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According to the comment box:

Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Avoid answering questions in comments.

Comments are for:

  • Asking for more information about a question's topic
  • Helping to narrow the scope of a question or otherwise make it better for the site
  • Suggesting improvements to a post that cannot be submitted as an edit / suggested edit, whether because they are:
    • Too significant a change, or may otherwise conflict with the author's intent
    • Don't change enough characters to be allowed in a suggested edit
    • About something that the commenter does not have enough expertise to suggest an edit
    • Etcetera
  • Asking related clarifying questions on an answer
    • These replies should ideally be edited into the answer, to prevent future readers from being confused (do as I say, not as I do!)
    • "Clarifying" questions that deviate significantly from the original question should be posted as separate questions.

Comments are not for:

  • Answering questions
    Please, write an answer if you have one. At the very least, check whether somebody else has said that before you. Comments can't be downvoted if they're wrong; the only way to say that they're wrong is to post another comment and then the whole thing gets derailed.
  • Extended discussion
    We have a chatroom for this purpose! Comments aren't the place for tangential discussions.
  • Heated arguments
    I'd be lying if I said that this wasn't part of the reason that extended discussion wasn't allowed, but it's mostly answers in comments that lead to name-calling and RAA flags.
  • Asking questions
    Thankfully, we haven't had much of this on this site, but for the sake of completeness: we're not a message-board-style forum; questions should be asked as questions.

This is a lot to remember, so I'll just boil it down to something simple. When posting a comment, think: does this comment directly pertain to the post that I am posting it on? If it directly pertains to this comment that directly pertains to that comment that directly pertains to the post then you should not post that comment.


If you're still not getting it, here's an example. (I like examples.)

Example 1

This question is off-topic because it's about bog standard x86 programming. – wizzwizz4 ♦ 19 hours ago

Do

@wizzwizz4 The question is about programming for the IBM PC. Those INT calls are to the BIOS. The question could do with some editing, but is fundamentally on-topic. – PC Expert 4 hours ago

Don't

@wizzwizz4 I'm stunned you don't consider the x86 architecture on-topic. After all, wasn't the 80186 used in the Tandy 2000? Isn't Tandy retro? – TandyFan2041 2 hours ago

Example 2

@TandyFan2041 No, the Tandy 2000 actually used the 80286; it was a PC-compatible. – Know It All Mike 2 hours ago

Don't:

@KnowItAllMike Actually, it was the 80186; the Tandy 2000 predated the IBM PC. You're thinking of the Tandy 1000 series, some of which used the 80286. – TandyFan2041 1 hour ago

Do:

@KnowItAllMike Let's continue this discussion in chat. – TandyFan2041 1 hour ago

or flag the comment as No Longer Needed, given that it's completely irrelevant. (Though you started it in the first place, TandyFan2041! You should be ashamed of yourself!)


Yes, it's harder to post good comments. But... that's kind of the point. Comments should ideally be completely disposable, since they're acted on and eventually are no longer needed. (That No Longer Needed flag should be the only comment flag that moderators are seeing; that's currently not the case.)

Is there anything I've missed?

  • Missed? No. You seem to have captured it well. – Chenmunka Dec 8 '18 at 19:44
  • @Chenmunka Should we feature this? – wizzwizz4 Dec 8 '18 at 20:34
  • Maybe have it featured for, say, a week. Then give it the FAQ tag? – Chenmunka Dec 9 '18 at 10:19
  • @Chenmunka Sounds good. – wizzwizz4 Dec 9 '18 at 10:22
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    I'm not realy in favour for the 'Comments are Disposable' argument. Comments often target side effects or related issues, which I feel do not have a point being part of an answer or question, but are related. Maybe not as muchas comments on a law text, which may be more important than the law itself, but still... – Raffzahn Dec 11 '18 at 14:46
  • Moreso, I feel the examples rather hard to understand, even when reading carfuly. Assuming the usual browsing nature a FAQ reader features, they become confusing and ignored at best. – Raffzahn Dec 11 '18 at 14:49
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    @Raffzahn Ironically, you're answering in comments! ("Is there anything I've missed?") I know that meta's different, but still... most of the reasons apply. That should be an answer, so people can show their agreement or disagreement and comment on its content appropriately without having a hideous confusing mess. – wizzwizz4 Dec 11 '18 at 16:51
  • @wizzwizz4 Yes, and I did on purpose, as my little addition isn't what I would regard as full featured Answer, not even a partitial. It is .. well .. more of a comment regarding one (of several) details. To realy answer it, I would hve to sit down and value everything that has been said above - which I clearly didn't want go thru. Hell, doesn't that very much highlight the issue with comment vs. answer? Not every valid information forms an reasonable answer nor should be handeled so, but at the same time it might be a useful addition. – Raffzahn Dec 11 '18 at 17:28
  • @Raffzahn Right now we're discussing something tangential to the answer on the question. If somebody wants to post a comment on the question, they'll be posting it in the middle of a discussion about something different and it'll probably get lost. This is exactly what not to do. – wizzwizz4 Dec 11 '18 at 17:29
  • I agree with Raffzahn that your comments don't at all illustrate whatever point you're trying make. More generally I don't see the point of this post. You just seem be complaining rather than discussing a new policy or anything useful. – Ross Ridge Dec 13 '18 at 1:55
  • @RossRidge It's a bit of a complaint, largely because we had more RAA and UoU comment flags than I can count from pretty well-established users. But that was the straw that broke the camel's back. The examples I've provided are actually based on real-world comments I've seen, though I appreciate that I am pretty rubbish at examples. As I write this comment, I'm handling another one. – wizzwizz4 Dec 13 '18 at 6:49
  • This seems to be pretty much a Q &A in one post. It should clearly differentiate between comments on Qs and comments on As. Otherwise (or later, after clarification) I'd like to write an A here if the actual Q is "Is there anything I've missed?" – LangLangC Dec 13 '18 at 15:40
  • @LangLangC I'll bold the words question, answer and post (question or answer) for easier reference. There was a lot of overlap so I didn't make the categories separate. (Wow it was ambiguous; thanks!) – wizzwizz4 Dec 13 '18 at 16:28
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Is there anything I've missed?

I think so. Personally I'd like to see much fewer comments to the tune of:

Why are you even asking this question? Just look it up in the manual!

or

Is that a serious question?

I don't think I'm alone in seeing this kind of remark as rude. It isn't good for a site like this one. So if you think the question is not useful, or fitting for the site, well that's what votes are for.

  • Yes. Yes a thousand times. We need to improve our commenting culture some. – wizzwizz4 Dec 14 '18 at 6:57
  • So what shall I do. Keep flagging these as rude/unpleasant? – Wilson Dec 14 '18 at 6:58
  • That would be great. In fact, the more people flag, the less us moderators will have to get involved because comment flags handle themselves if it's obvious to the system that the comments aren't great. – wizzwizz4 Dec 14 '18 at 7:00
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    @wizzwizz4 oh right. I've thought to myself, "Shall I flag this?" and answered "Is it worth bothering a moderator with?" So it's worth knowing how our flags help – Wilson Dec 14 '18 at 7:05
  • More flags are better. We're not at the point where flagging needs to be reduced at the moment. – wizzwizz4 Dec 14 '18 at 7:06
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Comments have a reputation as being "second class citizens" on StackExchange.

I'd like to offer a narrative that argues that even these 'slaves' are stratified, while trailing the above footsteps.

Q Is there anything I've missed?

  1. Rule of StackExchange: don't stackexchange in comments!
    Answer in the answer box, not in the comments-box.
    Comments can, and will, be deleted. Comment-Answers are the work of the devil (eg to be avoided).

  2. Rule of StackExchange: you do not stackexchange in comments! Comments are only there to clarify and improve the post they are attached to; and might –– or will –– be gone without trace once their issues are addressed, or just like that: for no apparent reason.

But as a mod or flagger, hold you horses, if:

  • Comments that shall be kept (ideally), unless made obsolete by an edit addressing the comment:

    • Issues which apply to a Question to improve on it. (For example: suggestions to narrow the scope, if no edit does make the question comply)
    • Issues which apply to an Answer to improve it. (For example : "This is completely wrong, because…"; "True, additionally–") ––
      All of those comments seem prone to be included into the Answer proper?
    • adds substantial, even if peripheral information to the post
  • Comments that may be kept, unless made obsolete by an edit addressing the comment, or getting numerically overwhelming:

    • Additional information; interesting, but not central to the core question/answer…
    • Chatty, being extra-nice, banter-like exchanges, "+1", "Thanks", etc.

Everyone remember: if you are lucky, comments go to "moved to chat". If you are less fortunate, your comments just disappear; that is by design!

Try not to comment, try to Ask and/or Answer.

Comments are like barn cats: very useful, easily killed, hardly remembered.

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