I think some of the recent fireworks over comments stems from a conceptual disagreement between those like myself and Sbi, and "management" of StackExchange -- namely, who conceptually owns a given piece of content. And by "owns", I don't mean in the "intellectual property" sense, I mean in a "who do we optimize for" sense. I mean in a "why are we tracking this content" sense.
Here are possible "owners" I'm speaking of:
- The Asker -- The original asker of the question.
- The Answerer -- The author of an answer. Note that this applies only to their own answer, and not to comments they may make on another answer.
- The Commentor -- The author of a comment.
- The System -- Content which should be maintained for the system as a whole; e.g. for Google/Bing drive by viewers.
- Users with access to "Moderation Tools"
I think it's pretty clear at this point that Questions and Answers are owned by the asker, the answerer, and the system. Obviously the asker is helped out by the question -- because they're getting an answer. The answerer is getting helped out because they're getting something to answer, which often teaches them as much about the topic as their answer teaches the asker. Both questions and answers are left open to editing and improvement by anyone with sufficient rep, which makes them more useful to the system as a whole.
Once you leave questions and answers though, things get murkier. Who owns the other kinds of content on StackExchange? And by that I mean:
- Chat room posts
- Comments (!!!)
- Question Votes
- Answer Votes
- Close Votes
- Delete Votes
- Moderator Flags
For example, I think Sbi and myself (looking at the above linked discussion) are of the opinion that comments are owned by the answerer and the commentor. Jeff & Co. are obviously of a different opinion, believing that they belong more so to the system (which is why they'd ever be "noisy"). At least, that's what I'm guessing, but I'm not entirely positive.
What I mean is (source by Jeff)
The reason we have the "get a room" feature is that two users go off on some tangent (or worse, bicker) for 10+ comments each. No other human being is going to read all that, because the only people who care are person A and person B typing all those comments at each other.
Jeff is saying nobody but the commentors are ever going to want to read those comments. And in that respect, I entirely agree with him. The disagreement is whether or not that's a bad thing. If comments are owned by the system, then that's certainly a bad thing, because comments can indeed be noisy. If, on the other hand, they're owned by the commentors, it's not an issue, because it's certainly not noise to them.