What is the real purpose of comment voting? As far as I see, there is no use for voting for comments (other than the Pundit badge)? In fact, you can only vote up comments (as opposed to questions and answers "the other icon" does not vote down, but flags as offensive).


This question is not "What is the purpose of comments?". I am asking about comment voting.

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    [Obligatory witty comment] – TheTXI Aug 11 '09 at 14:50
  • I don't see anyone here answering "What is the purpose of comments?". You do seem to be confused about that though. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 15:02
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    @Rich B - this edit is addressing some yet deleted comments people added. So I wanted to make it perfectly clear. – smok1 Aug 11 '09 at 15:06
  • @smok1: What deleted comments? Oh my... – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 15:07

I think Jeff Atwood made this very clear when he introduced the feature:


  • I'm glad they changed the way the comments are presented. That old interface was way too bulky. – jjnguy Aug 11 '09 at 16:28
  • Your answer and TheTXI's comment answer my question. – smok1 Aug 11 '09 at 16:49

When there are a lot of comments in a thread, only the highest rated ones will be shown by default. Comment voting helps filter out the useful ones from the noise.

  • And you end up with having few coments regarding some other comment visible (this comment wasn't voted so high, so it is invisble)... – smok1 Aug 11 '09 at 14:51
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    @smok1: The rest is considered noise. You can always expand the full list if you think you are missing something. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 14:54

It reduces "me too" commenting, because you can add emphasis to the one you like by voting for it.


So that my witty comments filter to the top.

  • We only upvote your comments so people can be immediately subjected to your...brilliance. – Eric Aug 11 '09 at 14:51
  • Even if your witty comment did not address the question/answer, but other (probably less rated) COMMENT? – smok1 Aug 11 '09 at 14:53
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    @smok1: You do understand comments != answers, right? – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 14:54
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    I understand. But, as I remeber my old Usenet days - answers for plonked post, were also considered a trash. So unless we have got comments threading, I see no point in voting comments. – smok1 Aug 11 '09 at 14:58
  • @smok1: 1) You are going to have to start speaking English, I can barely understand your ramblings. 2) This is not Usenet. 3) Comments work fine. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 15:00
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    @Rich B - As I remember people in Usenet did not like other people responding to “trash” (spam, trolling, etc) post, since answering trash produced more and more stupid flame wars. I hope this is understandable. I won’t explain “plonk” (hence “plonked”), “trolling” or “flame war” since you can find it in Wikipedia. My point is, that unless comments are threaded, I see no point in voting up comments, that are only answers to someone else’s comment.I also think no one does not see difference between SO and Usenet. Comments are working fine, but I simply wanted to know why they work that way. – smok1 Aug 11 '09 at 15:15
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    Comments were not designed to be full blown threaded discussions, and it is unlikely that you will ever see that incorporated into these sites. If you want to see the full-blown discussion, expand and read. Otherwise the comment voting is meant to single out the comments that the most people agree with (or felt the urge to upvote). – TheTXI Aug 11 '09 at 15:17
  • @smok1: And this has been answered several times for you, but you are continuing to argue and rant about the way it works. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 15:17
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    SO is /not/ a discussion site. Read that, and repeat it back to yourself a few times. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 15:18
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    @Rich B - I asked simple question, but in fact, you were unable to answer it in polite and accurate way. TheTXI's comment is simply the most complete answer. Thank you, TheTXI. – smok1 Aug 11 '09 at 15:22
  • @smok1: The community seems to disagree. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 15:23
  • @smok1: For those annoying, pesky problems on SO and Meta, try this: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3360/… It has made my (and others') SO experience MUCH more pleasant. – tim Aug 17 '09 at 17:06

I know it makes me feel good and more confident when I get a comment upvote. If I get enough, then maybe I'll have enough confidence to leave the house some day.

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    You would be doing the world a disservice. – TheTXI Aug 11 '09 at 14:55
  • Are you going to wear pants if you venture outside? – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 14:56
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    @Rich B: One thing at a time, man. – belgariontheking Aug 11 '09 at 14:58
  • @btk: I am only concerned about the order. – GEOCHET Aug 11 '09 at 14:58
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    @Rich: Actually, I'll probably be wearing a winter coat, ski pants, and a <st>retard</st> football helmet. I have to protect myself from scary things that are outside. – belgariontheking Aug 11 '09 at 15:01

In addition to allowing popular comments to be promoted I believe comment voting can also be used as a form of phatic expression.

In linguistics, a phatic expression is one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information. The term was coined by anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski in the early 1900s.

For example, "you're welcome" is not intended to convey the message that the hearer is welcome; it is a phatic response to being thanked, which in turn is a phatic whose function is to be polite in response to a gift.

or to put more succinctly to be phatic is to be "full of social gestures that are like apes grooming each other"1

I've often upvoted comments on my own answers that were thanking me for an answer as a feedback to the OP that I have read it and appreciate the thanks. At least I hope that's how it would be interpreted as I was the only person that would be interested in the comment.

  • Regarding last sentence: comments thanking for an answer may have some usefulness outside of being polite - often such a comment makes it clearer that the answer indeed provided useful advice for the OP, which may helpful for future readers. But overall good point. – Jonik Aug 17 '09 at 18:30
  • NB: I found the blog post I quote via a discussion in TWIG: wiki.twit.tv/wiki/This_WEEK_in_GOOGLE_3/Transcript#17:54 (I actually stopped and posted this before SO was mentioned.) – Sam Hasler Aug 17 '09 at 20:07

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