Why are the first few comments shown instead of the last? When asking a question (I think, this is my first), but also when answering, I'd like to see the last comments on an answer so I can see immediately if any additional comments are added since the last time I checked. Also, hiding the newest comments might add the risk that they are not noticed at all.

I sometimes see than an answer triggers a discussion, or that additional information is provided. This would be more convenient if the last comments are shown instead of the first.


Showing the last comments first would make reading a comment 'thread' much more confusing.

It is easier to start at the beginning of a list of comments and read them from top to bottom and in chronological order.

  • I didn't mean to reverse the order but to show the last few comments in chronological order and (above them, I think) show the link that expand the earlier comment. You would still read them in chronological order. – GolezTrol Nov 22 '10 at 18:50
  • @Golez, that sounds even more confusing to read. Maybe I just don't understand. – jjnguy Nov 22 '10 at 18:55
  • I mean, if you visit the thread to see if there are new comments, you can easily see if you've read the visible comments and if there are any new comments added since your last visit. But as I commented below, this is mainly handy when you are revisiting active threads to check for new comments. It isn't when you visit the thread for the first time. So, too bad you can't downvote your own question. ;-) – GolezTrol Nov 22 '10 at 19:05
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    @Golez, so you are proposing that they show the unread comments. That is a good idea. – jjnguy Nov 22 '10 at 19:07
  • That's a slightly different (but better) solution to the same problem. :) Don't know why I haven't thought of putting it that way. – GolezTrol Nov 22 '10 at 19:08
  • Oh yeah, I remember why. I figured that it would take way to much data and effort to store this for everyone, so I discarded this solution when I was pondering about this question last weekend. I got a little community myself (serving only a few thousand visitors instead of millions), and if i would implement this, I would probably only store the last visit date for every user, but that data wouldn't have any use in the decision to show or hide comments on a website structured like StackOverflow. – GolezTrol Nov 22 '10 at 20:05

PS: downvotes on meta mean disagreement, so don't take it personally!

In short, it's just not worth it.

Finally even if the user knows that they are in reverse chronological order it would be more beneficial than a normal chronological order only if the user already read some of the comments and is not new to the discussion; I would say this happens less than half the time.

You should especially keep in mind the new users who wouldn't be used to the ordering system you proposed, and how confused it would make them since it's unexpected. (For example, I bet reading this you'll be pretty confused).

Well, I think your request could in some discussions come handy, but not in all cases.

  • I think I didn't make myself clear. I didn't mean to show them in reverse order, but in case there are too many, it shows a link "add / show X more comments". Instead I would propose to always show the last comments, and above them show a link "show X previous comments". – GolezTrol Nov 22 '10 at 18:53
  • And thanks for the note on the downvoting. ;-) – GolezTrol Nov 22 '10 at 18:53
  • @Golez There is still context loss even if order is maintained. The majority of the time, the last comments in a long stream are only understood in the context of having read the past comments. Comparatively, the first comments do not need this because they are what establishes the context. If something new needs to be brought up to important intention, that's what comment upvoting is for. But as far as a default setting is concerned, it is traditionally easier to get into a conversation from its beginning, not at its conclusion. – Grace Note Nov 22 '10 at 18:55
  • Yes, it probably wouldn't be very friendly to visitor who see the tread for the first time. My suggestion was mainly based on the point of view of the questioneer and the people who answer/participate in the thread while it is still active. I can image how it is difficult to make distinguish those two from each other. So if that's indeed hard or impossible, it is better to keep it the way it is now. – GolezTrol Nov 22 '10 at 19:02
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    @Golez Months ago, we had to deal this fiendish beast we called the Envelope, which had ridiculous latency with regards to when it provided you information of happenings. As such, most people already read the comments that they were being told about, and rage persisted at this being told of events already acknowledged! While the global inbox has changed the speed at which alerts are sent, I don't believe the situation of being able to detect that a comment has been read on the site has changed any bit. – Grace Note Nov 22 '10 at 19:11
  • Yes of course, I understand that you can't track the 'last-read' status of thousands of people over more than a million questions. But maybe different approach would be to show comments starting with your last comment. That way, for everyone it would work like it does now, but active participant can more easily check if there are any additions to the discussion. That is a feature that is more easy to implement, doen't need any additional storage (or maybe a little to speed things up some more) and wouldn't confuse any new visitor to the thread. – GolezTrol Nov 22 '10 at 20:00

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