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With the ongoing discussions about commenting standards, and about being welcoming in general, a point I've seen raised a couple of times is the hostility and defensiveness that we sometimes see from new users.

They don't want to read the tour. They don't want to be told the rules. They don't want to hear why what they posted is off-topic based on meta discussion.

They just want the codez/answer/chatty discussion they were looking for.

This sometimes plays out in the following fashion:

  1. New user posts a bad question
  2. Question receives downvotes
  3. Experienced user attempts to help by leaving constructive comment telling new user what they should do differently to fix the question
  4. New user posts frustrated, or perhaps even hostile comments that not only don't fix the question, but make experienced users feel attacked
  5. More downvotes appear on the question
  6. New user escalates complaints

I'm not sure how often this scenario plays out, but I've seen it more times than I can count.

Others have commented on the hostility from new users, as well. For example:

I think a better use of time would be discouraging hostility from new users when they encounter enforcement of quality standards. There'd be a ton less snark if there was valid recourse against the new users who just don't care and want their question answered, quality be damned. As it stands, they have no skin in the game, so they're free to be as hostile and rude as they want. And all we can do is take it

and

If your house has a sign outside that says "Do not track mud in", because you want to keep it clean so that it's a nice environment for everyone who uses it; and someone walks in tracking mud, and you ask them if they read the sign, and they say "Lol no didn't bother"... are you not going to be in the slightest bit peeved?

Are you not, perhaps, going to respond to the rude mud-tracker with a somewhat snarky comment?

As I understand the privileges for comments, new users are able to comment on posts they "own"; i.e. the questions they ask, and any answers they create. Once they get to 50 reputation, they can comment elsewhere.

Presumably, the benefit to allowing them to comment on their own posts is to provide clarification in response to requests for such from other users. But if the new user does provide additional information, shouldn't that be edited into the question/answer?

Sure, new users may not realize that they can edit this way, but is giving them the ability to do it "the wrong way", so that a more experienced user can take the information from their comment and edit it into their post for them, gaining us anything?

Why not just force them to edit the information directly into the question or answer themselves?

Are there any other benefits to allowing <50 rep users to comment at all?

11

OK, let's say you're a new user. Someone posts a comment on a question asking for certain information. But you already provided that information in the post; it's right there in the text. They just didn't read it particularly carefully.

The natural response is to remind them it's there in a comment.

Now, let's say you're a new user. You ask a question, and someone asks for clarification. But they didn't really specify what they didn't understand.

The natural response is to ask them to be more specific about what they want.

So, you ask a question. And someone answers. But it's not a complete answer; it doesn't explain some aspect that you asked about.

The natural response is to post a comment on their answer asking for more information.

And these are just the things I came up with off the top of my head.

  • 2
    I would add that since the user is new, if they couldn't respond in comments they would try to dump their text into answers, following typical forum habits. That would severely damage process of improving the question. Since allowing them comments is a very old feature (it was there in 2009 or earlier) I can only guess that in very ancient times new were restricted but catastrophic consequences followed so quickly that it was corrected almost immediately – gnat Jun 29 '18 at 16:15
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    @gnat: Yeah, that was my own thought when I saw those comments on the other post earlier: that the atrocious repercussions from expecting users to know how to edit their posts without ever slipping into "comment stream in the post" habits would outweigh any problems we are currently having a hundred to one. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 30 '18 at 1:45
8

Nicol Bolas came up with some good scenarios; I'd like to add a couple more:

  • One or more people reading the question misunderstand what a new user has written - and maybe those people write an answer. The new user might want to edit the question, if the misunderstanding is on them; they'll also want to notify the answerer(s). Solution: Edit, and comment on the answer(s), and maybe the question.
  • A new user's question gets closed for whatever reason, and perhaps the user doesn't understand why. Again, maybe this is their fault, and maybe it's not. Solution: Comment under question, ideally explaining what they don't understand, and asking how they can make the question better.
  • There's some sort of dispute about the question, and it goes to meta. Future people who see the question and consider voting to close or reopen will want to know that there's already been a meta discussion. Solution: Comment under the question, linking to the meta post.
  • Let's say people ask for clarification on a question. There's some sort of gap in time before the new user edits it; maybe they simply walked away, or maybe they had to take time to edit the question to make it better. The people who commented might not come back to the question, and so they won't know that it's been improved. If they had indicated that they might write an answer, if the edit is made, it would be good if they know what's happened. Solution: Comment under the question, pinging the user and letting them know what's been changed, and asking if there's anything else they should do.

I'm also worried that something like this is just going to lead to more comments in answers. We already see a ton of them from people who can't comment on other questions and try to circumvent that privilege requirement. If we don't let new users comment on their own posts, I would bet that we'll see even more comments in answers, in addition to any rudeness that might occur. And nobody wants to deal with that.

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