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I find this inconsistency to be rather annoying. Is it really a problem and can the current situation be improved?

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I love those who sweep the whole page with downvotes and leave no comment behind. –  badp Apr 17 '10 at 12:12
    
Downvotes don't necessarily need comments. On meta the most common reason is that someone disagrees with your idea / feature / comment. –  Josh K Apr 17 '10 at 12:57
    
I understand that for questions, but why extend it to answers? –  badp Apr 17 '10 at 13:04
    
Probably because the answers are bad, unclear, or not useful? Have you checked the FAQ? –  Josh K Apr 17 '10 at 15:29
    
@bp - this is a feature request, bug, support, etc site. I can most certainly disagree with an answer to a feature request, or an answer to a bug, or an answer to a request for support. Why are questions different for you? –  Adam Davis Apr 17 '10 at 18:00
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Also - the behavior for hover is annoying for those on iPhone and others were there is no mouse or hover - only click. –  Adam Davis Apr 17 '10 at 18:01
    
Test per balpha's request. dl.dropbox.com/u/1164414/SO/edit%20link.png –  badp Jul 5 '10 at 12:01

4 Answers 4

I agree. Mouse hover should be used to explain a feature, via a tooltip, not to make it visible - it's quite irritating to have to wave the mouse pointer around looking for the button, particularly when using a touchpad mouse.. This is on par with other gruesome GUI memes like "expert" menus - fun for the programmer (I suppose), not much for the user.

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+1 I thought @Jeff had read "Don't Make Me Think" –  tvanfosson Apr 17 '10 at 16:52
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this is to keep the amount of noise down on the page -- it's already quite busy, so a repeated item that is always visible, and you may not ever use or care about, just adds to the noise. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 17 '10 at 20:42
    
In the case of something that you really don't care if your users know or interact with, I guess I can see your point. On the other hand, I've got a site where users self moderate comments on their page -- unauthenticated comments need to be approved, comments can be deleted by the owner or commenter. In that case, giving the user, at least, an indication that there is an interface to interact with is crucial. I'm not convinced that a smallish icon (a mini menu a la famfamfam mint: famfamfam.com/lab/icons/mint) as a visual indicator that there's more isn't doable. –  tvanfosson Apr 18 '10 at 12:54
    
... you may also only need it on the first comment -- i.e., once a person starts mousing over comments they discover the interface -- giving them a way to discover the interface - expose it on the first comment, then use normal hovering thereafter. The first comment could even use normal hovering once the user has hovered over it once. –  tvanfosson Apr 18 '10 at 12:57

Different proposals for the issue

A problem with using the pencil icon for editing is that it's already used by the software to signal edited comments. Overloading or changing its meaning is going to be very confusing for existing users.

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Source: stackoverflow.pastebin.com/qBxMwwF8 Import it into: balsamiq.com/builds/mockups-web-demo , tinker, then use export features. –  badp Apr 17 '10 at 10:58
    
Yeah, icons are actually stacked vertically when there is a comment vote count. Sorry about that. I also left out timestamps. And the bold 3 should've been gray. Also, I obviously had to guess on what mods get to do with comments and what they don't get to do. –  badp Apr 17 '10 at 11:02
    
I just think it looks cluttered. –  Josh K Apr 17 '10 at 11:46
    
@Josh K -- disagree -- I shouldn't have to know about interface items before I know that there are interface items. Interfaces should be obvious, not appear magically. If the interface is too complicated to always show, there should be a visual indicator to the user that "something" is possible. As it is now, if you don't know that you have hover over the comments, you only find out about it by accidentally hovering over the comments. –  tvanfosson Apr 17 '10 at 16:55
    
@tvan comments are intended to be lightweight and aren't versioned; they also allow only limited editing. So this tradeoff is appropriate IMO to reduce the overall noise on the page. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 17 '10 at 20:45

I disagree. Hovering over the comment box will display the Flag and Upvote fields, along with a tool tip that explains it.

With them not being visible until you hover it cleans up the layout significantly.

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Sure, and that's not what I am complaining about. The problem is: why doesn't the same happen with the edit link? –  badp Apr 17 '10 at 12:11
    
link|edit|delete|flag are all for the questions. There is space in the layout and they don't impede the visual flow. Also it would, I'm assuming, be odder if hovering over the question revealed those options. –  Josh K Apr 17 '10 at 12:56
    
No -- I am talking about the edit link for comments. –  badp Apr 17 '10 at 14:40
    
You mean the one that disappears after 15 minutes or whatever? Who cares, it goes away and never comes back. –  Josh K Apr 17 '10 at 15:28
    
@bp like Josh says, it's only valid for 5 minutes. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 17 '10 at 20:43

Old timers may remember, I did briefly experiment with making the ...

mod | link | edit | delete | flag

... menu only visible on mouse hover, but I pulled it due to complaints that it made editing hard to discover. I agreed with this complaint, because editing is one of the most important functions on the site. (and flagging is very important, too.)

That's not true of comments, however.

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