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What triggered this post is this question, which has two quality answers but due to some contested points, both have spurred lengthy discussions in comments from a few users.

Now, I have no problem with the users here - I think the comments there are all relevant and on-topic - but I do think that these sort of discussions generally do not belong as comments, and I think the community will agree (downvote me if you disagree!).

Now, comments are useful for pointing out things the poster perceives as mistakes, inaccuracies or missing information, which is the case in those answers; but the back-and-forth cycle does not really belong there. When a new user comes to look at the question he isn't interested in reading a discussion about the answers, but just getting answers - that's the whole point behind SE engine. And the amount of agreement every answer enjoys is expressed well enough in votes.

All this is especially true now that we have a chat available, which is precisely the place for those discussions.

So the question here is whether you agree with me that we should actively discourage extended discussion in comments, and if you agree, how should we do it?

For example we could add a line about it in our FAQ, then enforce it somehow.

  • If both disagree and it would turn into noise I will now say "if you still disagree, please invite me to a chat room" and leave a link later. So I agree, the Baneling discussion is noise and confusing towards other users and does add nothing to the answer. But what do you think about this discussion, which in my opinion does add to the question? Would that be fine? – Tamara Wijsman Nov 2 '10 at 22:57
  • @TomWij your example does indeed start with comments that add to the answer, and then add a few back-and-forth comments. I do think the latter don't really belong there, but I agree that comment thread as a whole is far less argumentative. – Oak Nov 2 '10 at 23:25
  • Keep the third comment to Ivo Flipse's answer in mind. – Tamara Wijsman Nov 3 '10 at 11:39
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When one of these starts we can always say 'Take it to chat'. The technique works pretty well for taking things to meta.

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    +1, if someone asks what the 'problem' chat is meant to solve is, this is it. – LessPop_MoreFizz Nov 1 '10 at 15:41
  • I think this would be a good idea if it worked. Since I haven't had an experience where saying: take it to chat has worked. I am less than enthusiastic about this. – tzenes Nov 2 '10 at 0:32
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    Actually there was one instance where it worked (I don't remember who it was) but they came to chat when we had a problem with them and then became a regular there. I think we should give it a go before we dismiss it. – Ritwik Bose Nov 2 '10 at 2:14
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Having been involved in one or two I think these conversations are never ending for two reasons:

  1. People will not change venue
  2. Everyone must have the last word

The second reason only reinforces the first. Look down the comment threads in that question and you'll notice a dozen indicators that both sides agree they're arguing in circles, except they won't stop doing it. This is the second principle in effect. Since everyone involved in these lengthy debates needs to have the last word, the debate in the comments will not end.

The first principle is a result of the second. Because the discussion will never end in comments (or at least never reach conclusion), the idea of changing venue is meaningless. While sometimes people will outright reject the idea of moving to chat (as was deleted from this question), usually even when these discussions do move to chat they continue in the comments. The result is that any meaningful comments are smothered.

So we have a problem which won't solve itself, what are we to do?

One technique which has worked well in the past is deleting the relevant comments. Without a platform on which to discuss (ie. the comments are gone), people seem to give up on the discussion. This requires additional moderator attention, but it does solve the problem.

  • In the Baneling discussion, the reason I keep going is too learn from it and either be convinced that it were wrong or see that I'm right. Because you were talking against Liquipedia II (see the last thing I said about this in the chat), I don't see a point in believing comments that aren't backed up with reference/facts... I can't change venue to something I don't believe and is against reference/facts, I can't let you have the last word (and have bad advice towards others) with something that is against those reference/facts as it would seem wrong to me. I want to learn, not convince... – Tamara Wijsman Nov 2 '10 at 23:05
  • Thus changing venue would be meaningful to me, but that won't happen with just some subjective comments. – Tamara Wijsman Nov 2 '10 at 23:07
  • @Tom apparently you still can't let it die. Here we are in another comment thread and you're still making the argument (obviously I disagree with assertion that it wasn't backed with facts but that's irrelevant). These discussions do not end. Even saying: Take it to chat has not stopped this discussion from continuing even here. – tzenes Nov 3 '10 at 6:44
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    @TomWij "have bad advice towards others" - remember comments are rated as well. I think it's pretty clear that a comment is just like an answer - represent the opinion of the poster as long as it's not upvoted, and once it is upvoted represents more people. – Oak Nov 3 '10 at 7:10
  • @tzenes: How is my comment a continuation of the discussion? it's just an appliance of your answer on the discussion. I'm not making an argument in that comment. These discussions did end, as we aren't actively discussing it anymore and decided that neither side can be convinced in an objective way. After the conversation in the chat there was no continuation here... – Tamara Wijsman Nov 3 '10 at 11:20
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    @Oak: If an answer is wrong, people comment on it. And if a comment is wrong, people also comment on it. The rating does not matter here. If you don't comment on bad advice (from your point of view), people will take it for granted regardless how the comment is being rated. There is no other way than commenting or chatting to point such things out, as you can't down-vote a comment... – Tamara Wijsman Nov 3 '10 at 11:26
  • @TomWij The venue is the place of discussion, not the sides. So unless you are trying to say that you consider "take it to chat" a subjective comment or that chat is something you refuse to believe and is against reference/facts, I think you might have confused what "changing venue" means. – Grace Note Nov 3 '10 at 13:23
  • Oh, I've interpreted it as "changing my mind", my bad... :-( – Tamara Wijsman Nov 3 '10 at 13:25
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    @Oak I think your analogy about voting on comments isn't very apt. Unlike answers comments do not accrue down votes. In a world where most comments never reach 1 upvote (and extremely few get above 2), un-upvoted comments carry more weight than un-upvoted answers. Now possibly this is an issue with the system not allowing down votes, and possibly this is an issue with people not voting enough, but the practical result is that there isn't a tangible way of people weighing in with out additional comments (and possibly additional noise). – tzenes Nov 3 '10 at 15:09
  • Haha, I have no problem with not having the last word. TomWij though, :P Love ya man. – Mark Nov 4 '10 at 22:44
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I agree with you that they should probably be taken to chat, but I'd say that they aren't that much of a problem. As long as they stay on-topic I'd say that it's relatively fine. If someone doesn't care they can just skip over them since they're minimized by default. If someone clicks to see all 23 comments, then they can read it, and if they don't then they aren't bothered by it. I agree that they don't really belong as comments, but I don't think that they all need deleted or anything special. Just tell them to 'Take it to chat' like Mechko said.

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As soon as the discussion is no longer about the answers at hands, the comments turn into noise.

So if anyone spots these comment-discussions, flag them and they should be deleted.

End of discussion :-)

  • If it turned into a war, deletion is appropriate. But see my comments to tzenes' answer, in such case deletion would feel inapproriate towards the users so it would be better to move the messages towards the chat. Although the SE system doesn't allow that, but it wouldn't be too hard to write if their code is proper... – Tamara Wijsman Nov 2 '10 at 23:10
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    But while you may feel your discussion deserves a place on the site, it's just random noise to new users looking for an answer. If you have a beef: take it somewhere else! – Ivo Flipse Nov 3 '10 at 6:40
  • That's why we're moving it to the chat, and most extended on-topic discussions aren't just random noise. They can be useful towards new users... Better than this: See me as a new user! I don't understand the answer so I give my point of view in a comment to try to understand why I'm wrong and he is right. I want to do this to either understand the answer or improve it. This isn't behavior we should discourage, this is behavior we should allow either in the comments (but most disagree) or move to the chat (which most here agree on). You have to see it as a way to learn or improve! Not arguing. – Tamara Wijsman Nov 3 '10 at 11:34
  • The fact that you arguing with me even in these comments show that we will most likely never agree on this topic. I rest my case and will continue to keep Super User clean – Ivo Flipse Nov 3 '10 at 13:44
  • But I did agree on the topic, twice. – Tamara Wijsman Nov 3 '10 at 18:34

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