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It seems this has been going on for awhile, especially in the last several months: mass-deleting of the discussions of relevant details that often arise in the comments on questions and/or answers. I had thought that these were valuable as part of the content, and that the questions and answers are worth significantly less without them.

What is worse is that I'm not aware of a way users can see what used to be in comments (nor, by the way, what used to be the content of their own questions).

I'm wondering what is gained from erring in favor of deletion for comments-conversations. It's not very helpful beyond a tiny aesthetic improvement to the site, and it's certainly not in keeping with the Jewish tradition of layer upon layer of "commentary" on every word.

Let me put another spin on this: what is truly gained by erring towards deletion of comments? As for what is lost, I can say that this has been a problem for me in understanding answers to my own questions several times in the last week alone.

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    Valuable information (germane to the topic at hand) in comments is best edited into the post. That makes this valuable information more accessible for everybody. – Monica Cellio Jul 3 '15 at 18:06
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    Jewish tradition certainly includes preservation of commentary on and even discussion of primary texts and issues. It certainly does not include preservation and veneration of all such material. The Talmud is the product of deliberate redaction, and publishers and book-purchasers make deliberate choices of whose commentaries to print, buy, and read. – Isaac Moses Jul 6 '15 at 18:03
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You can always see the edit history of a question or answer by clicking the edited link that appears next to the time stamp of how long ago it was edited. Here is an example.

Regarding comments, for better or worse that is the general stack exchange view - they are transient in nature and should not be viewed as a permanent record. Therefore moderators feel freer to delete them even if they weren't flagged by users, and even when flagged, it is a matter of moderator discretion - there is no review queue for users of any reputation to vote on keeping them or not.

I agree, however, that many times comments provide useful background and tangents that can better elucidate where the question or answer is coming from, even after they become obsolete. I would encourage moderators to move comments to chat over deletion. However, my understanding is that they don't have push-of-the button tools to do that, and for a volunteer position, I understand if they don't just feel like copying over a bunch of comments.

So I would encourage them to ask for easy moving of comments to chat instead of deletion as part of the stack exchange feature set. I would even allow for a link on every question or answer to just say: Chat about this and let comments move over there as the moderators fancy. This way it isn't on-site clutter (that is the view of comments in Stack Exchange for better or worse), but it is easily and clearly associated with the relevant question or answer. Such a feature would probably prevent some discussions from starting out in comments and would instead jump straight to chat. (Of course that would have to preserve the ability to ping the OP in that chat).

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    Already requested on MSE: meta.stackexchange.com/q/239513/162102. Please support this proposal; moving comments to chat at will is a major hassle now, which is why I almost never do it. – Monica Cellio Jul 3 '15 at 16:31
  • @MonicaCellio, Done, but seems well supported already. Can any old person do that Javascript trick, or only a mod? There have been times I wanted to do it ... – Yishai Jul 3 '15 at 16:37
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    I suspect the "admin" URL space is not available to non-mods, so you'll probably need to write a different script. In principle anybody (with some minimum rep that I don't remember) can create a chat room and paste comments into it (they'd show up as coming from you, though; you can't assign ownership like the tool does), and you could script the addition of the comment with the link to that chat room. I think; I'm not really a userscript expert. But you wouldn't be able to set room permissions (so people under 20 rep wouldn't be able to chat), and of course you can't delete the comments. – Monica Cellio Jul 3 '15 at 17:10
  • @Yishai If they are moved to chat, will they remain in the permanent record of the question? – SAH Jul 3 '15 at 18:39
  • @SAH yes, for mods to see. – msh210 Jul 5 '15 at 3:15
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    @sah mod's see the deleted comments, but chat stays forever. If there is a link to chat from the question, then it is always available there. – Yishai Jul 5 '15 at 3:32
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From the description of the "comment everywhere" privilege:

When should I comment?

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).

Another common use of comments on Mi Yodeya is, as Yishai and Monica Cellio noted in comments on this answer,

unsourced answers and link-only answers… Offering a lead for prospective answers ("$source has something to say about this" etc)…. If somebody turns them into an answer those comments then become obsolete.

Continuing the quotation from the privilege description:

When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

  • Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit;
  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);
  • Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!"); instead, up-vote it and pay it forward;
  • Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);
  • Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;
  • Discussion of community behavior or site policies; please use meta instead.

I will frequently delete comments that stray from the above guidelines, especially if there are many comments on a single page or some have strayed far from the guidelines.

I will also delete comments that were posted to request clarification from the post author or leave constructive criticism, but which have already been acted on (so the post was edited in light of them) and are obsolete. That's the whole point of that kind of comment: to improve the post. The post should be edited to account for the comment, and then the comment can be deleted — and should be, to reduce clutter. As slhck wrote:

Imagine you're a random visitor from a search engine. Would you want the interesting/helpful stuff to stay somewhere buried in the comments?

(That's why I've deleted the aforementioned comments of Yishai's and Monica Cellio's.)

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    This answer would be even stronger if it directly addressed the question's suggestion that discussions "are a valuable part of the content," and that only preserving them in perpetuity would be "consistent with the Jewish tradition of layer upon layer of commentary on every word." In other words, I think it's important to point out the difference between a Q&A repository and a discussion forum and why it's important to us to maintain that difference. Your quotation of slhck is definitely a good step in that direction. – Isaac Moses Jul 6 '15 at 18:00
  • A later and expanded version of part of this answer is at chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/26018438#26018438 and the following two chat messages. – msh210 Dec 9 '15 at 16:08
  • why not edit? – Isaac Moses Dec 9 '15 at 19:55
  • @IsaacMoses A reason not to is that votes on Meta often reflect agreement or approval, this post already has votes, and the expansion says a lot that the original answer doesn't. But I'm not sure whether that's sufficient reason; whaddaya (or anyone) think? Or maybe we should take this to Mi Yodeya Chat. – msh210 Dec 9 '15 at 20:03

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