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It's happened many times that I have to shorten a URL (using bit.ly, etc) or my comment so that it fits the 600 character limit for comments. This is especially annoying when I have a 2-sentence comment with a really large link, causing my comment to be too long.

Does this justify not counting URLs when calculating a comment's character limit and dis/allowing it to be posted?

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marked as duplicate by Martijn Pieters, ProgramFOX, Scimonster, inspectorG4dget, ChrisF Feb 19 at 11:52

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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What's wrong with adding two comments? –  Aaron Bertrand Nov 25 '12 at 3:48
    
It's not that hard, except you have to wait 15 seconds. –  Aaron Bertrand Nov 25 '12 at 3:48
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@AaronBertrand: clutter –  inspectorG4dget Nov 25 '12 at 3:48
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I would say a 600-character comment is clutter whether it is technically in one comment or two. If you have that much to say, perhaps it shouldn't be a comment. Especially since comments are not the elements the site owners have any interest in promoting. –  Aaron Bertrand Nov 25 '12 at 3:49
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Fair point. But then could we rep-limit it - "You need at least X rep in order to post comments with URLs not counting toward the character count" ? –  inspectorG4dget Nov 25 '12 at 4:08
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That seems unnecessarily complex - now the database column has to account for URLs and reputation? How many 600+ character comments are you really trying to post? They're not supposed to represent a masters' thesis. I think you are missing the point of comments... –  Aaron Bertrand Nov 25 '12 at 4:09
    
PS can you show some examples where you've had to do this "many times"? Is it on a site other than SO? I looked through your last 200 comments and didn't see a single shortened link. –  Aaron Bertrand Nov 25 '12 at 4:16
    
@AaronBertrand: I get your point. I can't come up with an example off the top of my head. This post was a lingering thought from a while back, so I can't think of an example off the top of my head –  inspectorG4dget Nov 25 '12 at 4:37
    
I just realized that it's important to mention that I'm talking about using URLs in markdown like so: [anchor text](URL), and not just pasting them in the comment –  inspectorG4dget Nov 25 '12 at 4:50
    
@Jeff It's cut off after a few characters, though. –  DJDavid98 Feb 2 at 13:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I really doubt that they can easily implement something where only URLs are forgiven when counting toward the 600-character limit. Think about it: comments are stored in a database column. Should they bump up the size just to account for a few long comments with URLs, while still limiting everyone who doesn't use URLs to 600 characters?

I'm not sure what the problem is with using a URL shortener, except that it's not convenient for you. (Comments are meant to be transient, so they shouldn't be expected to outlive any of the URL shortening services anyway, if that's your concern.)

And I'm certain you can find other ways to reduce "clutter" in a 600-character comment, if you're really that opposed to using two comments. You can either be more succinct, or post an answer instead of a comment.

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I just realized that it's important to mention that I'm talking about using URLs in markdown like so: [anchor text](URL), and not just pasting them in the comment –  inspectorG4dget Nov 25 '12 at 4:51
    
@Aaron: link shorteners are almost universally blocked at two of my places of employment (for good reason too, they don't serve a constructive purpose for non-mobile devices). –  user7116 Nov 25 '12 at 15:34
    
@sixlettervariables your workplace actively blocks every link shortener on earth? Sorry but that seems short-sighted (no pun intended). Do they also block twitter, facebook and all other social media? Twitter is a place where URL shorteners are quite useful regardless of what type of device or computer you are using. 140 characters is still 140 characters. –  Aaron Bertrand Nov 25 '12 at 15:44
    
@AaronBertrand: twitter? Yes-ish (search is blocked). Facebook? Yes. Social Media? Yes. Link shorteners? Yes. Image hosting sites? Most (I got the SE imgur CDN whitelisted). Welcome to corporate and medical America. –  user7116 Nov 26 '12 at 0:49
    
@AaronBertrand - I know too little of big data to understand the point (I guess, you might correctly make) about the cost and troubles coupled with expanding of the database columns. --- On the other hand, I think, from the viewpoint of the non-changing final readability and compactness of design and thus (at least in that sense) the unjust punishment of the end-user (who just happens to link to a long URL), ought to be avoided. --- My comment is also meant especially for [anchor text](URL)'s, as is inspectorG4dget's comment above. –  Vincent Verheyen Feb 1 at 20:29
    
As for the URL shorteners, I just have the (maybe ungrounded) fear that they will expire at some time + if a given URL changes over time, the heuristic work to find back data (e.g. using data from Wayback Machine, would be made more difficult? --- Are my reasons to think this justified? –  Vincent Verheyen Feb 1 at 20:33
    
@Vincent again, it shouldn't matter. Comments aren't meant to be permanent. If you fear your comment will outlive a service like bit.ly, then post an answer instead. –  Aaron Bertrand Feb 1 at 20:34

I'd argue two things:

  • that's the exact niche role that URL shorteners should fill, and
  • a comment should generally be terse.

You're not looking to start an enlightened discussion on the question, but poke and prod about what the subject matter is/ask for clarification. 600 characters can be a bit much for that, in some cases, but it strikes a balance between long, non-shortened URLs and requests for clarification on the question.

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I agree with OP that (if technically and financially feasable) characters from [anchor text] shouldn't be counted when using [anchor text](URL), in regard to the 600-chars limit. But I can imagine money and resources might be an issue.

URL shorteners

I have the (maybe ungrounded) fear that they will expire at some time. Further more, if a given URL changes over time, the heuristic work to find back data (e.g. using data from Wayback Machine would possibly be made more difficult. I can imagine other automatic or manual retrieval/linking/archival issues can arise (e.g. automatic: regarding recursive link retrieval depth)?

Wikipedia offers several examples of URL shortenings' shortcomigs, such as linkrot and an additional layer of complexity (additional HTTP requests and DNS lookups) increasing latency. A change in service of the shortURL's provider such as intervenient ads, may also give unwanted behavior.

Big data issue?

@Aaron Bertrand - I know too little of big data to understand the point (I guess, you might correctly make) about the cost and troubles coupled with expanding of the database columns.

Nothing changes in end-user's design

On the other hand, I think, from the viewpoint of the non-changing final readability and compactness of design and thus (at least in that sense) the unjust punishment of the end-user (who just happens to link to a long URL), ought to be avoided.

Decaying of the comments

The decaying of the comments can be relevant to this question, as URL-shorteners are (in the answers above) thought of as the best way to circumvent the problem at stake; that is when the comments would stay transient → then the URL-shortening services are thought not to change too dramatically or expire before the comments (however, I can imagine URL shorteners can certain technical difficulties for crawlers and the like; see URL shorteners in this answer).

I wasn't aware of their decaying (cf. Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer.). My first reaction is that this ought to be perceived as an intellectual loss (although I can agree, this is currently perhaps a technical facility in some regards); certainly when perhaps in the future, data storage and serving would become much more efficient and cheaper. Comments, even erratic ones, provide valuable context and enriching discussion. Some voices say an option to make them permanent should be added. If for some design reason; one would like to hide comments; this can still be done, whilst saving those comments.

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