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Some questions tend to gain a LOT of comments on them, needing to separate follows-up on questions from general comments like "doesn't work for me either."

Unfortunately, the way those comments are hidden means that you could quite easily miss important ones (like follow-up questions) if they weren't up-voted.

One way to alleviate this is to separate out questions about the original post from regular comments on the post.

For example, we have the answer area just below the question. Why not add tabbing to it such that one tab has "answers" and a second tab has "questions for the OP"?

This would solve the second problem where the amount of space available for comments can be restrictive for complicated talk back to the OP.

For example, consider the following question: Can we swap two numbers in C or C++ without passing pointers or references to the swap function?

There are several actual questions to the OP in the comments section. There are also several comments that quite frankly aren't questions to the OP and may, or may not, have value.

Regardless of the value of those ancillary comments, I'd really like to see the actual "questions to the op" separated out.

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Would "questions for the OP" show the comments directed to the OP? I'd hate that. (And how would the system know if comments without a @mention are directed to the OP or not?) –  Arjan Dec 15 '11 at 20:52
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Comments that don't add anything useful (i.e. all the "me too" comments) should be purged as soon as possible to make sure they don't push more useful commentary out of the away. –  Anna Lear Dec 15 '11 at 20:54
    
@Arjan: I'm not asking for the system to make a determination between questions for the OP versus regular comments to the OP. That doesn't seem feasible... Also, fixed the title –  Chris Lively Dec 15 '11 at 20:56
    
@AnnaLear: True.. see update –  Chris Lively Dec 15 '11 at 20:57
    
Okay, an example: would this very comment be considered to be directed to you, or not? (And as you're now even using "questions to the OP" in the title, you've got me quite confused about what you want...) –  Arjan Dec 15 '11 at 20:59
    
@Arjan: It doesn't matter if it's directed to me or not. It's a matter of if your "comment" is really a question trying to clarify things. In this case, yes yours is. However, the comment by AnnaLear here is obviously NOT a question but rather a statement on her feelings on a somewhat related topic. This doesn't mean AnnaLear's comment should be deleted, but rather that your questions to me should be separated out from her statements –  Chris Lively Dec 15 '11 at 21:04
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Okay, I dare you to write some detection mechanism for that then! (Really, how could that ever be done?) –  Arjan Dec 15 '11 at 21:06
    
@Arjan: again, I'm not asking for the system to do it. I'm just asking for the site to have a place for both to allow us to pick. –  Chris Lively Dec 15 '11 at 21:07
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I have been using the system for a long time now, and I've never felt any need for something like this. I think comments work just fine, and starting to separate them by intention feels like an unnecessary complication to me. –  Pëkka Dec 15 '11 at 21:07
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Ah, I finally get it. You want users to be able to post comments on either a "regular comments" tab, or on a more specific "questions to the OP" tab! (And the user needs to select the tab.) –  Arjan Dec 15 '11 at 21:10
    
@Arjan: Exactly. –  Chris Lively Dec 15 '11 at 21:10
    
+1 because it would be nice if these comments carried more weight (notification bar instead of inbox, or both?) and were purged soon after the OP views them through some kind of automatic means. Doubt it will happen; no idea how that would be implemented cleanly. –  Won't Dec 15 '11 at 21:37
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2 Answers 2

I'm just asking for the site to have a place for both to allow us to pick.

Ah, now I get it, too. Hmmmmm. I agree that this would be nice because there are plenty of conversations that have no long-term value, but like many commenters, I can't see a clean implementation for this. If you introduce two tabs, the one that is visible first will always win out, and get all the comments because everyone wants their comment to live. I don't see how asking the commenter to classify their comment as "worthy" or "worthless" is going to work.

There are some conceivable slight variations of the idea - e.g., a "shoutbox" whose contents will be purged after 24 hours, underneath the regular comments. Or "temporary" comments that are specially marked (like with an hourglass or something) and removed after 24 hours.

But I fear that both ideas would add more clutter than they would save.

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This reminds me of the discussion/brainstorming under my old kinda-sorta-related post How can we improve commenting on the Stack Exchange network? –  Pops Dec 15 '11 at 22:47
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To achieve cleaner comments, which this seems to be what the question is after, some ideas:

  • Next to comment entry textarea, add checkbox "request @-mentioned users to delete". When enabled, display the delete icon always next to comment to make this noticeable. Then once comment is read, and perhaps acted upon, it can be deleted by recipient (OP if nobody mentioned).

  • For OP, commenter and/or @-mentioned users, add "hide comment" option, which would make the comment always hidden (displayed with the "show all comments" link as usual), no matter the upvotes and number of total comments. Current comment upvote mechanism should work better in bringing genuinely useful comments to the top after this.

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