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If you delete a comment, should you leave a new comment to explain it? If there are already other comments referencing it, I usually see something like "I've deleted my earlier comment that @whoever was referring to" for clarity. That seems like a good idea to me.

But what if the deleted comment is the only one for a given question/answer, or it isn't commented on by another person? I've seen that go both ways, and I'm not sure which way is better. When I've done it, I've just let them disappear, but I can see how some people might find it annoying to search many posts for an old comment that they can never find.

So, is there a rule on this? If yes, what; if no, come up with one, I suppose.

EDIT: As Bill the Lizard pointed out, yes, I'm talking about people deleting their own comments. I did briefly think about the case of other people making edits, but I don't have any experience with that due to insufficient rep so I dropped it.

EDIT AGAIN: Seems like there is no correct answer, so I'm CWing this question. Even though it seems like nobody else will bother posting an answer anyways.

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... and if there's any way that this here comments thread won't turn into a morass of comments referencing things that don't exist, that would be great. –  Pops Nov 11 '09 at 13:57
    
The way that this thread won't turn into a morass of comments referencing things that don't exist, doesn't exist. Not if I know this group. –  David Thornley Nov 11 '09 at 14:34
    
@Lord Torgamus: You live in NoVA? So do I. Sweet. –  George Stocker Nov 11 '09 at 14:59
    
a comment deleter? who would do that? –  warren Nov 11 '09 at 15:28
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Btw, just about all of Meta is discussion, so there's no reason to make your question CW on that basis. –  George Stocker Nov 11 '09 at 18:07
    
@George: That comment is actually more useful to me than any of the answers to my question. I had no idea Meta had different rules. –  Pops Mar 15 '10 at 17:39

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In the first case you mention, someone deletes their own comment that had been responded to, leaving the rest of the thread a confusing mess, I agree that it's a good idea to at least leave another comment explaining that situation to ease the confusion. You can also flag the respondent's comment for moderator attention so we can clean it up too (if it's no longer relevant).

It sounds like you're specifically talking about people deleting their own comments, but there are a lot of situations where moderators will delete them too. I usually try to avoid the above situation by deleting all comments that are related to the one flagged (if I delete it at all). I also delete comments in the following situations

  • Offensive or abusive
  • Spam
  • Long off-topic discussion distracting from the point of the question/answer
  • No longer relevant ("Make CW" after the post already has been, "move to serverfault" after the post has been migrated, etc.)
  • (added: MG) People whining about acceptance rates

In these cases I usually don't leave a comment to explain what I've done. The reason is that in these cases I'm cleaning up clutter. Leaving another comment to explain that is just more clutter.

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There are two reasons for deleting comments that I can see:

  1. What I said was no longer relevant.
  2. I said something embarrassing, incorrect, or not-charitable.

Both are well-served by me deleting my comment and getting on with my life.

Leaving another comment to point out that I deleted my comment is a bad idea.

I would go for the following:

If I delete a comment, the text:

This Comment has been deleted by the owner - <datestamp>

should show up in place of the comment I deleted.

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Please don't show anything in place of the deleted comment. The vast majority of deleted comments are never missed, and having a place holder will only make people insatiably curious. The system right now works, and for those cases where a reference is lost because someone deleted their own comment - they may choose to clarify in a later comment, or they may choose not to. Let the person who made the comment and deleted it decide whether it's worth mentioning later. Right now, it's rarely ever a problem. –  Adam Davis Nov 11 '09 at 15:24
    
@Adam Davis I agree. Most of the time they aren't missed; but if I describe a problem and don't offer a solution, then I'm just a curmudgeon. –  George Stocker Nov 11 '09 at 16:35
    
I just can't upvote your answer since even though I agree with your first points, I definitely do not agree with the answer. Also, curmudgeonhood is a prestigious line of work with a long and glorious tradition! –  Adam Davis Nov 11 '09 at 20:49

I've never been in a situation where someone deleted a comment that I was referring to. When this happens, do I get a message in my profile?

I think the system should just send a message to people involved in that answer/question, with a possibility to edit/delete your comment. This way we can clean the answer/question instead of trying to implement justifications.

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The sites are about questions and answers so I don't think we should fuss about comments going missing. Perhaps, if it's a comment that you care particularly about finding again, you might want to encourage the commenter to put the comment in an answer.

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