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While acting on what I understand to be normal/acceptable practice on Stack Exchange—that comments are disposable—I deleted about 180+ comments of mine on the “Science Fiction and Fantasy” site.

What I noticed is when I reached my supposed daily limit a red warning box came up clearly indicating I reached a limit (of 20 or so I believe?) and I could no longer delete comments that had at least 1 up vote to them… But I could still delete comments that had no up vote on them. Seemed like a bug, but regardless I went ahead and deleted more and more of my comments.

To be fully transparent, while it seems I clearly deleted more comments than are normally possible I at no point thought this was an issue as explained in this FAQ here:

Comments are disposable: unlike posts, there's no revision history, and they can be deleted without warning by their authors, by moderators, and in response to flags.

As well as here:

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.

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    Where does it say that you can only delete 20 comments per day? I see that it says you can only delete one every 5 seconds... – Catija Jan 11 '16 at 23:04
  • Sorry, misunderstood your post, removed the answer. – nicael Jan 11 '16 at 23:12
  • @Catija Check my edit. When I attempted to delete comments with up votes on them, I got a small red warning box that clearly stated I reached a daily limit of 20 or so. But if I then went to delete comments without up votes on them, I was able to delete them without issue. – JakeGould Jan 11 '16 at 23:14
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    Why do you think it's a bug though? Looks like an intended feature.... – nicael Jan 11 '16 at 23:17
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    @nicael Why is it a feature? If “comments are disposable” and they “should not expect them to be around forever” then why are up voted comments unremovable past a daily comment removal limit? Why even have the limit then? – JakeGould Jan 11 '16 at 23:21
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    If a comment is upvoted, that means someone found it useful... It's one thing to delete unhelpful comments that no one upvoted and another thing entirely to bulk remove comments people found helpful. – Catija Jan 11 '16 at 23:34
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    @Catija If that’s the case, then fine. It seems like a bug to me since behavior like that is not clearly stated in the FAQ at all. – JakeGould Jan 12 '16 at 0:21
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We don't care all that much about comments.

In fact, that little warning you saw was broken for about two years before anyone noticed. The only reason it even exists is that occasionally someone will get all angry at the world and decide to go through deleting everything they can find (similar systems exist to catch this behavior for questions & answers). Obviously, letting folks trash the site in a fit of rage isn't a particularly great idea.

But... We still don't particularly care about comments. We just want to make sure folks aren't indiscriminately removing stuff that others have found useful. So there's a (pretty generous) rate limit applied to old comments that have upvotes. If, the theory goes, you didn't delete it promptly after posting it and someone found it beneficial, you probably don't need to suddenly remove a huge tremendous lot of them.

  • Fair enough. But then why is this not clearly stated in the FAQ itself? I’m 1,000% genuine when I say I did not realize comment deletion behavior was seen as loss of content. If that’s the case, fine. But all the documents I am reading state quite clearly that comments are disposable, are afterthoughts and can be deleted without reason by owners and mods. If someone—like me; humble non-mod—is going to step into a mess like that, a nice “heads up” makes sense. Unless the goal is to… I don’t know. – JakeGould Jan 12 '16 at 1:07
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    Realistically, this almost never happens. In the entire history of Stack Overflow, where millions of users have posted millions of comments, there are only a few dozen instances where anyone has deleted a significant number of upvoted comments in a day. There's no point in trying to document every weird thing someone will ever do; for the vast majority of crazy actions it's much more efficient to just have moderators willing to investigate the problem and take care of it. The only reason we even have a check for this is one time someone had to undelete a whole lot of comments and hated it. – Shog9 Jan 12 '16 at 1:17
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    @JakeGould Stack Exchange doesn't tell you you must delete all your comments. Stack Exchange tells you that important information must be in questions or answers, and that (eventually) comments could be deleted. In fact, comments on Stack Exchange have a very specific purpose: For example, you should use them to ask users what they really meant in their question; even in that case, the comments could be deleted, if the OP edited the question to make it clear. – kiamlaluno Jan 12 '16 at 6:46
  • So, just leave the task of cleaning comments to other users. Eventually, don't add +1 from me as comment. – kiamlaluno Jan 12 '16 at 6:47

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