78

I was just curious about the reasoning behind this?

28

If you're allowed to edit a comment for much longer than 5 minutes, it becomes possible to perform an edit on the comment that makes it out of context (no longer makes sense) with the rest of the comments.

  • 3
    Shouldn't people know better than doing that? – Oystein Feb 8 '11 at 18:38
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    You have a lot of faith in people. :) Seriously, almost everything is rate-limited in StackOverflow to prevent various abuses of the system. – Robert Harvey Feb 8 '11 at 18:43
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    Well, I've never been a mod, so my faith is still intact... :) – Oystein Feb 8 '11 at 18:56
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    If you don't allow editing of comments, then it becomes possible for the comment to become out of context (because the question/answer it belongs to was edited or another comment was removed). Worse yet, if you made a mistake in your comment, and realize it after 5 minutes, you usually can't fix it. Sure, if it's the last comment, I'll just copy it, delete it, and make a new one with the correction. But, that seems like an unnecessary hurdle to put in place. – Nate May 1 '13 at 22:27
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    @Nate: Obsolete, out of context comments happen all the time. But comments are transitory anyway. – Robert Harvey May 1 '13 at 23:10
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    But what should be more important is the value a properly edited comment could add, potentially helping many people. Sometimes five minutes is not enough, even after three cups of coffee. Revise, revise, revise. Can't we all just chill out, take a deep breath and consider what's really important? ;-) – PJ Brunet Sep 3 '13 at 9:53
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    Why couldn't we allow the comment to be edited for a longer time period, but only if it's still the last comment on the post? – Dan Henderson Jul 30 '15 at 12:58
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    The time limit makes it worse, not better. If you accidentally submit a comment with an error, you'll might get a barrage of snarky counter comments descending into a comedy of errors. It is also incredibly insensitive to individuals with special needs who need extra time. Maybe that's why Steven Hawking isn't answering any questions of physics stack exchange. Moreover, I'm sure a crafty lawyer can extract some money out of it. – user148298 Feb 23 '17 at 17:30
  • OK, let's not have a lot of faith in people, but don't you think as the experience of one grows here (measured by reputation), he/she should be allowed to judge for him/herself about this kind of issues? – Ashkan Sarlak May 14 '18 at 17:14
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    If this logic was sound, then you wouldn't be able to edit any comments on any platform. I disagree completely with this logic, it doesn't make sense to me. – ESR Aug 24 '18 at 4:36
  • It's utterly ridiculous that this is not allowed. Cold is with the monkey's ears and toes. Travel trips taken away go home, friends are baskets and hats. – Kyle Vassella Nov 28 '18 at 20:42
  • I think the ability to strikethrough a comment and add to it would be useful, since I can see the possible misuses of editing comments. – GammaGames Jan 4 at 4:34
  • @GammaGames: Please, no. Comments contain too much noise already. – Robert Harvey Jan 4 at 4:35
49

The real problem is that, second class citizens that they are, comments do not have a public revision history.

SE lets you edit pretty much everything else at any time because there's edit accountability: At any given moment, you know who changed what, when, and why. This isn't the case with comments — this is why comments can no longer be edited after the standard grace period.

  • 3
    I don't believe that allowing a comment to be deleted and simply added again with edits months later solves the problem you speak about. Nor am I convinced that it's even a problem. – NotMe Aug 28 '13 at 20:46
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    That said, 5 minutes is really not enough time to flesh out certain concepts. After all, we're talking about explaining code which is not easy to do, even for fluent English speakers who can type 70 WPM! Also as any professional writer knows, it's really important to reread what you wrote, make sure it makes sense, clarify anything vague, etc. You can't always do this well in 5 minutes. – PJ Brunet Sep 3 '13 at 9:44
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    In addition to the comments from @notme and P J Brunet, If your comments go past the character limit, and you need to revise and clarify the blurb, 5 minutes is sometimes not enough. – GWR Nov 10 '15 at 11:54
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    Classic case of overregulation. And no, you'll never change people's minds on this. Would that I could have had the dev who added that feature take my codebase for a bit and add some features my users actually need – FastAl Sep 14 '17 at 18:44
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    @fgrieu you are replying to an answer from six years ago. That said! Even if mods do have an edit history, that really doesn't change my answer… edit accountability is not provided to regular users. – badp Oct 6 '17 at 6:53
  • Comments now have an history. See this for a moderator's view. That surfaced in a related question. Note: This is a redo of a previous comment that started with "Comments do have an history", after the comment above. – fgrieu Oct 6 '17 at 6:59
  • ... and so now this answer should be removed, and people should be directed to this one instead. – NH. Oct 23 '17 at 22:36
  • @NH. No, because before your comment was posted, this answer was edited to clarify that there's still no publicly visible history. – jpmc26 Jun 16 at 1:56
14

This isn't an answer so much as a nag -- I have a little issue with this 5 minute rules. I accidentally hit save on my comment right after I started one. No big deal, edit. Typing, typing, typing, no warning from the site. Save, and wham, edit not allowed. Aw, come on!

If you're really going to enforce this, either

  1. give a warning while editing the comment (like a doomsday counter) so that the user is informed, or
  2. just give a grace period - like you can't start an edit after 5 minutes have passed, but you can save the edit for 15 minutes from the original post.
  • 6
    You could just delete and repost. – Joe Z. Jun 20 '13 at 18:14
  • @Joe damn, too late now :-( – PJ Brunet Sep 3 '13 at 9:39
  • Thanks Joe Z., that's a good point. I have done that now and it's a good solution. – Abacus Jan 30 '14 at 20:28
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    It's a solution which invalidates the justifications for the problem. – keshlam Sep 13 '14 at 14:07
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    I signed up for a meta.se account to upvote this, but of course I can't even though there was no indication prior to creating an account that I needed 15 rep to do so. +1, I guess – 1j01 Feb 19 '15 at 19:22
3

As others have noted, comments are ephemeral second class citizens with no revision history. That's a really complicated way to say that they are meant to be temporary aids to posts rather than primary content. If the content of a comment is so important that it needs editing for improvement over a long period of time, perhaps it needs to be written up to be a full post. If the context has changed and a comment needs to be tweaked to reflect the new situation, remove the old comment and write a new one. (You can even copy/paste the old one before deleting if you want to start with that.)

  • 14
    If comments are only meant to be temporary, then they should just disappear entirely. They don't. They stay around. As such, not being able to edit them increases the chance of them being, or becoming, misinformation. Combined with the other bad feature that comments can be voted up, but not down, further increases the chances of getting bad information from comments. Your justification boils down to "comments are second class citizens because comments are second class citizens". In the end, people don't process information that way. They read it all (posts and comments). – Nate May 1 '13 at 22:32
  • Comments now have an history. See this for a moderator's view. That surfaced in a related question. – fgrieu Oct 6 '17 at 6:55

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