Low-rep users can't leave comments. This leads to many users posting their comments as answers.

While the rationale behind this limitation is understandable, seen from the outside, it looks inane and bureaucratic. New users often have useful information to bring to the table. That information is often enough destroyed through deletion, or has to be manually converted to a comment by a moderator.

How about, experimentally for a month or so, removing the limitation, allowing comments from (registered) new users, and countering the threat of garbage comments with

  • A comment review queue for low-rep users' comments

  • A lowered flagging threshold for low-rep users' comments (say, 2 flags instead of 3 or whatever is required right now)

After all, features like anonymous feedback show that there's value to be gained from the input of the countless visitors who end up on Stack Overflow through Google, but are never going to become active members of the community. So why not use it?

  • 1
    Related to experimentally: are-feature-tryouts-practical-on-stack-overflow
    – juergen d
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 19:34
  • 1
    I'm not convinced that a month is enough to spot how this affects things. Otherwise, though... Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 19:37
  • 1
    @psubsee but the people who would be affected by the experiment are users who don't have much of a connection to Stack Overflow's culture (yet). Hence there's less room for confusion than in case of something that affects all users
    – Pekka
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 19:38
  • @Pëkka fair point, but there are new users who don't earn 50 rep in a month, so if they are able to comment, then it gets removed, it's going to result in a lot of meta questions (and maybe more comments as answers) - I might be imagining a worst case scenario however Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 19:41
  • 1
    As for anonymous feedback: the link in the 10k tools has been removed earlier this month: "I'm sorry that answer sucks, but it's just not an important feature to us, and it would take a significant time investment to fix." ;-)
    – Arjan
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 19:55
  • 3
    Maybe even add a captcha (with a short "As you don't have xx rep yet, ...") to simply stop bots.
    – Arjan
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 20:20
  • Not sure if you've kept up on things spam-wise, @Arjan but bots are only half the problem these days... Unless you count far-east mechanical turks who're perfectly able to create accounts, solve CAPTCHAs, etc.
    – Shog9
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 21:41
  • (Er, thanks @9Shogsa-Shogging. I didn't know...)
    – Arjan
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 21:48
  • I started a bounty - Flexo makes great arguments against the idea, but it is such a super annoying limitation.
    – Pekka
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 20:50

8 Answers 8


I'm strongly against this idea. (At least not without comments aging away with no interaction which hasn't been popular previously).

Even if there's a limited trial and the outcome isn't just pain, Stack Overflow is about Questions and Answers. The bottom line is we want good questions and good answers not comments and that's a message we rightly emphasize from day one.

  1. We can't clear a review queue of questions where the quality has been called into doubt and some of the other review queues are far too lenient.
  2. We don't have search tools for comments
  3. Mod tools for comments are somewhat painful except the nuclear "purge all option" (To be precise it's hard to handle the flags and see the context of the comment simultaneously, it's hard to bulk delete comments by specific troublesome users).
  4. New users can't vote. (For good reasons). If we shift the barrier for "out of band" interactions then comments will be come a proxy for voting through "+1 same here but I couldn't vote" comments. At best it just shifts the problem elsewhere.

Let's not spend dev time when there are other cool feature requests begging for it and not waste reviewer time when it's clearly in great demand already.

Please, let's stick to doing Q&A well, not descend into the quagmire of awful "me too" and "same here" comments which say less than the original post that the rest of the Internet is drowning in --- that's part of what makes this format so great.

  • 3
    +1 same here but I was too lazy to answer
    – Shog9
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 21:38
  • +1 I'd upvote this if I had the rep! Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 21:40
  • 1
    OK, these are fair points and hard to argue against. But then, this suggestion from earlier today should be implemented
    – Pekka
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 21:46
  • 2
    I'm sure the first obstacle you mentioned could be fixed with a change of the current review system. Same with the second. Same with the third. Same with the 4th (a simple filter could prevent the fourth..). All of these are only fair points when viewing the current systems as being static.
    – Dioxin
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 2:41
  • Part 2 of previous comment: "The bottom line is we want good questions and good answers not comments" contradicts itself (how could a question be improved without comments?). "Let's not spend dev time when there are other cool feature requests begging for it" Why fix problems we currently have when we can add more features that could potentially have problems? Unless you really feel that people using amswers to comment isn't a big deal. Horrible view on the situation, IMO.
    – Dioxin
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 2:43
  • I'd rather people didn't need to comment at all. Comments are nothing but a side show to the main event. Time taken to curate them is wasted time. If you stick around for a bit I hope you'll agree. (And for an example of why I dislike free comments look at the SNR of almost any public bug tracker and tell me that doesn't suck the life out of people who have to work with them)
    – Flexo
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 7:13
  • As far as contradictions go there isn't one - new users should putting poor questions on hold and finding the mechanisms for that. (Which gives feedback and provides a route to recovery or deletion as appropriate) Obsessing with fixing every terrible, illposed question through a series of learning steps delivered by helpful commenters is a nice idea but doesn't scale. (And some people simply aren't interested in learning to write a good question)
    – Flexo
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 7:26
  • This is hysterical. "The bottom line is we want good questions and good answers not comments" - What if someone gives a bad answer? We aren't supposed to analyze and explain it's bad? Users should just go by the votes, no explanation? Only in a perfect world, my friend... This is sooooo far from reality, I'm baffled. Yeah, someone with high rep can comment. Then again, there's already an issue with "downvoting without comment"....
    – Dioxin
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 20:08
  • @VinceEmigh not commenting when downvoting is a feature not a problem because it avoids massive tangential arguments and there's an implied comment from the tooltip anyway. Nothing makes the argument against 1 rep comments better than launchpad.net though: bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/openjdk-8/+bug/1341628 for one example. The SNR there is horrific.
    – Flexo
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 20:29
  • And it's disingenuous to claim that the current 50 rep comments anywhere leads to unexplained downvotes given that you need 125 rep to downvote at all.
    – Flexo
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 20:45
  • @Flexo It's disingenuous to bundle the two.. It's very common to see non-downvoters give feedback ("I didn't downvote, but.."). +1 comments are FAR more common from experienced users, along with the "I was about to write an answer like that". In fact, the experienced users tend to create the most comment noise, especially when it comes to cracking puns or jokes, and I can give a plethora of examples (including from moderators).
    – Dioxin
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:10
  • Ok, so you're not arguing that comments are misused and under-moderated. But your suggested action is to massively increase the number of people who can comment (off the top of my head registered users vs low/anonymous, who would create an account to write "me too" is well above 80:20 ratio) and then ask the review queues to deal with the fallout even though they're already struggling to keep up with the load. And somehow that considerable investment of effort would be well spent curating content that is neither an answer, nor a question and should in fact be entirely ephemeral anyway?
    – Flexo
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 17:25
  • What I'm saying is this isn't a permission problem, it's a content problem. Even highly reputable users... Actually, more often than not, it's the highly reputable users that are making those sorts of comments ("+1 I was thinking the same"). They already have systems in place for "LMGTFY" and "What have you tried so far?" - and trust me, it's not new users making these comments.. And that's my point: this limitation actually causes more harm than good (forcing new members to comment as answer), and it hardly focuses on the actual problem..
    – Dioxin
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 16:53

I'm still concerned about the potential of a massive backlog in the proposed comment review queue.

The last time an idea like this came up we had approximately 1,642,000 users with less than 50 rep. and I still think if each one of them posted one comment that went into a review queue we would have a massive problem.

I'm guessing that if we opened up commenting to new users and dumped all of those comments into a review queue, the queue would fill up fast, really fast, faster than reviewers would likely be able to keep up with.

If the backlog grew well into the thousands, and I wouldn't be surprised if it did, it would take quite a while for a comment to reach its intended destination and with comments being transient in nature, I doubt that many of the comments would still be relevant days or weeks later.

For those that have doubts about the number of comments creating a significant backlog, here's some data:


That's just comments from users with less than 50 rep commenting on their own posts each week... Imagine how big that number could get if we opened the flood gate.

SE tries to optimize for pearls not sand. A review queue for comments would seem to ask users to sift through sand, and look for better and worse qualities of sand.

  • 1
    I think it would be better to treat them like the "First Posts" and let it get posted and review afterwards, that would deal with the issue of outdated comments getting posted hours, days, or weeks later. you could also order the queue by rep and by past history. A user with a history of bad comments should immediately go to the front of the line, followed by brand new users, and then everyone else with less than 50 rep ordered by time and rep and past performance. Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 20:24
  • Don't allow new comment before old is reviewed? Allow commenting without queue after N commentx were accepted without reject? Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 20:25
  • @psubsee2003 Indeed that may solve the issue with the delay, but wouldn't that defeat the purpose of the review to some degree? Granted spam and noise would eventually be deleted after the review, but that would be after it was visible for days or weeks... well after the damage is already done.
    – apaul
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 20:30
  • @apaul34208 its definitely not a perfect solution, but there are already mechanisms to deal with the spam/noise comments, and one of Pekka's ideas also had lower thresholds for comment flag deletions so less flags have to make it all the way to the mods. Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 20:33
  • "if each one of them posted one comment". That isn't going to happen though is it? Probably only a vanishingly small percentage of those accounts are even regular visitors. Though a phased introduction could be more sensible to evaluate the quantity and time taken to deal before opening it to all. Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 20:34
  • @psubsee2003 I like the idea about lower flag thresholds, but I still think that a new review queue has the potential to cause more issues than it solves. SE tries to optimize for pearls not sand. A review queue for comments would seem to ask users to sift through sand, and look for better and worse qualities of sand.
    – apaul
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 20:46
  • I recall a game, RuneScape, claiming that they had 200m players. Most of them weren't even active. Statistics that haven't been thuroughly investigated can easily shift the view of someone wrongly. I highly doubt the entire 1.6m are active, and I highly doubt all the active ones are planning to ALL comment for stupid reasons intentionally.
    – Dioxin
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 2:46

I think there is value in the idea, and now that we have review queues (which didn't exist when the comment feature was devised) you can have a multitude of users reviewing comments for appropriateness, and flagging ones that aren't. Maybe you can even consider a short term "comment" ban for low-rep users who have a high rate of comment deletions due to inappropriate comments.

But I am concerned removing the limit for just a month is just going to cause confusion, because if we decide that the rep-less commenting is causing more harm than good, and we roll it back, you are going to have a lot of lower rep users get used to the ability when we take it away.

A longer period of time for the test would solve this problem as most of the affected users would hopefully achieve the 50 rep limit and won't miss it, but another alternative would be graduated test over several weeks (or months). Initially, we can start by dropping it to 25 rep, then 15, 10 and eventually 0. We can assess the "damage" at each step and make a decision if to move forward with the next step or if we need to stop and watch it for a while longer, but unless there was serious damage, we don't roll back to the previous rep level,

  • I like your view. Although, "you are going to have a lot of lower rep users get used to the ability when we take it away" isn't as big of a problem as you think. Change is something that is constant in life, and if you can't handle change on that scale (to the point of outrage; not understanding the reason), then maybe that person has other problems he must tend to before making statements on this..
    – Dioxin
    Commented Jun 11, 2014 at 2:53

Not to be a broken record, but the main reason for keeping new users from commenting is that their comments are vanishingly unlikely to be useful. In order to comment (as opposed to answer) you need to establish:

  • is information missing? For example, I've seen comments asking for information, such as what programming language this is, that is clearly in the tags
  • is this in fact a duplicate question that requires neither comment nor answer, just directing the asker to a beautiful canonical Q/A pair?
  • is the question hopelessly off topic and about to be closed, making any request for further clarification or details irrelevant?
  • is this the kind of tag where 10 people will post an answer while you're posting your "have you tried debugging yet I often find that yields a lot of insight" comment?

New users (those with less than 50 rep) tend not to know this. They don't know about tagging, they don't know about dupes, they don't know how quickly or slowly things move on a particular site or in a particular tag. Yes, you may know a counter example who read for weeks or months and came to learn our entire system without ever asking or answering anything, but rules are not made for counterexamples, and that learner could have tossed off 25 edits during the journey and would be comment-ready by so doing. Folks who Googled for their problem, then followed a few links and are now wondering if they could possibly answer a question, but want to comment first for clarification, are simply not comment-ready. Telling me they really want to comment changes nothing.

I've said this before and I'll continue to say it every chance I get. And as I have said before, the complaint that no questions exist that can just be answered without commenting is utterly and obviously untrue. We all found some didn't we?

  • How is any of this different for answers? Why is it so much worse if users not familiar with the system post comments that are bad due to misunderstandings, pointless due to question closure or much too late than answers with the same attributes? Regarding the possibility of acquiring 50 reputation elsewhere: This is not what new users want or will do. Most of them have a certain question they want to contribute to and if they cannot do so, they will either leave or contribute by abusing answers for comments.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 22:17
  • Answers can be downvoted (so that others are not misled by them) or edited, @Wrzlprmft. And my point is that But new users want to comment is not and never will be a good reason to permit new users to comment, when there are many good reasons not to. I said in my answer "Telling me they really want to comment changes nothing" and yet you comment say "but new users want to comment." DO NOT CARE. Sorry. Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 22:23
  • And comments can be flagged and soft-deleted (which is arguably a less negative experience than being downvoted into oblivion without any explanation) – which is exactly what the question proposes. As for the rest: If you are not open for discussion or want to consider arguments, why do you post here in the first place?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 22:36
  • do you have any idea how common the "get rid of the rep bar for commenting" idea is? And how the only argument generally put forward for it is "but new users want to even though they don't know how" and whenever someone explains the downsides the response is "but new users really want to! They might leave if they can't!" I have heard this argument. I reached the position I outlined in my answer in full knowledge of (and acknowledgement of) the absolute undeniable truth that new users want to comment. I get it. I know it. I hold my position anyway. Reminding me changes nothing. Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 22:44

One of the main arguments that has been made against this so far is that comments wouldn’t be reviewed quickly on sites which already have review backlogs. But as far as I can see, this applies only to Stack Overflow and a few others. Thus, why not leave things on those sites as they are and test this feature somewhere else? (Moreover, since empty review queues correlate with the effort required from users to reach 50 reputation.)

Apart from the workload of implementing this, the only potential negative side I acknowledge is the risk of “teaching” users to use Stack Exchange the wrong way. On the other hand, one could argue that the current system teaches users to post comments as answers or more generally to misplace content. And let’s not forget that a proper review can teach users what is an appropriate comment – something that we hardly teach users right now. Moreover, there is little incentive for leaving useless comments.

As with the proposed triage system, one could think about letting comments go live only after review.

So, why is this worth the effort?

  • The current system scares away potential contributors: If you are new to something, you usually want to start at a low level, which would be commenting on Stack Exchange. If you cannot do this, this alone might keep you from contributing on a higher level. If you decide to go against the rules to post a constructive comment as an answer, this may be a disappointing experience due to the lack of a comment-conversion option in the low-quality-posts review queue, as I elaborated here.

  • This might actually reduce the workload of admins and reviewers. Evaluating whether a comment is appropriate as such is done relatively quickly in most cases. On the other hand, the current system causes a lot of comments-as-answers in the low-quality-posts review queue which require a more thorough evaluation as to whether there is some hint of an actual answer left in them. Also, admins have the workload of performing comment conversion right now.

  • We get some constructive comments.

As a bonus, the same queue could also be used to allow users reviewing comment flags, something that is restricted to admins right now. This might drastically help keeping the comment sections clean.

  • If you do want to test, testing should be done on one of the high-traffic sites, since those are the ones most likely to attract comments from passing wanderers.
    – muru
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 17:00
  • @muru: Yes and no. The main advantage of testing on high-traffic sites is that you get a good statistics quickly. However, a lot of sites get more visits per content than Stack Overflow (and probably the same holds for visits per reviewing users). Also, low-traffic sites do arguably more benefit of this feature. If this feature gets introduced everywhere else, but never on Stack Overflow, it could still be worth the effort.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 17:17

I am in favor of status quo (commenting is a 50 rep privilege).

Mainly for these simple points

  • 1 rep users could spam comments easily. Even if this went into a queue it would be a hassle to deal with.
  • Using a queue is counter intuitive for a comment which is supposed to show up instantly. It could cause a lot of duplication to occur.
  • New users do not understand the system and many times consider it to be a forum or a social network which results in poor comments.
  • The first point can easily be countered with radical rate limiting, e.g., by allowing no user to post more than two comments before having a comment approved.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 21:42
  • @Wrzlprmft - It isn't from one 1 rep user, it is from the plethora of them.
    – Travis J
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 21:45

As a new user I think something should be done with the reputation cap for commenting. I mean, yea you run the risk of a bunch of new users commenting the pointless "me too" thing. I've been on this site a week now, and I've run into questions where I can't give a complete answer, but I do have some info that might help, which is what I have seen comments used for, for the most part. Yea the site wants quality questions and answers, however comments do have their place in that system.

It's part of the basic functionality of the site. Personally I think it should be a privilege you can lose, and not one you have to earn. My thought process for fixing it is to start users out with enough rep to comment, maybe coupled with a lower comment reputation requirement. However that leads to other balance issues, like proxy voting. Hell, even just matching the up/down voting requirement would make a lot more sense in my mind.

I usually hang out on the philosophy board, and they are pretty understanding of that fact, and usually don't downvote the newbie who is just trying to contribute. As long as I give that warning of a partial answer. Also a good number of times people will have already answered the crap out of a question, and you just want to throw this little tidbit out there to add to their answers.

There is my two cents as a new user. The devs will do what they think is best for the site.


I think we need the opposite: we need to make it harder for newer users to leave comments. Most comments left by new users on their own questions, which do not require 50 reputation, should instead be edits of their question.

  • If that’s indeed the case on some sites, why not feature-request an info blurb for exactly those users that they can edit their own question? However, there are often situations which require new users to comment on their own question and thus I do not consider disallowing that a good idea.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 21:19

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