Recently I commented on (an answer to?) this question. I said something like "more research and less asking" was in order, AFAIK.

Elsewhere in the SE network, I have seen comment deletion stir up quite a bit of dissent.

I contribute to online communities for many reasons. In the case of bg.se, my involvement comes from my love of board games. I play multiple games throughout the day (iOS/BSW/isotropic), and participate in semiweekly ("European") game nights.

All that to say, I don't like having any of my contribution deleted, much less without a word to me or any notification.


  • 3
    That's a pretty rude comment. It likely got flagged and deleted by a moderator.
    – bwarner
    Apr 3, 2012 at 17:08
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    @bwarner: Would it be less rude to downvote and cite the reason (which pops up for a downvote) "Doesn't show research effort ? Apr 3, 2012 at 17:13
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    Absolutely. Downvoting is entirely appropriate for a question you don't think showed good research. Commenting along with the downvote is optional, but if you do it, try to focus on how the asker could improve the question, rather than telling them not to ask it. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5280/embrace-the-non-googlers
    – bwarner
    Apr 3, 2012 at 17:16
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    If I had mod powers, I would've deleted it (or at least moved it, if that's a thing) for no reason other than because the comment was posted to the answer, despite clearly being directed at the question and questioner.
    – goldPseudo
    Apr 4, 2012 at 23:15
  • @goldPsuedo - by design. I have my reasons for posting it where I did, as you clearly have reasons for thinking it should have been on the OP Apr 10, 2012 at 16:50

3 Answers 3


I deleted a comment on that question recently due to it being non-constructive criticism.

I delete comments all the time, some are flagged, most are not. It is part of the duties of moderation. The goal is to focus the site on awesome answers to great questions. People should not have to read and understand a bunch of comments to get to the meat of the answer. This is the primary difference between SE and forums in my mind.

Comments are ephemeral on this (indeed all) SE sites. You should have no expectation of them lasting forevermore. This has been stated quite clearly by Jeff Atwood, founder of StackExchange:

not every user-generated byte committed to memory is sacred. Particularly in comments, which are meant to be lightweight and ephemeral. If you want to post content more likely to survive, do it in an answer.. this is 100% [status-bydesign]... – Jeff Atwood♦ Feb 12 '10 at 21:43

Also see Robert Cartaino's response (Director of Community Development)

Comments are designed to be second class.

And from Shog9 (Community Coordinator)

Comments are - at best - second-class citizens on SE sites. The primary goal is to generate a repository of good questions and helpful answers, not lengthy back-and-forth discussions.

In general, I'll let comments live for 30 days. After that they are prone to get considered for deletion when I see them. If there is useful content in them that contributes to the question/answer, I'll leave them or roll them in (ideally this is an ongoing process).

Update in response to comments

Note that I used, "In general" and "considered for deletion" Despite comments to the contrary, I do not blanket delete all comments. I feel that the vast majority of deleted comments any reasonable person would agree are not useful. Examples "+1 I agree" or my favorite: "Did you mean XX?"/"Yes"/"You should edit that in"/"Thanks, I just did"/"Great". My deleted comment count can really climb when I see one of those!

Moderator is a weighty title, in reality, Janitor fits better. I spent a lot of time editing or removing comments/answers/questions from the site that I feel most people would not find useful.

Will some people consider some deleted comments useful? Sure, I am a semi-sentient bag of water and other people may have a different subjective opinion on various matters.

Since the original poster is not defending the deleted comment in question, I'd rather debate openly any other example of a deleted comment that someone feels was really adding to the discussion.

  • Thanks for the answer. I'll have to disagree (obviously!) about how constructive my comments are, and mention that I have considered the possibilities and found a comment to be the best approach. I prefer not to downvote without commenting (and that question deserved a downvote based on the lack of research effort demonstrated/claimed at the time). There is certainly a more constructive approach. Apr 3, 2012 at 17:33
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    Comments here often contain useful additional details or examples that would be excessive in the main answer. So I think they're not so much ephemera as... marginalia?
    – Alex P
    Apr 10, 2012 at 15:29
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    @AlexP - useful comments should be edited into the question or answer that they are attached to within a reasonable period of time.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Apr 10, 2012 at 16:02
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    I agree with @AlexP. I generally see three types of comments (with some overlap). The first type is some minor criticism or request for clarification to help refine an answer and make it better. The second type is a more negative criticism, explaining a downvote or why an answer isn't correct or appropriate. The third type are basically footnotes: additional information that is in concordance with an answer but not distinct enough to warrant another answer.
    – ghoppe
    Apr 10, 2012 at 16:07
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    @PatLudwig I disagree with that approach. Meta StackOverflow: "Generally, there is very little reason to delete existing comments from a question or an answer. There are a few possible scenarios where comments ought to be deleted, but it is worth noting that these should be few and far between, due to their permanent effect on the flow of the comment section."
    – ghoppe
    Apr 10, 2012 at 16:15
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    @PatLudwig Marginalia can be useful. Or not. Depending on what you're looking for. I think of comments like footnotes. Do you want some extra, perhaps ancillary info? Read the comments! But if you don't, that info stays out of the way.
    – Alex P
    Apr 10, 2012 at 16:22
  • @Pat: "Useful comments..." - what?!? No! Is there any evidence that others feel this way? It sounds just like the preference of a power-hungry moderator. Apr 10, 2012 at 16:45
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    @TheChaz It's not necessary to attribute "power hunger" or any other ulterior motives to Pat's reasoning. I certainly don't believe that. I understand your frustration, but I think you've crossed the line again in your comment.
    – ghoppe
    Apr 10, 2012 at 17:03
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    Here's an example: Alice posts an MTG rules answer; Bob comments asking for clarification based on older rules knowledge; Alice gives Bob some extra details about the Sixth Edition and M10 rules changes in the comments. Folding this into the actual answer may be valuable, but it might just as easily balloon a three-paragraph answer into a five-paragraph answer with two paragraphs of stuff that's only relevant to some but not many players. I think that's more of a case-by-case thing than just saying "edit the comments into the answer" implies.
    – Alex P
    Apr 10, 2012 at 17:04
  • @ghoppe: Fair enough, but -for the sake of argument- please don't attribute emotions (e.g. frustration) to me. I intend to bring to light a destructive practice, and I believe that some speculation is appropriate for what will ultimately be a constructive process (of changing our policy on comment deletion). Apr 10, 2012 at 17:08
  • @AlexP - see my original text, "considered for deletion"
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Apr 10, 2012 at 18:17
  • @ghoppe - That section is old IMHO. I'll see if I can get it reviewed and updated. (OR I'm wrong) :)
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Apr 10, 2012 at 18:22
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    @TheChaz Hey, it's easy to attribute emotions to your comments when you use emotional words like power-hungry and — not just an interrobang — but an interrobang with an extra question mark! ;)
    – ghoppe
    Apr 10, 2012 at 18:26
  • @ghoppe - Got some pointers to other evidence of comments being not so important, also was no dissent (from folks currently active in the moderators room) that the faq section you pointed to is out of date. It was noted that the section there was written in 2008 by a deleted user.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Apr 10, 2012 at 18:39
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    @PatLudwig Aha! I think I follow what you're saying... you don't want to remove everything old. Just consider whether it ought to be removed as part of some light housekeeping. I can get behind that.
    – Alex P
    Apr 10, 2012 at 19:59

For fear of having this deleted if left as a comment, I submit my commentary as an answer...

Pat's philosophy on comments is diametrically opposed to the practice that I have seen on Math.SE, where I visit regularly. I know I wasn't around for the moderator (s)election process, so I must have missed the part about arbitrary unilateral deletion of comments as "part of the duties." like I said in the question, you might want to reconsider this.

Comments are not ephemeral (ie "lasting a short time") in all SE sites. I would say that the burden of proof is on this claim rather than its negation, as I have noted many interesting comments in my surfing to the top SE sites. And talk about a subjective concept! Nothing lasts, so why not scorch it all?? I think my comments generally have value (of course, I feel that my voice is worth hearing). There may be an occasional drunken rant, but I usually qualify it and/or apologize later (see meta.math.se a few days ago...)!

Sure, it's a Q&A site, but don't fall into elitism. Some further interaction is necessary beyond a one-question format.

All told, my experience here has been rather off-putting. Sure that might not mean much if you just consider me as a reputation number or IP address - but I am a human, a man, a gamer, and all those silly things that I wrote on my profile.

You guys can pretend like we're all robots if you want. I'll continue to do my thing and you can continue to delete on a whim. Who knows - maybe you'll catch the attention of a superuser!

Or maybe we could have an online tournament for commenting rights... :D

  • 1
    I agree that comments should not be treated as ephemeral, and should only be deleted if they are spammy, about an edit that has already been rolled into the question (ie. obsolete), or just noise. That said, I also agree that your comment deserved deletion. It would have been better just to down vote the question, commenting something like "Bad question. Do more research." isn't constructive.
    – ghoppe
    Apr 10, 2012 at 16:25
  • @ghoppe: I get that the original comment wasn't constructive, and do not defend it. What is more important to me is Pat's deplorable stance on comment deletion (which I suspected to be present in whoever deleted my comment, incidentally). Apr 10, 2012 at 16:46
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    As an active but still relatively new user, I really like the way Pat does comment deletion. The comments usually last for weeks, and then disappear when I wouldn't care about them anymore anyway. Some comments remain - and I tend to agree with Pat's editorial decisions. The result? When I read an old question and decided to read the comments on the Q or the A, they tend to mostly be comments that add value for me. New Q and A still have all the comments which takes more time to wade through but is useful for gradually improving the Qs and the As.
    – Joe Golton
    Apr 11, 2012 at 2:16
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    On those rare occasions where Pat doesn't like something I do, he has been polite and clear in explaining his reasons. This is a contrast to what you see on more free for all sites like reddit where negativity abounds, and discovering what is considered acceptable can seem both harsh and arbitrary. Overall, I feel the tone here is positive and welcoming, but focused on creating high quality Q&A. Reasonable comment management is part of what's making this happen for me.
    – Joe Golton
    Apr 11, 2012 at 2:17

This address the reasoning behind why you may have asked this question.

B&CG Culture

I actually find the different cultures between SE sites a wonderfully natural aspect.

From my impression of your question, in math.SE comments are valuable.

From my experience in Arqade (Gaming.SE), they would have edited this question title to be "more on topic", closed this question as "too localized," downvoted it half a dozen times, and "purged" (yes, we use that term) all the old discussion comments if the question was thoroughly renovated and ready for reopening. Did I gasp the first time I witnessed this? Yes. But the process works for generating good content, and the moderators are aware, and trying to fix, how much it scares new users.

The SE experience does vary greatly from site to site; it's like traveling to a foreign country. It can take a while to adjust.

Moderation Style

I associate a moderator with a curator. A curator has the responsibility, and the emotional investment, to create an experience for the audience. But the experience can be enjoyable (hopefully), shocking, depressing or purposefully unemotional. That's because the gallery exhibit is also an artwork and the curator is the artist.

Thankfully, if I disagree with the curators, SE gives me an opportunity to curate.


The is simultaneously the most important and the least important aspect of the question and the OP's answer. The Chaz, I understand that you're a warrior and lover and that is almost synonymous with chivalry and the pursuit of truth and justice and other things I only understand through stereotypes. Emotions flow from your questions and answers.

But when I come to an SE site, I'm hoping to approach a cool fountain of knowledge, in the calm shade of a clean user-interface. I'm just looking for a sip of information. And if I can enter and leave with my thirst quenched and my composure undistracted, then I would feel that the groundskeeper has performed to merit and deserves my applause.

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