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So I believe the mods over at SO are getting a bit trigger happy. This has happened before, but a comment I left in this thread was deleted a bit ago, and that spurred this thread here. The comment I left was:

The best way would be to stop using your form as a static, global data store.

No, that was not a direct answer to the question, which is why I left it as a comment. It was upvoted multiple times and, I believe, this is in fact the best answer to the question. Sometimes we don't get the answer we want because we have not considered all of the alternatives. The best answer is not always a direct answer to your specific question.

This is not the most egregiousness example (IMO of course), simply the most recent. I witnessed multiple comments deleted previously (some of them mine) which detailed a disagreement on the technical merits of the question being asked.

It was another case of not answering the question directly because the question itself was flawed. The OP did not realize that there were better alternatives. The ensuing conversation that took place in the comments had technical merit and proposed a better alternative to the OP's proposed course of action. The mods at SO however did not seem to like them, so they were deleted.

I wonder what the comments section is actually for. If it is not to have a meta-discussion of the question and/or response, what purpose does it have? This revisionist's history form of moderation is unnecessary and in some cases removes valuable information. There was no name calling in either of the two examples I listed here. No attacks, just suggestions.

I don't get it and I think it is making the community worse. It's also inconsistent as I see many similar comments which are not deleted. Of course the mods can't moderate every single thread, but how was this a violation of the rules? If they're just going to cherry-pick a similar comment every so often how is that making the community better?

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That's not a helpful comment. The OP most likely had no idea what it meant and you offered no alternative or instructions on how to do what you mention. –  ThinkingStiff Jul 17 '12 at 2:02
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@ThinkingStiff: Then they should ask. I believe that the OP probably could guess what a "global, static data store is". So the rule is that a comment must be helpful? Where is that written exactly? Communities that jump the gun to close/delete threads/comments are not fun to be a part of and don't last long. Believe me, I am a mod on a few other (granted, smaller) programming forums. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:03
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In essence your comment just said, "You're doing it wrong, idiot." –  ThinkingStiff Jul 17 '12 at 2:04
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Haha and -1 to the question eh? You guys are ridiculous. You realize this is actually a problem, right? So much so that it has been brought up time and time again on HN. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:05
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@ThinkingStiff: Perhaps, if you're the over-sensitive type. If you can drop the "don't be mean to me!" attitude you may learn something. I can see how this one in particular could be taken that way though. However, I was involved in a string of comments that were deleted (as I mentioned) which were all substance, discussing the technical merits of a proposal by the OP. I wish I could find the topic now, but it's been too long. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:05
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(1) A down-vote here means disagreement with your idea, not the same thing as it does out on the main site. (2) Have you considered that in some cases your comments might have been removed due to be being flagged by other community members, as opposed to the whim of a spiteful mod (or a conspiracy) intent on destroying communication on SO? (3) As @JeffAtwood mentioned here, comments are often cleaned up, especially when they devolve into disagreements. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 17 '12 at 2:07
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@AaronBertrand: That's true about the downvote I suppose (I don't come here often). If someone flagged that then I don't know what to say really... those kind of people are the reason why everyone feels such a need to be "PC", and it's garbage. I don't think the mods are spiteful; I think they are doing what they think is right. They think they are keeping threads clean. I think they are hampering useful discussion. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:09
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If you're leaving unhelpful comments, you shouldn't be leaving comments –  random Jul 17 '12 at 2:12
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What @Zipper did in his answer was more useful. He mentioned the perils of global variables in a polite way, and then went on to answer the question. –  ThinkingStiff Jul 17 '12 at 2:12
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Many comments are automatically deleted after they receive three flags. Some comments are automatically deleted by a single flag. Don't be so sure the mods are doing the deleting. –  senderle Jul 17 '12 at 2:12
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@random: You guys (and many members) are just becoming overly rigid in my opinion. So much so that there is debate about it on other, highly popular programming communities. Few people want to frequent a place where discussion is frowned upon and mods make questionable calls about deleting content. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:15
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@simchona: Not sure what attitude you're referring to. I am direct, and many people take that as rude or mean. I don't really care, they're typically people I want nothing to do with anyway. There were no ad hominem attacks there (or here), so I fail to see what the problem is. Is being direct a bad thing? I don't agree that every response/comment needs to be sugarcoated to avoid potentially hurting someone's feelings. Won't get that sort of treatment in the real world, and is that really a valid reason to delete something? –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:23
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Comments are ephemeral and should be deleted at random to encourage this understanding. –  user7116 Jul 17 '12 at 2:23
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You asked if there was a rule that comments should be helpful. That should be a given. And many comments that have been fleshed out ors subsumed into answers are often flagged and removed under obsolescence –  random Jul 17 '12 at 3:12
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Well that's a bad idea –  random Jul 17 '12 at 4:14
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2 Answers 2

I wonder what the comments section is actually for. If it is not to have a meta-discussion of the question and/or response, what purpose does it have?

The answer can be found here: http://stackoverflow.com/privileges/comment

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer. They can be up-voted (but not down-voted) and flagged, but do not generate reputation. There's no revision history, and when they are deleted they're gone for good.

...

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

There's nothing wrong with offering advice to the author in the form of a comment, but please - be constructive when doing so! And if possible, skip commenting altogether, and leave an actual answer in this situation. As ThinkingStiff noted,

What @Zipper did in his answer was more useful. He mentioned the perils of global variables in a polite way, and then went on to answer the question.

(emphasis mine)

Not only was answering in this way potentially more helpful to the asker, it effectively rendered your comment redundant! So when it was flagged (as "not constructive"), no reason remained for the moderator responding not to remove it.

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Yes, I agree that it would be better to expand upon my comment or leave an answer, but I got distracted and zipper answered, so I didn't. I was using that comment as an example, but perhaps it was not the best and perhaps I could have worded my question a bit differently. My main concern is that, over time, I am seeing more questionable closures and more deletions of topics and comments thank I used to. One cannot always predict what will be useful to someone down the road. I realize there are guidelines, but I think that people should err on the side of leaving content rather than deletion –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:49
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@Ed: well, I don't disagree with that... But in this particular instance, you have to remember that comments have been pushed as disposable, temporarily, second-class citizens for years now - the design of the system makes deletion easy, and heavily discourages putting anything of long-term importance there. That's not to say they should be deleted casually - but when in doubt, say it in an answer. –  Shog9 Jul 17 '12 at 2:56
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@EdS. FYI, I think Shog9 responded to your question more directly (and covers the situation more thoroughly) so I self-deleted my answer. –  jadarnel27 Jul 17 '12 at 3:02
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@jadarnel27: ...don't delete your answer! :D I think you're right in general, but I also think there was some value in the comments section, and in your answer itself. I suppose this is really my fundamental issue. I can totally understand deleting spam/*completely* off topic responses, offensive material, etc., but I don't think deletion of alternate responses is a good thing. If Shog's answer was better then fine; let the voters decide what floats to the top. I have on numerous occassions found the most helpful response (for me) to be a few responses down in the list. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 3:05
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I can understand wanting to be direct, but directness is not an excuse to be rude. See Jeff's answer on Etiquette for posting civil and informative comments. He shows how to be direct, but not rude. Criticizing the OP's approach without clearly providing an alternative is just noise. It doesn't help the OP; it doesn't help anyone.

Comments on Stack Overflow are frequently deleted (by user flags and moderators). Try not to take it personally when they are deleted. And make sure to keep useful content in the questions / answers - which are much less likely to be deleted in this "trigger happy" fashion.

Finally, these are some of your comments from above (as I saw them coming in):

  • "Perhaps, if you're the over-sensitive type. If you can drop the "don't be mean to me!" attitude you may learn something."
  • "Haha and -1 to the question eh? You guys are ridiculous. You realize this is actually a problem, right?"
  • "And seriously if you guys are offended by that comment I couldn't stand being around you in real life anyway, so I'll just use the site less. Yeesh, such sensitive little snowflakes..."
  • "Not sure what attitude you're referring to. I am direct, and many people take that as rude or mean. I don't really care, they're typically people I want nothing to do with anyway."

I think these pretty much speak for themselves. If that's how you interact with people on the main site, I'm not surprised that your comments get deleted; they are rude.

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Thank you for responding to what I wrote here and to nothing that I actually mentioned in my thread. I actually deleted two of the things that you quoted because I know they were rude and I wrote it without thinking it through. If I have to say it one more time I will; the content, i.e., the actual comment I left, was helpful, evevn if you don't like the tone. The OP is writing code that will be hard to maintain someday. I didn't list out specifics, but again, does everything need to be spelled out? –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:32
    
And this one I stand behind 100% - "Not sure what attitude you're referring to. I am direct, and many people take that as rude or mean. I don't really care, they're typically people I want nothing to do with anyway." I want nothing to do with people who are offended at the drop of a hat. These kind of people are useless in almost every regard, I do not mind offending them. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:33
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"Thank you for responding to what I wrote here and to nothing that I actually mentioned in my thread." Do you see why people are responding to your comments rather than your question? –  simchona Jul 17 '12 at 2:34
    
Ok one more comment... it's not about taking things personally. I didn't bother me on an emotional level that my comment was deleted. What bothers me is that SO is becoming too rigid in my opinion. I have been there since day 1 and things have changed. Discussion used to be encouraged, now it is slapped down from on high. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:34
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@EdS. My response to your specific complaint (the comment on SO) was this: "Criticizing the OP's approach without clearly providing an alternative is just noise. It doesn't help the OP; it doesn't help anyone." Stack Overflow is all about keep the noise to signal ratio in favor of the signal. –  jadarnel27 Jul 17 '12 at 2:34
    
@simchona: Nope. I posted an example for a reason. That's what I wanted feedback on. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:34
    
@EdS. I believe simchona is referring to the fact that your very first comment on my answer opens with blatant sarcasm. Also, calling any group of people (especially the one's you're possibly debating with) " useless in almost every regard" is incredibly rude. –  jadarnel27 Jul 17 '12 at 2:35
    
@EdS. The thing people are responding to right now is how rude you seem. And that's what people are saying about your comment in the question, even though Shog just said it was simply deleted as not constructive. –  simchona Jul 17 '12 at 2:36
    
You are deleting signal left and right. A thread was closed just the other day. It was asking about the pros and cons of storing binary image data in a DB and was framed (well I thought) for the use case of the OP. It was closed as "Not a real question" (what?) and others said that "there is no clear, single answer, so it doesn't fit SO". Rubbish. It may have helped someone someday, it certainly would have helped the OP, and it was closed. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:36
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@jadarnel27: Yes, it was meant to be. I mean really, why are so many of you so sensitive? You centered your response on things I said here and said little to nothing on the content of my question. Well, if that's how you're going to answer then prepare for some sarcasm –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:37
    
@EdS. Pros/cons are blatantly off topic now. While you may have "been here from the beginning", the scope of the site has changed. Not everything fits under the umbrella. If you have a constructive way of arguing that it should remain, or that "not constructive" isn't a valid close reason, then by all means post on Meta. But don't dismiss it as rubbish. –  simchona Jul 17 '12 at 2:37
    
@simchona: And that is exactly what I am talking about. Not all programming questions have a clear cut answer that suits all use cases. In reality, very few of them do outside of the basic, beginner level questions that dominate the board. If that is off topic now then the site is worse than it used to be, simple as that. It is rubbish. It pushes out what may be very helpful discussion, very helpful answers to non-trivial problems people encounter in the real world. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:39
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@EdS. Then you can accept it, argue for a broader scope, or make sarcastic remarks about it. Dismissing the site as "worse than it used to be" is not productive. –  simchona Jul 17 '12 at 2:40
    
@simchona: Of course it is useful. How is it not useful? I have argued for broader scope and I get the same sort of responses I am getting here. It is off topic because the FAQ says so. ALL hail the FAQ. Right. It is useful to get feedback from core users telling you that things are going downhill. Also, In case you haven't noticed, most programming problems are not a result of modifying and reading variables multiple times within a single sequence point. Real problems often involve shades of gray, pros and cons. –  Ed S. Jul 17 '12 at 2:42
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Ok guys - you're getting faaar off on a tangent now. @EdS., if you want to debate the merits of your other question, please post a separate discussion here on Meta. –  Shog9 Jul 17 '12 at 2:50
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