I recall a rich and productive comment thread underneath this answer, which seems to have been purged for an unknown reason.

As a subjective Stack Exchange site, comment threads are well-recognized as one of the primary ways the site provides value. To get an idea of what I mean, compare us to another subjective SE site, programmers.SE. This was literally the first high-vote question I clicked on when I darted over there for an example:

  • The question has over 30 comments, many highly upvoted (which is not possible in MA.SE due to our low number of users)
  • The first question has 10 comments
  • The second and third, 9
  • The fourth, over a dozen
  • The rest, between 0 and 25, with 0 and 3 or 4 being the most common.

Those comments involve disagreements, back-and-forths, interjections, sidebars, and yes, the occasional unnecessary derail. I understand that thread cleanup is going to remove the totally unrelated chats between people, but most of it's going to stay. And why not? It's related to the question, it's not substantial enough to be an answer, it's not an edit...but it's useful!

So why are we deleting illuminating comment threads?

In some cases these exchanges in MA.SE are lengthy and may have been better in chat, but in others--such as this one--it seems like we're deleting comments just for the sake of not having more than one or two comments underneath a post. Let's not. Leave more of the comments untouched and realize that comments that are on-topic add value.

1 Answer 1


Short answer: If you want substantive discussion, use chat. Comments mostly exist to clarify and provide transient information.

See the answers to Deleting comments without consensus on the Physics.SE.

To go back to what the definition of a comment is:

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer.


You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

They are not meant for suggesting corrections (propose edits), answering a question (answer), asking other questions (ask a question), compliments (upvote and/or chat), criticisms (temporary constructive criticism to improve the post is one thing, but it can be removed or not acted on), secondary discussion (chat), or discussion of community behavior or site policies (meta).

  • Chat becomes obsolete, your suggestion doesn't solve anything, because by default chat will end up purging itself.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 20:26
  • @DavidHClements - you're right of course, but everyone on this SE is using comments differently. Until everyone learns the "right" way of using comments, what do we do with the important content in the comments?
    – Anon
    Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 1:31
  • 1
    @DavidHClements Did you see my point about subjective SEs? I feel like you completely ignored it. I would agree with you if this were on stackoverflow, but this is more programmers.SE than fitness.SE. We want discussion--not a forum, but some back and forth after answers to elucidate minor points. Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 3:47
  • 1
    I mean seriously...you take a meta post from Physics? That's literally the most factual SE there could be! Of course their comments policy is going to be cut-and-dry. In contrast, Programmers (another subjective SE like MA.SE) has this to say: meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/2228/… Commented Aug 26, 2012 at 3:53

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