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On Stack Overflow proper, you must have 50 points of reputation to comment anywhere on the site, not just on your own posts and answers to your questions. However, on Meta, even 1-reputation users can leave comments everywhere.

This is done on SO and everywhere else to prevent spam, like the following comment I just deleted on Meta:

Spam comment

Note that this comment stayed on the site for 7 hours before it was finally detected and removed.

Our current anti-spam and anti-trolling system appears to block normal posts (questions and answers), but the spammers and trolls who were blocked by this are now using comments on Meta to work around this. In addition to the above, at least two trolls have used this to post off-topic and sometimes very disturbing comments to random posts over the last week here.

What is the use case for allowing brand-new users to post comments anywhere on Meta? Should this privilege be brought more in line with the reputation requirements of Stack Overflow proper?

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    Even bringing it up to 10 rep would help a lot. – Undo - Reinstate Monica Feb 19 '14 at 15:45
  • I wish I could +1 again for making that link unclickable. – devnull Feb 19 '14 at 15:47
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    you can always locate sad Unicorns in cheap replica handbags. additional features include a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead. – Amal Murali Feb 19 '14 at 15:48
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    Posting comments for clarification seems like a reasonable avenue of support, which is what Meta is for. I'm a little surprised a comment like that stuck around so long, but I guess it's because there aren't really good ways to take note of new comments. I don't think Meta has sufficient volume to warrant pulling the rug out from under brand new users though, since there are tools to deal with problems like this. – Tim Stone Feb 19 '14 at 15:52
  • @TimStone - What would be something they'd post a comment requesting clarification on that wouldn't be better as a separate support question? We've had to lock some of the FAQ posts because of noise from comments that were asking new questions under answers there. The "why am I banned from asking questions" post was particularly bad in this regard. – Brad Larson Feb 19 '14 at 15:55
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    Considering the awful comments that have been posted this morning, it would be great if something could be done. – Taryn Feb 19 '14 at 15:56
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    @devnull Requiring reputation to post on Meta Stack Overflow, which has its own reputation system, would mean that no one but people with an association bonus could actually do anything to get reputation. – Grace Note Feb 19 '14 at 15:59
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    Given that a significant portion of contributions on meta do come through discussions on comments, rather than through questions/answers, this would be rather limiting to a new user's ability to effectively participate in the site. Much more so than on non-meta sites. – Servy Feb 19 '14 at 15:59
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    Not all of us 1 rep users are bad eggs. – Simon Feb 19 '14 at 15:59
  • I'm sure there's lots of things, no sense in encouraging people to post duplicates that'll just end up with a clarifying comment anyway. It would seemingly make more sense to apply some level of anti-spam/anti-trolling monitoring to comments in a similar way that they're applied to normal posts before raising the reputation barrier as a scorched earth approach. – Tim Stone Feb 19 '14 at 16:02
  • @Servy - It's also a lot more acceptable to post answers that contain opinions or your own take on a discussion, so new users are not without a means of participating in discussions. – Brad Larson Feb 19 '14 at 16:02
  • @BradLarson And yet if they notice a problem with another user's opinion, or their arguments, they cannot comment on that answer to discuss them. A single response in a competing answer isn't great, but can work, but no further responses are particularly effective. So while, yes, they can participate, meta users simply rely on the use of comments as well as answers in many discussions. – Servy Feb 19 '14 at 16:05
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The logic behind the lack of restriction is that Meta is a place for feedback and discussion. Comments allow users to confirm reproduction of bugs or voice concerns/support about features without clogging answers when their contribution isn't the kind that would warrant a full post.

We do a lot of pointing to Meta Stack Overflow. It's an occurrence here and there that someone on, say, Stack Overflow, who has less than 200 reputation, has an issue in a question that this gets linked to a relevant Meta Stack Overflow question. They won't have the association bonus, and since this isn't tied to SO rep they only have 1 reputation. The ability to comment gives them something to contribute to things where another answer isn't really necessary, but which the comment could be useful.

We could do with better monitoring to avoid bad comments showing up. But I think it would be wise for us to produce some numbers about how many "bad" comments we get in comparison to useful comments from users at various new reputation levels, before we make choices on changing this threshold. The current threshold is an enabler and we need strong reason to believe its negatives outweigh its positives, first.

Update: For a while now, commenting on Meta Stack Exchange now requires 5 reputation. This should stem spam comments while still allowing discussion.

  • How about requiring the user to have10 rep on at least one SE site? – miniBill Feb 19 '14 at 16:13
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    @miniBill Site privileges are determined by the reputation on the site itself, across the network. Child Meta sites derive their rep from the parent site, but here, we have our own reputation. Trying to reference a separate site would be complexly divergent from the norms and most likely expensive for the system to compute (different place to look, have to check any possible account, have to confirm the account has enough rep). That's my initial thoughts on the idea. – Grace Note Feb 19 '14 at 16:17
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    That seems to explain the reasoning pretty clearly (as did the comments by Tim Stone and Servy above). Perhaps a reputation restriction is the wrong way to approach this. Better tools for comment moderation are probably what's required. – Brad Larson Feb 19 '14 at 16:24
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    @miniBill also note that some people create a completely separate account for this site specifically, sometimes to avoid any correlation to their main account when they bring up an issue. Those users would have a hard time getting 10 rep here. – Aaron Bertrand Feb 19 '14 at 16:39

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