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First of all, sorry if this is the wrong way or the wrong place to ask this question, but I'd really like to know the reason for this action, and I thought this was the best way to get it.


I posted two comments on the question On what to compliment someone with anorexia in order to improve their body image?. One on the question, one on this answer. My comment on the question is still there, but not the one on the answer, and I really wonder why it was deleted.

In this comment, I explained why I downvoted the answer (in short, the background provided was to me not enough to back up the answer on this very sensitive subject). I don't understand why this comment was deleted because 1/ we are urged to comment when we downvote an answer and 2/ I think it's in line with the back up policy that has been enforced more widely recently.

The only thing I can think of is that it repeated in part the comment I made to the question. But I made the decision to comment on both very deliberately : my comment on the question doubts the question itself and its place in IPS, my comment on the answer doubts its back up and if this is an acceptable answer (even if the question is rules as OK, this answer to me is still lacking).

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    Scohe's answer is spot-on, but splitting hairs at some point IMHO. Of course not every comment is going to be worded perfectly, as if it was in a PhD dissertation. No matter how strict comment policies are, explanations for downvotes shouldn't be removed, except in the most argumentative or offensive cases; and for what it's worth, I read your comment as more of a "I'm downvoting because we're not qualified to answer such questions." – M.A.R. Jun 27 at 0:00
  • By the way, Medical Sciences, Biology, and Chemistry (where I come from) have a close reason that reads roughly like "we cannot address personal safety advice / health advice". I also found this meta post, which seems inconclusive. Might be worth reviving the discussion again. – M.A.R. Jun 27 at 0:03
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TL;DR It looks like your intentions were good on this one, but your wording (on the first few readthroughs) makes your comment look more like an opinion than a back-up suggestion.


Let's clear up a quick misconception here first though. You say

[W]e are urged to comment when we downvote an answer

But that's actually not true. You're urged to leave a productive, actionable comment on an answer you've downvoted if you think it's salvageable. However, if you don't think the answer can be fixed, your only options are to downvote and possibly leave your own answer explaining your opinion and giving an alternate solution. For more on this, take a look at this well written old thread.


You also say

I think it's in line with the back up policy that has been enforced more widely recently.

Again, if you think an answer isn't up to snuff per site policy, you're encouraged to downvote and flag. If you do leave a comment, it should have specific advice for how the user can fix their answer.

I've reread your comment a few times now and it seems like you may want them to remove the last paragraph (or reword it). But even then I'm not completely sure. And I think the reason for that is because you haven't worded the comment as a suggestion, you've worded it as a disagreement.


Let's take another look at the comment you left (that was deleted):

I'm downvoting this answer mainly because of the last paragraph : it seems your understanding of this disease is pretty basic (psychology 101), too basic to provide for an issue this complex. I do agree with your advice to talk to a professional to get useful tips.

To reviewers, the OP, and even to me, this reads as "I disagree with your answer." which is not too productive. However, if instead, the comment had been

I agree with your advice to talk to a professional to get useful tips, but given your experience with the subject (as stated), I think your last paragraph may do as much harm as good. I'd suggest removing it or providing more experienced sources to back the information up.

I can almost guarantee you it wouldn't have been deleted.

Especially since we're a site where people answer and comment with their worldviews and personal experiences, it's very very easy to start arguments. This is part of the reason for our strict comment rules. We've had a looooong history of pretty ugly lengthy debates in the comments and it's not something we'd like to repeat.

When you're commenting in the future, make sure you leave a clear actionable suggestion if you have one and your comment will be safe (at least until that suggestion is acted on, in which case the comment will be No Longer Needed and likely removed).

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    I understand what you say, but to me this is slightly nit-picky. I did say why the answer is lacking and they can act on that. Not everything has to be spoon-fed. I also flagged it. Also, I had no idea a comment had to be written a certain way to be appropriate. From memory, I just remember a pop up asking us to leave a comment to explain why we downvote an answer. – MlleMei Jun 27 at 5:41
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    As a final note, I think silently removing content because of subtle nuance is quite discouraging for people wanting to contribute to this site, even more so for newcomers who don't know all the rules yet. – MlleMei Jun 27 at 5:44
  • It doesn't seem to be saying what's allowed, rather, what definitely wouldn't get deleted @MlleMei. I agree that your comment probably shouldn't have been deleted, but it's even more pointless to wonder if it's worth undeleting. – M.A.R. Jun 27 at 8:00
  • @MlleMei When you phrase things the way you did in your comment, it seems a bit confrontational and people are less likely to edit than if you phrase things with a "could you" or a "I suggest". I think it's something important to keep in mind if we want to improve the quality of the answers we get. – Ælis Jun 27 at 8:17
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    @MlleMei I think you're touching on an extremely prominent issue with how we come off to newcomers (and one with no good meta conversations either!). However, I don't think this case is quite as "nit-picky" as you say. You explained "why [you think] the answer is lacking," yes, but we've found (through a whole lot of arguments) that the default response from most posters will be to argue back, not act constructively on it. I'd suggest reading through this thread for more on how constructive comments should look and why we do this. – scohe001 Jun 27 at 14:38
  • @MlleMei also note that the popup you remember reads "Please consider adding a comment if you think this post can be improved." This answer says about all I could about that (but in essence, this is also asking for a clear, suggestion that can be acted on). – scohe001 Jun 27 at 14:51
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    @M.A.R.ಠ_ಠ My goal wasn't to revive my comment. I like this community and participating in it, I was truly baffled when I didn't see my comment anymore and wanted to know why. I also want to share my experience with this issue in hopes of it being helpful :-) – MlleMei Jun 28 at 7:16
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    @scohe001 and Ælis : I understand what you're saying about wanting to avoid arguments and wanting better answers. The only thing I'll add is that silently deleting something might not be the best way to go. I've been on this site a while and would like to see it thrive, so that's why I created this post. Others might just be turned of by seeing their contributions erased with no explanation. – MlleMei Jun 28 at 7:21
  • @MlleMei I completely agree. Thanks for taking the time to write up the meta post and engage us on this. – scohe001 Jun 28 at 12:35
  • I am downvoting this answer because this is terrible reasoning. I don't know what processes led to this level of scientific rigor being required for this SE, but I can almost guarantee, it is going to settle its ultimate doom. – Marc.2377 Jul 9 at 3:36
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    Thanks for letting me know how you feel on this, @Marc.2377. Removing comments that don't appear to fit the comment criteria is standard practice across all of SE. I'm not sure what you mean by "scientific rigor" though. If you'd like to, could you expand on your stance and explain specifically what reasoning you disagree with? – scohe001 Jul 9 at 13:52
  • Sure. In my perception, the difference between the removed comment and the reworded version suggested by you is marginal. Also, in my opinion, the criteria for comments (and also for answers, for that matter) have become way too strict here at IPS.se. At first the policy for answers and comments was very much in line with those in place at the Workplace Stack Exchange, but then it somehow became much more rigorous ... (continues) – Marc.2377 Jul 10 at 21:23
  • (...) and by 'scientific rigor' I mean a level of rigor much more similar to scientific stacks like Psychology & Neuroscience Stack Exchange and the Medical Sciences Stack Exchange. In my view, interpersonal skills is not hard science and the model employed by The Workplace (and others) should do just fine. – Marc.2377 Jul 10 at 21:25
  • The reasoning I find terrible in this answer is that the comment was removed because it was worded like an opinion and not as a back-up suggestion, whereas I see no problem with the original wording and IMO the comment was useful (for me, for OP and surely for others). In conclusion, I find the criteria to remove such comments rather arbitrary. – Marc.2377 Jul 10 at 21:31
  • @Marc.2377 I don't disagree with you, but our policy is different in the ways you explain because that's what was agreed to on Meta (as far back as two years ago!) and that's how our moderators feel. This comment may have been a little on the line of okay/not-okay, but since it was caught by our regex, it was immediately seen by several high-rep users. Do those users (myself included) judge too quickly when flagging comments? Perhaps. And that is a problem. But for OP, I think that's all the more reason to be careful with phrasing suggestion – scohe001 Jul 10 at 21:41
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I was the one who deleted that comment, for the reasons Scohe provided in their answer.

I'm downvoting this answer mainly because of the last paragraph : it seems your understanding of this disease is pretty basic (psychology 101), too basic to provide for an issue this complex. I do agree with your advice to talk to a professional to get useful tips.

This sounded to me as an explanation of why you disagree with the answerer. And it's perfectly fine not to agree with them, and downvoting answers that you think may be dangerous for the people involved too. However, I didn't get a clear suggestion of what could be improved, and this is what comments are for on IPS- either ask for clarification or suggest improvements. (We don't expect people to justify their up- or downvote - this would lead to a giant traffic of (mostly chatty) comments that would be quite difficult to review)!

Parting notes: we discourage users to explain their downvote, because it doesn't fit into either of the two reasons I mentioned above that justify leaving a comment. It wasn't clear for me that you were asking the answerer for clarifications or that they edit that last paragraph, and if you would like them to know, I would suggest you to write a new comment - Scohe's phrasing suggestion is a great example on what such a comment should contain.

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    Like I said to scohe001, saying "I have this issue with your answer" is enough, they know why it's (for me) not a good answer and they can adjust their answer from this if they wish. I don't need to tell them explicitly that they can change their answer. Also, I'm not a moderaror, I'd feel uncomfortable telling someone to either delete or even change their answer, I don't feel that's my place. I don't see how it is not a constructive comment to say "Your answers lacks a stronger back up for this sensitive issue". – MlleMei Jun 27 at 6:58
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    Also, maybe you should revise the policy to discourage the explanation of downvotes. I've seen some answers been severely downvoted and the user asking why, baffled by this response. Just like the silent deleting of content, it is quite discouraging to put thought into something and want to help, get a negative reaction to it, and have no idea why. I can tell you that if this was my first experience on this site, I wouldn't have felt welcome and would have thought twice about posting something here in the future (even more so when I didn't have such an experience on other stack exchanges). – MlleMei Jun 27 at 7:03
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    @MlleMei I wrote the answer that sparked interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/2499/1599 (the one scohe linked you too). That answer, as of today, has had a 100 flags and 92! deleted comments. Most of those were just people saying 'I downvoted because I disagree with your answer/it's wrong' and 'I disagree with the disagreeing person'. I understand that you meant well with writing your comment, and I would encourage you to keep trying, and ask for feedback on meta or our chatroom if you still find your comments deleted. – Tinkeringbell Jun 27 at 8:23
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    Catija wrote a good answer on how to rephrase comments so that comments asking for clarification are actually asking, and comments suggesting improvements are clear at pointing out the actual improvement that should be made. Writing comments like that won't leave the person on the other side wondering if you're suggesting an improvement to their answer or just picking a comment fight because you disagree with their answer and have deemed it unsalvageable (in which case, see the link in the previous comment for your options). – Tinkeringbell Jun 27 at 8:25
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    @Tinkeringbell Just read Catija's answer (and the whole post) and although I understand where this rule comes from, I still am more in agreement with NotThatGuy and BlackThorn, but that's just my opinion. Since this is the policy, I think there should be a solution to make that clear to people, since this is a deviation with how comments work on other stack exchanges. – MlleMei Jun 28 at 7:44

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