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Comments annoy me, a lot, and I think more often than not they are a waste of everyone's time. Let's put a stop to all the pointless extensive conversations by putting a limit to the comments a user may post per post. I'm thinking 4 comments per user is a sensible limit, and a limit I've never seen surpassed in useful comment discussions, but I'm open to a slightly larger limit.

So, to make this a bit more concrete:

  • 4 comments per user per post,
  • Deleting your own comments should grant you additional comments,
  • Moderators should be exempt or have a larger limit (because we are awesome),
  • When you reach the limit, the comment box should be replaced with a note to take the conversation to chat.

Benefits:

  • Most people would probably think twice before posting useless comments, and if not they'll at least have to clean up after themselves if they wish to post a useful comment.
  • A good enough way to stop pointless comment discussions,
  • Yet another incentive to move extensive discussions to chat.

Nice to have:

  • A larger limit (something like 20) per thread (question and all its answers),
  • Limits could be slightly increased per reputation (not to say that higher rep users don't often abuse comments).
  • Larger limits on Metas.
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I don't see this limit hindering users from writing a lot of comments especially with the "Deleting your own comments should grant you additional comments" part. There are a lot of "broken" comment flows as it is due to deleted comments. This will just make this more prevalent. We may get a lot more sensible discussion through the comments, but I also foresee a lot more nonsensical discussions from users trying to bypass this limit by deleting older comments. –  rikitikitik Apr 13 '12 at 8:22
    
@rikitikitik Valid point. I'd counter it by arguing that comment threads are naturally broken, and even if there's a useful conversation going on, more often than not a user will spoil it for everyone by injecting a couple of crap comments in it. But I'm open to removing the "Deleting your own comments should grant you additional comments" part from the request. –  Yannis Apr 13 '12 at 8:36
    
Then it's more the user submitting crap content than the number of comments, no? Four crap comments may be less than 20 crap comments, but they are all still crap ;) –  rikitikitik Apr 13 '12 at 9:28
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I'll be honest, I'm pretty harshly critical of content (and really all things), but I simply can't agree with your sentiment that the majority of comments are a waste of everyone's time. I read a lot of comments that I find very interesting, useful, or informative. And there's at least some value in comments that are left purely for humour. Plus, if you don't want to read comments, then don't. No one is making you. –  Cody Gray Apr 13 '12 at 16:13
    
@TheEstablishment "No one is making you." Not entirely true, I kinda have to read at least some comments (the ones flagged on ProgSE). –  Yannis Apr 13 '12 at 16:14
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<snark> Diamonds are opt-in. –  Cody Gray Apr 13 '12 at 16:17
    
@TheEstablishment Can't argue that. –  Yannis Apr 13 '12 at 16:18
    
I found this because I had the same idea, but have posted a more nuanced version in response to the issues this raised: Would limiting the number of consecutive comments per conversation encourage more focused commenting patterns? –  Caleb Feb 12 at 17:00

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There is already the automatic suggestion to take the discussion to chat if there is an extended conversation between two users going on in the comments. I think this was planned to also stop the users from commmenting if this feature works well, I don't know if this has been implemented yet. So this part is alreay at least partially implemented.

The one other case where I think a hard limit would be beneficial in some cases is multiple consecutive comments that aren't replies to different users. A few special users tend to write long essays in multiple consecutive comments, which can get annoying if they do it on your question. I'd support limiting the number of consecutive comments in such situations.

For anything else I think the automatic 20 comments flag is sufficient. I don't feel comfortable with using too many automatic measures here, they might backfire in interesting ways. For example, I'd imagine being forced to delete earlier comments to be able to comment further will just make the whole comment thread completely unreadable in many cases. Pruning a comment thread without losing too much context is pretty difficult, and usually not achievable if you can only delete comments from one user.

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There is a soft limit already - and you will be prompted to take the conversation to chat once over that limit.

And mods get notified if comment discussion gets too long, so we can start to cull.

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I know ;) The proposal is for additional limits. –  Yannis Apr 13 '12 at 8:08

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