Example Situation

I've noticed on a few posts I've been involved with that an answer will be provided and the question/answer author's post will be edited enough to make the comment thread irrelevant.


  • A back-and-forth asking for more detail, and then the question/answer is updated to include the requested detail

Issue to address

In these cases, I've found that the comment thread makes the normal "flow" of the question harder to engage with because the comments don't sync up with discussion that is relevant to the question/answer as it currently exists.

This also leads to excess comments that are no longer necessary. Their existence has the potential to inhibit the learning of SE users, or at least the potential to consume more time than necessary.

Potential ways to address this

Others likely have better ideas on how to handle it, but some potential suggestions:

  • Commenter-based moderation: Allow an option on "delete" to be that it's no longer relevant under the current revision. This would allow the comment to be preserved but linked to the previous revision of the question without showing up in the current revision.

  • Mod-based moderation: Allow mods to do this with bulk comments so that whole comment discussions can be moved to the correct revision if

  • Author-based moderation: Upon revision of a question/answer, allow the author of a question/answer to identify which comments will become irrelevant as of the update.

Thanks for letting me muse a bit.

  • FYI, mod-based moderation is the canonical way to do this at the moment. Flagging for comment cleanup is explicitly encouraged – Pekka Jul 23 '12 at 18:17
  • Also related (just to add some context) Should moderators delete obsolete and resolved comment threads? – Pekka Jul 23 '12 at 18:18
  • @Pekka I've witnessed many cases where there are 10+ comments and half of them (in no particular order) have become irrelevant either due to an edit or a misunderstanding about requirements, code, etc. The remaining 5 may still be valid. So do you propose 5 flags in that case? Or one flag and let the moderator figure out which comments you want deleted? – Aaron Bertrand Jul 23 '12 at 18:22
  • @Aaron yup, the latter is what is officially encouraged. (See the 2nd link) – Pekka Jul 23 '12 at 18:23
  • @Pekka I don't know, I think I've seen way too many examples where that is going to be a very cumbersome job for the mod. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 23 '12 at 18:24
  • @Aaron I don't really like it either... but it's the only way to do it right now, except if all participants in the conversation are exceptionally considerate and agree to delete every comment step by step. See also Add possibility to remove comment noise (fancy edition) – Pekka Jul 23 '12 at 18:24
  • @Pekka I've never had objections from the other participant(s) when doing so. I just say, hey, I'm going to remove these comments because they're no longer relevant. And they follow suit. Your answer is almost wholly about how hard it would be for moderators to subjectively decide on which comments in a thread are no longer relevant. Do you not believe yourself any more? :-) – Aaron Bertrand Jul 23 '12 at 18:27
  • @Pekka and I saw Jeff's answer too. But that doesn't work for the case I explained above, where still-relevant comments are mixed in with the ones that should be deleted. I think working that out with the participants has a much better chance of being done right than flagging it for some mod. No offense to the mods but domain knowledge might be very crucial in some cases. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 23 '12 at 18:29
  • @Aaron re your 1st comment: I'm not saying I'm fond of the moderator deletion policy, just that it's currently the only method there is, except for manual self-deletion. Which I find cumbersome because you have to come back to a post and all, but on the other hand, as you say, it's not impossible. – Pekka Jul 23 '12 at 18:29
  • @Aaron yeah, I agree with what you say in your 2nd comment, that's why I think a better system is needed (and I keep trying to come up with ideas, but so far there's been none that really took off... the fancy edition thing is my favourite so far, but it would probably be too complex, as Jeff says.) – Pekka Jul 23 '12 at 18:30
  • @Pekka thankfully, usually, if I've left a comment and the other person has bothered to make an edit, they also reply, so I get a notification when they reply to my comment. It's pretty rare that they fix it but don't say anything in the comments. (Of course that only works when notification works correctly, which has been flaky lately.) – Aaron Bertrand Jul 23 '12 at 18:31

I typically make it a habit to go back and delete my comments if the OP makes an edit. I can't say I'm 100% successful in this, after all unless I'm involved in a question in other ways, I'm not going around and checking all of my old comments and making sure every single user did something about them. But while a question is still recent I do check. If there has been a long stream of comments and I was finally able to show someone why I commented in the first place, and they've made the conversation irrelevant, I tell them I'm going to delete my comments and they should consider the same.

I don't believe this is work we should pass along to the moderators. Are they not cleaning up enough of our messes that we need to subject them to make subjective decisions about these comments too, and make sure that the comment really was addressed correctly? I don't think so.

I certainly don't like the last option; too open for abuse. Someone with a bad answer might not like criticism in a comment (or not understand it, or think that their correction addresses it even if it doesn't), and therefore deem it irrelevant and nuke it from orbit. Since we're not notified when our comments are deleted, this is too big of a hole IMHO that can let users with bad answers shield themselves from justified criticism. This sweeping under the rug can only be a bad thing for the asker and for future readers.

| improve this answer | |

I like the commenter-based moderation option, but don't think it would be used much. I don't like the idea of having the moderators do it.

I think I would prefer to have an option keeping the comments preserved but with links to the the edits viewed in-line with the comments. Something like:

  • [commenter] Please add some detail for yyy
    • [link to edit 1]
  • [OP] I've edited to add yyy
  • [commenter] That's good, but show us the codez for zzz
    • [link to edit 2]
  • [OP] I've added the zzz codez, please help
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  • So it would interject a link to each edit, based on timestamp, between the comment that preceded the edit and the next comment? I think this can get tricky - an edit doesn't always naturally happen right after the comment that spurred it. I'd rather see users modify their behavior such that they can delete their own comments once they become irrelevant. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 23 '12 at 18:12
  • @AaronBertrand Yeah, I agree. I would rather see the problem solved by user behavior, too. I just don't see that happening. I, for one, would never consider going back over all my comments to check them for relevancy. Way too much work. I can't imagine many other users would, either. – Eric King Jul 23 '12 at 18:15
  • @AaronBertrand And I also agree it wouldn't be a perfect solution. But I suspect it would be close enough to allow those who are interested to recreate the flow of the question and comments. – Eric King Jul 23 '12 at 18:17
  • I've found that in about 90% of the cases, my comments lead to the user deleting their answer. In the other 10%, usually they reply that they've fixed it. In some of those cases, I'm paying enough attention to clean up, but in cases where I don't, I don't think the context is all that confusing. The problem cases are where I leave a comment, they correct it, and both things happen: (1) they don't reply and (2) I don't happen upon it again. This makes me look like I'm complaining about something that isn't there. Not the end of the world. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 23 '12 at 18:17
  • I think it clutters up the comment stream. And since the devs/mods/high rep users seem to place a very low relative value on comments, it's unlikely that anything here is going to change that much. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 23 '12 at 18:19
  • @AaronBertrand Yeah, I was thinking it could be an option, but not show by default. If you wanted to see the edit timeline in relation to the comments, you could just click something that will inject them. – Eric King Jul 23 '12 at 18:23

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