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See the title. Can I ask when that action is meant to be taken?

See, I thought that comments on a question/answer are moved elsewhere when it is a handful of people discussing a topic at length that's starting to drift away from the subject of the thing originally replied to. It's becoming irrelevant and annoying to people not in the conversation, and thus should rightfully be moved to its own place.

Instead, what I am seeing is that comments are moved to chat when a certain quantity of comments is reached. When there's like a dozen comments, they have to go, regardless of whether they are on-topic, and whether the people involved were replying to each other or in fact all having different things to say.

That means potentially helpful comments are moved away, like clarifications or a debate on whether it's a relevant question. Those comments may then get posted again by new users who don't see that those points have already been raised.

Example:

So, it's very probable that I simply don't get the purpose of this moderator decision, and that there are legit reasons for moving a dozen comments having nothing to do with each other. I hope to understand it.

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  • $\begingroup$ The general principle is that comments are second class citizens, anything other than the question and the answer is noise. Too much noise needs to be cleared up. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jan 9 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix if comments are noise, then why did you just make one? $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ Because it's an incomplete answer without the mod authority of when they make the decision. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jan 9 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. It's a insight you want to share without feeling confident that it can serve as its own answer. So, under what circumstances would you like to see said insights removed? Why is your comment no longer valuable just because there's a number of other comments next to it? $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ It ceases to have value when there's a full answer, it ceases to be visible when there's a full chat going on. It's fundamentally disposable at the appropriate moment. Anything significant should be edited into the answer or question on which it's placed. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jan 9 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ The most valuable and significant comments are already made more visible by their upvote count. And answers may not reflect those comments because they are made by different people with different opinions. And a comment that's a disserting voice to the premise of the question may never make it into the question because the asker disagrees with it, or because adding more counterpoint would make the question less readable. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ I.e., there is no guarantee that insights from the comment section make it into answers or the question, no matter how valuable they are. So removing comments is removing insights. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm again, comments are not guaranteed to be permanent. They might provide some insight but it can go away. I'm generally fine with this. I accept that my comments are going to convey some message to somebody and may be gone tomorrow. They've served their usefulness. If it needs to be more permanent, then it needs to be a question or an answer. I'm happy to move a comment to, say, an answer when I feel it has more use than just to one or two people. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 9 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ But why can a comment that is valuable today not still be valuable tomorrow? You are putting it out there, not as a private message to tell one person something (which I would argue is what a chat should be for), but as a contribution to the question/answer that is less than a full answer. Right now, you are leaving a comment for some reason. Why are you leaving it as a comment rather than a full answer? Because it is a partial answer. Yet you consider it worth the time to jut it down; just in a place where less is expected of it. Where in that line of thought does impermanence come in? $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ It's a comment to clarify something specifically to you. You've already read the comment and I suspect you don't need to read it again to get its meaning. So, it has now served its purpose. If it's wiped out tomorrow, then you still know what it said. A future visitor may or may not find use for my comment. It's not specifically for them, so it's really situational. A full answer needs to be useful not only to you but to any future visitors. Sure, I can't guarantee an answer will help anybody who reads it but I would try to make it widely applicable. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 9 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ So what I am getting is that a comment is more directed than an answer? That is not a thought I had entertained, probably because comments and answers are equally visible to any passerby, but if that's a feeling more people share then it's a dimension of the debate that I just missed. Thank you, in any case. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm well, whether most people think of comments that way is debatable. That's how I treat them. SE is adamant about comments being impermanent. Some stacks are a lot stricter in comment cleanup and/or visibility than others. However, comments are never meant to stay forever over the entire network. It's a network policy, it's not dictated by the users, so it's best to accept it and act accordingly. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 9 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ Regarding "just accept it": while I have neither the will nor the communication skills to organise a rebellion against a network policy, I am not planning to disengage from figuring out why that policy is the way it is. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm well, the system is aimed at questions and answers. Comments are there to support both but fall under neither. Ultimately, the aim of the network is to have a good question with good answer(s) to it. Imagine an FAQ. FAQs don't tend to have "did you actually mean Y instead of X" under the question or "I like part A but really it should also mention B in there" under an answer. It's just concrete information about a particular problem. That's the goal. Hence the policy. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 9 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 10 at 10:20
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I wasn't the mod who moved any of the comments on those posts (though just now I've deleted some extraneous ones), so this is more of a generic answer.

Both of those questions had upwards of 20 or so comments. Usually, when a post gets that many comments, one of three things is happening:

  1. It's attracting a lot of inane responses or answers in comments.
  2. There's a back-and-forth going on between a few users, in which case a chat room is quite handy.
  3. There are serious issues with the question on multiple levels, and a chat room is needed to work out the kinks.

If you're getting that many comments and many don't fall into the first category, it seems like some in-depth discussions need to be had, and a chat room would be ideal. I've admittedly also used the tool in the past when a large percentage of the comments were just jokes or answers-in-comments, because it's our best tool for deleting en masse, and I can always manually undelete the few that are truly signals in the noise. Plus, the message can serve as a sort of deterrent for future would-be jokesters.

In the case of these two questions . . . eh, I'd say it's a mix. The pillow question seemed to get a lot of inane comments and answers in comments. The other had a couple major back-and-forths and a lot of stuff that really didn't need to be there. It seemed that what helpful comments there were had already been dealt with, from the glance I took.

Regarding your concern about future users raising the same points as previous comments: Eh, if that's the case, it's possible that the author hasn't addressed those concerns by editing the question; it's kinda on the OP to do that. I suppose we could edit the auto comment about moving comments to chat, adding a phrase like

If you have a suggestion on how to improve the question, please check the chat room to see if it's already been discussed.

That might be an issue for discussion on Meta.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for explaining your reasoning. I agree that lame jokes are not worth keeping, though I believe the upvote-based sorting algorithm does alleviate that issue. Just a question, what's wrong with what you describe as "answer-in-comments"? Often I comment with just one thought I have on the subject, without feeling confident to elaborate it into a full answer, hoping it could give others and/or the asker inspiration. It doesn't look like I'm the only one. Take Xander Henderson in the civilisation island question; he linked to a helpful book. Now that got moved to a place where few will look. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm Ah, yes, I remember that particular comment. I think meta.stackexchange.com/q/230676/274942 lays out the rationale quite succinctly (as do some of the answers therein), but the key points I'd mention are 1) comments don't let folks downvote; 2) it's kinda just more noise - there's an actual answer field; 3) doing so encourages folks to write half-baked stuff. I think Xander's comment in particular is a good fit for a chat room because the book opens up new possibilities for actual back-and-forth discussion and brainstorming, which chat is great for. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jan 9 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ I personally do not see much overlap between a comment or a series of comments that fully answers a question and deserves to be a full-fledged answer, and the kind of "just a thought I had that gives a clue, now go forth and prosper" comment which is really common but can honestly still be helpful. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding chatrooms... respectfully: does anyone ever use them? In my experience (which I know is way more limited than yours), when comments are moved there, they just die. One way of making chatrooms more popular would be to automatically generate one for every question/answer with more than x upvotes, but that would be the same thing as the comment section, just less visible and without upvote-based sorting. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jan 9 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm It's a fair point about chat room usage. I've seen them used in some cases and not used in others. I do agree that it's an issue that should be addressed at some point; I know that some folks just don't like using chat, which is certainly unfortunate for these purposes. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jan 10 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ I've been using WB since 2017, and I never saw the chats until today. The links are non-obvious. $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 3 at 2:46

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