The entire comment thread to my answer to this gender pronoun question was deleted. Can anyone with admin rights see the old thread? [Edit And explain why it was deleted?]

Edit 2 Moving up comments from below: For context, the discussion had stopped, and all of it was clarifying questions about my answer. Plus, isn't there a way for mods to close comments without deleting them? (Someone below suggested moving the comment thread to chat?)

Edit 3 I should be clear about why I care. Given the environment around here recently, and how the culture of the meta community has been portrayed by SE staff, when I see an inexplicable deletion like this, I wonder if an SE employee is intentionally trolling. I've seen this happen in other online communities when management changes happen, and the community is devalued.

Edit 4 A few people have been pointing out reasons why comments, and entire comment threads, sometimes get deleted. It's useful information. That said, the question remains, why weren't the other comment threads on that page touched? Shouldn't there be some consistency about when deletion happens? Inconsistent application of discretionary actions could provide cover to bad-actors, no?

Edit 5 This question got flagged as a possible duplicate of How do comments work? This is not a question about how comments in general are handled. This is a question about why this particular comment thread was handled in an irregular way. In particular:

  • The How do comments work? FAQ suggests that "obsolete or chatty comments" are generally the comments that are deleted. The comments in this comment thread were not chatty, and were still pertinent to the answer being commented on.
  • A couple people have pointed out that the nature of meta.stackexchange.com lends itself to longer comment threads. Anyone that browses active questions on this site will see considerable value in the comments of those questions and corresponding answers. So, on this site in particular, does the community feel comments are really just "post-it notes" that should be considered temporary?
  • One of the participants in the comment thread chimed in below, and mentioned that one of the later comments in that thread was flagged. It seems the entire comment thread was nuked out of expediency, because the moderator didn't have the time or patience to review that thread, and didn't seem to just want to delete the flagged comment by itself. Is this something the community thinks makes sense? Worthwhile discussions could easily be destroyed by a handful of trolls in this way.
  • 5
    Usualy long comment discussion are moved to chat, dont know why it wasnt the case in your case.
    – yagmoth555
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:11
  • 7
    Please read the FAQ about comments: "You should not expect them to be around forever".
    – Raedwald
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:15
  • @BobbyA It also depends on the type of flag that was given. Often people will flag a comment or series or comments and/or put a custom message saying "x thread can be removed for y reason". If you delete just one comment out of a thread then you leave orphaned comments, then people complain that you didn't remove all of the comments and are favoring one side/person. You really can't win as a moderator with comment moderation. Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 15:31
  • 12
    @BobbyA quick and dirty answer to your 4th edit: If stuff is flagged, mods look at it. We don't really have the time (or the energy, or the spoons) to look at everything else too right now. I used to do it that here, when moderation loads were lighter, but currently it's just not feasible if we want to keep up with flags.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 15:37
  • 5
    Possible duplicate of How do comments work?, specifically the section: "When should comments be deleted?".
    – Rob
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 16:31
  • @DeNovosupportsGoFundMonica Thanks! You were one of the ones participating in that comment thread. When you noticed that flag, did the rest of that comment thread warrant nuking? Last I had checked yesterday, conversation was still civil and on topic.
    – BobbyA
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 18:14
  • 1
    @BobbyA in my opinion it was reasonable to delete the thread.
    – De Novo
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 18:22
  • @DeNovosupportsGoFundMonica interesting. That does suggest that moderators are nuking entire comment threads out of expediency, which is problematic.
    – BobbyA
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 18:36
  • 4
    There's also a "more than 20 comments posted in the last 3 days" autoflag. Practically - If you have more than 20 comments... well it might be a good sign its more than was intended Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 20:02
  • @JourneymanGeek Of all the flags to prompt nuking an entire comment thread, the "more than 20 comments" flag would probably be the most egregious reason to do so.
    – BobbyA
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 20:46

1 Answer 1


Monumentally long comment threads are a pain to moderate, and the mods have enough on their plates. Comments are meant to get clarification, not be used for extended discussion.

Practically, if it turns into an extended discussion or bickering, at the discretion of the folks with moderation powers they may be pruned, deleted or moved to chat as appropriate.

If it's important, it needs to be in an answer anyway.

Since we have a lot of ground to cover - we might not purge all of the comments on all of the answers on a question, or choose to delete a subset or all depending on what works best. its worth remembering that comments are transient and shouldn't be relied on staying power. While its tempting to have long comment threads on meta, Its probably better to have information in a post where people sees it rather than scattered over a comment thread.


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