OK, this is possibly a controversial suggestion, and I'm not entirely convinced by it myself, but I figure I'll put it out there to see what people think.

If we take the standard description for what comments are for, in this case taken from the Stackoverflow privilege page:

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer. You should not expect them to be around forever: Once a clarification has been made, an edit added to the post to include new information, or the issue in the comment is otherwise resolved, it is subject to deletion. In reality, many obsolete or chatty comments remain untouched due to the high volume of comments posted, but this does not mean that they can't or shouldn't be deleted in the future.

When should I comment?

You should submit a comment if you want to:

Request clarification from the author;
Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

None of these reasons really necessitate a comment existing forever. Requesting clarification and leaving constructive criticism are useful to get the OP to improve their post. Which they may or may not do. And the ability to add relevant, but minor info such as links to other posts can be handled by the 'related questions' in the sidebar.

People spend a lot of time concerned with comments.

Allow downvoting comments

Allow flagging a comment after upvoting it

What's with all the rude comments recently?

Hide trivial comments

I could go on.

So is there really a reason they should stick around?

I propose this idea for discussion:

A comment will only be visible for 48 hours. After that point it will be deleted from view. That should be enough time for the OP to see it and act upon the suggestions in the comment. Any comedy comments would have been seen and everyone would have enjoyed them at a the time, but 48 hours is a long time in the digital world, and questions that old are basically consigned to the files where they're of most benefit to people searching via site search and Google, and these people don't really care about the comments - they're there to find the answer to the question they were searching for. (And if you think that, just because there are comments there that means people will actually read them then you're mistaken. Nobody actually spends time reading things on the internet these days)

I'm sure some people may say that there are sometimes useful links, comments, info posted in comments. So perhaps as a compromise we can keep comments persistent that recieved >5 votes. I don't know. But basically, binning off all the comments after 2 days would clean up the sites and potentially stop people being so precious about them and reinforce the idea that they are 'temporary Post-It notes'.

  • 6
    Even if I agreed, given a normal weekend is more than 48 hours (Friday 5pm to Monday 8am is 64 hours), your threshold is much too short. Not everyone is as sick as us to visit the site every day. Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 23:53
  • The threshold is flexible. But really if someone pops in to leave a question/answer and then vamooses without coming back to see how their post was recieved within 2 days, are they really likely to come back and act on comments in 2 months?
    – JonW
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 23:57
  • 9
    Hiding comments is one thing, but comments shouldn't be deleted unless at least one reasonably trustworthy person says so. A comment that provides constructive criticism isn't just for the author (who may have vanished from the site altogether), it's also for readers. Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 23:58
  • @JonW not everyone is as serious about getting an answer to a specific question. Maybe it is a back burner project that gets pushed aside, and the OP can't get back to it for a few weeks.... Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 0:03
  • ...Your whole premise basically revolves around the idea that when asked the question must remain critical to the user until answered. That is not always the case. Weekends happen, vacations happen, delays happen, other issues arise. If you remove the entire comment discussion after a fixed period of time, then you basically are inviting the user to reask the same question to get new eyes since they can't see or recover the history that was automatically deleted. Plus what @Gilles said ^^^^ Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 0:03
  • @psubsee2003 Not really. My premise is basically "most people find posts on the SE sites via Google or internal site search and they don't care about the comments. At best they're a lengthy distraction with occasional interesting stuff, and at worst they're distracting noise taking the focus away from the useful posts". As a Q&A site we should trim away the noise and focus on the useful content. Provided we give enough time for the poster to see they've made some errors or missed out some sources that's all that comments are really useful for.
    – JonW
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 0:07
  • 1
    Closely related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/182295/… Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 0:18
  • @JonEricson Hmm, apparently I had already upvoted that post so it must be a good idea.
    – JonW
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 0:20
  • 4
    Absolutely not, and this is why: How to deal with hugely upvoted bad answers?
    – jscs
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 8:11

2 Answers 2


While I'm a big fan of deleting/flagging comments, I see lots of value in comments many times. So I don't think auto-removing every comment after 48 hours or 2 months for that matter is the right thing to do.

What I would propose instead is one or all of these processes being implemented:

  1. The team should run their own queries deleting comments, that are 99% likely to be useless, at least every couple months.
  2. The team should add if conditions in the flagging, so many more comments are eligible for auto-deletion on one user flag.
  3. The team should make many more words/phrases that are contained in a comment eligible for one flag deletion.

Example for #1 :

The team could do a query like this that returns 40,000 useless comments that contain the word thank you, thanks, your welcome, see edit, upvoted, or awesome and is less than 16 chars in length. 99.9%-100% of these comments should be removed. Would take less than 5 minutes for a developer to get rid of these.

For #2 and #3 :

The team could write a query on a comment flag where if the comment is less than say 18 chars in length, and contains one of 20 words that are likely contained in a useless comment, then allow to be auto-deleted on one flag. Doing it this way would take a lot more time and have to involve a lot of users going through finding these comments and manually flagging each one. So instead of 5 minutes for a developer, it would take 40 users flagging 100 useless comments each day 10 days to remove 40,000 useless comments. But it would still be much better than what we have now.

In conclusion, we don't need to nuke all comments, just be more aggressive on nuking ones that are 95% or more likely to be worthless. Preferably just with the devs doing it, but maybe they could seek discussion from community before they run it. Thus if the devs get rid of the easy ones, it will give flaggers more time to handle the ones that aren't so obvious.

  • 2
    I wholeheartedly agree with this. Currently the old, useless comments are brought to moderator attention to be deleted via privileged users flagging, and that's already a lot of work. The points brought in this answer are very effective to remedy the amount of useless comments out there.
    – Unihedron
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 10:22
  • Yes, that would save us a lot of flagging Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 4:22


How can I do X using Y?


You might want to consider using Z, it supports X out of the box.

It's not an answer. It can't be incorporated into the question. However, provided that it's not facetious/antagonistic, it could potentially be very useful to people with the same question. Such comments should both remain comments and remain visible, IMO.

I think the "obsolete" flag reason nicely covers flags that are in fact obsolete :)

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