My question was locked due to "high amount of off-topic comments generated".

Two users involved in an argument added several off-topic comments. I had nothing to do with it and it had nothing to do with my question. I didn't add a single comment to their conversation.

Questions should not be locked if some other people spoil it by adding useless comments.

I would like to request the moderators to please consider this and unlock my question. It isn't my fault that some people added off-topic comments.

I'd like people to be able to add additional answers my question, as I'm not completely satisfied with the ones I got. Is there any reason we can't simply remove the comments instead of locking the question?

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    You got no satisfying answer? I see a good answer to your question. – juergen d May 20 '13 at 16:58
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    Related feature request: Can we get a comments only lock? – yannis May 20 '13 at 17:12
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    But... But.. Comments are sacred! – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 17:31
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    Why are people downvoting this? The OP had nothing to do with the argument. – user159834 May 20 '13 at 17:33
  • @GeorgeStocker If you don't like to keep the noise around, perhaps suggest a solution here ....wait... – Bart May 20 '13 at 17:33
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    @GeorgeStocker The first time I read that I though you said that "comments are scared"... – Servy May 20 '13 at 17:33
  • @WesleyMurch Well, for starters, it's saying that the comments should be removed instead of locking. The comments were already removed, so that had already been done. Next, it would appear that people here feel that locking was appropriate in this situation, so they were using votes to indicate that they disagree with the OP's proposal. – Servy May 20 '13 at 17:39
  • @Servy The point here though, is that the OP is being "punished" for something he had no control over or involvement in. It seems unfair - do you agree? In addition, isn't 3 hours enough time for folks to "cool down"? – user159834 May 20 '13 at 17:40
  • @WesleyMurch Well, I already see a fantastic answer to the question already, so I don't even see what the problem is. The OP hasn't indicated in what way the existing answer(s) are problematic in my eyes. – Servy May 20 '13 at 17:43
  • @Servy That's really got nothing to do with it. – user159834 May 20 '13 at 17:44
  • @Servy "they were using votes to indicate that they disagree with the OP's proposal." - They weren't arguing because they disagreed with my question. I don't think their comments had anything to do with the question. They had nothing to disagree with. – ShuklaSannidhya May 20 '13 at 17:44
  • @WesleyMurch Really? The OP is specifically saying that the problem with the lock is that he needs a better answer. Without knowing how the answer is lacking how will someone know what to include in another answer? I looked at that question, saw that the answer was fantastic, and lost any motivation I might have had to post an answer. If the OP indicated how it was lacking I might have the motivation to either edit the existing answer or want to post one that addressed the issues he has. – Servy May 20 '13 at 17:46
  • @ShuklaSannidhya You're proposing that the post shouldn't have been locked. That's something that people can disagree with. They might feel that the lock was appropriate. – Servy May 20 '13 at 17:47
  • @Servy Yes, really. "You have a good enough answer IMO" is no reason for a mod to prevent more from being added, prevent the question from being edited, or prevent it from being voted on. What's the harm in unlocking it at this point? – user159834 May 20 '13 at 17:47
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    @Servy That's not for anyone but the OP to decide. If he wants to leave it open for another answer, he should have the right to. There's no point in leaving it locked any longer. – user159834 May 20 '13 at 17:50

If two or more people are getting into a discussion deleting the previous posts isn't always a way of preventing them from posting; they'll still be able to post new comments. The only way to prevent people from posting more new comments is to lock the post. (In most cases I'd imagine both would be done unless there was particularly valuable information embedded in the comments. Looking at the question, it seems the comments were nuked, so that indeed did happen.)

The lock won't last forever, just long enough to let the users cool down or possibly move the discussion to chat. It will be unlocked soon enough.

  • Maybe the lock text should say something about wearing off... – Aza May 20 '13 at 17:26
  • The lock doesn't prevent comments on answers, so it seems easy enough to move the argument there if one were willing. Not sure why a lock is needed here, a "stop arguing" comment from the mod would probably have been more effective (after removing the comments of course). – user159834 May 20 '13 at 17:31
  • @WesleyMurch That would require the mod to check back periodically to ensure that the discussion didn't continue. When you have a lot of such questions to check back on that can really add up. – Servy May 20 '13 at 17:34
  • No it wouldn't require the mod checking up, and it would send a clear message to the users involved. Is 2 hours enough time to let the users "cool down"? Because that's how long it's been. – user159834 May 20 '13 at 17:35
  • @WesleyMurch Assuming it worked. If it didn't, the mod would need to re-delete the comments and so something else. I think you're overestimating how successful such a comment would be. – Servy May 20 '13 at 17:37
  • It works every time I've seen it happen. Usually something like {nuke comments} "Hey guys I got a lotta flags here, let's keep it on topic and civil". – user159834 May 20 '13 at 17:38
  • @WesleyMurch I've seen such comments work and I've also seen them not work. It depends on the length of the comments, how heated they were, the number of people involved, how long they went on, etc. The mod made a judgement call that a lock was needed. In fact, for all I know such a comment was actually posted by the mod and the lock was his second response. Without seeing all deleted comments it's hard to judge. The mod's are elected specifically to make such judgement calls. – Servy May 20 '13 at 17:41

That question's comments received 7 flags (an extraordinarily high number) and resulted in 26 comments, none of which were useful.

Due to the number of flags and comments generated, we have very few choices as moderators:

  • We can delete the whole post (you probably don't want that)
  • We can close and delete the whole post (again, you probably don't want that)
  • We can lock the post for a period of time, and hope people don't decide to rehash their argument when the post is unlocked.

The problem with just deleting the comments is that they're a bit like weeds.

We don't have a good solution for this yet, so you're stuck with what we have.

I've unlocked the post and left a note. Hopefully that'll keep the Jackals away. If it doesn't. Well. We're back to one of those three possiblities I listed above.

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    You can also just delete the existing comments, leave a comment threatening a hammer of Thor if they do it again, and move on. It seems silly to lock an otherwise good question for this reason. – Adam Rackis May 20 '13 at 18:12
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    @AdamRackis The comment removal dialog for moderators sucks. Bigtime. With a large number of comments, it's far easier to delete them en masse than it is to try to selectively delete comments. – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 18:15
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    I have no problem deleting all comments en masse (well I do, but that's a small, separate matter). I'm just saying nuking all the comments and leaving the question open would have been better than locking it. The risk of more bad comments is I think smaller than the harm in preventing users from editing and answering the question. SO is supposed to primarily be about content, right? – Adam Rackis May 20 '13 at 18:17

To the Stack Overflow community and Moderators:

Although a lock may be the best option to stop off-topic comments, it's certainly unfair to the OP, as he may no longer receive answers, edit his question, receive on-topic comments, or receive votes. I don't even think it matters if the OP was involved in the discussion or not. We might benefit from looking at alternative methods. One idea off the top of my head would be to lock individual users from posting comments for 20 minutes or so (maybe with the exception of their own posts). There are plenty of different ways to potentially handle these situations.

I think 3 hours is enough time for the users involved to cool down, it probably would be safe to unlock the post at this point.

To ShuklaSannidhya (the OP):

Meta is harsh. Any valid points you may have are easily overshadowed by your attitude and behavior. Don't make accusations, don't call out specific users, and try not to "whine". Just present the facts. I find meta posts are more effective when you ask (Should my question remain locked? What can I do next time to prevent this? etc) rather than tell (This shouldn't happen. My post should be unlocked. This isn't fair! I should have left a rude comment myself! etc.)

If you want better answers, engage with the people who have posted answers. You post is locked so you can't edit it, but maybe in the comments explain why you're looking for another answer. Someone who has already posted one may be able to give you the info you want.

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    I disagree with your feature request ( 'lock individual users from posting...' -- Introduces a lot of extra complexity for little benefit, and wouldn't even come close to working on a site as large as Stack Overflow), otherwise I understand the gist of what you're saying. – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 18:17
  • @GeorgeStocker It's not a feature request, just an alternative idea. I don't see how it's complex, lots of sites have "mute" features. Just take away the users comment privilege for a short amount of time (as if they had less than 50 rep). Punish only the users involved. – user159834 May 20 '13 at 18:18
  • @George - why not just suspend the offending users for an hour? Is that an option? – Adam Rackis May 20 '13 at 18:18
  • @AdamRackis No, we get "Issue a warning" or "Suspend for 1 or more days." Not to mention that the behavior here wouldn't merit either of those outcomes -- if it did, then we'd have to start issuing thousands of those warnings a week. – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 18:20
  • @GeorgeStocker What is complex about my idea? – user159834 May 20 '13 at 18:21
  • @WesleyMurch "I don't see how it's complex." Think about adding an entirely new feature and workflow to your favorite application. It's always more complex in action than it is in theory. – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 18:22
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    @GeorgeStocker You mean complex for the developers? Really? Hey if you guys need help you can just ask on SO ;) Or did you mean complex for the moderators? Seems rather easy to me from both perspectives. if (User.isMuted) return false; You can comment again in 14 minutes. – user159834 May 20 '13 at 18:22
  • @WesleyMurch I'm saying that I don't think you've fully thought the how extensive a feature like this would be, both in implementation, performance, and grafting it in to the existing system. Stack Overflow's code is like an iceberg. What you see is a very small part of it. As a moderator, I see a bit more, but I'm certain I'm still only exposed to a small part of it. – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 18:26
  • @GeorgeStocker Sounds like you're merely playing devil's advocate for the developers. The point is that the current system has many faults. I don't buy that it's a "performance" issue. – user159834 May 20 '13 at 18:27
  • @WesleyMurch Nope, I'm not. – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 18:33
  • @WesleyMurch It sounds like you simply don't understand the magnitude of making the change you're proposing. If you really think it's one line of code you're simply wrong. It would be a very involved process. Also, just for the record, even if it were just one line of code it can still be quite involved. – Servy May 20 '13 at 18:33
  • @Servy Thank you. I was looking for that blog post, but couldn't find it. You read my mind, sir! – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 18:35
  • @Servy I'm not saying it's one line of code, you guys are being too literal. I'm saying it would be worth the time, and certainly not overly complex. It's a small feature that solves an apparently relevant problem. Why do you guys care about that anyways, you aren't the ones responsible for the code. If it's a good idea, let the devs ponder it. – user159834 May 20 '13 at 18:41
  • @WesleyMurch If you really, really, really want to see what people think about it, post it as a feature request (in its own question)? – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 18:44
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    @WesleyMurch Speaking as a moderator (the person who would use this feature), I can tell you that this wouldn't be a particularly useful feature. If you'd like for me to tell you why, post it as a feature request and I'll answer the question. What rubbed me the wrong was was your assertion was that it'd be trivial to implement. As someone who works on code that ships to a high traffic site daily, I can tell you with certainty that trivial features do not exist in a complex system. – George Stocker May 20 '13 at 18:48

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