39

I don't know what the actual text is these days, but can we change the "you do not have enough rep to comment" text to make clearer what this means and why?

This week already I've seen several new users post comments as answers "because I don't have enough rep to comment".

In reality, of course, they are supposed to watch and learn before commenting, rather than finding some alternative and broken way to post their words, and if we can say this in the original error message then at least they were warned.

Two examples:

  • 17
    Maybe it's time to get rid of the whole limitation in the first place. I don't buy the "we'd get flooded with bad comments, cats and dogs living together" meme anymore, and I see so much useful info from new users go down the tubes in the review queues because of zealous deletionists. – Pekka Dec 29 '13 at 19:25
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    @Pëkka: Perhaps. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 29 '13 at 19:36
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    @Pëkka - google.co.uk/search?q=site:launchpad.net+"same+here" seems to be a pretty good argument against 1 rep commenting. – Flexo Dec 29 '13 at 20:24
  • @Flexo: Stack Overflow is not launchpad.net – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 29 '13 at 20:27
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    @Flexo Rebuttal – Trojan Dec 29 '13 at 20:55
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit You're right, it isn't, it has more activity. "same here" is pretty much the natural urge for people finding an unsolved issue that they have on a forum. On almost any problem solving forum. Heck, even Quora gets it on their "I have a problem"-type questions. The same goes for "thanks". – Manishearth Dec 29 '13 at 20:56
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    @trojansdestroy How is that a rebuttal? You're proving his point there, Stack Overflow, even with the comment restriction, still has tons of same here posts. Though most same here posts are with an answer attached so it's not of the bad type. – Manishearth Dec 29 '13 at 20:57
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    @Mr. It's a rebuttal because plenty of those results are in code. Most that aren't in code are instruction to "do the same thing here," and a lot that don't fit those two categories are "Same result in [browser X]" (testing results). Just thought it was interesting. – Trojan Dec 29 '13 at 21:03
  • I never see any "same here"-type comments or answers on Stack Overflow. Ever. As we've already seen, if this were a problem, newbs would be posting those as answers when they hit the commenting restriction. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 29 '13 at 21:06
  • @trojansdestroy Have a look at the results in launchpad, then – Manishearth Dec 29 '13 at 21:08
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit Maybe because random people on the Internet can't comment unlike on lp? The nice thing is that the distinction between comment and answer is still clear (especially when there are preexisting comments) so to a newbie the answer box will seem like the wrong place to say "same here". – Manishearth Dec 29 '13 at 21:11
  • @Mr. I was going to say the same. Launchpad treats essentially every post on a thread equally (with the exception of order on the page); that's the equivalent of every comment ever being an answer on a SE site. The model here prevents most of that. It also helps that there's a visual distinction between comments and answers. – Trojan Dec 29 '13 at 21:15
  • Yep, and newbies seem to understand that for the most part. The problem is that they post answers anyway, as a fallback, when they have tried to comment and were blocked from doing so. In their eyes that is a reasonable thing to do, even when they acknowledge that they're not allowed to write comments yet. To some degree you can never win this, but we may be able to help by making the error text clearer. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 29 '13 at 21:15
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    I'd argue that the model here handles users skirting around rep barriers pretty well. Since posting a comment as an answer is probably the most common instance of this (is it? Are there others?), compare the frequency of answers that should be comments from low-rep users to the overall frequency of answers that should be comments. I don't think this problem is specific to new users. There are non-answer answers all over the place. – Trojan Dec 29 '13 at 21:25
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    Made a suggestion for a FAQ entry: What is the rationale behind blocking new users from commenting? – Pekka Dec 30 '13 at 2:17
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This is what low-rep users see when they click the "comment" link on posts:

You must have 50 reputation to comment

Perhaps a good way to attack this problem would be to add a second line to this. Something like,

...Please don't post answers unless you're able to answer the question.

| improve this answer | |
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    That's what I'm referring to, yes. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 29 '13 at 22:00
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    Do you have a low-rep sock-puppet to see that? :) – JMCF125 Dec 29 '13 at 22:26
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    @JMCF125: I'm guessing the 9 Shogs are actually 9 sock-puppets. :-) – Jamal Dec 29 '13 at 22:55
  • @Jamal, I have the feeling he has referred having a few sock-puppets before... – JMCF125 Dec 29 '13 at 22:57
  • Even one of the founders has one (it can no longer be used for this particular purpose, though). – P.Mort. - forgot Clay Shirky_q Dec 29 '13 at 23:26
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    But this still doesn't do anything to explain why this limitation is in place. Can we have a link to a resource explaining the rationale? – Pekka Dec 29 '13 at 23:27
  • Got one in mind, @Pëkka? – Shog9 Dec 29 '13 at 23:42
  • @Shog not specifically - there must be a good answer on this on Meta somewhere, but it's not obvious. I'll see later whether I can find one – Pekka Dec 29 '13 at 23:45
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    I kinda have one, but it's kinda wrapped up in an irrelevant question @Pekka. If you have something else in mind, throw a link in. – Shog9 Dec 29 '13 at 23:55
  • @9Shogsa-Shogging I wrote a suggestion: What is the rationale behind blocking new users from commenting? feel free to use it or kill it if you think it's superfluous – Pekka Dec 30 '13 at 2:09
  • Even better would be to link to Pekka's suggested FAQ, too: meta.stackexchange.com/q/214173/160917. That way people who want to learn more can learn about why they can't post a comment and what they're supposed to do. – D.W. Dec 30 '13 at 6:15
5

Add "training wheels"...

There's nothing inherently wrong with new users commenting. The problem is they haven't learned how to comment in a style acceptable to the stackexchange network.

So let's help them!

Instead of banning comments, we could active a little panel in the right nav area that's a very brief, easy to read guide with examples of good and bad comments. Make it really stand out, possibly taking up some comment input area screen real estate, so it's somewhere between annoying and noticeable, but not require user action.

Once the user makes say 10 comments that aren't deleted, or one that is upvoted, the pop up goes away. Like a probationary period.


The other thing to note is that having 50 reputation is hardly a measure of how well a user can make comments.

| improve this answer | |
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    If such a ‘license agreement’ popped up, would they read it? Consider the big animated thing that pops up when you first try to post an answer. That exists solely to help people post good answers, yet it's still not read. – icktoofay Dec 30 '13 at 3:07
  • @icktoofay how about putting a question in there like what is 5 + 7? And they have to answer 12? OK, too hard, but just because someone has 50 rep doesn't mean much. There ought to be some popup guidance - even if it's some JS that checks for useless comments heuristically. Something is surely possible to allow all users to comment. Aren't we being just a little precious? – Bohemian Dec 30 '13 at 3:47
  • +1 for "add training wheels", even if I don't much like your specific "licence agreement" suggestion. Some way to better inform new users about what comments are meant to be used for would be good, though. – Ilmari Karonen Dec 30 '13 at 16:15
  • @icktoofay ok I've axed the nerdy agreement. what about the replacement idea? – Bohemian Dec 30 '13 at 20:51
  • @IlmariKaronen yeah, it was a bot draconian. better now i hope – Bohemian Dec 30 '13 at 20:52
2

I think that everyone should be able to comment, regardless of rep. Commenting is often a vital piece of answering questions, as it is crucial to properly understand the question, and you can clarify through commenting.

However, we need quality filters against low-rep commenters. This would include stuff like:

  • Unformatted code (It's a pain in the neck to request code, and have someone comment a mass of unformatted code in their comments)
  • Thanks!, and Me Too! comments
  • Making flagging new user comments easier.
| improve this answer | |
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    Your first paragraph isn't particularly relevant. Nobody's questioning the utility of comments; the question is whether users should be forced to gain more site experience before writing any. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 29 '13 at 21:15
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    I don't think lowering the threshold from 50 to 10 would make much difference -- we'd still be telling new users "No, you can't do this now! Maybe you can do this someday later, if you bring us a shrubbery and get enough random people to upvote it." I'd support requiring users to register to comment, though -- that's still a (minor) hurdle, but one that any determined user can overcome on their own in a definite amount of time. (Remember, new users won't know how long it takes to earn 10, 50 or 500 rep here -- in fact, most probably overestimate it, since they'll assume that 1 vote = 1 rep.) – Ilmari Karonen Dec 29 '13 at 22:21
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    @Ilmari if you bring us a shrubbery and get enough random people to upvote it. looooooooool that's exactly why I thought the limit must either go away, or much better explained than it is now - it looks insanely bureaucratic to the outsider. – Pekka Dec 30 '13 at 0:05
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    @IlmariKaronen: Interesting point towards the end of your comment there; I'd not considered that. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 30 '13 at 2:32
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    @IlmariKaronen yeah. I hadn't thought of that before – scrblnrd3 Dec 30 '13 at 9:29

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