Occasionally, I get notifications about a comment response, and it seems someone has noticed some question or answer from 3, 5, 10 years ago, and decided to join the "lively" discussion without noticing it's long dead.

Perhaps the top of the comment box could include some warning or notice that the last comment is X years old? Perhaps with some extra wording regarding the rationale for commenting or whatever.

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    I'm more concerned with the <s>lively<s> discussion that is left on the post... Are they still relevant to the post? Should it be cleaned up instead? – Meta Andrew T. Aug 27 at 11:34
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    @MetaAndrewT.: That's a tricky question; and - it is pretty much orthogonal to my suggestion.... – einpoklum Aug 27 at 12:00

If a question or answer still needs improvement then I do not think that it matters how old it is when the next comment is made there.

I would rather see the odd unseen comment made, rather than have a comment discouraged from being made where a clarification sought belatedly might lead to a post becoming more upvoted due to its having been improved.

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    Agreed, but it might be wise to do some expectation management. Especially when it comes to posts from low-rep users the chances are large(r) that they no-longer participate and the comment is hence most likely to go unnoticed. This may frustrate people, especially if they didn't notice the post is years old. – Luuklag Aug 27 at 10:42
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    It's not really a discouragement - it's just pointing out facts. A person intending to clarify something will still make the comment; but the person who thinks s/he's participating in a discussion will go: "Oh. Oh! Ok, no." – einpoklum Aug 27 at 10:59

So, first, "lively discussion" shouldn't be sticking around for years. Comments are intended to be temporary notices for improving the post and then removed after their usefulness is done. So, generally, this whole problem case doesn't occur if cleanup is happening regularly.

The age of the answer/comments is not going to be a good predictor of how likely that comment is to be useful.

Even assuming the comments that the person are responding to are useful and purposefully left, responses to it can still be useful no matter how old the post or the previous comments are. I've seen comments on 6-7 year-old answers prompt edits, improvements to posts and spur other questions even. Sometimes comments on a post are useful to people other than the poster of the question/answer. Regardless, the age of the previous comments does not say anything about the likelihood of that comment to be useful. Sometimes even long-inactive OPs come back and respond or make edits in response to a comment.

Warning a person about the age of the comments is guaranteed to dissuade some percentage of commenters from leaving that comment and with no guarantee that the age has any relevance to how their comment will be received/acted on. So I think this suggestion would not really bring any benefit.

  • Your normative statements do not agree with the reality of many SE sites, particularly Stackoverflow. Lively discussions - especially useful ones improving the post - do stay up for years, quite often. You could suggest they be more eagerly purged, but that's just not how things stand. – einpoklum Aug 27 at 15:41
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    @einpoklum I say "shouldn't" and "intended to be" which don't imply that those things happen 100% in reality. The latter of which is gone into in many Metas. Comments are intended to be temporary, whether that happens in reality doesn't really matter much for my point since the second half should cover the eventuality in which they don't get removed. But the fact still stands, if you remove comment threads that are years old, then this request becomes moot. – Rubiksmoose Aug 27 at 15:43
  • My point is, you're not really addressing my question. The old comments can very well be useful, but continuing the useful discussion several years after the fact is different than a few minutes after the last comment was made. – einpoklum Aug 27 at 15:45
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    @einpoklum Maybe there's something not clear enough in what I wrote. The point I'm trying to make is that implementing this would dissuade some % of commentors for sure. And that age is not at all a good predictor on how useful the comment can be. So why warn a commentor about commenting on an old question or thread at all? What good does it do? Is there something I'm missing? – Rubiksmoose Aug 27 at 15:48

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