be around

the lock feature is to stop these kinds of antics and to let things cool down. suggestions can still be made in chat.

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    "People with less than pure motives know that, and tend to go on the attack when they know that the mods are not likely to be around." I'd say you're giving them too much credit. The people leaving the kinds of comments we have to clean up tend not to think too hard about what they're writing to begin with. Though of course you will indeed see these comments remain up longer during moderator downtime. We have a pretty big window of activity though and more often nasty comments can remain up for so long or spiral out of control so far simply because they're not being flagged.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Nov 18, 2020 at 0:12
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    @Lilienthal I tend to flag nonsense when I see it, and I've seen flags on some pretty abusive crap stay up for days. Nov 18, 2020 at 13:24
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    It's mostly a general comment to the community flag aggressively and early as I often see posts where flags come in a day or two after a "situation" developed. There are rare cases where it can take a day or two for us to handle a flag (strongly correlated with weekends :)) but this isn't common. Looking through your flags the vast majority are handled within 12 hours (not too different from our current average response time though that's a flawed metric) with 3 or 4 in the past few months that took more than a day. We certainly appreciate them though, as evidenced by your flag stats as well.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Nov 18, 2020 at 14:14

My intent to asking this question was to see if there could be a way to separate the problematic comments from constructive comments without preventing comments altogether

Well, sort of. That's what we are for after all. The reason we sometimes resort to an outright comment lock is that as human exception handlers we indeed aren't always around. Some questions, particularly those around divisive and opinion-prone topics that hit HNQ, will attract a lot of nonsense. Especially when it's clear that a post author will stick with the current version of their post in spite of comments seeking to improve it, any further comments will be incredibly unlikely to achieve their intended purpose.

If we get to that point and comments are continuing to stream in we may as well put a lock on it to put a stop to the arguing and force people to cool off. While improbable, it is indeed possible that well-intentioned and useful comments would have been posted if not for the lock, but that's a trade-off we make in exchange for keeping the site clean and avoiding certain posts turning into cesspools that are guaranteed to turn people off from further contributing to the site.

If you believe there's a problem with the frequency of comment locks being applied by the moderation team we would welcome input on that, ideally with a list of additional locks where you think we "jumped the gun". But if you're looking only at the question that inspired your post I will say that it should have been locked much, much sooner. And as far as I'm concerned it should remain under lock and key until people have calmed down and forgotten about it. The level of vitriol on display there was far beyond the pale.

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    Another place we dropped the ball was we should have edited out some of the flame-bait in the original post. It's current incarnation is much better. Nov 18, 2020 at 18:43

Simply put, as Old_Lamplighter stated, NO. I am thrilled that the feature was added, as it saves moderator's a good bit of time dealing with flags on, guess what, comments!

Also, as I have stated many times, please note that comments are transient and can be removed at any time. If you want you content protected, edit the content into an existing question or answer, or write your own from scratch.

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    And, of course, prior to this feature, as soon as comments were moved to chat, people would start right in under the question again. Nov 18, 2020 at 13:25


Lengthy comment arguments are not an appropriate use of SE. People should submit answers and use comments as intended, as temporary and for feedback.

Specifically a lot of the “screw the SJWs” rhetoric in this Q&A is very hostile to people with legitimate diversity or harassment concerns in the workplace - to be honest given responses in other Q&As as well I would not recommend anyone having legit problems with discrimination in the workplace to post here, as they are usually attacked with a large number of “aiieee what about us white men and our rights” comments. This SE is a hostile work environment, frankly, and removing comments arguing and slinging opinions about it is the best way to begin to correct that.

This wasn’t a couple comments - it was a hundred plus comments. It should have been locked and comments vigorously deleted much earlier. Selective comment deletion works when it's just a couple in a small stream, when it's a torrent locking is the best remedy.


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