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I had posted comments on this answer http://stackoverflow.com/a/8900730/684229

These comments were related to the code, noting that it is dangerous to use this replacement - in case the object has been already initialized, the new code is not equivalent to the old one, so special check is needed. This warning definitely would be useful to other users. I proposed the improvement to the author of the post.

May I ask who deleted the comments and why?

PS: my opinion is that comments should be taken more seriously and not routinely deleted as "too much trash". Many times people put effort and time in them, bring useful notes and comments. The approach "everything should be in the post" contradicts many other recommendations here on meta (discuss changes first, etc.).

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There were 14 comments on that thread. Someone flagged the thread as something that needs to be purged and a moderator obliged them. I agree. –  Oded Nov 23 '13 at 13:22
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Also - comments are not supposed to be something that stays around forever. Comments can be deleted at any moment for any reason - if they are important enough, they should be rolled into the post they are commenting on. –  Oded Nov 23 '13 at 13:25
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@Oded, well, I can understand cleanup, but deleting everything, including relevant comments? –  Tomas Nov 23 '13 at 13:26
    
Yes. Moderators don't have time to sort the wheat from the chaff, and seeing the ephemeral nature of comments, it is much better use of their time to purge all the comments. I particular in a site as busy as Stack Overflow. –  Oded Nov 23 '13 at 13:27
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@Oded but we hammer into people that they shouldn't edit other people's code, and tell them to leave comments if they see something wrong. If the comment added important information, it arguably shouldn't have gone. –  Pëkka Nov 23 '13 at 13:27
    
Oded, in another place on META it was discussed that changes should be discussed first by the owner of the post!!! The comments were removed before they could be rolled into the post! –  Tomas Nov 23 '13 at 13:27
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@probablyPekka - Not disputing that, and I personally, will edit answers. I still don't quite get the community reaction to improving answers. –  Oded Nov 23 '13 at 13:28
    
@Tomas - The OP probably disagreed with your comments. You are always free to post your own answer. –  Oded Nov 23 '13 at 13:28
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"Moderators don't have time to sort the wheat from the chaff" - if they don't have the time, they should probably leave the thread.. –  Tomas Nov 23 '13 at 13:28
    
@Tomas - That's something that the moderator in question would need to consider. And, as someone who is not a moderator, I don't know that you can talk with authority on what moderators should and should not be doing. –  Oded Nov 23 '13 at 13:29
    
@Oded, and if he disaggreed, then the comment should have stayed and discussed by my opinion, not purely deleted. –  Tomas Nov 23 '13 at 13:30
    
In a perfect world, @Tomas, in a perfect world... –  Oded Nov 23 '13 at 13:31
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If moderators routinely react to flags by indiscriminately deleting all of them, then we have a problem. That wasn't my understanding of how comment cleanup works. –  Pëkka Nov 23 '13 at 13:32
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@Oded but what about an answer that is fundamentally the wrong approach. There's no point in editing that into something completely different - a comment, and a downvote, is the only way to go. Most OPs don't change their answers when it is pointed out it has a fundamental flaw. If we have to expect now that mods delete even comments that point out a flaw, things are broken –  Pëkka Nov 23 '13 at 13:34
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@Tomas I have restored your single comment, in addition to the one the author wrote saying your suggestion is outside of the scope of the answer. How long they remain .. who knows. But, it did show that a point many would have was discussed. I still suggest adding your own answer to the question if you feel it's really important. –  Tim Post Nov 23 '13 at 15:12

2 Answers 2

Comments are intended to be short ephemeral conversations that discuss the points of a parent post. They should not, under most circumstances, become lasting beacons alerting people to possible problems with the content of the parent post - because that would mean that the change was never made. That's an unsettled discussion lingering under an answer with no consensus - that's not useful.

In this case, the author of the post specifically said that he wasn't interested in incorporating your suggestions into his answer. At that point, your comments no longer served their designed purpose - the thing to have done is answer the question yourself where you could provide more clarity and explanation.

Once discussions look like they've served their purpose, and anything that is going to be changed in the parent post has been, they're subject to removal. That's what happened in this case, the conversation was clearly over - and there was little use in keeping it around.

Lasting information belongs in answers, and we're not going to relax that, we simply can't. Part of our appeal is our extremely high signal to noise ratio, and we can't lose that.

Per this specific conversation

I have restored your comment, and the author's single reply stating that your suggestion is outside of the scope of the answer. I did that because you're not going to be the only one to suggest that, and this at least leaves evidence that the conversation was raised, in an effort to avoid duplicating what just happened all over again.

I stand by my answer, though - anything that is important needs to be put in an answer, whether it's the one that you feel needs correcting or one that you write yourself.

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The author of the post stated that my change is "different problem" and refused to incorporate the suggestions. I respect his decision, but in that case, the added note (very much related to the topic) should have stayed at least as a comment. –  Tomas Nov 23 '13 at 14:38
    
@Tomas What I'm trying to explain is - comments aren't intended to become lasting beacons like that. The thing to have done is write your own answer, with what you felt was the correct information. The only reason we added a comment feature was to curtail the use of answers asking for clarification - they should be considered very temporary, they get automatically hidden when threads get long ... not the place to put something important :) –  Tim Post Nov 23 '13 at 14:42
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So what do you do if you see an accepted answer that promotes a bad practice? –  Pëkka Nov 23 '13 at 14:43
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"our appeal is our extremely high signal to noise ratio" - by deleting all comments which simply were not incorporated, you loose a lot of signal. And you start loosing my confidence in SO that my effort is valued. There are plenty of posts here at so with very valuable comments, which helped me a lot many times!! Thanks to SO for that, and I really think we can't lose that! –  Tomas Nov 23 '13 at 14:43
    
@probablyPekka Suggest the change, if not implemented then edit it or add your own answer and edit the original to point you the one you wrote so it's noticed. If your comment is hidden, it doesn't help anyone. –  Tim Post Nov 23 '13 at 14:46
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So, Tim, if I understand you correctly, you're saying that the author of an answer has a right to arrange for a moderator to "clear all comments" if they think the comments don't "add value"? Is that right? If so, is that policy documented anywhere? –  Peter Alfvin Nov 23 '13 at 14:46
    
@PeterAlfvin There is no such policy. If a conversation in comments is flagged enough - moderators get notified. There's also an automatically raised system flag when enough comments appear in a post in a short amount of time. The post author has only the ability to ask a moderator to look. Moderators are not obligated to take any action. –  Tim Post Nov 23 '13 at 14:47
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@TimPost what if I can't post an answer because I don't know one - I just know the answerer's approach is really, really bad? I'm sure there are tens of thousands of comments of that nature in the system and they're super valuable. I'm sure I could dig up a quote from one of the Founding Fathers praising Stack Overflow exactly because experts leave comments on answers. I've always operated under the assumption that this content is going to survive most of the time, especially seeing as comments often don't trigger an action on the answerer's side. –  Pëkka Nov 23 '13 at 14:48
    
@probablyPekka then go ahead and comment, just realize that it's not going to be as helpful as someone correcting the answer, or writing a better one. Comments aren't permanent, they never were. Remember, moderators aren't even needed to remove a comment if enough people flag it .. that's hardly an optimal place to put something important. –  Tim Post Nov 23 '13 at 14:50
    
@TimPost Ok, well that's some comfort, at least. So this really comes down to moderators' attitudes towards comments in SO, which I assume varies quite a bit. –  Peter Alfvin Nov 23 '13 at 14:51
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@Tim Fair enough - but if mods routinely don't take time at all to evaluate a comment thread before purging it, then the process is broken. They shouldn't be deleting comments at all then IMO. –  Pëkka Nov 23 '13 at 14:52
    
@PeterAlfvin Unless a thread has just appeared to lose all value, mods usually just prune comments (e.g. anything snarky, or "+1 wow great", or anything obsolete that has been addressed in the post). I can see why the mod just purged this one - it appeared to be a conversation that concluded, and the conclusion being nothing about the post was going to change as a result. –  Tim Post Nov 23 '13 at 14:53
    
@TimPost I can understand your concern about mods not having the time to go through a long comment thread. Is it your view that if mods see at least some "inappropriate" comments in a thread, that they're justified in deleted the whole thread on the grounds that it's important to get rid of the whole thread and important not to consume too much mod time? –  Peter Alfvin Nov 23 '13 at 14:54
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@TimPost "Suggest the change, if not implemented then edit it" - so when the author of the post doesn't want the suggested change, shall I just edit the post and enforce it? Is this policy documented somewhere? –  Tomas Nov 23 '13 at 14:54
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@TimPost I'm still left with the sense that you think moderators should be responsive to author requests to remove comments they disagree with and aren't going to act upon, for the sake of keeping answers "clean". I can understand that perspective, but it makes for a very different SO than the one of gotten used to. Do you see SO making more serious moves in that direction (e.g. comments going away by themselves over time, etc.)? –  Peter Alfvin Nov 23 '13 at 15:01

Comments should never stay. The (re-)ordering and other properties of comments make them unsuitable for permanence. If you have something to say for the ages, write your own answer, or edit the answer to include your remarks. It's not reasonable to turn mods into winnowing machines trying to find kernels of truth amongst all the chaff.

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I stay for my opinion - if mods don't have time to do this, they should leave the comments (probably only delete offensive ones, if that's the case). The harm of deleting everything is bigger than the profit of the page "being clean". SO is well designed, users themselves can easily read or skip the comments and pick the most useful by voting on them. –  Tomas Nov 23 '13 at 13:53

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