Proposed changes to Mi.Yodeya comments deletion conventions:
- A generally more liberal approach to comments. Deleting only those that are truly egregious, and taking the time to delete them one-by-one instead of en masse. Deleting comments need not be a blood sport.
- Particularly, refraining from deleting comments that may contain independently relevant information.
- Or at least--as suggested here--being makpid to move such comments into Chat upon deleting them.
If this articulation of a proposed comment policy is not thorough enough, or is otherwise not amenable to the community, I would point readers towards these (de facto new StackExchange?) guidelines, which I think would be very appropriate for Mi.Yodeya. Please note in particular the following:
When should moderators delete comments? Same advice as for flaggers: when they offer nothing of value to either the author of the post or to future readers.
Moderators should generally process comment flags without dithering: if it doesn't immediately appear to be useful, remove it; if it might be, leave it.
When should moderators move comments to chat? This option is only available when a large number of comments are generated on a post in a short period of time (on most sites, that means > 20 comments within 3 days). Therefore, your goal is to identify constructive discussions involving two or more people that are still ongoing and are not directly relevant to the post.
How quickly to consign productive contributions to oblivion--whether or not these contributions may uphold aesthetic ideals of the site--should be, I think, a matter of more sensitivity than it is currently.
1. I have argued--in forums such as Chat--that the zealous deletion of "extraneous" comments by mods does not seem to be appreciated by the general community. I would like to provide a little more evidence for this claim. Although, importantly, only a small proportion of site users actually use Meta to express their views, the views expressed by ordinary users* about this topic on Meta (and Chat) point predominantly in a single direction. (*By "ordinary" users I mean those who have no assumed position of leadership on this site, whether by virtue of explicit duties, very long tenure, role in creating the site, or similar.) Let's start with Chat. After a few minutes of sifting through archives, I was able to find these lay viewpoints on overdeletion of comments in addition to my own: - Fred: http://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/468?m=26018020#26018020 - MoriDoweedh: http://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/468/2013/10/15 - Yishai: http://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/18866371#18866371 All these indicate at least some skepticism about, or displeasure with, overeager deletion of comments. I could not, by contrast, find any examples in Chat of "ordinary" users promoting or praising the pro-comments-deletion policy. (If such examples exist, please point them out. I only tried a few searches.) Then I looked at Meta. - Here, Yishai indeed promotes the other side (pro-deletion), but to a very circumscribed extent, and one with which I largely agree. To the extent it exists, his pro-deletion stance seems to rely very much on the SE rules, a point which I will address further below. More cases--incidental or spelled-out--against overdeletion of comments: - DanF here. (Although to be completely fair, he takes the opposite side here.) - Aaron here. - NBZ here. - Loewian does a good job of staying neutral, but pay close attention to exactly what he is calling attention to and how (here). - Discussion indicating a need for the "throw it all into an answer" approach that has been deemed impermissible today: By Matt, here. Other than those included in the list above, I did not encounter any lay opinions in support of vigorous comment deletion. Please let me know if I missed any. My goal in posting these comments by lay users is not to suggest that their opinions are dispositive, nor that we should always search sitewide for discussion by non-moderators as a way of resolving issues. It is simply to provide support for a claim I have made in the past regarding this issue, and which has been disputed--not as much for its relevance or for its significance as for its veracity: that lay users here would generally prefer less zealous deletion of comments. I do think there is an issue when those attempting to optimize a site for an audience receive disproportionately little input from that audience: hence, my focus on bringing non-mod voices to the fore.
- As for the oft-cited "Rules of StackExchange," and how my suggestions square with these: I learned that SE sites actually (and quasi-officially) have a fair amount of flexibility on how they choose to deal with comments. For example, SE Community Advocate Jon Ericson said this in chat:
Some sites (SO in particular) regard comments as ephemeral. I have a very highly upvoted meta post that suggests removing most comments after a certain number of days. That feature request was stalled out too because other sites see comments as important parts of the Q&A. (MathOverflow stands out here.)
There is also a quite two-sided discussion of the issue here.
MonicaCellio correctly points out that the text on the Privilege page for comments ("Comments are temporary 'Post-It' notes left on a question or answer," etc.) is the same on every StackExchange site. However, it is obvious that this policy is officially ignored by a number of SE sites, is disputed as nonstandard on others, and is superseded by newer and more comprehensive "official" advice still elsewhere.