Meanwhile, in August 2009 "noise" was added as reason for comment flagging, and the comment flags show in the 10k tools. And Allow low-rep users to suggest edits is on its way. Hence: I don't care for this request myself anymore. An explicit [status-declined] would be fine.

What about being able to set comments to auto-expire? Or, alternatively, set a comment to be removable by the author of the question or answer one comments on?

This way the communities would allow for some personal or funny comments (even like "Thanks") without those comments littering the sites forever. Or, when the original author is allowed to clean up, then comments that have been taken care of by editing the question or answer, could be removed.


As, by design, there's no way to send a personal message to other members, I find myself abusing the comments like some "poor man's private messaging system". I try to refrain from things like "Thank you", but sometimes I do want to point out something to someone. After a while (hours, days) I then search for those comments to remove them (hoping that no-one actually replied to them with another comment, like "Thanks, fixed it").

Like here:

Poor man's PM

(I don't find this feature request very important (at all), I am quite impressed by what's been given us already, and I doubt there's a way to implement it without making things too confusing. Maybe I'm just trying too hard to keep things tidy and clean. Still, I wanted to share it, just in case someone comes up with something very clever...)

  • related: Automatically hide old comments
    – gnat
    Oct 14, 2013 at 15:27
  • I find it interesting - the three answers from July of 2009 say not to do it, and the three from July of 2013 say to do it. It's been 4 more years - is this worth further discussion now?
    – RDFozz
    Aug 31, 2017 at 19:41

6 Answers 6


I think this is a case, where in certain situations, it would be acceptable and nice to have a feature, but overall, the feature would make the user experience more confusing and likely encourage use of the feature in undesired ways and at undesired times. While I know there are times where you don't have edit privileges and want to recommend a correction, and so it would be helpful to have this comment auto-delete. I don't think that one, possibly acceptable, edge case makes implementing a feature, that would be potentially confusing and misused, worth it.

  • Agreed, though I don't expect to get 2,000 reputation soon: "there are times where you don't have edit privileges" may be true for a long time --if not forever-- in my case.
    – Arjan
    Jul 21, 2009 at 13:34

I either do not appreciate or do not agree with the concerns expressed herein and think that introducing auto-expiring comments would be a wonderful addition to the site. Here's my rationale:

Auto-expiring comments are not personal messages - The argument that personal messages have been debated ad nauseum and rejected and auto-expiring comments are essentially personal messages, so they should be rejected too is specious. There's nothing "private" about a comment. For as long as they are "up", anyone can see them, copy them, retain them, etc. Further, they're not arriving in someone's "inbox". The comparison just doesn't apply.

Responding to auto-expiring comments won't add significantly to confusion - Auto-expiring messages can be highlighted differently, so people will know what they are getting into if they choose to respond. Most will probably choose to respond in kind. In any event, we already have this issue today with people being able to delete comments that others have already responded to.

Auto-expiring comments will address the SO concern about "unhelpful comments" - While opinions vary about this, there's a significant concern amongst many that spurious comments are a big problem with the site, significantly cluttering things up. This would go a long way to addressing that concern.

Auto-expiring comments will encourage folks to move significant content into questions and answers - If we can reduce the number of comments by getting rid of those intended to be ephemeral, there will be increased focus on the remaining ones. This will increase the likelihood that those of significance will move into the Q&A bodies and might encourage folks to delete some of the remaining ones.

Auto-expiring communications have proven to be socially popular - While not a direct comparison by any means, the success of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snapchat suggests that this feature might be extremely popular.

There is little chance of abuse of this feature - Any posts that are obscene or inappropriate can be readily saved through a screen snapshot so that abusers can be held accountable.

We can easily recover from "mistaken" use of this feature -- As for comments that have value that "should" be retained, there are a number of possibilities. We could let anyone turn any comment from auto-expiring to "regular". We could let folks see expired comments for a fixed period of time after they go expire.

I actually don't feel strongly about this in the sense that I don't mind the large amount of comments that exist on SO. But I know some folks feel strongly that SO should be reduced to "the fact and just the facts", namely Qs and As with the least amount of comment possible. Auto-expiring comments seems like a reasonable means to that end that ought to be more seriously considered.

  • devinb has the clincher: "there is no way to guarantee that the comment has been seen by the people you would want to see it".
    – Benjol
    Nov 22, 2013 at 9:04
  • @Benjoi I think it boils down to probabilities and number of impacted viewers. Yes, the drawback of an expiration is that people who might benefit from seeing it won't see it. But you've got to compare that to the benefit of it not being there for all people for whom it holds no (or negative) value. And you've got to integrate that over all time. Combined with the fact that (I suspect) most people care about the "directed" person seeing their messages and the fact that (I suspect) most people do see fairly quickly all messages directed at them, this seems like a reasonable tradeoff. Nov 27, 2013 at 7:45
  • @Benjol - There is never a guarantee that a comment will be seen by the people you want to see it. It's possible that those people get enough material in their inbox that they never look at it all, or even that they never come back to the site. This would give the commenter the option to have the comment removed after a period of time, without the need for them to review all their old comments, and look for one that they might want to remove. I'd think it's of more benefit to the site to allow someone to do that proactively, than to require them to spend their time doing it retroactively.
    – RDFozz
    Aug 31, 2017 at 19:38

I do not like this at all because if you make a temporary comment and then someone responds to that comment, it's going to look awfully strange for someone else coming in and it looks like Person B is talking to himself.

If you need to send a personal message to a user, use the contact information they provide in their profile. If they do not list any information, they must not really care to be contacted.

Private messages have been shot down numerous times in the past and this seems like an even worse implementation of that idea.

  • Of course, any "temporary comment" should be rendered differently (enters confusion...). But I agree that even then people would probably keep replying -- and then The System wouldn't know if the comments should still be deleted.
    – Arjan
    Jul 21, 2009 at 13:14
  • 3
    But as for "talking to himself", or more general: comments not making sense anymore: this is exactly what's happening now if the original question or answer is adjusted because of some comment. Should the author then add yet another comment to indicate that?
    – Arjan
    Jul 21, 2009 at 13:18

Temporary comments do not serve any purpose except as private messages in which case, why aren't they private messages?

Basically, this functionality would be better implemented as a private messaging system, which they have repeatedly said no to.

The functionality on its own does not serve a huge purpose, because there is no way to guarantee that the comment has been seen by the people you would want to see it.

Similarly, a "(-1) You need to edit out M$oft" temporary comment seems to make sense, because that way the user can edit it, and the comment will disappear, however, if the user doesn't see it, it will eventually become a (-1) without an explanation. Also, if the user does edit it, your comment will still disappear, regardless of you removing your downvote or not.

Because there is no way to create 'event-based' comments (i.e. when a user has read it/done some action) this functionality only serves to REMOVE information which could be useful to someone.


The reasons I see for not implementing a temporary comment are, IMHO trivial. It would be simple and intuitive to have a little tick box "mark this comment as temporary" beneath the comment box. Nothing would make it simpler for the site to 'auto clean' itself. Transient comments are hard to avoid! Posters themselves know when they are making a remark-in-passing, let them do it!


I feel this is needed - a variation to the implementations suggested would be to have the comment destroyed once the OP follows a link to the comment.

So I post a comment in an answer like: "Accepted but please add links to the official docs" - I mark it as self destructive - the answerer follows the notification to the comment and it gets destroyed in 24 hours - or even better the answerer can delete it manually.

How about that ?

AFTERTHOUGHT : also there could be a reputation threshold - like 3000 - to add self destructive comments

  • +1 for suggestion of a reputation threshold; this helps eliminate the "too confusing for users" criticism.
    – RDFozz
    Aug 31, 2017 at 19:39

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