Recently there has been a lot of activity in the comments section of questions. The activity is great! The location of the activity is less so. The best place for extended discussions about topics is our chat room: The Time Machine.

Discussions in comments can detract from the questions themselves, and can obscure more substantive comments that add to answers or questions.


I just wanted to highlight this post again in light of this recent question. The chat rooms on SE sites are great! Ours is The Time Machine. Take your discussion there, please :)

  • 2
    I've recently had to put a temporary lock on a couple of questions, but if this continues to be a problem, we may have to permanently lock those questions. I've also had to resort to deleting some comments because they were personal attacks or inappropriate. People need to be aware that as moderators, we have to keep things on an even keel. Feb 25, 2013 at 23:37

3 Answers 3


There is also (or at least there was before my account was moderatorized) a button on the comment section to automatically move your discussion to chat. When you see it, this is a very strong hint. Take it.

Pretty much any time you feel the desire to add a third or forth in a series of back-and-forth comments between two people, you really need to either let it slide, or take it to chat. If any resolution is agreed upon in the chat, that can go in a comment, but otherwise you are really just making the item's comments less useful, not more.


Backing IHTK up here. This has really started to get out of hand again in the last few days.

Just this morning I cleared a auto-generated flag on an otherwise good user account (@Anixx just so he knows) because he'd created more than 20 comments in the last couple of days.

He's far from the only culprit though. Everybody please consider the value you are adding to the question (or answer) you are commenting on before commenting. If you want to discuss a disagreement over a point, please take it to chat.

Hopefully everybody just has a touch of spring fever, and this will all blow over in a couple of weeks...

  • this. i appreciate the enthusiasm, but chat is the place for discussion.
    – ihtkwot
    Feb 26, 2013 at 5:22
  • Actually I'd say anytime you find there is a third of fourth comment it also may not belong. At that point if there is contention then I'd suggest you add depth to it as an answer or let it go to chat for clarification. There are far too many questions here with others adding their own "clarifications"
    – MichaelF
    Mar 6, 2013 at 13:20

I suspect that we all agree on this. The problem is identifying when the comment is so clever that it simply must be posted and when it is just another salvo in a conversation that is rapidly degenerating. I know I've suppressed my comments more frequently of late, and I suspect I probably should have ejected from a couple of other conversations sooner than I did. I believe I'm not alone in that.

How do we build a feedback loop that helps us to identify what my father used to call "Opportunities to be silent"? I think @T.E.D's rule of thumb (danger escalates after the second back and forth) is a decent rule of thumb. But I experience the most trouble when the comment stream is mixed between people who are actually trying to refine the question towards something that is answerable and people who are pushing ideological points.

I hope that @ihktwot's plea and @T.E.D's rule of thumb will serve as the basis for social enforcement of standards. In the event that this doesn't work, are there any technical feedback loops that we could implement to indicate that the comment stream is detracting from the value of the question?

  1. Moderators freeze comment streams more freely/sooner?

  2. Is it possible to downvote a comment?

  3. Anything else?

  • Report a comment as not constructive. That's like down voting a comment. Jul 6, 2017 at 19:49

This problem has not gone away.

I posted a comment on that above question asking people to stop answering in comments. In my opinion, the root cause of this is that our "community moderating" function is not being embraced by very much of the community. The norm that "answer in answers, not in comments" seems to need constant attention at most SE's I've participated in, varying by how much the community at large has bought into it.

How to get buy in?

More flagging and more moving to chat. There is no easy button. The price of an improved SE is eternal vigilance, and that is not to be dumped on the diamond mods. The whole community needs to flag the comments that are either arguments or answers in comments.

It's a bit frustrating to visit this SE due to the level of noise, but there is still some great content so I keep coming back.

  • Not sure that's a great example. The question is a bit broad, I suspect some of the "answers in comments" were because it looked very likely that the question was going to be closed.
    – yannis
    Feb 1, 2017 at 19:14
  • @yannis while I am sure there are better examples, as in about a third of the content on this site, it was one of the more recent ones I'd read when I tripped over this thread. Feb 1, 2017 at 19:23

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