This is related to many specific topics, e.g. Cleaning up comments from migrated questions.

Some comments are good and they result in actionables, e.g. migration, but perhaps more often revision to answers that considerably improve it, perhaps by pointing out errors, corner cases, slight inaccuraccies, caveats, etc.

After a point, though, these comments just becomes noise. After, say, a question is migrated, all the comments that says "this belongs here/there" are obsolete. After, say, an answer is revised and all concerns addressed, a comment to the effect of "it's better to do it this way" or "you forgot to take care of this case", etc are obsolete.

(Focusing on comments on answers now) When these comments remain, they distract from the answer, because everyone would be drawn to the comments and see if there's anything that really adds to the answer. If the system works as they should be, then NOTHING new should be in these comments, because the main purpose of these comments is to provide feedback so the answers themselves can be iteratively improved.

Ideas? Comments? Feedbacks?

Example scenario #1

Recently I left a comment on an answer that raised valid concerns, and the answerer "revised" the answer with an annotation that says "okay, this part of the answer is wrong as the comments suggested, but I'm leaving it here so the comments aren't orphaned".

This is a less than ideal outcome of the commenting process. If obsoletion (and eventually deletion) of comments becomes commonplace, then the best course of action in this case would be to incorporate the discussion in the comments into the answer itself, e.g. "we can attempt this solution, however it doesn't work because of such and such factors". There's no need for an answerer to keep a wrongful claim in an answer (even with added disclaimer).

Another potential outcome is that the answerer could've edited out the problematic part of the answer completely. This is less than ideal, but not because it'd make the comments look "dumb", but because the concerns could be re-raised in another answer.

Answerers should never be discouraged from making good, valid comments look "dumb". In fact, they should strive to do that always. If there's a problem with the answer, then fix it. Yes, the comments would then look "dumb", becomes "redundant", adding just "noise"... and that's why we're having this discussion on meta.

Good comments are purposeful ones. Once they've served their purpose, they become obsolete. There needs to be a way to clean the obsolete ones.

(By the way, I was more than willing to delete my comments had the issues been integrated into the answer. In fact, I've recently started doing this, i.e. raising points in comments which I delete once they're addressed. It's hard to keep track of which of my comments have been addressed and which haven't, though. Perhaps answerer can leave a comment to alert me, e.g. "hey thanks for the feedback, i took care of it and i've deleted my comments in our discussion so you can delete yours now", but that creates another comment that eventually becomes obsolete. This may be okay, though, because a back and forth of 10 obsolete technical comments may be replaced with 1 simple "thank you" comment... which may itself be cleaned up eventually one way or another).

(Of course another valid point is that such discussions should've never taken place in stackoverflow in the first place, but some topics are tricky and honestly good discussions take place anyways...)


3 Answers 3


The two cases that definitely need cleaned up (in my opinion) are comments for migration and for making a post CW after the action has already been taken. Flag for a moderator in these cases and we should be happy to clean them up. It only takes a second.

I'm less concerned about comments that ask for clarification or point out flaws in a post. I'm not an expert in many areas of programming, and frankly I can't always tell if a suggestion has been correctly applied. I think cleaning up these comments should be left to the discretion of the authors.

  • 6
    I would do this, except we're limited to 1 flag per post! In big CW questions, such as my Tag Synonym Repository, I would have flagged for comment cleanup, but I was figuring that question would go on for a while, predicting the need to have to flag again. So I just never flagged to begin with. Please please PLEASE convince Jeff to allow users to flag for mod attention multiple times. Even just 10k users. <cries>
    – Jon Seigel
    Jul 16, 2010 at 0:59

Perhaps the latest revisor of an answer should be able to raise a "please delete this comment" vote on comments for that answer. The vote would not automatically delete said comment; it'd just alert the author that a deletion request has been raised.

Comment author can then review if the comment is indeed obsolete. A good-intentioned commenter would then be more than happy to delete the comment (upvotes be damned!) if the answer has in fact been revised to render the comment obsolete.

Another proposal: a special "I've read this" vote for comments from a primary addressee. Whenever an @user comment is made, we already have notification system in place, etc. Perhaps we should also facilitate for user (perhaps just the first -- a designated primary -- in case of multiple addressees in a comment) to mark the comment as having being "read". This notifies the original comment author that the comment has been acknowledged, and he/she can review if deletion is appropriate.

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    More useful would be to see noise/spam/offensive flags on your own comments -- extending that to "comment should be deleted" (for any reason) rather than "I've read this".
    – Gnome
    Jul 16, 2010 at 10:26
  • @Gnome: great idea, but I think there may be danger there in that it may falsely trigger a penalty if e.g. having 5 comments flagged in a single day is categorically a punishable offense. If timely self-deletion of said comments counts as a self-redemption attempt, then it may not be a huge problem, but then people may go on vacation etc and may not be able to delete those comments in time. Jul 16, 2010 at 12:27

We just need a really bored moderator to be on comment cleaning duty (since the rest of us can't do anything about them).

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    Not scalable. And some of these obsolete comments are of technical nature, so a mod is not the best person to pull the trigger; the original author is. Sorry, -1. Jul 16, 2010 at 13:16

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