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When editing a comment, if it has been deleted while the comment author is editing it, the edited text will completely disappear into the void without any sort of warning as soon as the user clicks save, which can lead to confusion. The user should have some notice that their comment will disappear once they save their edit, and given the chance to copy out the content (and reconsider, if appropriate).

Comments are transient and subject to deletion, typically after they have served some purpose. However, disappearing without notice as soon as you click "save" is quite discouraging of investing any time/energy in trying to make a comment that is useful to anybody. It's confusing at best.

There is precedent in the SE system for providing a warning when content that a user is currently editing will disappear. When a user ("A") is editing a post, if another user ("B") submits an edit, A will get a warning that another user has edited the post and that A's edits might be discarded (unless A's version is "more thorough," whatever that means in the system's operationalization). This can prompt A to copy out text they've changed, look at what's been modified in the post, and (especially upon seeing that B's edits were to a different part), resume editing in the revised version. Similarly, if A is editing a post that gets deleted while they're editing it, they'll be prompted of this fact, and the system won't let them submit their edit. Comments are both more numerous and more transient than posts, and having a warning when editing deleted ones would be helpfully consistent.

Additionally, when the 5-minute edit window expires while a comment author is editing the comment, when the user clicks "Save Edits," there is a red warning box that pops up saying "Comments may only be edited for 5 minutes" followed by an X button that will close the message. The edit comment box stays open indefinitely and the user can copy out the edited version of the comment to wherever they want. No matter how many times they click "Save Edits," they'll get that message or if clicking again in short succession, a transient punctuated message in an otherwise similarly-styled box saying "You may only edit a comment every 5 seconds." The edit is not saved but does not just disappear into the void without warning. A similar implementation would be appropriate here, probably persistent-until-close like the first and punctuated like the second. Draft text: "Your edit cannot be saved because this comment has been deleted."

Something like this has previously been requested at Show me a message if a comment I'm editing gets deleted and declined. However, in that post, the premise for the request was about the automatically generated "Possible duplicate of" comment and the fact that it's deleted once the post has been closed as duplicate, possibly while the original voter/flagger is editing the automatic comment. The only/accepted answer and decline reason there only considered this case, and did not consider other cases where a comment may be deleted while it's being edited (e.g. independently posted comments). The only/accepted answer to that question recommended an alternative course of action which, if followed, would still leave this same issue outstanding. The answer there does not answer this question.

Also, the system has been changed to no longer automatically delete that type of automatically generated comment if it's edited, so the main arguments for declining the other request - that "there's a good chance that [the] comment will still get deleted when the question is closed" and that the user is "[depending] on implementation details" - are no longer correct.

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    This would make it far too easy to suss out what will autodelete a comment. I think SE doesn't publish that specifically because they don't want it to be gamed. If it exists publicly, though, then I see no problem.
    – fbueckert
    Jun 21, 2019 at 15:09
  • It's also worth noting that the system has changed in such a way that invalidates the original reason for declining it: automatically generated dupe comments are now never autodeleted if they are edited; at the time I made that request, they were. Jun 21, 2019 at 15:37
  • @SonictheBracketedHedgehog Good find, but I think the questions are distinct because of the "automatically generated" aspect. I've edited that distinction into the question.
    – WBT
    Jun 21, 2019 at 15:39
  • Mind if I explicitly phrase this as a reconsideration request, to stop others from dupe-voting this as well as considering that the earlier request has already been marked declined? Jun 21, 2019 at 15:40
  • @SonictheBracketedHedgehog To me, reconsideration is when it's the same question and the same cause, and the same denial reason could apply even if new facts have come to light suggesting maybe it should not. I think there might be enough of a distinction here that the term "reconsideration" does not quite apply, and a "new consideration" would be more accurate.
    – WBT
    Jun 21, 2019 at 15:44
  • @fbueckert Are you saying the system will auto-delete a comment when it is edited, if some criteria are met? I'm not aware of any such function; AFAIK only flagging a comment can result in auto-deletion (or a mod/employee manually deleting it).
    – TylerH
    Jun 21, 2019 at 15:45
  • @TylerH There is a blacklist which Journeyman Geek linked to from the example. However, I don't think warning the user that they're editing an already-deleted comment would make it any easier to figure out additional members of this list, compared to refreshing the page after posting a comment and noticing that it disappeared.
    – WBT
    Jun 21, 2019 at 15:50
  • @fbueckert The damage has already been done. A while ago, some users did quite a bit of experimentation to figure out what causes comments to be deleted instantly after a single flag, and posted their findings publicly. Jun 21, 2019 at 15:55
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    Alright, no issues, then. I wasn't aware of the work that had gone into experimentation for this.
    – fbueckert
    Jun 21, 2019 at 15:57
  • @WBT That list (and Q&A) is about what keywords will cause a comment to get instantly deleted via flagging, not what keywords will cause a comment to get instantly deleted via editing an existing comment.
    – TylerH
    Jun 21, 2019 at 16:13
  • @TylerH Maybe you misunderstand the request here, for notice that the comment has already been deleted, prior to saving the edit; the deletion is not triggered by content of the edit itself as that content will disappear into the void as meaningless. Simply refreshing the page would be an easier way to get information about whether or not a comment had been deleted, relative to attempting to edit and clicking save just to see if there's a warning about the comment having been deleted prior to the save.
    – WBT
    Jun 21, 2019 at 16:16
  • While I understand the request and that you had that experience first hand I still think this is a corner case that don't need any developer time spend on, not in the 6 to 8 weeks to come. This explains my down vote.
    – rene
    Jun 21, 2019 at 16:20
  • @WBT OK, your question was a bit unclear then. In this case, I think it's an extremely small edge case that's not worth accounting for. If you try to click the "edit" option on a comment that has been deleted since you loaded the page, you already get an error message saying 'this comment has been deleted'. So this would only apply in cases where a comment has been deleted since you have loaded the page and clicked "edit", but before you've submitted the edit. That's... an exceedingly small window of time.
    – TylerH
    Jun 21, 2019 at 16:21
  • @TylerH Up to 5 minutes, to be specific. However, this may be more likely than independent-factors analysis would suggest, because comments are more active shortly after posting. LOTS of comments are deleted in the first 5 minutes after posting, and LOTS of comments are edited (always within 5 minutes of posting, by SE restriction), probably usually without reloading the page first. The overlap seems likely to be non-trivial, especially as an absolute number. Those specific numbers are available, just not from me.
    – WBT
    Jun 21, 2019 at 16:35
  • @WBT My experience is the opposite, so if you want to make that claim, you should wait til you have the numbers to back it up. And, yeah, the fact that it can only happen for up to 5 minutes after a comment is posted due to the edit time limit actually makes this request even less attractive to implement, not more.
    – TylerH
    Jun 21, 2019 at 18:06

2 Answers 2

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This is now .

When attempting to edit a comment that was deleted before I could submit the edit, instead of the edited comment disappearing into the void, the edit is now blocked with an error message:

Deleted comments cannot be edited

I'd appreciate it if a staff member could respond here with a date as to when this was fixed, and confirm if this meta post is what caused it to be fixed (there have been cases where things were fixed due to meta posts that the team forgot to update afterwards).

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It is simply not good form for text to completely disappear without warning for any reason. I recently experienced this issue on another non-SE website - I was completing a form, only I took a long enough time to complete it that my session to the site had timed out, so when I tried to submit the completed form I was directed back to the login page - where when I accessed the form again after logging in all my prior responses had been deleted.

Granted, it doesn't take all that long to re-compose a comment than to fill in the rather long form I was filling (but it still does take a bit of time, especially if you were incorporating lots of links in the comment). Also, granted, there are fewer cases where a comment can be deleted immediately after it is posted, such as the case of automatic duplicate comments (for which I posted a declined feature request linked here - the decline reason is no longer applicable as the system implementation has changed) or comments that contain a keyword that makes them eligible to be deleted instantly on receiving a single flag. (I've run into this in both cases, and in the latter, I had mistakenly posted a comment containing such a keyword early and was editing the comment to add the rest of my text - which would have most definitely made the comment exempt from one-flag deletion.)

However, I still think this should be addressed. To add to the good arguments in the question, there are users who've reported mental health issues from the deletion of comments without notice. To quote:

For me, when a comment is removed it causes me to question - even if just briefly - my own perception and health: with no indication that the comment was ever there, I'm left to ask if my memory of its existence is faulty.

Having a comment's text disappear without notice definitely falls into the same issue.

Posting this answer as the downvotes it received today would otherwise cause this question to be immediately automatically deleted by the Roomba. The question is not a bad quality question for the site, which is what the script is intended to target - it's just that a slightly higher number of people disagree with it than agree, and the opinion of the agreers shouldn't be discounted. I also disagree with immediately deleting questions that stood at a non-negative score for a long time but for which Tim Post lost his keys - the author should have at least a little time to improve the question - but that's a topic for another time.

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