Based on network-wide guidance and a discussion here, we've been actively deleting comment chains that have become obsolete, chatty, or pointless. This has been met with some resistance, in part because of the differing expectations of what comments are for.

We have the following entry in our FAQ:

Can I use comments to discuss the topic of a post?

Comments are useful for getting clarifications, but extended discussions detract from the question and its answers. If you'd like to discuss anything related to programming with other expert programmers, please use our chat room.

But perhaps we can make it better. In a discussion on this answer, it was suggested we highlight the alternatives for disagreeing with an answer where the answerer chooses not to improve it.

What can we do to address this? Are there other things we should address in our FAQ's guidance about comments?

share

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The most obvious way to disagree is to cast a down-vote. However, that's not always the most constructive.

If the user doesn't improve the post after a comment and a down-vote (or two) then there's not a lot we (as a community) can do. We certainly can't go round to the posters house (or office) and force them to edit their post.

In these cases post your own answer that addresses the question and the deficiencies in the existing answer(s). If you're right then then this should gain the up-votes necessary to float it to the top of the pile.

I think the issue is with extended discussions. If there's already a comment stating that the the answer is deficient in some way then there's no real need to add another one. Just up-vote the original comment. If the answerer replies that they're happy with the answer and can't see what you're getting at then at most post another comment, but don't get involved in a protracted back and forth.

share

I see no reason to kill off comment chains until they turn nasty, personal or offtopic.

share

I think addressing the recourse people have when an answer doesn't get improved the way they like is a good idea. To that end, perhaps we can revise it to say:

Can I use comments to discuss the topic of a post?

Comments are useful for getting clarifications, but extended discussions detract from the question and its answers.

  • If you'd like to discuss anything related to programming with other expert programmers, please use our chat room.
  • This site is collaborative: if a question or answer can be improved without changing the author's intent, please edit it or suggest an edit.
  • If you like a post, show your appreciation by voting it up.
  • If you disagree with an answer or a question remains unclear, feel free to down-vote it.
  • If you have a better answer to a question, please leave your own answer instead of writing a comment.

Yoda over on Gardening.SE provided a great guide on when to use comments, and created this awesome chart:

How to use comments: a flow chart


Update

The issue of how to improve the purpose of comments in the FAQ is being discussed on Meta Stack Overflow, as well.

share
    
Awesome chart. Perhaps something similar could be adapted for the P.SE faq. –  Morgan Herlocker Sep 8 '11 at 16:51

If the policy is that the comments will be deleted after the conclusions made in them have been implemented in the answer, there should be a notice of warning and some leeway time given to the participants (and expecially the original author which will in most probability implement those conclusions) before comments are mass deleted.

12-24 hours, or perhaps two days (to account for weekends and for users who only visit these forums from work and not from home) seems reasonable.

share

You must log in to answer this question.