I have noticed some comment cleanup action lately which wastes work done by others and myself posted as comments. I consider it a little bit irresponsible and impolite. If any of the mods do this, please take care to maintain backup of deleted comments.


Yeah folks. You can delete anything you want. I am stepping aside for a while, can see no sense in escalating this discussion to metaSO. Wish you all the luck. I invest my bloody time to make this site better, and it turns out just another Wikipedia, with narrow-minded, subject domain-ignorant deletionism.

What I have done:

  • Put 3x500 bounties
  • Upvoted as many good posts as I could

What I will do:

  • Stop posting new questions/answers/comments
  • Award the bounties as soon as they are due
  • Put 2x500 bounties as soon as the previous ones get awarded
  • Use up the upvote limit as long as I can find worthy posts

Again, all the luck to you.

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    $\begingroup$ I think all this is rather unfortunate. FWIW I'm not saying this in a moderator capacity. I've found respect for your contributions on Stack Exchange long before Space Exploration even made it to beta. I'm mostly referring here to Information Security, where I'm a regular dweller, too. You helped us make a difference and I wish you would reconsider your position on how you see our very first baby steps and inevitable tumbles. Call me an optimist, but I expect you'll reinstate your user account, and we'll all think nothing of it in a few days time. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Aug 26, 2013 at 22:07

3 Answers 3


All comments are stored in the system and visible to mods1. Comments deleted by a moderator can be undeleted.

Don't use comments for anything you feel is worth keeping there long term. Use comments to:

  • Suggest improvements in an answer
  • Point out mistakes in an answer
  • Ask for clarification
  • Have short discussions which have the potential of improving an answer. For long discussions, use chat.

Comments have the purpose of resulting in an improvement of the post2. If the post gets improved, they can be deleted. If the post owner refuses to accept a suggested improvement, the comment is, again, obsolete.

1. In most cases asking a mod to provide you with the content of these comments will work if you need to retrieve them.

2. In the case of comments saying that an answer is wrong, this doesn't apply -- as we don't delete (only downvote) answers we feel are wrong, it's useful to keep these around.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for putting hard limits on what can and what cannot be done. I'll step aside, if you don't mind. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2013 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ Moderators are supposed to use their wits while employing their tools. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2013 at 20:16

Comment use and cleanup are an important part of how this system works. If you have additional information not included in an answer, by all means, use our wiki-style editing to improve the post. But if the question does not yet have an answer, please do not use the comment system to supersede that process. Thanks.

I'm just going to transcribe some of what I posted in context of the comment removal; i.e. why posting comments in lieu of an answer is a problem and why they have to be removed. But @Manishearth pretty much nailed it.

Please do not use comments to answer these questions. Not only does it discourage others from posting proper answers, but it encourages others to do the same. We've seen over and over that this activity causes the site to start operating more like the old discussion forums with the same problems that Stack Exchange was designed to avoid.

Users have become accustomed to posting comments as answers, and the problem is only getting worse. That's something we typically only see on failing sites… and some of the top users here have been the worst offenders.

I can understand your eagerness to post even when you don't have all the information or time to post a proper answer — but a big part of Stack Exchange is to be sure we are building a reliable cannon of knowledge (vetting, voting, editing, etc). Comments provides none of those capabilities. Comments are not supposed to answer questions unless you are asking for more info or suggesting improvements that will be incorporated back into the post.

It's often said that "comments are a second class citizen." That's just another way of saying that you are not supposed to post important information to the comments that isn't transient or that you wouldn't want removed at a later date. Comments are meta to the question, by design — transient information to help improve the post — and are later subject to removal.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much. If you pick up comments to delete summarily without any domain knowledge, surely you can sort the wheat from the chaff. I'll step aside for a while in the meantime. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2013 at 19:23

I am going out on a limb here, but I second Deer Hunter's position.

This was supposed to become a comment, but I write it as an answer ... Avoiding pointless comments on this answer, yes, I have read Robert's answer as well as Manishearth's answer.

Guys, have a look at high ranking questions and answers on Stack Overflow. What do you see? A hell of a lot of comments. And guess what, I read all of them if I am interested in the question/answer. It is pointless to dig for old chat logs (as long as you can not easily bidirectionally link chat protocols with questions/answers). It is useful to see e.g. how an answer came together and evolved based on comments. I learn by that. There is absolutely NO justification for 'cleaning them up'. Although people like to put things into clean categories i.e. answers or comments, the human mind just does not work like that. Please remember that.

Going out on a limb even more, moderating is a social discipline, is not it? It is not about the content and the subject as such. So if some of you (moderators) desperately want to 'clean up' anything here, may I suggest to call for e.g. special events on pre-announced dates in the chat? It could ensure that there are enough people around who understand the subject(s), enabling a subject-based review before stuff is deleted ... This site is for 'professionals' after all, or have I misunderstood something?

@Deer Hunter: subject domain-ignorant deletionism - it has happened before and it will happen again. It is just another strange side effect of group dynamics. At some point in virtually every system, the 'proper' maintenance of the 'nominal' as-is state becomes more important than real arguments, discussions or subject relevant content. It is not the internet, it is just peoples minds. In this context, a point- and badge-based system is not very helpful, either. All the luck to you, too.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you are glibly dismissing the strength of having an SE site. SE is designed to avoid the old forum problems like having to read through a lot of discussion to get to the best answer. If comments were adding some historical perspective of how the answer was being improved, I could see your point. But there wasn't even a semblance that the participants were seeking to improve the post. Comments became miniature chat and discussion forums, plain and simple. We didn't set out to create another discussion forum, and I didn't need domain knowledge to help keep the community on task. $\endgroup$ Aug 27, 2013 at 21:17

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