183

Currently moderators have the ability to lock posts, for any of the following reasons:

  • Content dispute (~ edit wars),
  • Historical significance (to prevent great but off topic questions from being deleted), and
  • Offtopic comments
  • Wiki Answer

The locks can be applied for an hour, a day, a week, or permanently. This is all great, but:

  1. Locking a post also prevents voting and (more importantly) editing, and
  2. If the locked post is a question, there are other ramifications, such as preventing new answers from being posted.

Those side-effects aren't always desirable for posts that generated a lot of "offtopic comments" and I think we could use a lock that would only lock the comment section. The lock message should point to chat, and ideally should also give the option of migrating the comment thread to chat automagically.

Additionally the comment lock, being a lesser lock, could be available to the OP as well, not only to moderators. Perhaps only after a certain rep level (3K? 5K? 10K?) and perhaps without the option to lock permanently. Getting spammed with inbox notifications on an irrelevant discussion happening on one of your posts isn't fun, and it's perhaps the only thing I truly hate on Stack Exchange.

Similar feature requests:

Relevant discussions:

  • 5
    Similar feature request I posted a while ago: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/124749/… – Mad Scientist Mar 10 '13 at 21:29
  • @MadScientist Thanks, included it to the question. It's very similar indeed, almost a dupe. – yannis Mar 10 '13 at 21:50
  • 3
    FWIW: there've been 110 "off-topic comments" locks on SO, 15 on Programmers, 4 on Politics and none on The Workplace. – Shog9 Jul 8 '13 at 3:53
  • 13
    @Shog9 as a moderator I use that lock very sparingly because of the collateral damage it deals. – Monica Cellio Nov 29 '15 at 20:54
  • I think troublesome commenters would resort to editing the posts if they were locked out of commenting :/ – user154510 Apr 28 '16 at 5:00
  • 2
    @MatthewRead That is a possibility, but edits are far more visible and can quickly be rolled back by anyone if there's an issue. – yannis Apr 28 '16 at 7:09
  • 4
    This is on our list... it's a very long list. See also meta.stackexchange.com/questions/189515/… – Shog9 Jun 14 '17 at 3:46
  • @Shog so why no status tag here? – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask Jun 14 '17 at 7:12
  • 2
    Because until we get our process fixed, this stuff can sit in the "pending" list for a very long time, @Shadow - status-tagging just feels like a tease. Look at the age of the edit on some of those status-review posts; I prefer to defer to JNat's list. – Shog9 Jun 14 '17 at 17:33
  • @Shog9 oh, that's totally right and sometimes I poke those old forgotten status-something... to no avail. So guess you're right, better no status than misleading status. :) – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask Jun 14 '17 at 18:55
  • @Sonic Please stop adding every tiny detail to this. That editing is not possible in locked posts was already mentioned, no need to specifically mention suggested edits. – yannis Aug 28 '18 at 19:59
  • @yannis I was referring to answers to locked questions, which aren't locked and can be edited by users with editing privileges and are otherwise fully unlocked. Also, why remove the "wiki answer" notice from the list? – Sonic the Masked Werehog Aug 28 '18 at 20:03
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog Neither detail is important to the feature request. This post isn't supposed to be a canonical list of lock reasons nor a full list of what happens when posts are locked. The suggested edits thing is an extremely minor detail, I don't see any benefit in mentioning it. And I really do not agree with your description of the Wiki Answer lock. Put it back in, if you absolutely must, but without the description, please. – yannis Aug 28 '18 at 20:15
111

As a moderator, I deleted thousands of comments and left many links to chat for people to follow. I've had to apply off-topic comments locks to many posts to get comments to stop. Unfortunately, as this question clearly explains, this is not without consequences, which made me very reluctant to lock otherwise good posts in all but the most extreme cases.

So, you might imagine that getting such a lock type has been very high on my priority list!

A comments only lock!

Today, I'm happy to announce that as of posting, the "Off-topic comments" lock has been renamed to "Comments only lock" which, as you correctly hypothesize, only prevents comments while allowing voting, editing, closing, reopening, answering, flagging ... etc. Like other locks, the Comments only lock only affects the post that is locked, so a question being comment locked won't prevent comments on answers.

What about questions currently locked for off-topic comments?

Lock types are defined by their post notice. We've redefined what an Off-topic comment lock does and gave it a new name. As such, posts that were already locked for off-topic comments will convert to the new definition. This means that, from now on, only comments will be prevented on these posts.

What does it look like?

The lock itself looks pretty much the same as the rest of the locks though this one specifically states that non-comment interactions are still possible:

Screenshot of the new post notice with text "Locked for 59 minutes. Comments on this question have been disabled, but it is still accepting new answers and other interactions. Learn more."

The moderator lock menu has been updated, too. We've adjusted the wording to make it clear that only commenting is prevented. The default duration for this lock remains 1 hour but mods can override this to be a day, a week or permanent.

Screenshot of the mod menu. Relevant text: "Unless noted, locks disable new interactions (e.g. deletion, editing, answering). Use post locks as a last resort only. Learn more." and "Comments only. Lock the comments on this post if the discussion is no longer contributing to its improvement. Users will still be able to interact with this post in all other ways."
(click for full size)

Finally, we updated the help center article about locks to mention the Comments only locks and how they're different.


Additionally the comment lock, being a lesser lock, could be available to the OP as well, not only to moderators. Perhaps only after a certain rep level (3K? 5K? 10K?) and perhaps without the option to lock permanently.

I understand this request, having been on the non-participatory end of a long discussion about why carrots are orange, but this isn't how we want to solve this problem. It's reasonable for someone to not want to get notified of these messages but we don't think that blocking them entirely is the correct solution - at least, not without moderator intervention. We're hoping to look into following / unfollowing posts in 2020.


Thanks to Meg, Adam and Lisa for making this happen!

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    I'm guessing that submenu's currently sorted in alphabetical order, but it's still weird to put "comments only" in the middle of that list - all the other options in that submenu are reasons to lock the post, but that one is a different functionality that only locks comments. It would be better either at the top/bottom of that submenu, or as its own option in the mod action menu. – V2Blast Dec 11 '19 at 21:41
  • Also, will mods still be able to comment on comment-locked posts? I recall that the overall locking functionality left me unable to edit/comment, meaning I couldn't lock a post and then revert vandalism to it (so I had to then unlock it, edit/comment, and then lock it again). – V2Blast Dec 11 '19 at 21:41
  • 4
    @V2Blast If it were alphabetical, it's wrong. :P I think we left it in the order it had been in to allow people to keep their existing patterns. Yes, mods can still comment on locked posts. :) – Catija Dec 11 '19 at 21:43
  • @V2Blast Yes, you can comment while it's locked. – wizzwizz4 Dec 11 '19 at 22:05
  • Re "...will convert to the new definition": When will it happen? Or has it already happened? – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Dec 11 '19 at 22:54
  • 2
    @PeterMortensen Should already be the case. – Catija Dec 11 '19 at 22:54
  • I can't tell you how happy I am to see this. And I know I'm probably the worst offender in the entire network for off-topic comments and it's probably going to frustrate me sometimes. But I recognize that it's good for the network and that's more important than my personal snarky impulses. =) – corsiKa Dec 12 '19 at 0:49
  • what is default duration of new lock, 1 hour? I think 3 days would be more convenient as it would cover most typical case of comments exploding in hot-questions – gnat Dec 12 '19 at 7:10
  • 1
    @gnat An hour is usually pretty good for a start. Three days isn’t an option. The options are an hour, a day, a week, permanent. – Catija Dec 12 '19 at 12:10
  • you can check my flagging history at workplace - per my experience an hour would be essentially useless in hot questions, it will likely lead to needless moderator load. Of the options you listed one day seems to be most optimal to me – gnat Dec 12 '19 at 12:17
  • 1
    @gnat TWP is an outlier. In most cases, an hour is sufficient. It’s usually just two people in an argument that you need to convince to move to chat. – Catija Dec 12 '19 at 12:23
  • well I guess we can use data to estimate how much TWPexperience should count in this feature. Just find out how much a feature of moving comments to chat is used at TWP (or maybe TWP+IPS since I heard they have similar problems) compared to the rest of the network and if it's percentage is insignificant then new lock needn't be tuned to better serve their needs – gnat Dec 12 '19 at 12:29
  • 1
    @Catija for a regular user (non-moderator) the countdown isn't shown in the post notice. It just states: "Locked Comments on this...." – Luuklag Dec 13 '19 at 9:36
  • @Luuklag Can you see the timer here? I'm not a moderator on that site, yet I can see it... I'm curious if that's because I'm a moderator elsewhere or if you're perhaps just looking at a question that has a lock without a set expiration time. – Tinkeringbell Dec 13 '19 at 10:02
  • 1
    @Tinkeringbell Yes I can, but there is none here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/339944/…. So then it would be by-design. – Luuklag Dec 13 '19 at 10:32
38
+50

We had a case of this recently on The Workplace. A user's first question had been put on hold and edited and was on its way to being reopened, but it was also attracting non-constructive (and sometimes rude) comments at high velocity, so the moderators locked the question temporarily to stop that. Unfortunately, that lock also prevented voting, including reopen votes.

So we had an OP who was trying to do the right thing -- he actually fixed his post in response to it being put on hold! -- who was being blocked by stuff that wasn't his fault. Somebody raised it on meta and the question got unlocked and reopened, but the whole process would have been a lot smoother and easier if we moderators had been able to lock comments while permitting edits, close/reopen votes, and up/down votes. (In retrospect, suspending one user might have stopped the problem, but that wasn't as clear in the midst of the action.)

On The Workplace we get a lot of temporary comment explosions, cases where locking the post for a day would be enough to get people to move on, while allowing future requests for clarification. But we don't lock these posts because of the collateral damage, and instead purge vast numbers of comments on these hot-button posts. But every comment that's made and purged is a ping to the post owner and maybe another user, and an invitation to continue the argument. I'd rather hinder it than clean it up.

I don't agree with the OP being able to lock comments, though. If you ask a question you should be prepared to respond to requests for clarification; if there's something else going on, like an argument or sniping or a tangential conversation, then a moderator should act on that. I've seen too many cases where a comment thread is an argument between the post author and somebody else; letting the post author regulate that wouldn't be good.

| improve this answer | |
  • 12
    +1, especially for OP not locking comments. That's not their job. – Nathan Tuggy Nov 29 '15 at 22:28
37
+25

The ability to stop comments (without stopping other activity like voting, editing, or answering) would definitely be useful. We see questions on Server Fault where the comments are used to extract troubleshooting information, but the person asking the question is not familiar with the "Edit the important information into your question" etiquette of Stack Exchange sites.

Locking comments (after a mod leaves one saying "Please edit your question") in such a case would encourage them to use the site in a way that more closely maps to its intended functionality.


Yes, we could just do this for them - but frankly I don't want to wade through 30+ comments picking out what's useful, what's not, and figuring out how to work it into the question. That's really the job of the person seeking an answer, not the rest of the community.

| improve this answer | |
15

Honestly, I think that this would be better addressed by a more streamlined diamond-mod only "create Meta discussion about this question" and "migrate comments to chat" functionality, and an improved visibility of chat and chat room creation to the allowed users (associating a chat room with a question, a tag, or a set of tags, and having it visible on the appropriate question and tag pages, for example).

Something that would help would be to reduce the barrier of entry to Meta (let 1 rep users post on Meta) to encourage people to bring their discussions about questions from the comments onto Meta.

In short: Make the non-comment options for discussing questions more visible, reduce barriers to discovering and using them, and let more users have access to these options.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    If your "migrate to chat" functionality also includes preventing further comments from being posted (at least for a certain period), then we're talking about the same thing. – yannis Mar 10 '13 at 21:54
  • @Yannis I would like to see a "migrate to chat" without preventing further comments as well. Right now, creating an appropriate venue for discussion (in a chat room or on meta) is a manual-process. If necessary, locking it down, too. But I think that improving access to Meta and chat for lower-rep users and increasing visibility would help address a lot of the instances where you would want to prevent only comments. – Thomas Owens Mar 10 '13 at 21:57
  • 2
    There's a lot of stuff "just take it to chat" doesn't solve, so I'm still more a fan of Yannis' idea – Ben Brocka Mar 10 '13 at 22:02
  • 1
    "Migrate to chat" should not bar further comments. I've seen too many posts where two or three people having an argument hijacked comments in the first few hours, but requests for clarification from other people came later. Dump the argument but don't block the requests for clarification that are why we have comments at all. – Monica Cellio Feb 21 '18 at 15:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .