I will later post my own opinion as answer, so this is to be viewed as a more or less neutral baseline for discussion - please comment / suggest edit if you have improvements
I've been active on this stack for a few months now, and I noticed that a constant source of trouble seems to be the deletion of comments. One common stumbling block seems to be, that they are handled more strictly here than on other sites. I'd like to get a discussion if we need to adjust or if the current practice already is the best compromise.
When you answer / vote - please also consider the effect different approaches of moderation could have on quality of posts and user base of this stack, not only the front most tidying effect that may affect usability.
1. Purpose of comments
Clearly the main function of comments is to improve the corresponding questions and answers. By asking questions or pointing out errors, the author gets a chance to improve his post. Sometimes this is obvious (Your code example is missing an "end" command!) sometimes it is more subtle or even a series of comments that show the author that his post is prone to misunderstanding.
Secondary, as stated in the link above, comments can 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).
I'd like to point to a third function comments serve: Often they serve as a support in the cognitive process of coming up with a full-blown answer. This is especially true for topics that tent to be somewhat subjective, as a lot of IPS-topics tend to be. As such, comments can be a catalyst for Answers in a later "stage of thinking".
2. What to delete
I'd like to leave out of this discussion any comments that obviously have to be deleted because they are rude or abusive. Also comments which are clearly on topic and are currently not affected by any moderation.
So what about the rest:
- Me too comments (backup of experience?)
- Don´t do this (because ...)
- Related funny trivia
- Valid but obsolete by edit of author.
- Not quite answers
- Frame challenge
- Developing discussion
(... please expand)
3. When to delete
A middle ground for moderation could be to give comments which ultimately do not seem worth keeping some time to live, so others around the world have a chance to read and cognitive processes can start - but delete them after X hours to not clutter the thread.
4. How to delete
We basically have three options.
- Silent delete
- Delete with announcement/ explanation.
- Move to chat. (as I understand this is possible only once per post, but may have signalling function for later commentators)
Below link suggests:
Whenever possible, try to leave frequent comments on posts where you’ve taken (or considered taking) a moderator action, explaining the reasoning. This is important so that community members can learn the norms of the community and the moderation policies.
Some basics to consider from the SE-Philosophy:
The ideal moderator does as little as possible. But those little actions may be powerful and highly concentrated. Judiciously limiting your use of moderator powers to selectively prune and guide the community — now that’s the true art of moderation.
Previous related discussion:
At last, let me thank all the moderators for their effort in keeping this site in shape. Please don´t take this as a complaint about your work but as an opportunity to fine-tune some aspects (or make us understand them better). If you think there is already sufficient broad and deep discussion on this topic, feel free to point me to it an I´ll retract my question!