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I've been participating on Stack Overflow and other Stack Exchange sites for several years, and lately it seems that comments on most Stack Exchange sites are deleted pretty easily (by moderators). On Stack Overflow on the other hand, it seems that comments aren't deleted, unless they are flagged.

Questions:

  • Can a moderator review my stats to confirm or disprove my observations?
  • Have other users noticed a similar tendency for Stack Exchange comments to be easily deleted?
  • Do people believe that moderators should be more or less lenient with comment deletions?
  • Third parties meaning someone other than the comment author or a moderator? Who's the third party? – Catija Jul 27 '18 at 13:35
  • @Catija: No, the third party is the moderator, the first and second parties are the people discussing, i.e. OP and commenter, or two commenters. Made an edit to clarify. – user000001 Jul 27 '18 at 13:36
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    per my observations stricter handling of comments tends to happen at smaller sites that are frequently exposed at hot questions (eg IPS, Politics, Workplace). This seems to be sort of reaction to multiple careless passrs-by attempting to turn comments into chatty / entertaining discussion. Stack Overflow would have this problem too but the system protects it by pushing SO questions off the list after few hours while questions from smaller sites stick for many days – gnat Jul 27 '18 at 13:44
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    ...FWIW I regularly observe similar explosions of useless comments at SO but this happens in questions which get many views - tens or hundreds thousands (organically, as opposed to hot questions) - I guess over there it is less noticeable because comments are piling over longer periods of time – gnat Jul 27 '18 at 13:44
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    @gnat: You have a point, in addition, for the sites you visit primarily through HNQ, it is reasonable to observe more deletions, due to the increased activity. – user000001 Jul 28 '18 at 14:01
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There are a lot of sites with a . . . less technical bent than Stack Overflow, ones that involve and thrive on good subjectivity. This means that opinions play a more important role in answers, and it seems that everyone likes to hold opinions. People also have a tendency to see opinions they disagree with and refute them by many means . . . including long comment discussions. Therefore, to crack down on this, some sites are tough on comments, often through specific site policy.

Examples of sites where this sort of thing can be a problem include

. . . and others. Some sites are just bizarre - I couldn't begin to describe some of the weird comments I've deleted on Worldbuilding - and also invite discussion.

A review of comment policies across the network would be nigh impossible - or at least would take a large chunk of the day - but it should suffice to say that what with comments being second-class citizens, they're designed to disappear at some point, once they've served their purpose. For comments that don't do what comments are supposed to do (bad comment examples include answers in comments, stuff a la "-1. I disagree", and general unhelpfulness), mods are really only speeding up their lifecycle a bit. This reduces clutter and gives more space and attention to comments which are, for their brief period of time, relevant.

  • Subjectivity is definitely a part of it, but when the entire site is subjective, why not the comments too? I am probably in the minority, but personally I like comments that express opinions on answers, as they are way to gauge the thinking of the readers (through comment upvotes), and also the discussion explains why the issue is contended. – user000001 Jul 27 '18 at 14:18
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    @user000001 The big reason is that that isn't what comments are for - upvotes and downvotes express agreement/disagreement. Another reason is that you can't downvote comments, so the only way to express disagreement is to add another comment . . . and that steamrolls really quickly a wild mess. – HDE 226868 Jul 27 '18 at 14:19
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    Well then the answer is to enable downvoting on comments :) But that would be the topic of a different feature request... – user000001 Jul 27 '18 at 14:23
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    @user000001 nope, the answer is to delete comments, if someone has a position to take toward a question and think another answer is wrong, they should write an answer to the question and maybe drop a paragraph on why 'this other answer' is wrong. – Tensibai Jul 27 '18 at 14:26
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    @user000001 What Tensibai said. I did that a week or two ago - I disagreed with a particularly terrible answer. At any rate, fully refuting it would take much more than a single comment, and a properly directed refutation would also answer the OP's question. So I wrote an answer, and it really helped people (got a lot of votes, too!). – HDE 226868 Jul 27 '18 at 14:31
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On Stack Overflow on the other hand, it seems that comments aren't deleted, unless they are flagged.

Stack Overflow gets over 7000 questions a day. That is over an order of magnitude more than the next site.

The same holds true for the number of comments on each site. (Sorry, that's an ugly query and I am not entirely sure how to limit it to just the last year, but it gets the point across). Again, Stack Overflow has an order of magnitude more comments than the next site. The site receives between 10,000 and 40,000 comments a day (that remain undeleted and depending on day of the week) (query). There is simply no way for moderators to read all of those. We depend on the community to raise the appropriate flags so that we know where to focus our attention.

It is a matter of scale. Stack Overflow is huge.

Do people believe that moderators should be more or less lenient with comment deletions?

Personally, I'd love for better tooling or built in automated tooling to remove unneeded comments. There are plenty of really old, unneeded comments that I'd happily remove too.

  • It's always nice to see hard numbers in answers. The missing part is the ratio of posted comments that get mod deleted for each site, but that's probably not available through SEDE. – user000001 Jul 27 '18 at 15:55
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    I seem to recall stats like being that posted somewhere, but I hunted for them while writing the answer and couldn't find them. It's not something I can find in SEDE. I seem to recall it being a tiny ratio though. – Andy Jul 27 '18 at 16:00
  • I think Shog posted some in the Tavern in May and I linked to them in an answer (maybe a comment) on MSO. If you don't find them before I get some time to look, I'll see if I can find them. – Catija Jul 28 '18 at 13:41
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    Here: meta.stackoverflow.com/a/368782/4548692 I think that's what you need? Or, at least something like it. – Catija Jul 28 '18 at 13:45
  • @Catija: Thanks, the answer you linked is very relevant for SO. The premise of the question is that the "Moderator discretion" deletion reason as fraction of comments posted, seems much larger on SE rather than SO. – user000001 Jul 28 '18 at 13:59
  • @user000001 The link in my comment on that question is network-wide, if I'm remembering accurately. (Not the message specifically but a bit further down in the transcript) – Catija Jul 28 '18 at 14:00

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