We all know the drill. Comments are temporary and intended to clarify stuff to make the posts better.
It would be nice if we had a way to mitigate the harm from comments by protecting users who misuse them from their own baser instincts. Arguing on the internet is the world's oldest profession!(this may not be correct) Even great users who provide great content and make great comments run the risk of getting caught up in an epic back-and-forth that makes every mod cry when they wake up to 20 flags in the queue and click on the question to see show 36 more comments.
I believe there are two things that cause this lapse in judgment from otherwise productive members:
@repliesmake it really easy to participate in a back and forth because you get that nice red notification every time another salvo is ready to be launched from your end
- People who engage in a long comment back-and-forth only get a nice "Let's move this to chat" message that they can readily ignore and doesn't make them think twice about posting the next message ("The other guy can move this to chat, I definitely want to show he's wrong to people who don't click through")
So let's fix that. For users who have a certain amount of non-self-deleted comments over a certain time span (say >20% of comments deleted by others over a 30 day span, with a minimum of 10 comments, numbers can be fudged), they automatically get the following rate limits:
@repliesafter a certain amount of back-and-forth (stop notifying the users bickering)
- When that "Let's move this to chat" message pops up, prevent the users from adding any more comments until they've cleaned up their existing mess
In addition, give mods a way to selectively rate limit and/or comment ban chatty users who let their baser instincts get the best of them
If people don't know there's a response, they are much less likely to continue the silliness. If they're at all like me, they will get distracted by a shiny thing in the corner, and without that red notification, they will totally forget that someone thought that GOTO statements are okay. And that's good.
So after a certain amount of back-and-forth, just prevent notifications on the same post from comments.
"Let's move this to chat"
When the conversation continues despite the lack of red notifications, and the chat message pops up to serve as a reminder that this is less than ideal behavior, prevent the people involved from making any other comments unless they clean up their existing comments. Want to move to chat? Great. Want to keep commenting? Delete your own nonsense so that someone else doesn't need to.
Give mods better tools
Right now, mods have limited options for dealing with well-intentioned community members who get wrapped up and dive off the deep end:
- Delete the comments on the post and leave a friendly comment saying something like:
Comments removed. Comments are to seek clarification; they are not for long arguments. And let's keep it civil, everybody.
- Send a message to the user in particular reminding them of what comments are for
- Suspend the user
Sacrifice a live goat to Shog9 and perform the ritual
The first one is great, but easily ignored. The second does not seem to have the desired effect on all users. And the third is sacrificing otherwise good content and comments because they have impulse control issues when it comes to bickering with people.
Instead, give us a tool to either limit comments, or suspend users from commenting at all. Suspension from comments is self-explanatory, but the rate limiting would be more like:
- One comment per question (no bickering in question comments, you can add another if you delete your first comment to allow for iterative clarifications)
- Three comments on their own posts (so they can clarify to multiple members, but can't argue for an extended time)
- No comments on other people's answers
These are a lot of very different ideas that are all saying, "Good people make bad decisions, and comments enable them to do it more easily." Give us a way to protect good users from their worse judgment. The internet will be a better place for it.