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.

UPDATE:

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 :)

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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. –  Steven Drennon Feb 25 '13 at 23:37

2 Answers 2

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.

UPDATE

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...

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this. i appreciate the enthusiasm, but chat is the place for discussion. –  ihtkwot Feb 26 '13 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 '13 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?

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