Since a few days, the old backtick trick to circumvent the minimum comment length doesn't work any more. Comments now show up as

 yes ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` 

can we have that back please? There are valid use cases for short comments such as "yes" and "no". I like to think I usually stick to the point in comments (well on SO anyway), and I often need short comments. I have never seen any misuse of the feature, either. This is forcing us to use pointless filler characters like ---------- which quite frankly, looks ugly.

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    We can still use them to put lines(of, code); in comments. – Pollyanna Feb 17 '11 at 17:30
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    Nope. ` ` ` ` ` ` – Pollyanna Feb 17 '11 at 17:31
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    Sure! – Pollyanna Feb 17 '11 at 17:32
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    It seems they took away the old space trick as well, so in @Pollyanna's case one has to just steal from punctuation. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 17:34
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    – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 17:35
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    @Grace Yeah, we also used to be able to put   in our comments, but that's now being filtered out as well. However, there are a multitude of international spaces we can use. – Pollyanna Feb 17 '11 at 17:35
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    @Pollyanna You didn't even need a nonbreaking space. Plain ol [ ](http://o/~) used to work. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 17:38
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    – Pollyanna Feb 17 '11 at 17:41
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    What? – user102937 Feb 17 '11 at 17:45
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    Quick question: is this change retroactive? – Maxim Zaslavsky Feb 17 '11 at 17:58
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    It is retroactive, @Maxim. At least, the link version, so I assume the code version as well. I just fixed a half dozen of these on Gaming. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 18:02
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    Yeṣ̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣ – The Unhandled Exception Feb 17 '11 at 18:38
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    – HoLyVieR Feb 17 '11 at 18:45
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    @Kobi Ha! If anything, 10k users abuse it more than anyone else. – Pollyanna Feb 17 '11 at 19:35
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    @Pollyanna - Hmm, I'd say only two users ever really abused it: data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/s/987/… (Pekka, I'm looking at you :)) – Kobi Feb 18 '11 at 20:42

No, it's a stupid hack.

I would rather have the website ask you if you are really sure you want to post such a short comment, and if you say you are sure, it will let you post it.

It seems Jeff wants to prevent all the possible work arounds but then people will just use Yes gfnjgfdsngjkfsdngfdskj which is much worse than just Yes.

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    Fair enough, I could live with this as well. I just want this to work without the ------------- clutter and without artificially lengthening a 4-letter comment. – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 17:51
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    @Pekka: me too gfjndgnfkdjgkjnfdngjfdkjgfdnfkdjg – Thomas Bonini Feb 17 '11 at 17:53
  • "Yes, it is." In this specific example, you could just add three more letters: Indeed. / Correct. / That's true. / Absolutely. / Precisely. / Of course. / Exactly. / Etc. etc. – oKtosiTe Feb 17 '11 at 18:09
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    "It seems Jeff wants to prevent all the possible work arounds but then people will just use Yes gfnjgfdsngjkfsdngfdskj which is much worse than just Yes." -- YES. I cannot seem to convince anyone of this; I've seen it in comments, in posts, even in edit suggestions – Michael Mrozek Feb 17 '11 at 18:56

All the cool kids have moved on to adding links to lengthen their comments:


But if you really don't like the punctuation option, get a space from the unicode set and use it:


You should be able to copy and paste that.

mmyers points out that the zero width space is still usable as long as you have characters on either end (ie, it's trimmed if it appears at the beginning or end of the string):


Should work and should be copyable (15 zero blank spaces between the E and the x).

Unless they play whack a mole with the hundreds of space characters in unicode, we'll probably be able to find something that will work as time goes on.

As Grace Note correctly points out, you have no control over the character set viewers are using, so what may look like a space to you may appear to be some odd character to them.

Probably best to link your punctuation - it's unobtrusive enough and it won't break later as they remove other methods of doing this.

  • I had been using the syntax: Comment [` `](http://site.com) to get a short comment with an invisible link. – jjnguy Feb 17 '11 at 17:36
  • Comment ` ` – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 17:36
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    @Pekka, oops. I meant 'had' been using. It doesn't work anymore. – jjnguy Feb 17 '11 at 17:37
  • Code samples don't work? No, they do. Just ` ` ` `? – Josh K Feb 17 '11 at 17:38
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    How long will it take for the overlords to ban this as well? – user102937 Feb 17 '11 at 17:42
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    Zero-width spaces still work as long as you have at least two non-whitespace characters to sandwich them with. – mmyers Feb 17 '11 at 17:43
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    E​​​​​​​​​​​​​x – mmyers Feb 17 '11 at 17:43
  • Actually, you didn't get a real Unicode space, Polly. Depending on what settings you're browsing on, that example you're using will show up as a "magic wand" of sorts. It'll work for most settings, but there will be users who'll catch it... and laugh. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 17:46
  • Aw, I lose. – Pollyanna Feb 17 '11 at 17:47
  • That second one looks like it worked, although you seem to have erased the comment. Not... the one with the dot. The other one, which I assume was stored inside the pair of quotes. @mmyers also has a good one. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 17:50
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    – Josh K Feb 17 '11 at 17:50
  • @mmyers how'd you do that? :) – Maxim Zaslavsky Feb 17 '11 at 17:53
  • Oh, nevermind then. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 17:54
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    @Maxim: Windows Character Map, Arial Unicode font, search for "width". – mmyers Feb 17 '11 at 18:14
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    If you go with the linking option, please link to this question – juan Feb 17 '11 at 18:32

It is well within the hairy grasp of the average homo sapien to use verbose language to extend their useful thoughts into a much longer structure of English grammar such that arbitrary and capricious minimum size limits are easily and readily overcome without the use of paltry parlor tricks.

  • But why? Why add clutter to a sentence in order to fulfil an arbitrary requirement, if it is perfectly fine in itself at six characters? Of course one can get used to it, but what for? Apart from the occasional smart-ass yes, I have yet to see one instance of real abuse of this. – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 18:25
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    Perhaps. Perhaps you are right, perhaps you are not, I cannot judge it myself, but history will... indeed it will. – juan Feb 17 '11 at 18:26
  • @Pekka It's specifically targeting "Thanks!" and "I agree." comments which add no value. Prior to implementing it a lot more comment noise was added daily. I think the backtick trick and linked space was getting used too frequently. By eliminating the easy methods, then yes - it'll become harder to post valid comments that are shorter. Whether the cure is worse than the problem is subjective. – Pollyanna Feb 17 '11 at 18:29
  • Funny. – The Unhandled Exception Feb 17 '11 at 19:01

Old short comments were all deleted.

Regarding the question of whether it was retroactive, I assumed it was, and run the following query:

select top 2000 postid as "Post Link", * from comments
Text like '%[[] ](http:%' or
Text like '% ` `'
order by CreationDate asc


When I click on the link I can't see any of the comments, including comment I remember I made. They were deleted.

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    They only appear to have done this on the Trilogy, actually. Stack Exchange 2.0 was spared, for worse as it were. But, thanks to your query, I was able to find a couple ones that I missed on Gaming, to confirm that this was retroactive for code formatting as well. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 18 '11 at 17:40
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    They also got a few false positives. By the way - am I the only one really annoyed by this one-sided action? Should I open a new discussion? – Kobi Feb 18 '11 at 20:36
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    It would be more germane (germaine? gerrmane? How is that spelled?) to open a separate discussion, as that really is a different line of inquiry than Pekka's question here. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 18 '11 at 21:35
  • probably.. – Thomas Bonini Feb 18 '11 at 22:17

Should we start opening bugs for work-arounds for this limit? It's obvious that SOIS is spending resources on this, and rather than them playing whack a mole we could help them out and hopefully they won't have to spend so much development effort on this.

Given that they deleted all the short comments, it seems this is important. Rather than having them deleted again in the future, we may as well close all the loop holes.

Plus it would give me a great excuse to pretend I'm a tester/QA person.

"If it ain't broke, fix it 'till it is."


I decided to browse through users like yourself and Juan Manuel to find instances where these comments were done, to see if the code formatting was retroactive.

After 30 pages of comments on each of you, I have yet to run across a single comment with less than 15 characters, none of which used anything more than an ellipsis at worst to reach 15 characters. But the majority have 16+ characters without any effort. This tells me that we really don't need this crutch for anything more than the novelty it brought. It is used far too rarely to be of import.

15 is a piddling amount of text, and going beneath it often leads to leaving out important data. One of the comments I fixed on Gaming was just Broodwars?. The intent of the comment was "Why did you mention Broodwars, did you make a typo?", but it got interpretted as "What is Broodwars?". With short comments, you're either going to be causing similar scenarios or just making a noise-some quip.

I, too, enjoyed the exploits while they lasted. But, maybe now that it's gone, it teaches us that tricking out sub-15 comments doesn't really give all that much help for what comments need to do, and really just encourages the thought that we should waste people's time with short comments like "thanks", "me too", and whatever else people stick with their "(bypass 15 chars)" or similar junk at the end. Making it "pretty and invisible" junk didn't really give us any gains, we're still allowing tiny comments that are already better expressed in other methods, or simply by adding one or two real words.

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    You browsed though me? I thought I felt something – juan Feb 17 '11 at 18:43
  • I don't know whose profile you went through, but I count at least ten comments in my activity that have at least four backticks ```` in the past few days alone. What we're left with now is the "15 chars" junk and that indeed sucks. – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 18:43
  • @Pekka ...or not commenting? – Rebecca Chernoff Feb 17 '11 at 18:50
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    @Pekka I was on your Meta profile. Looking at your SO profile just for the past day... @Robert Thanks. is 15 characters without needing the code formatting. "Well put" is insubstantial and very well addressed with an upvote, if you don't want to just say "Well put, Breidis". The majority of these scenarios, outside of novelty, simply aren't worth it. Maybe if people used comments for substance, they wouldn't always be pointed at as being so worthless and second-class. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 18:51
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    @Grace when I'm in a thirty-comment one-on-one session with a user, I don't need the system to tell me to add "substance" to every damn comment. It breaks my flow, and that sucks. By the way, I am getting the feeling that comments using the trick from before the change were summarily removed, I can't find any in my activity pre-february and that is pretty much impossible. (This is just a suspicion though - not planning to follow up on this, just to pre-empt any arguments to that effect) – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 18:53
  • @Pekka I trust your word to be true on such events, but personally I'm having a difficult time picturing a productive comment session that'll last for so many exchanges and would require responses so curt that 15 characters is too high a bar. I imagine that if the exchange is going that far, a little more wording might've made things a whole lot clearer or even led to fewer comments. Yes, brevity is nice... but you don't need to tuck under 15 to be brief. Since user names can't be less than 3 characters, even a simple "Yes it does, ABC" and "No it doesn't, ABC" surpass 15 characters. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 19:05
  • @Pekka, 30 comments? This makes me think there are more issues than subverting the minimum character count at play here. I'm having trouble coming up with a scenario where <15 chars are necessary and you honestly can't meet the limit without degrading the value of the comment. – Rebecca Chernoff Feb 17 '11 at 19:07
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    @Rebecca there are usually more issues at play when that happens - usually an OP who doesn't get it, or a heated discussion. Re the scenario, lengthening a sentence is never a problem, of course. But it's annoying. Imagine (exaggerated example) a conversation where you instead of answering "yeah" or "sure" would have to fulfill a 15 character limit. It's possible and fairly easy, but it's annoying. – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 19:16
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    @Pekka, maybe an entire second to type out a few more characters while at the same time adding value instead of just noise? I don't classify that as annoying. Continuing a heated discussion may not be the best in the first place... – Rebecca Chernoff Feb 17 '11 at 19:23
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    @Rebecca what value is there to add if, after a half-hour comment thread, the question is "ah, so I just have to flurble the gargle" and the answer is "yes" or "exactly"? Re heated discussions, that is a different topic altogether. And believe me, I don't like 30-comment conversations at all, I am very careful not to get into one. But it occasionally still happens. – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 19:35
  • @Pekka, "yes, exactly that." "yes, that's correct." I really don't see the problem here. – Rebecca Chernoff Feb 17 '11 at 19:39
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    @Rebecca We'll probably have to agree to disagree here then - of course it's always possible to pad a sentence, but I don't see why, and I don't understand the problem this change is trying to solve in the first place (i.e. widespread abuse of the backtick to smuggle in value-less comments). As far as I can see, this was a loophole that didn't really need closing – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 19:46
  • @Pekka I don't think the loophole was one that needed to be closed, I just don't think it's all that bad that it was. And, consequently, now that it has been unfortunately closed, I'm not seeing it being valuable to re-enable. That's my stance, at least. The two of us may well have to agree to disagree on that, and I'm fine for that. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 19:51
  • @Grace Ah, so you are bi-stable. You don't really care what state you're in, but you're not particularly interested in changing. – Pollyanna Feb 17 '11 at 20:12
  • @Pollyanna I suppose that's a brief way of expressing my viewpoint on this matter. Though there's a lot less apathy involved. – Grace Note ModStaff Feb 17 '11 at 20:14

Giving a yes or no answer (or any other comment that short) isn't likely to be useful to anyone in the future.

If you're going to say "nope" to something, you can at least say "nope and here's why". Thereby adding meaningful information, and making your comment worthy of keeping around.

  • @Kevin see my conversation with @Grace Note for my arguments against this view. – Pekka Feb 18 '11 at 22:11
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    @Pekka My response to that is simply that it isn't the system's job to make your chatting experience a good one that flows well. The system's job is to encourage adding information that's useful to everybody. – Kevin Laity Feb 18 '11 at 22:19
  • @Kevin that doesn't make sense. I'm not chatting with users, I'm answering their questions and follow-up comments. I do think it's the system's job to provide a pleasant experience to me while doing so. – Pekka Feb 18 '11 at 22:21
  • @Pekka Can you give me an example of an interaction with tiny responses like that, that was useful and meaningful to others? – Kevin Laity Feb 18 '11 at 22:26
  • @Kevin I'm listing some examples in my conversation with @Grace below. The "meaningful to others" aspect is irrelevant if you're in a clarifying technical conversation with somebody - being forced to fulfill a 15 character limit when trying to answer "yes" is ridiculous, as is not trusting your most active users to make quality comments without dumb limitations. If you want to talk about getting rid of useless comments, that's a different discussion . See e.g. here or here – Pekka Feb 18 '11 at 22:33
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    Even more: to avoid odd comments when one party deletes some comments, or when comments are hidden if some comments are upvoted, a "Yes, [...] is true" is much more future proof too. – Arjan Feb 19 '11 at 14:16
  • @Arjan you do have a point with that, however think the benefit is rather theoretical (meaning that if comments get deleted, it is usually almost impossible to understand the context regardless whether it's "yes" or "yes, that's true".) – Pekka Feb 19 '11 at 15:45
  • @Pekka, I was not suggesting the words "that's" on the dots in "Yes, [...] is true"! :-) – Arjan Feb 19 '11 at 16:15
  • @Arjan ah, I understand now what you mean by stating that you weren't suggesting "that's" on the dots in your previous comment, "Yes [...] is true".... ;) I see what you mean, but I don't think it's a realistic expectation that conversations can be made work that way. – Pekka Feb 19 '11 at 16:18


  • See?̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣ – The Unhandled Exception Feb 17 '11 at 18:40
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    Yes and this just shows that no mater what detection script there will be, people will always find a way to go around it. – HoLyVieR Feb 17 '11 at 18:56
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    -1. I just spend a minute trying to get something off my screen. Thanks for messing with my mind. – Josh K Feb 17 '11 at 18:57
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    @Josh: I do work for SC Johnson you know :-) – The Unhandled Exception Feb 17 '11 at 19:00
  • Wow. This even breaks the collider thingy. – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 19:04
  • Pics?̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣ – The Unhandled Exception Feb 17 '11 at 19:06
  • (Or it didn't happen) – The Unhandled Exception Feb 17 '11 at 19:06
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    i.imgur.com/QBEAP.png – Pekka Feb 17 '11 at 19:07
  • @Pekka that is hysterical! – The Unhandled Exception Feb 17 '11 at 19:11
  • Nọ̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣ – nyuszika7h Feb 17 '11 at 19:20
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    it happened: i.imgur.com/J2fum.jpg – Kobi Feb 19 '11 at 18:32
  • @Kobi: My post was vandalized by a ladybug killer! – The Unhandled Exception Feb 19 '11 at 21:41
  • Btw, HTML comments like <!-- bla bla bla --> work in questions. – BalusC Feb 19 '11 at 22:02

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