Possible Duplicates:
How does comment voting and flagging work?
A little less AJAX?
Can we get an indication comments are hidden between the comments?

Please see this question in English.SE meta. Comment lists are being truncated not at the end, but (randomly? heuristically?) in the middle. This can make nonsense out of some question-and-answer exchanges. Is this FAD behavior for SE sites?

Edit: Notice that I contend this behavior constitutes a bug. I see now that there is logic behind the practice; I just happen to think it can cause problems.

  • Ha! I thought the question got migrated here. – ЯegDwight Jan 21 '11 at 19:15
  • @RegDwight: English meta is kind of a slow site, so I thought I'd drop the question in here as well. Not sure if that's the correct procedure or not. – Robusto Jan 21 '11 at 19:20
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    @Shog9: There is an answer of sorts there, but it does not rebut my contention that hiding comments in the middle may be a bug, not a feature. – Robusto Jan 21 '11 at 19:31
  • @Robusto: ok... Try this one on then: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9467/… – Shog9 Jan 21 '11 at 19:36
  • possible duplicate of A little less AJAX? (@shog) – badp Jan 21 '11 at 19:38
  • @Shog9: I'm not trying to be obstinate here, but again: not really. The specific issue I'm talking about is mentioned tangentially there, but in the context of a somewhat different argument. In any case, the response with the most votes seems (in my view) to actually be agreeing with the OP's point. Not a satisfactory resolution of the issue, IMO. And the only other response just proposes a form of highlighting. – Robusto Jan 21 '11 at 19:47
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    @Robusto: If you're going to make a feature request here, you'd do well to understand why the system currently behaves as it does. If you're gonna argue that a given feature is a bug, then you really better do so informed of the rationale for its existence. Showing up uninformed and arguing that it should change without taking previous discussions into consideration just wastes everyone's time. I'm trying to help you with this - read the relevant discussions and blog posts and then write a better argument for the change. – Shog9 Jan 21 '11 at 19:53
  • @Shog9: Well, I see I've gone and pissed you off. Sorry. I did search for something like my question and didn't find anything I considered exactly matched it. None of the ones you reference capture the essence of what I feel is wrong with the current system, which I reference in the link I provided. I'm not a novice to these sites and I have a legitimate question. You throw a handful of links at me and feel you're entitled to dismiss my concern and insult me now without apparently having paused to consider whether my argument makes a useful distinction, and claim that's "trying to help"? – Robusto Jan 21 '11 at 20:04
  • @Robusto: I'm not pissed off - just trying to give you the chance to turn your post into something a bit more unique, to raise a concern that hasn't been discussed before, or provide a rationale for change that no-one has seriously considered yet. That said, if you aren't finding anything of value in what I've linked to I can't help that; hopefully my answer will be more successful. – Shog9 Jan 21 '11 at 20:12
  • As an aside, but a bold plug for a nice feature request: Auto expand comments of specific answer when browsing directly to that answer. – Arjan Jan 21 '11 at 21:37

Short answer: this is by design and unlikely to change. These aren't discussion sites, and the goal of displaying any comments initially is to highlight important information added by a third-party, not provide a lead-in to some tangential discussion.

Details: Comments are - at best - second-class citizens on SE sites. The primary goal is to generate a repository of good questions and helpful answers, not lengthy back-and-forth discussions. That said, there's often a need for users to ask questions, denote problems, or add errata... When comments were first added, they were initially hidden - you got an indication that there were comments, but had to click through to view them. But it turned out, some of these comments were valuable to casual readers as well as post-authors:

There are often important clarifications and addendums left as comments that substantially improve the original post. It seemed a shame that these sort of comments were all locked behind the “expand comments” button, and every reader had to click on that link (or know they should click on it) to get the benefit of those comments. Information was being lost!

So this was the compromise: don't clutter up the page by showing all comments, but pick the best 5 (by votes) or the first 5 (if there aren't any votes) and show them, based on the assumption that if there's any value to be had, it'll be in those top-5.

Again, promoting lengthy discussions as an end-result wasn't the point. Arguably, most readers only care about the end result of such discussions - either as edits to the post itself, or failing that a collection of insightful comments.

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    Thanks for the answer. I understand that these are not discussion boards and that comments are not the primary goal. Nevertheless, by allowing comments at all you are opening the door for your implementation of comments to be confusing to users (i.e. flawed). If you don't care about that, then you don't care. But at least I got you to put it in writing. – Robusto Jan 21 '11 at 20:22
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    @Robusto: I have no authority here - I'm just trying to get you up to speed on the history of this feature, why it works the way it does. You're correct - I don't care; I skim pages looking for answers, not discussions. Any post that requires discussion is, IMHO, already confusing - the best outcome is an edit that makes it less so. But it may be - at least for some topics - that the discussion itself is crucial to the answer (I've heard that ServerFault questions often lean in this direction); if so, perhaps there is reason to adjust this behavior... There's your hook. – Shog9 Jan 21 '11 at 20:30
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    It's not always five, right? – Arjan Jan 21 '11 at 21:35
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    @Arjan: it's configurable, per-site (meta is 15), and also changes slightly if the number of answers exceeds threshold (30, except on SU/P.SE where it's 15) in that all comments without votes are hidden. But since this is less a question on the specific, I figured that wasn't worth mentioning. – Shog9 Jan 21 '11 at 21:52
  • +1 great post would read again A+++++ – Jeff Atwood Jan 22 '11 at 0:43
  • @Jeff Atwood: Teacher's pet. :P – Robusto Jan 22 '11 at 3:58
  • There's a driving philosophy about how to design software to direct user behavior (without choking your software with rigidity). You make behaviors you wish to encourage easy to perform... while simultaneously making it more difficult to engage in behaviors you wish to discourage. So if users insist on using comments for lengthy discussions, they are going to find it difficult... by design. – Robert Cartaino Jan 22 '11 at 4:52
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    @Robert Cartaino: Yet here you are, doing the very thing your software says it wishes to discourage. – Robusto Jan 22 '11 at 12:05
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    @Robert Cartaino, Shog9, Jeff Atwood: I just want to point out that I do understand the so-called philosophy of the SE sites. See meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/490/…. I'm not disagreeing with it. You all appear to be defending something I'm not attacking, and refusing to see the point I'm making. Or, if you do see it, you haven't addressed it. – Robusto Jan 22 '11 at 13:06
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    @Robusto: Yes, here we all are commenting despite the discouragement — of course, that’s why the software discourages rather than prohibits it. If the philosophy were commenting is never good, then they could have just not implemented comments at all. But the philosophy is lots of commenting would generally be a bad thing, hence the current system, which allows commenting but is deliberately optimised for behaviours other than long discussions. So discussions can still happen when they’re particularly needed, but they won’t happen as much as they would otherwise. – PLL Jan 24 '11 at 3:52

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