I am not feature-requesting it, I know it's been declined; I'm just curious as to why it was so.

Is there a "social reason" (kind of like having the badges to encourage certain behaviour)? Is it just not worth implementing? Is it hard to do?

I repeat, I don't care about being able to rescind my vote on a comment, I'm just interested in knowing the rationale behind some decisions.


Actually, I always liked the way comment voting was implemented.

By nature, the site is centered around questions and answers. Comments are a necessary evil to account for imperfections (vague questions, answers where the person got a fact wrong...). Therefore, comments are best marginalized - they're essentially noise because the sole purpose of the site is to have people looking for answers find them.

So comments are designed to be low-key. This is visible from the formatting (no avatar, name/date is inline, etc). Then it became necessary to allow upvotes simply because everyone wanted them - we saw "@someone I wish I could upvote comments!" all the time before it was implemented. After all, the comments often did contain little gems, whether a joke or some insight. And we got the urge to reward that.

But votes bring with themselves all sorts of noise, drama and meta. With question/answer voting, we see useless bumbling like:

  • "-1, will change to +1 when you've corrected [some misleading comment]"
  • "Why was this downvoted???"
  • "I think all the downvoters of his question are missing the point, it's not about [...], it's about [...]"
  • "I wasn't the one who downvoted this, but, [...]"

This stuff may do more good than harm when it's about stuff that matters. I mean, quarreling and drama happens in all human communities, it's a needed part of understanding each other. This only becomes a problem when people get meta-meta-meta and lose track of what they're trying to do in the first place.

And that's exactly what would happen if comments were first class entities. Do you really want to see people going nuts about someone downvoting one of their comments to one of the answers to one of their questions?

  • very true; downvotes bring angst all out of proportion to their weight – Jeff Atwood Sep 30 '10 at 8:03
  • @Tim: I guess you're right. It simply hasn't ever bothered me (I'm good at aiming with the mouse), so I stick to the "less social complexity is good" side. – Stefan Monov Sep 30 '10 at 8:12
  • nice analysis -- so for you there is a social reason – juan Sep 30 '10 at 12:41
  • the ability to retract an upvote is not quite the same as adding downvotes. Downvotes would be bad. Retractable upvotes would be OK, they just aren't a pressing need. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Sep 30 '10 at 13:46
  • @dmckee, yes, I guess you're right. – Stefan Monov Sep 30 '10 at 15:06

Comment are intended to be very lightweight. That is, the team wants to keep the amount of code devoted to maintaining them to a minimum.

Comment up votes provide the recipient with little benefit beyond warm fuzzys (there is the pundit badge, but one vote doesn't mean much in the quest for that bad boy), and they don't point back to you, so there is little lost by not implementing that ability.

Edits: Yes, this answer has a certain amount of cop out to it, but it represents the situation as it is: the team has expressed a feeling that more featureful comments are way down on their priority list. But I want to emphasize the part where comment votes don't count for much and are not attributable.

Comment votes contribute to the discussion, lend weight to existing opinions without the noise of "me too"s and so on. But they don't reward the recipient in a way as tangible as site reputation and provide access to only one badge.

Further, if you have accidentally cast a vote for a comment you don't like, or if you change your mind, no one can trace that vote back to you, wave it in your face and say "neener, neener" about it.

So not having the ability to retract it is an annoyance, not a gaping wound in the site's usability.

Perhaps the team will revisit that decision someday---because it is an annoyance---but don't count on it coming soon.

  • 2
    Well your "answer" only brings another question though: why are comments intended to be lightweight? Now that the SO engine is used for subjective websites (such as programming) and for the meta of ALL se 2.0 websites, doesn't it make sense to support discussing a little better? After all discussion websites (including metas) are becoming a huge part of the pie. – Thomas Bonini Sep 30 '10 at 6:00
  • Let me rephrase to see whether I've understood. "The team aren't supporting the feature because they don't like writing code in this feature area". Are we allowed to talk that way now? I'm going to try it on my customers! – MarkJ Sep 30 '10 at 8:28
  • 1
    "We originally implemented comments as almost an afterthought, with virtually no emphasis placed on them in favor of our core Question and Answer mission. But I’ve been amazed how useful and relevant the comments have become over time." Posted by, um, Jeff Atwood, on, erm, the StackOverflow blog – MarkJ Sep 30 '10 at 8:57

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