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I know I commented on this answer earlier. Part of the answer is advice that I think is not good, so I left a comment saying as much. At least one other user had a concern with the same section of the answer, but provided a different reason. Last I checked, both comments had several upvotes. The answerer never responded (at least not so I was notified) or edited, so the concerns have not been addressed... yet the comments have vanished.

The comment read:

I disagree that you should offer unsolicited help with the class. That could very easily come off as condescending (especially as she is the only woman!). I know I would be mortified - first he calls me fat, now he implies I'm dumb, again in front of the entire class?! Even though that's not the intent, stick with an apology that fits the "crime". A traditional apology token like a card or flowers would be much better.

My goal in commenting was so that the answerer will either clarify why they think this is good advice, or improve their answer by changing which act is used to apologize. If the answerer never responded, then at least future readers might see the comment and take it into consideration when choosing their actions. I didn't think this was worth writing an answer for, because my answer would have just been "What he said, except for that one bit", which doesn't add much value over the existing set of answers. So I thought it was better to help improve the existing answer.

My experience on SE is that we're encouraged to downvote and comment when we see something we think is a bad answer. The infamous answers-as-apples comparison explicitly includes this guidance:

When you see something lacking in quality, you should downvote it, comment on it for the author to improve it, or, ideally, edit it yourself.

And our own mod Catija even says as a response to Should comments be transient?

Comments should not expire at some predetermined time. Good comments may point out faults with the answer - particularly on less subjective sites.

So... why were these comments deleted?

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    I'm not seeing a request for clarification in that comment. It looks like an argument with your preferred solution. Sounds like an answer. I invite you, now that you have the full text of your comment to update your question so that you can more fully explain why this comment should remain. – Catija Nov 20 '17 at 15:40
  • @Catija updated to include my reasoning. – Em C Nov 20 '17 at 15:46
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When we say that comments need to "ask for clarification" - we mean that.

Your comment is an argument. It's stating your preferred action and why the answer is wrong. This is not asking for clarification. This is non-productive.

Consider - I've just told you that your comment is wrong/outside intended use. How does that feel? Does it make you want to respond and defend yourself? Does it make you open to any sort of suggestion for correction?

Part of the reason we require comments ask for clarification is that, when we phrase comments that way, they're less likely to raise people's defenses and are more likely to cause the post improvement. - Yes, it still happens but it's less of an outward "attack". It's also (in my opinion) a more effective way of showing readers that some information may be missing from the post.

Compare your comment:

I disagree that you should offer unsolicited help with the class. That could very easily come off as condescending (especially as she is the only woman!). I know I would be mortified - first he calls me fat, now he implies I'm dumb, again in front of the entire class?! Even though that's not the intent, stick with an apology that fits the "crime". A traditional apology token like a card or flowers would be much better.

to this version:

You say that he should offer to help her in class. I must admit that I'm having trouble making this connection. Can you please explain how this shows the OP's classmates that the OP was wrong? How does offering to help this woman in her coursework show that he's contrite?

Here I've pinpointed my concern, I've (optionally) shown a personal failing and I've asked for clarification of the answer.

We need to focus our comments on telling people what they should do in their answers, not in telling them that they're wrong.

My goal in commenting was so that the answerer will either clarify why they think this is good advice, or improve their answer by changing which act is used to apologize.

You may have had the intention of getting the user to clarify but you didn't actually ask them to. You told them that you disagree and what you'd do instead. That's an answer, not a comment. If you want to write an answer, please, do so - or upvote another answer that already suggests this. We have no shortage of answers here.


The new version of your comment is great, by the way. Thanks for listening and adjusting.

Can you explain your reasoning as to why offering help with the class is an appropriate response? I am concerned that it would cause further offense by implying she might need the help, how do you propose OP can avoid that outcome?

I think including your concern and asking how to avoid that being an issue is a great option in this case as, if the answer is edited, it will definitely be a better answer by considering this.

  • I just want to be clear, the problem with the phrasing of my comment, not the content? e.g. if I had said "Can you explain why offering to help is an appropriate response? It seems to me like that could humiliate her further." it would have been fine? – Em C Nov 20 '17 at 16:50
  • Yep. You're actually asking a question there - asking for clarification. Though, I say that with hesitance... if 90% of your comment is "you're wrong" with a quick question at the end to make it a request for clarification... and lots of your comments look like this, that might make me somewhat concerned. – Catija Nov 20 '17 at 17:01
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    Is this policy that comments must be phrased to ask for clarification unique to interpersonal.se? The downvote popup reads "Please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved." The OP's comment explains that the answer can be improved by omitting an action that could cause further offense. Is there somewhere that the site's UI says that comments will be summarily deleted if they are written in a direct style rather than an indirect one? How are the vast majority of users to know this seemingly unique policy exists on this site? – Zach Lipton Nov 23 '17 at 5:13
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    To be clear, I agree that rephrasing comments to ask for clarification and avoid putting the OP on the defensive is frequently an excellent idea and more likely to yield a productive result, but it's not clear to me where the distinction is between "this approach to commenting is recommended" and "comments not written in this particular way will be deleted." Could you perhaps clarify which you have in mind? – Zach Lipton Nov 23 '17 at 5:16
  • @ZachLipton telling someone that their post is wrong is not actionable. Also, on a site that is so very subjective, what is "wrong" or "right" is largely up to the person writing the answer. As such, telling someone that their answer is wrong without asking for any sort of clarification should be an answer itself, so that it can be voted on by users both up and down. Comments can only be voted up, leaving a skewed opinion of their information. – Catija Nov 26 '17 at 3:28
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    @Catija “request clarification from the author; leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post; [or] add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated.” Constructive criticism means the comment explains what is wrong with their post, not necessarily explicit directions on how they should fix it. – BlackThorn Feb 23 '18 at 20:20
  • @BlackThorn Disagreeing with an answer here, is often a matter of opinion, not anything based on fact, as such, we don't really welcome that sort of comment on answer because all it does is lead to arguments. If you want to actually suggest improvements do so, but just listing why an answer is bad, is not acceptable here. If you have a better solution, write an answer of your own. – Catija Feb 23 '18 at 20:23
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    @Catija So if you leave a comment that says "Except that the new version of the comment, asking for the answer to be improved does both - it suggests why the answer is flawed and it asks the poster to explain why their answer doesn't fall into this problem. We want useful comments that suggest improvements to answers, not ones that cause arguments. – Catija♦ Nov 26 '17 at 3:30," by your logic it should be deleted because it could cause "argument" (it did). Should I start my own meta post to discuss this? Because I feel like mod powers on IPS are being repeatedly abused. – BlackThorn Feb 23 '18 at 20:29
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    @BlackThorn You are always welcome to ask a meta question here. Two things I would mention: 1. Comments aren't used the same way on Meta. We don't hold comments to the same degree of scrutiny here that we do on the main site. 2. If people flag comments that I've made that fail to follow the rules, I'm happy to remove them - or my other moderators can do so. I don't claim to be perfect. This is the current consensus for behavior as it relates to comments on this site and until the consensus changes, it's my duty to carry it out. – Catija Feb 23 '18 at 22:47
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    @Catija I personally don't have any problems with your comments. And I can make a post on meta, but there are just so many about this topic already because of how zealous you (and perhaps the other mods) have been. I am mostly perplexed by your philosophy on this topic. It is useful to see criticism on a post I made. It is more frustrating to see downvotes without explanation. – BlackThorn Feb 23 '18 at 22:57
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    No one is saying you can't explain @BlackThorn We're saying that your criticisms should have a point... they should encourage the change you want to see in the post. Ask for clarification. "Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post. Your first comment "I don't see how throwing water in someone's face or other blatantly belligerent actions could be within the scope of Interpersonal Skills. This answer is terrible advice." Please help me understand how that's "constructive". – Catija Feb 23 '18 at 23:00
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    Oh, correction, that was your second comment. Your first comment - "I have no idea why this terrible answer is receiving a bounty for being "exemplary."" was rendered unnecessary after your meta question here. It was also pretty much not nice and removed for those reasons. – Catija Feb 23 '18 at 23:04
  • @Catija if you want to get into specifics here (also I lightened it up a bit after that deletion). I don't think the very first comment violates the not nice policy (though I admit it wasn't the best even if it wasn't an ad hominem attack). However, my further attempts to successfully leave a comment were also deleted, presumably on their own merit, not because you were targeting me. The comment is constructive because it points out why the answer is problematic. Belligerent actions are typically not considered to be an interpersonal skill, and I pointed that out. – BlackThorn Feb 23 '18 at 23:16
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    However, I and many others have had completely nice comments removed willy-nilly, even when they fit the strictest interpretation of the comment guidelines. My point is that a comment that says "This is problematic becase X" is a good comment. Whether or not it also said "you should remove X from your answer" is irrelevant because that part is implied and unnecessary for it to be a good comment. – BlackThorn Feb 23 '18 at 23:22
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    @MikeWaters yes, they should be the same for every SE (that I've seen at least--IPS, SO). However, as I explain here, we really only allow comments under the header "You should submit a comment if you want to" (which is most of the time a clarification/critique). – scohe001 Sep 16 at 19:37
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Comments are for IMPROVING answers, not for calling them "bad advice".

Post your own answer or upvote one you like and downvote the one you don't.

Posting "this is bad advice", especially when unsupported tends to lead to a debate in comments which is NOT what comments are for.

These comments were likely deleted for the "no longer necessary" reason which those types of comments generally are. If there was bickering going on in the comments, then the answer itself was likely flagged for the bickering.

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    I did include a reason for why I thought it was bad advice and made a suggestion to improve it. I didn't get any notifications after that so I don't think there was bickering, but of course I can't verify that now. I didn't write an answer because 90% would have been the same as existing answers. – Em C Nov 20 '17 at 15:30
  • @EmC comments can only be upvoted, so you may have had two who thought it was good, but twenty who thought otherwise but have no way of expressing it. – user4548 Nov 20 '17 at 15:37
  • They could still upvote the answer instead of my comment. It'd be fairly obvious not everyone agreed if my comment had +7 and the answer still had +17. – Em C Nov 20 '17 at 15:39
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    @EmC again, comments are for improving the answer, not debating it. phrasing things also helps "You may want to consider whether or not.. X" will likely not get deleted. "This is wrong because: ABC" will get deleted and if you do it often enough, you may get dinged as being rude. – user4548 Nov 20 '17 at 15:41
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I disagree with the other answers.

While either asking for improvement or posting one's own answer might be better, we should also be able to just point out a problem with an existing answer.

I agree that comments aren't ideal for this (for multiple reasons), but that means we should try to functionally improve comments, not simply discard the idea of criticising answers.

Criticism as comments is better than no criticism at all.

Also, what if the answerer doesn't agree that the answer should be "improved" in the way suggested?

Also also, either you're simply asking for clarification, in which case you're not really making it clear what the actual problem is that you have with the post, or you're phrasing your criticism as a question - if that's acceptable, that really just seems like nitpicking (or should I say "Can you explain how that isn't just nitpicking? Isn't it possible to phrase anything as a question?")


A big problem with a suggestion should be pointed out.

Simply downvoting it is not enough - that doesn't tell anyone what the actual problem is with the suggestion, and just leaves people oblivious to the problem or the downvote.

Criticism is Not An Answer, so I don't really see how posting another answer is the advised "thing you should be doing" if you just have some criticism (having a better suggestion is very much distinct from just having a problem with an existing suggestion).


For your specific example:

I disagree that you should offer unsolicited help with the class. That could very easily come off as condescending (especially as she is the only woman!). I know I would be mortified - first he calls me fat, now he implies I'm dumb, again in front of the entire class?!

This is criticism and wouldn't make sense in an answer.

[S]tick with an apology that fits the "crime". A traditional apology token like a card or flowers would be much better.

This is an answer, and should be posted as an answer, not as part of a comment.


This appears to be an answer simply criticising other answers and should instead be posted as a comment.

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    Except that the new version of the comment, asking for the answer to be improved does both - it suggests why the answer is flawed and it asks the poster to explain why their answer doesn't fall into this problem. We want useful comments that suggest improvements to answers, not ones that cause arguments. – Catija Nov 26 '17 at 3:30
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    @Catija Not everything can (or will) be improved to an agreeable point. In this case, the answer was edited, but it still appears to have roughly the same problem as the original - it's making a suggestion that can come across as offensive, no amount of explanation gets around that. The only acceptable outcome I see is a disclaimer pointing out that it might be offensive, which we can't expect the answerer to want to put in their answer. The comment does this, but is kind of obsolete now. I notice your comment wasn't phrased as a request for improvement (or is that just because this is Meta?). – NotThatGuy Nov 26 '17 at 12:27
  • Yep, this is what I was thinking when I posted the original version. I imagined that my original comment would either spur the answerer to respond or at least remain to warn readers of a potential caveat. I see comments like this all over SE but it seems this stack needs the question explicitly spelled out. – Em C Nov 27 '17 at 20:39
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In addition to what The Snark Knight said, if answers can be wrong, comments calling answers bad can be wrong as well. But while answers can be properly downvoted accordingly, comments can only be upvoted. In instances where incorrectness is obvious, this shouldn't be a problem, but in these instances, you shouldn't need a comment pointing that out. On the other hand, if the correctness of an answer is really divisive, you would end up with a heavily upvoted comment, because you can't downvote it.

Of course, you could respond to that comment, but that is just not what comments are for. Comments are not suited for these kinds of back and forths.

Instead, if you disagree, create an opposing answer and let the votes speak for themselves.

  • To someone without rep to see vote counts, that answer appears to be completely uncontroversial and decently upvoted. Shouldn't we want to encourage comments on that, so others know there is some controversy? I wasn't expecting a conversation in comments, I was hoping for the OP to edit their answer to either remove the "bad" advice or explain why they thought it was appropriate. – Em C Nov 20 '17 at 15:32
  • @EmC again, comments are for improvement, not disagreement and disagreement will ALWAYS create a bickerfest in the comment section, and that will ALWAYS get deleted. – user4548 Nov 20 '17 at 15:39
  • @TheSnarkKnight So you're saying we should never comment on answers we think are bad? – Em C Nov 20 '17 at 15:41
  • @EmC You should comment on how to improve a question or answer. If you think it's poorly written or not considering things, you should comment as to what the person can do to improve it. If you disagree with the advice, offer an answer of your own and let the community decide. The problem with criticizing an answer is that you can only be up-voted and the answer can take a hit because of it. This has been a major issue at TWP to the point that people are accumulating hundreds of accepted flags. – user4548 Nov 20 '17 at 15:57

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