Follow up on this question.

I often feel the need to respond to another comment or answer in a way that

  • expresses (sometimes really appropriate) thankfulness

  • is educational, but not related to the question/answer

  • is only relevant for some users

Even if this kind of commenting - communcating - is an essential human factor (therefore often tolerated), it mostly just adds noise and makes me feel bad. So when I think it's been perceived I go back and delete it, and that's kind of disprortionate regarding the effort/gain ratio.

Regarding the same ratio, I was wondering if either of the following was proportionate:

Suggestion 1

Comments can be marked with (e.g.) two @-signs, so that the (complete) comment only appears in the inbox of the pinged person, being deleted after the addressee clicks on the messages 'x'. (Only people participating in the post can be notified, like in normal comments.)

Suggestion 2

Comments can be marked with a short character sequence, which makes the comment self destruct after some time (e.g. 24 hours, or less, maybe even specified in the sequence, with a maximum of xx hours).

  • 1
    This could be useful to add a comment for an editor also, the kind of comment that add nothing to the question/answer but is the only way to communicate directly with an editor. Aug 19, 2014 at 16:47
  • 1
    this could be abused by people who like foul language Aug 19, 2014 at 16:50
  • 2
    @JanDvorak Normal comments can be, too. A flag could be added to the 'x' in the first option. Aug 19, 2014 at 16:53

1 Answer 1


What you are talking about is completely normal. It is in our nature to be social in gatherings, so it is quite natural to feel that urge to be "part of the conversation."

But that's where the problem starts.

We are all at different levels in terms of what we have to offer to the topic in front of us. So inevitably, if don't have anything substantive to add, you'll look for the closest outlet to veer into whatever other topics come to mind.

Unfortunately, that means that comments become the easiest path to entertain us with interesting anecdotes; random quips invite others to follow in kind, and soon you're just filling the information space with thank-yous and other accolades — as long ask you have a place to type.

So we do ask folks to forgo that behavior entirely.

This is right out of the The chat room/forum problem where we first started discussing how most forums have a scale problem; as in, they don’t. The more people who join in on the discussions, the more noise each of those connections bring. The forums get progressively noisier and noisier, and suddenly one day … you stop learning.

Stack Exchange is a bit different in that regard. The information being gathered here is supposed to be more like an entry in Wikipedia than something that is long and conversational. We specifically discourage the use of comments for stuff (as you said, quote) "not related to the question/answer." We have other means of showing appreciation (voting), and public artifacts are preferred to answers "only relevant for some users."

In my view, the disappearing comment is just another way of saying the comments shouldn't have been there in the first place. I can see some utility to figuring out how to auto-remove a comment once it serves its purpose, but that purpose is requesting clarification or making suggestions to improve the post. I do believe there is a solution to this problem, but…

This solution is just too prone to abuse.

Allowing a user to auto-remove an ill-fitting comment after 24 hours will only invite more of the activity we go through such great lengths to suppress. And contacting users through some type of private messaging system goes against the core mission of sharing and learning through public artifacts that we believe in so deeply.

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