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Some moderators on some sites are very... religious in purging any comment on any post that isn't asking for clarification or directly suggesting an improvement. These very same moderators are also typically chatty in comments on meta posts.

I know there is a lot of debate on comment moderation, especially the role it plays on a particular site, but this double standard bothers me. Is there a different standard site-wide for meta comments? If so, why is there a different standard? If comments are beneficial to arriving at good conclusions in meta, shouldn't they also be useful on the main sites?

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    Side note: "double standard" normally means a (presumably unfair) different standard applied to different people (or groups of people). But you're seeing different standards for two different places, main and meta, so that's not a double standard in that normal sense. (If on the other hand you saw one group of users being allowed to discuss and one not, both on the same site, that would be a double standard.) – Cascabel Feb 23 '18 at 23:10
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    I suggested an edit that I think will help your question be better received, while still getting you the same answers about comments on main versus meta. If you feel it changes things too much, you're of course welcome to reject/roll back or edit further, but I'd encourage sticking with the idea of it if you can - this doesn't really need to be a mods vs others issue. – Cascabel Feb 24 '18 at 0:24
  • A bit off topic, but if you think that comments are genuinely chatty and unnecessary fluff, then you should flag them as such regardless of who posted or where. Perhaps you should reconsider your wording? Is it possible that verbose or profusely wordy would be better than “chatty”? – can-ned_food Mar 4 '18 at 16:18
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    Possible duplicate of What is a meta for? – gnat Mar 4 '18 at 17:20
  • @gnat: Neither the question nor any of its answers mention "comments" in any relevant way. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 4 '18 at 21:39
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Yes, meta absolutely is different from main sites with respect to comment usage. It's not a "double standard", they're just different situations.

One of the primary purposes of meta is discussion, and its audience is site members. This is even official: all meta posts require one of a handful of tags, and one of those choices is discussion. It's totally natural for meta to end up involving a fair bit of discussion in comments. Those comments don't really cause much trouble if left around, and can even be useful for future users who want to see all the various details of everyone's thoughts. It's also simply not that formal. When the whole audience is site users, chattiness among site users is no big deal.

On the other hand, on the main site, the audience is... everyone. The aim is to create things that are useful for future readers, including those coming in from search engines. The page needs to be useful and concise, for people who just want an answer to a question, not a bunch of side discussions between people they don't know.

That means that comments on the main site really should be focused on improving the posts they're on. That means suggesting improvements, requesting clarification, and so on. The exact implementation of this general idea does vary from site to site, largely because some sites are prone to really large comment discussions, so they try to shut things down quickly, while other sites don't have as many issues, so they tolerate a bit. (On top of that, implementation of policies may be uneven - it relies on flagging and moderator action, so some things get noticed and addressed, while others don't.) If you see this being enforced fairly strictly, that doesn't mean it's religion, it's just the community and its mods doing their best to flag and handle comment discussions to keep the questions/answers useful for future readers.

On top of all of this, in many cases, main-site comments that aren't suggesting improvements or asking for clarification often aren't actually helping arrive at good conclusions. If things are turning into generall chattiness or heated debates or tangential discussions, that's not building consensus. This is why you'll often see suggestions to simply write a different answer if you disagree.

Finally, I would note that meta is not completely removed from these rules. If things do get excessively chatty (or heated or tangential) mods will often step in just as they would on the main site. But things can go a bit farther before they're too chatty/tangential than they could on the main site.


As for sources for meta being more flexible... well, I would really try to look at this as more of a description, and an absence of a policy for strict enforcement. This is simply how things tend to work on meta. It is that way because no one's ever seen much reason to try to change it significantly. The fact that you can't find meta posts saying "I think we need to crack down on comments on meta!" is the proof.

If you want something "official", there's a note on tone in one of the answers to the general Meta FAQ, which is in turn linked from the main FAQ:

Meta has a reputation for being more... relaxed than the other Stack Exchange sites. Jokes and non-serious posts that would be swiftly deleted on the other sites have been welcomed here in the past and are sometimes still tolerated today, though not to the degree that they were before.

But again, that's more of a convenient short description of how meta works than an absolute statement of policy.

  • I had the general feeling of this but I don't see where those rules are stated. Do you have any sources for the laxness of meta commenting? – BlackThorn Feb 23 '18 at 23:32
  • @BlackThorn The SE sites have many guidelines (for those see Tour > Help center > Meta Stack Exchange hierarchy) but very few hard rules. – PolyGeo Feb 23 '18 at 23:40
  • I mean, things have always been more flexible and discussion-heavy on meta, for the entire history of the network. I think that's a better "source" than a help center page or anything like that. That said, this FAQ answer has a section on tone that says "Meta has a reputation for being more... relaxed than the other Stack Exchange sites.". (It's linked from the meta faq, which is linked from the global faq.) – Cascabel Feb 23 '18 at 23:42
  • @Cascabel, that is perfect, thanks. You should quote that in your answer. – BlackThorn Feb 23 '18 at 23:43
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    In some sense asking for sources is asking for proof of a negative. Meta is more flexible because it's worked out that way, and no one has ever tried to (or had strong reason to) try to change it. So the fact that you can't find meta posts saying "meta needs more comment cleanup" is kind of also the proof. – Cascabel Feb 23 '18 at 23:43
  • I disagree with that sentiment. The way I see it is meta sites operate under the same rules as main sites, except where explicitly stated (like downvoting). I see one group of people with power whose discussions are generally more centered in meta create a more difficult environment outside of where their time is spent. Asking for sources of why (or if) this is acceptable behavior seems reasonable to me. Anyway, good answer. – BlackThorn Feb 23 '18 at 23:48
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    @BlackThorn I'm making a distinction between sources and explanations here. The proof that things are this way is that it's what happens in practice and no one is trying to change it, not that there is a dictate from on high, or that there is an ancient highly voted meta post decreeing it to be so. It's fine to ask for explanations of this, of course, I'm not saying otherwise. I'm just saying, don't expect there to be a carefully laid-out rulebook covering every situation. And none of this is about "people with power" or "a more difficult environment". There are just two different places. – Cascabel Feb 23 '18 at 23:55
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I am not convinced that there is a different standard being applied to comment moderation between the two types of site (Meta and Main).

However, Meta is different in that we have a tag that means some comments will be about clarifying that discussion rather than simply clarifying the question/answer.

The standards are still high but the guidelines differ in at least that critical aspect.

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You use the word “chatty” when you describe the comments posted in the aforementioned unnamed Meta sites. The Help Center doesn't exactly explain what is meant when it uses the word in describing flagging comments for moderator attention, but such can be inferred from context:

no longer needed - the comment is obsolete, chatty, or otherwise unnecessary

There ought be a bit of leeway in Meta, especially when posted in a situation. However, if the comment is entirely off–topic or simply is cluttering the discussion, then you should flag it as such, of course.

If you think that the moderators are not doing their jobs, then that's a different question entirely.
Doesn't seem to be your complaint, though.

Furthermore, even though many of the Stack Exchange sites prefer to have a clinical and almost sterile polish, people operate on the human aspect of interactions. Less so in Meta than in Chat, but a little humor and personal reconnoitering helps hold a Stack Exchange site together and keep people open and communicating. That's what the Meta sites are meant to do, after all.

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