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As per community consensus on Hot Network Question Silly Title Comment Sanity and Is commenting about funny title wording considered off-topic? - off-topic / too chatty comments about humorous question titles are to be deleted, and users are requested to flag them for moderator attention.

I've recently flagged this old question: My head keeps falling off. What can I do? - with a custom comment and a link to the first meta post I posted above, so that most of its comments can be purged, but got declined with the following reason:

This question is 5 years old and isn't hurting anybody. We're trying to reduce noise going forward, not rewrite history.

I've been flagging many of these types of comments as I notice them. Most of the flags are marked 'helpful' and the comments usually get deleted. This is the first time I've been declined with this as the reason.

We're trying to reduce noise on all questions and answers, regardless of age. Also, most of that question's comments are about the title, burying the actual on-topic comments about the question.

As per the Meta SE FAQ post, How do comments work? (emphasis mine):

When should comments be deleted?

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer. You should not expect them to be around forever: Once a clarification has been made, an edit added to the post to include new information or the issue in the comment is otherwise resolved, it is subject to deletion. In reality, many obsolete or chatty comments remain untouched due to the high volume of comments posted, but this does not mean that they can't or shouldn't be deleted in the future.

I believe that regardless of "history", those comments should have been deleted.

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    Is that why comments on some of my questions are randomly disappearing? I mean if there are 2 comments that are chatty on a question, I don't see what the problem is. – Dragonrage Jul 27 '16 at 16:36
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    Comments are the least important thing on the site. Whether they get deleted or not could be determined by die roll and everything would still probably be fine. I don't really see this as a big deal. – Invader Skoodge Jul 27 '16 at 17:01
  • @Dragonrage The question I mentioned above currently has way more than two off-topic, chatty comments. The comments section is not for extended discussion, especially not off-topic discussion. The issue here is that these off-topic comments bury the actual on-topic comments about the question. – galacticninja Jul 27 '16 at 17:51
  • @StrixVaria It's kind of a big deal, IMHO. These types of comments, if they get too many, bury the actual on-topic comments about the question. I started this meta post to know if there was a change in moderation policy on these types of comments to not delete them anymore. (If yes, then I won't bother flagging these comments anymore.) – galacticninja Jul 27 '16 at 17:54
  • @galacticninja If there are a lot of comments on a post, then the ones without upvotes get hidden. I'm completely fine with letting the community decide which ones are worth looking at. – DCShannon Aug 3 '16 at 2:26
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    @DCShannon "If there are a lot of comments on a post, then the ones without upvotes get hidden." That's one of the main reasons why the off-topic / too chatty comments should get deleted. They tend to be more highly upvoted that the on-topic comments, burying them. – galacticninja Aug 3 '16 at 6:24
  • Related: Chatty comment flags are chatty A: "Having “chatty” comments hurts because they impede the visibility of future, more useful comment." – galacticninja yesterday
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I agree that these comments are merely noise and bury actual on-topic comments about the question.

But take a step back and look at what comments are for. Comments are transient. They are meant to clarify the question, then cease existing. Or meant to help someone improve their answer, then cease existing. Actual content doesn't belong in comments.

You may say that chatty nothings don't belong in comments either, and you'd be right. Even the most useful comment should probably be deleted somewhere down the line, because comments are meant as a means to improve the base post.

Do all comments eventually get deleted, though? No, not even close. Because the nightmare of going through and deleting every obsolete comment, or making sure to action every comment that still has some validity to it, is just an infeasible amount of busywork.

So on a new question where we're still ironing out the question with the user, where answers are still being actively posted and clarified, we should focus on removing noise so that the meaningful conversation can continue to happen.

On a question that's 5 years old, with no activity for 4 of those 5 years, who knows what the state of the comments are. They are what they are. No one is trying to sift through them anymore for meaningful information. If a comment from this long ago is truly problematic, suggesting some kind of malicious solution or offensive, then we'll still deal with it, because those kinds of comments are unwelcome.

But if a comment is 5 years old, on a 5 year old question with no recent activity at all, then flagging it for a moderator to look at it is a waste of time. Please only flag things that require moderator intervention.

  • For clarification so I'd know which types of questions or comments to not flag in the future: How recent must the question activity be for it to not be considered "old"? – galacticninja Jul 28 '16 at 6:30
  • @galacticninja I assume within a month or so - i.e. anything that hasn't had any activity within the past few days is considered 'old' – angussidney Jul 28 '16 at 11:36

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