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I would like to know why the following question was locked: Ajax.ActionLink in MVC3 Not Working

I was trying to gather more feedback from the user to understand the behavior described in his question before answering and casperOne came from I don't know where and locked the question saying that we should go chattering around.

My questions are:

  • Why did this happen?
  • Is it how SO is supposed to be used?
  • Since when can the comments section no longer be used to ask for clarifications about a question?
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Well, arguably chat is a better place for extended discussion. I don't know how far the discussion went of course. (d'oh, of course I can see how far it went... in all honesty, to me that looks like a good time to take it to chat) –  Bart Aug 23 '12 at 13:27
    
Well the discussion couldn't end because the question was closed. So it didn't get very far and I couldn't help the user. –  Darin Dimitrov Aug 23 '12 at 13:27
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The question was not closed. It was merely locked for an hour. –  ThiefMaster Aug 23 '12 at 13:28
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"FFS can anyone spell my screen name correctly?" - @casperOne That seems a bit antagonistic, considering this is a post regarding your moderation activities. I personally think you should try and be more civil than that. Just my two cents. –  jadarnel27 Aug 24 '12 at 5:34
    
comments section makes it look like a classic example of “chameleon questions” ...Later, he leaves a comment saying that yes, that was indeed the problem and your answer helped him fix it *(great!)*. Oh, but, now there's another problem *(uh-oh...)*. Something else is broken. After letting out a long sigh, you read the comment and/or edited question, roll up your sleeves, and write up Take 2, hoping that's the end of it. And of *course* it's not the end. Now maybe the error is gone, but it's not doing what it's supposed to... –  gnat Aug 24 '12 at 9:31
    
@jadarnel27 That was meant in humor, when the thread was not as contentious as it was (see the timestamps). It's a play on the fact that pretty much everyone gets it wrong. –  casperOne Aug 24 '12 at 11:19
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I think it could be argued that the thread was contentious from the start, given the tone of the question as it was when you made that revision note, @casperOne. Darin was obviously already irked by the situation. Oh, and I got the reference about your name being misspelled. I've noticed that as well. –  jadarnel27 Aug 24 '12 at 13:17
    
@jadarnel27 Possibly, regardless, the edit was not made to exacerbate a situation on meta (that's not helpful to anyone, is it?) That said, that question would be avoided simply by putting a smiley face or some such thing in there, which will probably be seen in the future. –  casperOne Aug 24 '12 at 13:22
    
@casperOne of course that's not helpful to anyone, I hope I didn't imply I thought it was. For the record, I didn't think the comment was intended to cause trouble, I was just pointing out how it could very easily be interpreted. Smiley face sounds like a good idea, you jerk =) –  jadarnel27 Aug 24 '12 at 15:01
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@jadarnel27 Man, the lights sure do shine bright on you when you have a diamond. –  casperOne Aug 24 '12 at 15:02
    
Indeed, @casperOne. Just imagine how celebrities and politicians feel! –  jadarnel27 Aug 24 '12 at 15:18

4 Answers 4

up vote 21 down vote accepted

I am somewhat sympathetic to casper's argument here - the system does generate a moderator flag for discussions that garner over 20 comments in a day, and it would be preferable to see the author responding with edits that clarified rather than responses in comments.

But this is killing a gnat with a frying pan, and not the intended use for the lock feature:

OFF-topic comment lock UI

That lock, as is clearly stated in the text, is clearly intended to be used when comments have gone off the rails, are no longer relevant to the post and are becoming a distraction to those actually trying to answer or read answers to the question.

On-topic comments that are legitimately geared toward building a clear question or useful answer are perfectly appropriate, provided the result does get edited back into the post. As long as participants are being civil, helpful, and focused on the topic at hand, it's safe to just dismiss the auto-flag and move on.

The question is now unlocked - thanks for bringing this up here.

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2  
Good job Shoggifer. –  GEOCHET Aug 23 '12 at 15:22
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Killing a gnat? Poor gnat! –  Andrew Barber Aug 23 '12 at 15:26
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my final countdown: 10, 9, 8, 7, ... –  gnat Aug 23 '12 at 15:28
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@Shog9 It'd be great to have the ability to convert comments to an edit (of the question/answer) as a moderator. Right now I'm stuck with copy/paste if I feel like the comments have grown too large to be followable and should be purged, but don't want to lose good information. –  George Stocker Aug 23 '12 at 15:30
    
Toss it up, @George –  Shog9 Aug 23 '12 at 15:31
    
Is locking appropriate for when a question that would... arouse... people ends up arousing debates about feminism and human rights in the comments? Because that's what I locked a recent question for, and got shot down for it anyway because it locked answers/edits/votes as well. It was the only way I knew how to shut people up before things got really ugly though. Why doesn't it just prevent comments? –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Aug 23 '12 at 15:32
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@BoltClock: Are you saying such an argument was in progress? Or simply a potential future? Because I would suggest editing to preempt the latter. –  Shog9 Aug 23 '12 at 15:33
    
@Shog9: It had just started. Perhaps I should have locked the question for content disputes instead, as the OP would insist on rolling back any edits that were made to prevent such a discussion from going on. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Aug 23 '12 at 15:35
    
@shog9 Done: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/144646/… –  George Stocker Aug 23 '12 at 15:45
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Agreed with this. If I want to do a bit of one-on-one debugging with the OP, let me. You can always wipe the comments afterwards. –  Pëkka Aug 23 '12 at 16:58
    
@Pekka The problem is that sometimes those comments have information the OP never put into the question (or the answerer never put into their answer). –  George Stocker Aug 23 '12 at 17:11
    
@GeorgeStocker Directing that information into a chat room instead isn't an improvement, though. –  Anna Lear Aug 24 '12 at 1:30
    
@AnnaLear I agree. Where did I suggest that? –  George Stocker Aug 24 '12 at 1:38
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@GeorgeStocker You didn't, but I figured it could come off as implied given what prompted this post, so I just wanted to clarify. :) –  Anna Lear Aug 24 '12 at 1:47
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@AnnaLear Until Chat comments become first class citizens with the post they're talking about, I don't believe I'd ever suggest having anything serious done in chat related to a post. –  George Stocker Aug 24 '12 at 2:42

I locked it for a little bit. Basically, the comments were turning into an interactive debug session/extended discussion, which is not what the comments are to be used for (admittedly, most of it is from the OP, who's ODing a little with the comments).

Seeing that all the participants had enough reputation, I notified them (here and here) that they should take it to chat and locked the question to prevent further extended discussion.

The lock will expire in less than an hour. Please don't wait until that time is up to resume using the comments section for extended discussion.

Responding to the specific question of:

Since when can the comments section no longer be used to ask for clarifications about a question?

The comments can absolutely be used for that. However, when in the course of clarifying a question, it becomes an extended discussion (which is what happened here), then the comments are no longer effective in achieving the first goal. This is when comments should be stopped and moved in to chat, or the question be updated and comments removed.

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@dystroy OD –  casperOne Aug 23 '12 at 13:57
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@DarinDimitrov That was the point of the lock, you shouldn't be posting any more comments at all if it's an extended discussion. You can create a chat room and invite the OP without having to use a comment. –  casperOne Aug 23 '12 at 14:06
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While I agree that lengthy comment discussions aren't ideal, locking also prevents answers - this completely fails the "encourage correct behavior" test. Please don't use locks to shut down comments unless they're getting ugly. –  Shog9 Aug 23 '12 at 14:09
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@Shog9 Then implement the tool to move comments to chat already so things like this don't happen. Comments are not to be used for extended discussion on the main site. I make do with the tools I'm given. –  casperOne Aug 23 '12 at 14:13
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@Shog9 - or add a "prevent comments" lock. –  ChrisF Aug 23 '12 at 14:17
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@casper: if there was such a tool and it was used to ship off comments clarifying the question, then that would be straight-up abuse: the goal here is to improve the question, and provide answers - on the site - not enrich a chatroom that will in all probability be deleted for low activity a few weeks later, thus leaving an unclear, unanswered question on the site with no evidence that the author or anyone else ever even tried. Tangential comments? Off-topic comments? Discussions about the NY Mets? Sure, ship 'em out. But relevant information should stay on the site. –  Shog9 Aug 23 '12 at 14:18
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@Shog9 There's a bigger issue here, people take comments and then don't update the question/answer. Don't ship them off the site? Ok, got that, but you need to find a better way to have people actually get quality into the questions and answers than to have 20+ comments. People coming to the site and seeing that through the first time is not an optimal experience. Either that, or get rid of Community's flag on the matter completely, as it's more often than not noise and just gets in the way of moderation. –  casperOne Aug 23 '12 at 14:21
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@casperOne, you call preventing people from answering a valid question an abuse? I guess we have different definitions of this word then. –  Darin Dimitrov Aug 23 '12 at 14:28
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@DarinDimitrov To be clear, the OP mainly, was abusing the comment feature to have an extended discussion. Perhaps the better solution here is to close the question as NARQ; if it needs that much clarification, then it fits the definition of vague and there's no way to answer the question anyways. Once the question is updated from the comments (which you could still do when it's closed), you can flag for reopening. –  casperOne Aug 23 '12 at 14:32
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@casperOne, in the computer science some problems might require more analysis and details before being able to be solved. You should realize that not everybody is capable of asking the perfect question out-of-the-box that could be answered without any clarification. Lots of OPs on SO simply don't put enough efforts in their questions or simply lack the experience in how to describe or debug the problem. That's why SO exists => so that other people could help them. –  Darin Dimitrov Aug 23 '12 at 14:34
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To tell you that you prevented me to help the OP and that I completely disagree with your action and I question your moderation skill in this particular scenario. That's my opinion only. With my question on meta I wanted to gather what other people think about it. –  Darin Dimitrov Aug 23 '12 at 14:37
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Then I guess that we are getting into a dead end here. Since you are the mod, feel free to lock/delete/whatever you want with my question as apparently we won't get into an agreement and prevent it from gathering more than 20 comments which apparently is your definition of an extended discussion. –  Darin Dimitrov Aug 23 '12 at 14:47
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casperOne: You have grown into a petty and abusive moderator. Just show a little shame and humility and apologize for clearly violating the main tenant of this site: "Get good, fast answers to questions", and then reconsider your use of your moderator powers in the future. You don't need to make this your hill to die upon. –  GEOCHET Aug 23 '12 at 15:03
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I feel like this should be taken to chat. ::ducks::. –  George Stocker Aug 23 '12 at 15:05
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Now this is a comment thread that needs a bit of a break... –  Anna Lear Aug 23 '12 at 15:19

Because there was a lot recorded in the comments that are worth answers (and just in case they get purged because there is a bit of hot air being blown in them), I'm recording both sides' argument in an answer:

In support of locking questions

  • Once clarifying comments are made, those are very often not reflected in the question or the answer, resulting in the need to keep the comments around.
  • Comments are hard to follow for an outside googler. They represent the same problem people have with forums (where the heck is the answer). This is closely related to the previous point.
  • Comments suck for discussions. One or two clarifying remarks are ok, but when you get past 20 (I argue 10), it becomes a PITA to follow what's going on).

In support of less regulated comments

  • With users new to the site, they have a hard time putting all the information we need to solve their problem. Since they don't know any better, they post comments when someone posts a comment asking them to clarify something.
  • Chat rooms get deleted, and without knowing the transcript URL, it's hard to find all the stuff that was talked about.
  • Relevant information should stay on the site.
  • Locking a question, even for an hour, discourages answers, views, and ultimately may drive the asker away because he has no idea why the question is locked, and may not know to go to meta to discuss it.

Solution

Moderators should have the ability to convert comments to edits of either the question or the answer much like they have the ability to convert answers to edit. I hope the system could be made smart enough to have a default place to put the comment (if it's the asker, make it an edit on the question, if it's an answerer, make it an edit on their answer).

I've made this a feature request.

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Questions on Stack Exchange sites are not for a continuous feedback between the OP, and the users who answer the question, or would answer the question: The OP ask the question, and users answer. If the question doesn't contain enough information, users will ask in a comment what they need to know to answer the question. At this point, once the necessary information is given, the OP should not ask questions to who asked more information.

The continuous feedback between who asks a question, and who replies is typical of forums, which don't have a strict Q&A format; as a matter of fact, there isn't a distinction between comments, and answers, in a forum.

Probably a lock in this case is too much, but it avoided somebody would answer the question without reading all the information the OP provided in the various comments s/he wrote.
The bad of the lock is that, when it expires, nothing is changed: The information provided in comment is still only in comments. If somebody would answer the question after the lock expired, s/he would need to read all the comments to be sure s/he didn't miss any important information.
It would be good if there were a lock that doesn't permit to add new answers, or new comments, but allows the OP to edit her/his question to add the information given in comments.

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