I chimed in on an argument in the comments for this answer, and ended up getting embroiled in the argument myself. On the one hand, I feel like, since the argument is still on-topic, the exchange might give some insight to the original question; but on the other hand, I'm starting to feel like it might be getting a bit more contentious than it needs to be.

Is it appropriate to continue engaging in this argument? I feel like, unless the other person raises some new points, I'm not going to bother replying again; but have I gone too far already?

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    $\begingroup$ Also, is there any cure for lastworditis? $\endgroup$
    – Trevortni
    Nov 23 '16 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ The doctors declined to comment. $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Nov 23 '16 at 20:13

If you want my knee-jerk opinion, I think this is not a good idea. First, comments are transient, highly likely to be removed at some point, and not at all a space for extended discussions. As How do comments work? notes,

Comments are intentionally short

If the issue can't be resolved in three to four comments - my rule of thumb - it should probably be taken elsewhere, i.e. chat. You should, after a certain amount of back and forth, see a message allowing you to instantly create a chat room with the comments between you and the other user. When this happens, I say Carpe Diem! Take the opportunity. (Note that moderators may also move long comment threads to a dedicated chat room for the post.) Chat has a much better interface for understanding who's talking to who, especially when there are a lot of people talking effectively at once, and it makes the post a lot cleaner on the main site.

You can always take the discussion informally to our chat room, The Factory Floor. I promise we don't bite.

As for whether you should continue the exchange at all . . . I feel it was still sort of productive. There's been no response to your last comments from the other user, which could signal that they wish to end the discussion. If that's true, you should respect their decision to not prolong this anymore - in my opinion. Even though it's clear that you mean well, I think, they may interpret three or four or five or more comments in a row as harassment, however they're phrased. And that's not great.

Bottom line: This is not, by far, the most egregious case I've seen, but for something like this - more than a quick request for clarification - I would have suggested moving it to chat a couple comments earlier. I would also advise waiting before attempting to respond to the other user, so you know if they even want to continue the exchange at all. If they don't, it's not productive.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. I really want to avoid being that guy, but I only got commenting privileges yesterday. $\endgroup$
    – Trevortni
    Nov 23 '16 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Trevortni Then thank you for taking the time to ask the question when you weren't sure :) $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Nov 23 '16 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ To add to this: comments aren't really for discussions, and mods will move long ones to chat when we notice them, but you can help: if you see a productive discussion -- so it should continue, but not there in comments -- please flag the post to point it out. We can move it to chat where everybody can continue as long as they like, leaving the comments space clear for people who want to ask for clarifications in the post. $\endgroup$ Nov 23 '16 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ The metawriter part of my brain realllllly wants to have an argument about commenting here in the comments section of this question. Then we could move it to chat, resolve it there, and then we could cite this question as an example of how to properly handle long arguments in comments! $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Nov 25 '16 at 19:12

In my experience, it's best to let them fight until one of them is dead, and then snipe the winner since they're probably low on health at that point.

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    $\begingroup$ You made me giggle. $\endgroup$
    – Trevortni
    Nov 23 '16 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Good for giggles, perhaps, but not particularly useful for enlightenment. As they say at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe: Let there be light. (I hope I got the book right. I'm not very good with that.) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Dec 3 '16 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ (Welcome to StackExchange. We hate fun.] $\endgroup$
    – JessLovely
    Dec 4 '16 at 4:34
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling honestly it was kind of a tongue in cheek way of saying if you see two idiots fighting, let them fight, and if it's important enough you can step in and fix it afterwards. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Dec 6 '16 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ This is counter productive... May be amusing, but in practice it only serves to rekindle arguments. $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Jun 20 '17 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @apaul34208 having debated many idiots, I've found that very few are actually willing to have a useful discussion. Instead they have their opinion, a handful of talking points they've memorized without fully understanding, and will stand by that opinion no matter what you say. Mostly they don't even listen. Instead they are looking for keywords that trigger a talking point they can spout. If you see a couple of them arguing, it's a lot better for them to run through their conversation trees until all of their talking points are exhausted, and then step in. Don't throw your pearls before swine. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Jun 20 '17 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ That seems like a strategy to "win" the argument, not a strategy to reduce the number of arguments, length of arguments, or improve the level of discourse on the site. $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Jun 20 '17 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ @apaul34208 Oh, there is no winning involved, and you can't stop them, just move them from comments to chat or something where they won't bother anyone else. The best bet is to just stay out of it and let it burn itself out. I might be wrong on this, but at least I don't get into a lot of pointless debates*, so I guess it's a win. * I don't see this as a debate yet, just trying to clarify. The original post was mostly a joke, but I think the thought behind it is sound. I mostly just try to limit it to two replies, and after that walk away. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Jun 20 '17 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I only felt the need to comment because of the number of votes your answer received. Didn't want new users to see it, not get the joke, and try to "snipe" on the main site. Mostly a "please don't do this when you see actual arguments" $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Jun 20 '17 at 19:59

Honestly I've been falling into these situations a little too often lately... Occasionally it gets to the point where I consider leaving the community entirely. And before someone points it out, yes I'm entirely aware that I'm partly to blame.

I think this may potentially be an emerging symptom of a larger problem within​ our community​'s culture. I'm not sure if it's just my perception, or if other people are noticing it too, but it seems like things are getting a little abrasive around here. There seems to be more snark, pedantry, and intellectual snobbery going around than there used to be.

I'm thinking that this may be another growing pain that SE sites have to go through... I know I've seen it in cycles on Stack Overflow. I'm also not sure if there's really a great way to deal with it. SO had it's summer of love, and that seemed to help in some regards, but caused some unexpected issues as well.

Personally what I would like to see is more constructive answers. Rather than tearing down a post in comments take the time to write a competing answer. If your ideas hold up, that will be reflected in votes. If you need to challenge a question, make an effort to drop the smug and leave something that's actually meant to improve the question's quality, if the OP declines, drop it and vote accordingly.

We will be much better served as a community if we can handle this issue before it grows to the proportions that some of us saw on Stack Overflow...


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