In the last few months we've received a number of email from users who complain about altercations on this site's comment sections. If the problem revolved around just one or two people, I'd contact them individually. But it seems to be epidemic.

I took a look at the data and of the 111 sites currently on the network, History is tied for 26 in terms of excessively long comment threads. It ranks 16 for rude and offensive comments. That's far more smoke than one would expect from the size of this site. Putting those two data points together (and augmenting it with some specific example) I think the problem is that long comment threads almost always push someone's buttons.

Here are tips that might help keep you out of trouble:

  • Once you've said something in a comment, there's no reason to repeat yourself.
  • It's better to write an answer or a new question than a comment if possible.
  • Try not to tell people they are wrong until you have demonstrated that you understand what they are trying to say.
  • Once it's clear you profoundly disagree with someone, don't engage with them.

As always, remember that be nice applies even when the other person is wrong.

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    We deal with people running each other through with swords and spears here. Mere wording doesn't fall on "not nice" spectrum. J/k!!!!!
    – DVK
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 13:43
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    "I took a look at the data and of the 111 sites currently on the network, History is tied for 26 in terms of excessively long comment threads." Now I'm curious, which site tops that list?
    – yannis
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 22:57
  • @YannisRizos: Side bet on it being Christianity. ;-) Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 5:24
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    @YannisRizos: As you might expect, they are the largest sites in terms of posts, users, comments, etc. for the most part. Interestingly (and I don't think this is a coincidence) Philosophy, Skeptics, and Christianity are more highly ranked on those lists than you might expect based on traffic alone. More surprisingly is The Workplace. Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 2:20
  • @JonEricson that would be interesting information to have. I'm going to chalk Workplace up to being chatty because we post lots of comments trying to help people improve their posts. Yes, yes definitely this.
    – enderland
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 20:41
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    Seriously, WTF is wrong with this site? Try to say anything and you'll be attacked completely at random. We're way above the simple "misunderstanding" level, this makes no sense to me.
    – o0'.
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 21:00

1 Answer 1


Jon, thank you for posting this here. I for one suspected that things were bad. I'm not sure I realized we were epidemic level, but to be fair, history is pretty important, and one thing I love about this community is that we have such vocal and knowledgeable members from around the globe.

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    "Epidemic" might be a bad choice of words. ;-) But in a way, using comments for discussion is like a disease. In some ways, this is a good sign of an engaged community. But, as we have observed, it can also degenerate into bad feelings rather quickly. All in all, I'd suggest moving such discussions to chat if they're going to happen at all. Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 19:03

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