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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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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
@AaronBertrand: clutter –  inspectorG4dget Nov 25 '12 at 3:48
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
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
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

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 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

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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