-5

Some constructive feedback and observations from my visit here.

TL;DR;

  1. Information being in comments that would make good answers can be detrimental to the site
  2. Information in comments are not always worthy of being an answer, but should still be shared if it's useful information
  3. Information being shared in comments is better than it not being shared at all (due to a rule that (essentially) states "no help, advice, or information in comments")

(1) is the (or partly) reason this site only allows comments that are request for info or improvement to the question - no info or advice etc. The problem with (1) is prevalent across Stack Exchange sites, and has been attempted to be resolved over and over again. There's nothing you can do about it other than ask commentors to instead answer, or create an answer if they don't.

However, having that rule impedes on (2) and (3), which is also detrimental to the site.

end TL;DR;

 

I understand why a site might want to implement specific requirements for comments if it makes sense for the context on that site. However, this is a very uncommon thing to do for a Stack Exchange (hence nowhere to make it official) and so could easily be confusing. On pretty much all other Stack Exchange sites comments serve for a very different purpose - information is allowed in comments.

Comments potentially being bad is not unique to this site. All (or many) sites suffer from:

  1. A loss of good answers because someone posted a comment instead
  2. Chatty comments
  3. Rude or otherwise useless comments
  4. Etc

(1) is really bad and we try to avoid it to ensure quality Q&As on the sites, however while removing the ability to add info to comments removes the potential for someone to answer in a comment instead of in an answer, it in no way guarantees that they will instead put that information into an answer.

What it does guarantee is the potential for people to simply not bother sharing their knowledge. I have had some amazing advice in comments, and yes I'd argue entirely that they should have been answers! BUT the rule here means I potentially would NOT have even obtained that information.

Just because there is "information" contained within a comment does not automatically make it eligible to be an answer. Often it requires much more time and work to make it a decent answer, or to even be viable as an answer at all.

Trivial answers are not welcome, and short answer can even be converted to comments automatically by the system, this is why Stack Exchange has comments, for information that is not an answer. But by only allowing information in answers, you reduce a potential for good information.

 

I get that this site's required use for comments is also about the content you will receive here, not just generic problems with comments:

Comments can only be for asking for clarification or question improvements

Again, people coming here could be confused given how comments work on (pretty much) all other Stack Exchange sites. Not catering for this potential confusion and dissatisfaction and not making it very clear how your comments work is just potentially lining up the community of this site for a lot of arduous work and debates from newcomers.

I'd argue that you'll have more time spent chasing comments that don't belong here due to confusion around the specific requirements, than you would just allowing "normal" comments and cleaning up off topic ones. Certainly without it being made clear, but being limited to where you can explain this is another reason why I think it's just going to be more problematic than any gain it may bring.

So as there is no where on this site where I'm told I have to "officially" adhere to not using comments to give quick advice, means deleting my comment is just seen as a bit rude and too harsh moderating, and will just annoy people.

 

Attempted Information

While changing the text of the "add comment" might work sometimes, it is not a great solution for those coming from other Stack Exchange sites, as I imagine most are like me whereby I just clicked the blue link under the comments and didn't even read the text. When it was pointed out to me that this site's "add a comment" wording is different, I had to go look for myself to see it, and I'd already left a number of comments in different places by that point.

 

Information Comments Can Be Good

It's just not that black and white to state "useful info should be in an answer".

Sometimes it is just quick advice that's not worthy of an answer, and there is nothing wrong with this. Surely the main value of Stack Exchange is "providing information" whether it should have been an answer or comment is a potential problem, but should we really lose that information just because it doesn't fit into where we want it? Is this not:

Cutting one's nose of to spite one's face?

There are many people who agree:
https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/1557/230506
and
https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/4271/230506

That's not a Shog hunt, just happened naturally from the topics I was searching - 49 others agree with the two answers.

Comments are useful:
https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/133286/230506
https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/4218/230506
On just those two posts, 195 users agree

 

I made a comment that was deleted, on this question:
My mom is being "nice". But it's unwanted. How do I get her to stop?
I stated

You could suggest going shopping together and let you choose something for yourself. Just be tactful as her actions come from good intentions. I know that doesn't make it ok, but look at mothers in human and animals the world over, it's about protection, ensuring you're safe and happy. That often wont stop even when you get older. It's not a sign that they think know best or that you can't manage without her, it's more about the very nature of motherly love - they strive to make you happy in an entirely selfless way (not all of them, or always, of course, just generally)

The first sentence is fair advice, but alone is not worthy of an answer. I didn't want to write out a full answer due to being short on time but also there is also a comment asking for more information to be able to provide a good answer.

The rest of my comment is purely general advice and would not be construed as answering the question. I would have likely been downvoted.

So I didn't answer and instead commented. Had my comment been left there would be a little bit of nice advice there, for the OP or anyone else reading it.

Someone else tried to answer, and met with a downvote and moderator suggesting that "this reads more like a suggestion than an answer". I don't disagree, but is it really a good thing to entirely delete that useful information away from a site that is at it's core designed to provide information?

image of other answer and comment

  • @HDE226868 Fair point on the old sources. Answers can hurt as much as comments though. Sure they can be downvoted, but comments can be deleted which are gone for ever, rather then downvoted answers where the bad info remains. This can be debated from all angles. The point is bad info is bad and should be removed wherever it is. But the potential for bad info shouldn't hinder the potential for good info, this is detrimental to someone getting some good advice that could help them greatly. – James Jun 23 '18 at 17:19
  • I gave one example of a good comment giving good advice that was deleted. I'm not debating how often it happens or not, just that it happens :) – James Jun 23 '18 at 17:20
  • I see from the downvotes vs upvotes even on comments here that the community has its mind made up. I didn't come here to stir things, I happened here by entire chance and was met with my friendly and good advice comment being deleted, knowing it couldn't be worthy of an answer (proven by someone else trying) and so obviously cannot share such advice here. OP lost out on something possibly useful to them, as will many from not being able to give small advice in comments. I think the site will struggle to gain more momentum as a result, but I sincerely hope I'm wrong – James Jun 24 '18 at 21:19
  • 5
    I think your "Attempted Information" paragraph is interesting and could be the start of a good conversation on portraying this information better to new users, but everything else in this answer reads as an argument for why our comments are handled wrong--which is an argument that's happened many times before here. I'm not saying your points are invalid, only that they've been addressed time and again and haven't swayed the community. – scohe001 Jun 25 '18 at 0:51
17

One quick thing to note, right off the bat: The four Meta SE posts you cite are nine years old. The network was really, really different back then. Honestly, it wasn't even a network, it was maybe a handful of sites, still focused on computers and tech. Things have changed a lot since then. Nine years ago, nobody could have anticipated the existence of IPS. Those posts don't represent the ever-changing attitudes of a rapidly-expanding set of communities.

Often it requires much more time and work to make it a decent answer, or to even be viable as an answer at all.

. . .

I didn't want to write out a full answer due to being short on time

I'm gonna reiterate what I said in the answer I know you read: If you don't have time to write a full answer, or don't have enough information to justify it, or are honestly just too lazy to expand on your thoughts (and I use the general "you" here to address the reader - not James specifically), don't write an answer. We don't give posts a free pass just because the author wasn't, for one reason or another, able to spend enough time on them; they're treated the same way as any other post.

Here's another thing: Comments aren't subject to review. There are review queues for the first posts of new users, or for late answers to old questions. There's a low quality posts queue for the worst of. There's the ability to downvote poor answers, and, for those with enough rep, to delete them. There's oversight, and review, all from the community.

Virtually none of that oversight applies to comments. You can't downvote comments, or vote to delete them, or send them through review queues. Mods can delete; unless the community casts enough flags, that's the only way to get them out of there. I think you're assuming - maybe justifiably - that comments usually contain helpful stuff. I've seen some of the worst comments on the site - thousands of 'em. And there's a lot of bad content. A lot.

I would have likely been downvoted.

So . . . don't use comments to get around peer review, and the systems and features that allow good content to rise to the top. If you're using a comment to avoid downvotes, maybe the advice given isn't actually good enough to be posted.

Again, people coming here could be confused given how comments work on (pretty much) all other Stack Exchange sites. Not catering for this potential confusion and dissatisfaction and not making it very clear how your comments work is just potentially lining up the community of this site for a lot of arduous work and debates from newcomers.

Two things here:

  • Comments aren't for answers - anywhere on the network. Check out the help center on any site; it'll tell you the same thing. The one major difference with our comments policy is that we strictly enforce it.
  • It's totally fine if someone doesn't know the norms of the site. I sympathize. It's natural. But having a comment deleted isn't punishment, nor is it a personal judgment on the user. If someone wants to know more, or understand a moderation - hey, we've got a site for that. Ask away, and we'll be happy to help.

There's a learning curve, but the information's available. We're been here again and again and again.

  • 2
    But "not having enough information to justify an answer" is my exact point. That does not mean the info is not great, just that it isn't enough to form an answer, or doesn't directly address the question to answer it. Comments are just as subject to review as questions and answers. Community review them and either vote or flag etc. The only thing I agree with there is "you cannot downvote comments" but you can flag them, and bad answers can arguably stay around a long as bad comments. In fact the debate that comments are less seen makes bad advice less of a problem in comments. – James Jun 23 '18 at 17:36
  • 3
    The only people who can deal with those flags are mods, @James, and we can't be everywhere. So, no, there isn't community oversight; the community can really only shunt things along to us. That doesn't scale. We get . . . lots of comments, and it takes time to comb through them all, even with flags. It takes time. – HDE 226868 Jun 23 '18 at 17:38
  • "maybe the advice given isn't actually good enough to be posted." no, not as an answer, but information not viable to make an answer can still be viable as a comment. "comments aren't for answers" I already said this. I think perhaps the issue here is you read my post while thinking "we don't allow comments because.." and so negated it. I already stated "answers in comments are detrimental to the site". But life isn't black and white, otherwise why do sites allow comments? – James Jun 23 '18 at 17:39
  • ok well if this site gets way too many comments to deal with then I guess something has to be done. I just think it's wrong to lose information just to reduce moderation time. Something else should be done where both the information can remain and bad comments dealt with. (I say that like it's easy..) – James Jun 23 '18 at 17:40
  • 8
    @James, all sites allow comments. They have an explicit, well-defined and widely-recognized purpose. That purpose does not overlap with the purpose of answers. Comments are, have always been, and always will be second-class citizens designed to be deleted at some point, once their purpose has been fulfilled. Moreover, there's a way to keep that information: answers. – HDE 226868 Jun 23 '18 at 17:40
  • I;m not debating their value on the sites, I'm simply stating that they can contain valuable info when that info doesn't make an answer. They can be 100th class citizens, that doesn't negate the usefulness of the content they contain :) – James Jun 23 '18 at 17:41
  • 11
    You keep talking about this information, @James, without giving any good examples. I'd be convinced if you can - right now - edit your question to give maybe five or six distinct cases where a comment contained useful information that 1) wasn't purposefully transient and 2) wasn't fit for an answer. – HDE 226868 Jun 23 '18 at 17:43
  • 1
    But the examples would be from another site as this one deletes the comments so I wont find any. Any other site is surely not a good example? – James Jun 23 '18 at 20:58
  • People are still missing the point a bit here. The "reason" they don't want to answer is not the point, the point is simply the fact that they don't (for whatever reason), because at that point they could leave some amazing quick info in a comment. On this site, that information is just lost. – James Jun 24 '18 at 10:24
  • 9
    @James - They could indeed be giving the most amazing advice ever. They also could be giving horrible advice that will destroy the relationship. That's why there's a peer review process for answers. Comments don't get that. Saying "oh, but it could be awesome advice!" ignores the reasons for why giving that amazing advice in the wrong format is harmful. – Mithical Jun 24 '18 at 20:02
  • "They're free to not write an answer here" I'm no longer sure of what people are debating here. This is entirely the point of my post. How or why info is lost in a comment is not the debate, just that it is. – James Jun 24 '18 at 21:02
  • "They also could be giving horrible advice that will destroy the relationship" Now you're talking about psychology, where words on the internet can potentially change someone's life, which can easily happen in an answer as much as a comment. A nice, informative answer seemingly to be positive and helpful, has upvotes etc, could instead trigger a negative response in the asker (or anyone reading it). We cannot go down this physiological debate too much otherwise the only people who could legitimately answer would be those with phycological training and full background on those asking – James Jun 24 '18 at 21:05
  • If it's as perilous and serious as everyone is claiming about life altering advice in answers and comments, are you saying that a downvote or 5 will magically stop a person getting damaging advice? If they're so fragile and/or impressionable, then whether a comment or downvoted answer, it'll do just the same damage. And what if they read an answer before it's downvoted? Or only dvoted a few times? If it's so serious then I'm back to my point of needing a professional psychologist to give the "correct" advice as any amateur advice can be damaging, and upvoted by other amateurs who agree! – James Jun 24 '18 at 21:13
  • I get the importance of advice on this site, but I think people are blowing it way out of proportion. And also have already decided comments are evil places where bad advice cannot be handled, but entirely fail to see just the same potential damaging advice can be in an answer. Anyone who would make a life decision from a forum like that is obviously in a fragile place, and people in such states can often choose to ignore things that stand in their way of grasping to what they want (or don't want) to hear, this includes a few downvotes standing in their way of hearing what they want to. – James Jun 24 '18 at 21:16
  • 10
    @James We've been talking about this for the better part of a year; you've been talking about it for a few days. All I can say at this point is to read many of the meta discussions we've had over the months; if you'd like, I can point you at some of them. But again, I'm going to reiterate that answers have substantial peer review; comments don't. – HDE 226868 Jun 24 '18 at 21:18
5

In addition to HDE's comprehensive answer, I'd just like to add another perspective.

Our site is special. We have very few questions asked a day1 but we get a huge amount of traffic in comparison2. This means we get a lot of attention on our hot questions (which tends to be a high percentage of them).

Because of this, our comments have been out of control in the past. With no formal stance in place, there've be 20/30/40+ comments on questions and answers suggesting alternate solutions and arguing their merits/fallbacks, burying important edit suggestions or clarification questions.

While I agree with a lot of what you're saying, on this site it's simply not feasible to allow these kinds of comments. If we allow it for one or two that we deem "good suggestions," we open the floodgates for everyone else.

As such, we've decided that all comments are temporary fixtures, to be acted on and eventually deleted, or--if there's nothing to act on (it's a possible answer/advice)--then it'll be deleted immediately.


1. Just ran the numbers from analytics, we have an average of 8 questions/day since we opened for public beta a little less than a year ago.

2. We've had an average of 28,170 page views a day since February when we started collecting this data. That's on average more than 3,500 views/new question a day!!

  • 5
    Don't forget that "deeming something a good suggestion" is very, very subjective and requires moderators have expertise (which we usually don't). It's completely unfair for us to pick and choose based on our own biases. – Catija Jun 25 '18 at 1:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .