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I've seen a lot of debate on the use of comments. Although they extremely useful (allow people to gain more information on a question and possibly give resources supporting the question), a lot of people have brought up the aspect of some comments becoming nothing more than "noise".

The amount of comments have lead to the inability to properly moderate. Of course cutting comments down won't magically make comments moderatable, but it's a step towards it (and with a growing community like this, the problems will only get worse until they're dealt with).

I've seen a lot of these "noise" comments from highly reputable people, stating "+1 beat me to it" or "very well explained" (not sure if the second one counts as "too chatty"), so it's obviously something that isn't too much of a bother. These are also handled by flags. But, some other comments that might not be considered "noise" are also contributing towards the amount of daily comments in a powerful way.

What are some solutions? Start cutting down the amounts of comments. That's the best place to start. Comments are harder to moderate, seeing how there could be many reasons for why a comment would be considered "noise". If we cut down the amount of needed human-moderation, then it could be possible to moderate comments in the future

How would it be done? Compile a list of the most commonly seen comments, and create actions for them (similar to voting, flagging, ect.. rather than plain text). This will allow us to not only cut back on the amount of comments, but to moderate these "needs" in a more efficient manner (reviews, bots).

Pros:

  • Less comments
  • More detailed posts (can see details by looking at actions made to the question; similar to voting)
  • Progress towards fixing the "comment-as-answer" problem
  • Easier to inform OP of problem in question

Cons:

  • More moderation needed

Keeping in mind the intentions of these sites, with the motive of keeping it clean, do you think that reasons people would comment should be looked at in more detail, giving the ability to possibly implement some features to cut comments down to size?

Some examples of things I've seen people use comments for: "Did you try debugging?/Try debugging it." "Post the errors you get" "Possible Duplicate" "Not enough code / Please give us a small executable example"

And the list goes on. Although these are useful comments, they are tedious and overly-used comments (although properly used). What are some of the things you feel specific comments could be replaced with?

If you feel comments should stay how they are, and no modification is necessary, feel free to state why

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    Nope, I don't think comments are a big burden or problem, really. – Martijn Pieters Jun 19 '14 at 15:02
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    @MartijnPieters What about the inability to moderate, forcing the "50+ rep" limitation, forcing new users to post comments as answers? Even if it's not recommended to, new users typically ignore the fact that answers aren't for comments – Vince Emigh Jun 19 '14 at 15:07
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    @VinceEmigh What about it? If you have a proposal for how to prevent new users from posting comments as answers, then by all means, propose it. As it is, this post is not proposing anything, drawing attention to anything innovative, it's not really adding any value. It's just saying, "Please tell me how we can solve poverty". If people had proposals, they'd propose them. If you have something innovative to add, then tell us what it is. – Servy Jun 19 '14 at 15:09
  • @Servy This is why I listed it under discussion; I have made posts before, but instead of getting logical responses, I got downvoted for the exact reason I'm making this post: There are too many comments to moderate. That's why I opened up this discussion to talk about ways to make progress. Apparently, there is a flaw in the system because things are being used in the wrong fashion. I got downvoted before because "it just wasnt possible". Now I'm getting downvotted and told to post that question again. My proposal was replacing overly-used helpful comments with actions – Vince Emigh Jun 19 '14 at 15:13
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    @VinceEmigh I'm telling you that you're not adding value. You're telling people nothing that they didn't already know. If you were informing people of something they didn't already know about, say because you did in-depth research into the effects of comments, had statistical evidence that more comments resulted in poorer quality answers, or were in some way less helpful to readers, or...anything, something that you can bring to the table, a problem other people hadn't considered, a new solution, new data, then you're not helping. – Servy Jun 19 '14 at 15:16
  • @Servy So where would I post to start discussion about this if this apparently isn't the right place? Where is a place where I can post something that others can shed opinion on? – Vince Emigh Jun 19 '14 at 15:21
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    @VinceEmigh If you have nothing of value to contribute to a discussion then you don't. If you have something helpful to bring to the table, then this is the right place. If you just want to tell people to go figure it out on their own, then there is no place to do that. – Servy Jun 19 '14 at 15:26
  • @Servy reasons people would comment should be looked at in more detail was my suggestion/proposal, I gave examples as to what I meant, and I also asked a question to bring up discussion; i'm confused, what am I doing wrong? I'm really not trying to be rude, I just have no idea what I've been doing wrong thing entire time. Went from 100 rep to 50 in no-time.. /: – Vince Emigh Jun 19 '14 at 15:34
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    @VinceEmigh You're providing nothing of value, as I've told you several times now. You seem to be trying to start discussions just to say that you started a discussion, rather than because you have some useful information that you know that the rest of us don't. A proposal of "fix comments, they're broken" isn't helpful. It's like me saying, "you fix world hunger, go; I have other things to do besides come up with an actual solution." That's not really a proposal. If you have something of value to provide, that's one thing, if you don't, then just don't post. – Servy Jun 19 '14 at 15:38
  • @Servy You're speaking as if I never gave a suggestion. I started the discussion to have a discussion; no need for your silly assumsions.. This is a cascading problem that affects multiple areas. If you don't see it, then you apparently aren't looking deep enough. Its a problem that brings confusion, teaches bad usage of this site, and theres not a single thing informing you of the situation when you join, other than "you cant comment". If you're gonna repeat yourself, disregarding information from my previous comment, then just don't comment – Vince Emigh Jun 19 '14 at 15:47
  • @VinceEmigh Yes, it's all of those problems with comments as answers are already well established in previous discussions on the topics. If you have a proposal for how to actually solve that problem, then lets here it. If you don't have anything to add, then...you don't have anything to add. – Servy Jun 19 '14 at 15:51
  • @Servy I have edited my post. It still contains the same information as before, but elaborated. Does it fit criteria? – Vince Emigh Jun 19 '14 at 16:13
  • @VinceEmigh So what comments do you want to replace, and what actions do you want to take in those cases? – Servy Jun 19 '14 at 16:17
  • "Cons: More moderation needed" That's all I need to be against this proposal. Though I still don't think it's really needed, or would be all that beneficial. – Andrew Barber Jun 19 '14 at 16:23
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    Ironic: this post complaining about comments has generated lots of...comments. The OP should consider this post as a case study: Vince, what do you think should have happened differently in these comments, and what could you personally have done toward that end? – Monica Cellio Jun 19 '14 at 16:38
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Comments are good. Period.

Replacing them is a mistake.

You got a point though about millions of comments cluttering the site, big part are noise to begin with or becoming obsolete over time. You are not alone, even a Stack Exchange Community Manager tried to pull off a major change in the comments system but utterly failed.

As things stand these days I personally think we can let it be. Even with 100 comments on a post, only 5 are shown so it's not a big issue. There is "motive of keeping it clean" and there is "obsession to keep it perfectly clean". No need to have it perfectly clean, somewhere in the middle is enough IMO.

  • I'm not only worried about the amount of comments; there are many new members using the answering system for comments. It's something that wont stop affecting the community until its dealt with. Unless it's not a big deal that people are using the answering system for comments (which seems like a pretty big flaw; users start off not following the rules), I feel that possible solutios should be discussed regularly. Thanks for the link too, very interesting. I guess there are bigger issues out there, but compared to other things that are being discussed, flaws should be fixed before adding feats – Vince Emigh Jun 19 '14 at 15:28
  • @VinceEmigh good point but it was discussed nearly five years ago in depth, and honestly don't think there's much to add. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jun 19 '14 at 15:32
  • Thank you for your input :) Glad to see someone has shed some light on the situation. But I'm not the kind of guy to try and cover up a flaw by allowing undocumented rules. At the least, the subsitution (comment using answer) should be made more clear so these questions aren't asked again. I never knew that if a comment was too long, you could post it as an answer; thanks for informimg (ill be sure not to abuse it). But as you can probably tell as well, it's not really a fix, and it could easily lead towards confusion. If another new person sees a shott-comment answer, monkey-see monkey-do.. – Vince Emigh Jun 19 '14 at 15:43
  • @VinceEmigh So what proposal do you have for dealing with comments posted as answers? We know that they happen, and that they are somewhat of a problem, although there are tools for dealing with them. If you know of something better, propose it. – Servy Jun 19 '14 at 15:43
  • @Servy I'll edit my question. The proposal is in there, you just aren't seeing it. – Vince Emigh Jun 19 '14 at 15:49
  • @VinceEmigh it's hard to understand what you actually suggest. What you mean by "create actions for them"? Can you give some concrete example? Let's take the infamous "What have you tried?" comment. What you suggest instead? – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jun 19 '14 at 18:48
  • @VinceEmigh I don't see taking away comments as something that would solve the problem of new users using the answer box to ask for clarification. If anything, it will just make the problem worse. – fbueckert Jun 19 '14 at 18:52

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