Sometimes, I see a comment thread (several comments) that could better be deleted, but users cannot do that atomically.

For example:

Question by user1234:

How can I foo my bar?

Blah Blah...

Blah Blah ...


user5678: Would it be good enough to frobnicate it?

user1234: @user5678 No! That's an entirely different business!

Here, we should delete both comments or none. If any user deletes his comment, the result will look weird, so I guess no one will ever do it. The result is, pointless comments persist forever. Someone could flag the post so a moderator would remove both comments, but consider the following:

user8765: Hey, you have a typo! It's baz, not bar

user_xxx: Hey here is an awesome comment that we totally should NOT delete!

user1234: @user8765 Thanks for noticing! Updated my post.

No moderator wants to sift through all these comments to find out which ones to remove (first and third), and which ones to leave (second).

How can we do it?

Idea 1

Let's have a hierarchy of comments, like some forums do!

I think this is so obvious that it has been suggested and rejected before. I couldn't find this suggestion though.

Idea 2

Let's have a hierarchy of comments, so it's possible to delete them atomically. For example, instead of pushing the 'x' button to remove my comment, I drag this button on my comment onto other person's comment, to create the hierarchy:

user8765: Hey, you have a typo! It's baz, not bar

user1234: @user8765 Thanks for noticing! Updated my post.

user_xxx: Hey here is an awesome comment that we totally should NOT delete!

user8765: Actually, the spelling is baaaz

user1234: @user8765 Hey, that's too much.

Now, user8765 can easily delete 4 comments by deleting his own 2 comments (BTW should he get a notification that it's now possible?). If he decides to leave them, the answers by user1234 are still visible, so the purpose of the various comments is clear.

So, to summarize - I want to make a hierarchy of comments on their way to deletion, such that all of them can be deleted by one key-press by a user.

I don't want to make this a feature-request yet because the UI seems nonstandard (dragging a comment by its delete button - non-intuitive? impossible to implement?) so maybe people can come up with other ways to do this.

P.S. Here is another UI to make this temporary hierarchy: when I want to reply to someone's comment, I press the "x" button on his comment (which currently doesn't exist, at least for me), enter my comment as usual, and the system arranges for my comment to be conditionally deleted right at the beginning, like I described above.

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    I don't think it is worth the development effort... – rene Aug 20 '14 at 14:24

Hierarchy or other fancy Facebook stuff in comments has been refused many, many times.

This sentence in your question explains all:

Let's have a hierarchy of comments, like some forums do!

The Stack Exchange sites aren't forums.

You are not here to discuss. Questions and answers should stand on their own. Comments are there to clarify questions and answers. All comments that would be relevant over time should be merged into the question / answer.

Therefore I don't consider it useful to implement something like this.

  • As far as I understand the hierarchy only purpose is to assist in clean-up of comments. You can have them linked without any visual representation.... – rene Aug 20 '14 at 14:23
  • @rene: The indentation is clearly there in the question, so it seems to be some kind of tree. – Patrick Hofman Aug 20 '14 at 14:25
  • @PatrickHofman I proposed a way of "merging the comments into the question/answer", as you say. Why don't you consider it useful? It's not clear from your answer. Maybe you want to say that making comments easy to use will encourage people to leave yet more comments? – anatolyg Aug 20 '14 at 16:08
  • I don't read that merging into answers part in your question. A lot of functionality in comments will actual let people know it is a correct way to use the site instead of posting decent questions / answers, which it isn't. That's why they (the SE team) don't want features like this. – Patrick Hofman Aug 21 '14 at 13:36

Sorting out which comments to delete and which ones to leave is the work of moderators.

If some of your comments are obsolete, delete them. If you want to delete someone else's comment, which is an answer to yours, just flag it as "no longer needed". A moderator will delete it for you.

A zealous moderator may look at all existing comments on the post, and delete ones that are obsolete. However, such cleanup is just a moderator's good will. Pointless comments can and will persist forever; it's part of the Stack Exchange culture.

If for some reason it's important to remove pointless comments on a specific post, make a custom flag "for moderator's attention" and describe the situation there. However, moderators' time is valuable, and such requests should be rare. One way to cleanup a messy comment section easily is: flag the post for moderator attention, and write something like "All comments are useless; please purge them".

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