Continuing from Modify the 'has 1 or 0 comments' requirement for 'RemoveAbandonedQuestions' script

Nah. The logic (fear) is that the comments contain the answer.
Catija ♦

So let's investigate. Would we lose anything important?

Question: What are some examples of questions which would be roomba-ed if it weren't for the 'has 1 or 0 comments' requirement, which have important answers in the comments?

I modified a a Data Explorer query, and went through many such questions for Stack Overflow. One thing is clear... answers-in-comments are quite hard to find. (Although I'm not a Stack Overflow expert.)

I've now checked at least 100 such questions (over various years), and closest I've found thus far:

I'm not even sure if these count at answers (which is probably why they're comments).


Theoretical Computer Science


If a community has not curated any valuable content from comments on a post to a point where it can be found in a question or answer within about a year of it being posted, then I think we should assume that its curation may never happen.

In that event, rather than continuing to hope that everything important has been wrung from a comment trail, and/or continuing to worry that it might not have been, then after a year without activity, I think we should assume that even if something "valuable" was lost, then the clean slate that the Roomba creates may provide opportunity for a new and more productive Q&A that is not strung out in a comment trail.

  • It looks like (a) most comments are [a year later] unimportant, and definitely not answers [varies from site to site], and (b) answers in comments on 0/1-score questions occur because the question and/or answer is poor. Nevertheless, there may be exceptions where we'd agree that "deleting those comments would be a real loss". I agree the "it can be re-asked and re-answered" logic applies (if anyone remains interested a year later), but it'd still be nice to have a concrete example. – Rebecca J. Stones Feb 14 at 11:38
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    My focus is on the content of posts. My enthusiasm to mine comments for an occasional glimmer is non-existent. – PolyGeo Feb 14 at 11:43
  • Comments and answers are not the only texts that might have value. The questions themselves have value (if not they should be downvoted), and removing questions of score 0 or higher often results in losing value. – Franck Dernoncourt Feb 16 at 19:03
  • @FranckDernoncourt there’s no suggestion in my answer (or this Q&A) that upvoted questions should ever be Roomba-ed. – PolyGeo Feb 16 at 19:11
  • @PolyGeo From my understanding, following your answer would result in the deletion of questions of score 0. – Franck Dernoncourt Feb 16 at 19:18
  • Are you talking about nett 0? If so, then I should clarify that by upvoted I mean nett upvoted. – PolyGeo Feb 16 at 20:04

At TeX.SE we answer in comments all the time. See Why do people answer in comments? for some (slightly outdated) background. There is more or less a policy of 'if the answer is a one-liner it can be a comment'. It may be questioned if this is a good idea or not, however fact is that a lot of solutions would get lost if all such questions are removed.

Examples from one year old questions:

February 13, 2019

February 12, 2019

This is just two days, there are hundreds of questions like this (and probably more than 'hundreds', it's difficult to guess but there are 14,481 unanswered questions at TeX.SE of which a significant amount is answered in comments).

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    If I read the question you link, as to the why of this habbit, nothing of value would be lost if these questions get deleted. – Luuklag Feb 14 at 15:45
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    @Luuklag the questions themselves have value. – Franck Dernoncourt Feb 15 at 3:34
  • if commenter didn't bother to vote question up it indeed seems low value (because as you wrote they gave answer, they must be in best position to evaluate question content) – gnat Feb 15 at 12:29
  • @gnat questions with an answer in comments are usually not very bad (i.e., they are not delete-worthy) but usually not very good either, therefore they don't get any upvotes (at TeX.SE, but I expect also on other sites). – Marijn Feb 15 at 12:44

To answer the core of your question:

So let's investigate. Would we lose anything important?

Yes, removing the "has 1 or 0 comments" criterion would result in losing many perfectly on-topic questions, thereby losing a lot of important content. Plenty of good questions have a score of 0, especially on Stack Exchange websites with low frequentation and for advanced questions (not to mention truly expert questions). I've had hundreds of my questions removed by the auto-deletion script, and the vast majority of them had a score of 0.

Here are some examples of questions that got automatically removed because they had a score of 0 (but which I later reposted):

  • perfectly on topic questions should be salvaged from roomba by voting up, not by randomly sprinkled comments – gnat Feb 15 at 12:26
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    @gnat As you can see in the examples I gave, in practice plenty of perfectly on-topic questions don't receive any vote. Do you want to remove these questions? – Franck Dernoncourt Feb 15 at 18:43

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