Despite the comment page specifically saying "comments are not recommended for... secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead" and despite multiple meta posts warning against how arguing in comments significantly harms the site (ashes999, 2012; Aarthi, 2012; Jon Ericson ♦, 2014; Shog9 ♦, 2014; goldPseudo ♦, 2015), arguing in comments continues at Islam.SE.

I'm not arguing, I'm simply explaining why I'm right

This post is yet another plea to stop arguing in comments, but this time aimed to be more constructive than "don't do that".

Commenting on a question or answer

Alternative 1: Ask a question.

If you're uncertain (or even in disagreement) about a certain aspect of a post, ask about it as a question (and link to it). This has benefits on top of avoiding arguing in comments:

  1. It generates content for this question and answer site;

  2. The person you would otherwise argue with in comments can instead write an answer (if they're capable), where they can include references (which are usually omitted from comments);

  3. These posts can be upvoted and downvoted appropriately by the community (whereas comments can only be upvoted);

  4. A third party may give a better answer again.

Alternative 2: Give a better answer.

If you disagree with an answer, why not give a better one?

  1. It generates content for this question and answer site;

  2. These posts can be both upvoted and downvoted, allowing your answer to be scrutinized by the community too;

  3. It allows a third party to compare alternative answers;

  4. If it turns out your answer is indeed superior, the other author can quietly delete their post;

  5. You may learn something on top of your current knowledge about a topic.

Alternative 3: Downvote; vote to close; vote to delete; upvote better posts.

If it's a poor question, downvote it, vote to close, and vote to delete. (Unanswered questions even get automatically deleted under certain conditions.)

If it's a poor answer, downvote it, and vote to delete, and upvote better posts.

This uses the site how it was designed to be used. It works!

Alternative 4: Let someone else help.

Is your criticism more about proving you are right or making someone look foolish than helping others improve their posts? Let someone else help.

Are you incapable of talking politely? Let someone else help.

Write [comments] as if you're writing a note to your boss at a new job. ... As humans, we tend to use the sarcastic and passive aggressive tones when talking to people who we feel are stupid or who are beneath us. While we might think our boss is dumb, in most cases, we're not going to talk down to him or her because we have too much to lose. -- jmort253, 2012

Alternative 5: Don't worry about it.

  1. You already know your own criticisms. How useful is your criticism to someone other than you? If it doesn't have some tangible benefit, then it's noise and not worth posting.

  2. Islam is an inherently subjective topic. Pause to think about whether your comment is just throwing mud which can be done in response to any post, or if it's genuinely meaningful. If you're just throwing mud, you're not helping---you're obstructing. (Debaters cause debates. -- goldPseudo ♦, 2013)

  3. Is the post on-topic, yet obvious rubbish? We can assume others will come to the same conclusion if they see it. We don't need to draw attention to it; let it remain insignificant and ignored.

  4. Does an answer have a much lower score than another answer? The community has already commented on the quality of the post.

Alternative 6: Edit.

It is possible (and generally encouraged) to edit other users' questions and answers. Doing things like adding reliable references and fixing spelling/grammar errors are usually unproblematic.

It's generally good to edit questions in order to better highlight the question in the post, add/remove appropriate tags, and remove material which is not required to answer the question. I find it best to stick to minor, obvious edits when editing answers, because things can easily turn ugly otherwise.

Edits may be reverted, in which case it's best to leave it alone afterwards, in order to avoid an edit war.

Alternative 7: Wait until later to comment.

There's no hurry. Why not wait until tomorrow, or even next week, before commenting? The author may even fix the problem themselves without being prompted. (E.g. a third party may give a meaningfully better answer, and the author might go "oops; oh well, I was just trying to help" and delete theirs.)

Personally, I like to go for a run.

Alternative 8: Take it to chat.

When excessive comments are made, this prompt arises:

Please avoid extended discussions in comments. Would you like to automatically move this discussion to chat?

Chat is designed to offload the noisy comment chit chat.

Alternative 9: Attract new users to the site.

Encourage users to join this site by e.g.:

  • being active on the site, demonstrating to the passer-by that Islam.SE is lively and dynamic;

  • being polite, positive, welcoming, etc., to make people feel as if this is a place they want to be;

  • behaving professionally;

  • asking precise and thoughtful questions;

  • making good-faith attempts at answering questions (see: How do I write a good answer to a question?); and

  • upvoting worthy content, thereby rewarding positive contributions.

In this way, over time, these new users will ask better questions and improve the community's collective knowledge. Over time, comment squabbles will become insignificant.

Alternative 10: Lead by example.

Show users how it's done by:

  • Utilizing the site primarily for questions and answers;

  • Spending time to improve the quality of your questions and answers.

In short, by using the site how it's intended to be used.

Alternative 11: Upvote the user's better posts instead.

Through upvoting (positive feedback), make users come to the realization: if I [add references] to my post, I get more upvotes.

Alternative 12: Take it to meta.

There's a range of reasons to raise a question here at meta:

  • A post seems problematic for some kind of "global" reason (e.g., maybe this kind of post is off-topic).

  • Maybe you think a post is problematic, but want to gauge the community's attitude to see if your opinion is typical.

We need an active meta, just like we need an active an active main site. Please keep it polite, as always. And if possible, it's better not to "name and shame" an individual (so the meta post have long-term value, rather than once-off usefulness).

Alternative 13: Become an Islamic scholar yourself.

This might seem far fetched at first, but e.g. on math.SE a lot of the users there were originally university students, PhD candidates, and the like, and over time they ended up becoming experts themselves. It can happen.

And give lots of incrementally better answers along the way!

Commenting on a comment

Alternative 1: Don't feed the trolls.

If someone comments on your post, pause and think:

  1. Am I being baited into an argument?

  2. Will they, no matter what I reply, simply throw mud back?

  3. Are they even interested in a response? Or are they interested in "winning" an argument (even at the expense of the site)?

Let's not reward their misbehaviour. Ignore them. They thrive on wasting your time.

Alternative 2: Flag as rude or offensive; not constructive; too chatty

Flag the trolls, don't feed them Rather than arguing with a troublemaker (which only encourages them), just use the "flag" link to let mods know that a question/comment/answer requires their attention. This way the problem is dealt with, and the troublemaker's behavior isn't reinforced. -- HedgeMage, at meta.Christianity.SE

Are you responding to "save face" in response to a rude or patronising comment? Flag their comment instead.

If a comment is flagged by three users, it will be auto-soft-deleted. -- Jeff Atwood, 2009

StackExchange is designed to give the users of the site the power to self-moderate. Do it!

Flagging also helps diamond moderators (the human exception handlers) make decisions about disciplinary action (e.g. timed suspension):

...moderators will now be able to view comments by a specific user that have been flagged. -- bluefeet ♦, 2016

The guidelines for what these flags actually mean are currently vague, but it looks like this is about to change. On meta.SE, Robert Cartaino ♦ considered unwelcoming comments as violating the Be Nice policy and worth flagging ("Typically it's just someone pandering to the crowd with off-putting quips like "Are you too lazy to read the manual?" ... sorry, but deleted."). Likewise, we have:

...rude or offensive comments should always be flagged. What you consider rude is subjective, but as a general rule if it is more likely to upset readers than it is to inform them, it qualifies. -- Shog9, 2014

Alternative 3: Take it to chat.

Alternative 4: Take it to meta.

There's probably more alternatives, which I haven't thought to list above. And if there are no reasonable alternatives... please keep the comments:

  1. succinct; take time to pinpoint your precise criticism and phrase it carefully,

  2. constructive; describe actions the author can take to improve their post,

  3. scant; interactivity and multi-comment comments probably amount to arguing, and

  4. polite; as always Be Nice, and try to convey the content without being snarky, patronising, etc.

If the author responds to your (well-formed) criticism, please accept a difference of opinion and refrain from continuing (unless there is some meaningful benefit to the site; not just because someone on the internet is wrong [xkcd]). A third party can read the criticism and make up their own mind; a valid point doesn't need to be force-fed to others.

A meta.SE post How do comments work? gives details as to what comments are about on the StackExchange network.

What's so bad about arguing in comments?

StackExchange is a collection of question and answer sites; it's not a comment site:

This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat. ... Use comments to ask for more information or clarify a question or answer. -- Islam.SE tour page

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer. -- Islam.SE comment page

Maybe you see this as nothing more than a soapbox upon which you can stand, and anyone who chides you an enemy to be attacked. If so, then this is not the site for you - leave now, and don't come back. -- Shog9 ♦, 2014

Arguing in comments is misuse, and likely both chases away valuable contributors and encourages further misuse. StackExchange is designed to inhibit arguing in comments:

The problem is that most online discourse reaches noise levels reminiscent of a group of friends at a spirited get-together. Stack Exchange specifically discourages that type of debate and on-going discussion. That is by design — but to understand why comments are so transient and expendable, you have to understand the core purpose of Stack Exchange's behavior. -- Robert Cartaino ♦, 2011, at meta.Christianity.SE

Comments have always been and probably will continue to be second-class citizens on the network. That is entirely by design ... The design of each site places primary focus on questions and answers. ... Asking the user to dig through a lengthy comment thread on the off chance that the information they're looking for is there goes completely counter to that mission. -- Adam Lear ♦, meta.SoftwareEngineering.com

And Islam.SE is no exception:

Comments, by design, are ephemeral; not only are they easier to delete than a full-fledged post, but also much more impossible to recover. The Comment Everywhere page, provided to all new users when they earn the privilege to comment, describes them as "temporary "Post-It" notes." And in a Meta.StackOverflow discussion on exactly this topic, Jeff Atwood (one of the founders of the Stack Exchange network) explicitly describes comments as "third-class citizens". -- goldPseudo ♦, 2012

Eliminating the noise and focusing on high-quality questions and answers has always been the StackExchange model.

The users who repeatedly argue in comments (thereby making the site unattractive to experts) curiously justify their comments by asserting they improve the quality of the site.

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  • 1
    "Is your criticism more about proving you are right or making someone look foolish than helping others improve their posts?" What do you mean by that? From my point of view the only person who can make you look foolish is yourself. Someone pointing out a mistake doesn't make you look foolish, ignoring/arguing against it when your position has been disproved does. Can you give an example that makes someone look foolish and has no value for anyone but the writer? I don't see how valid criticism can fall into either category. Mar 31, 2017 at 13:22
  • 1
    "How useful is your criticism to someone other than you?" Puzzles me for similar reasons. Valid criticism points out mistakes/flaws. Those should be tackled on an academic site, how can it not be useful? "Is the post on-topic, yet obvious rubbish? We can assume others will come to the same conclusion if they see it." Sadly, we cannot. I have seen too many examples of rubbish answers being upvoted significantly or not being as far down as they should be. I think it looks worse to have (upvoted) rubbish answers than having rubbish answers who are at least ciritcised in comments. Mar 31, 2017 at 13:32
  • 1
    "The users who repeatedly argue in comments (thereby making the site unattractive to experts) curiously justify their comments by asserting they improve the quality of the site." The users who repeatedly post baseless or anti-scientific rationalizations, denigrations of Non-Islamic ethical norms, or off-topic rhetoric curiously get justified by others with "this doesn't harm islam.se, we can ignore this" - as if that kind of post wasn't a huge red flag for experts.
    – G. Bach
    Mar 31, 2017 at 21:53
  • 1
    Compared to other sites on SE that I am or was active on, this one seems by far the most averse to criticism in comments. When a post on math.se contains a perceived error, it will be debated in the comments, and they remain after the error, if any, was corrected. On SO, suboptimal solutions will draw comments pointing this out, as will solutions with important corner cases. On compsci, almost any technicality will be remarked on in the comments, and actual criticism of answers may generate a discussion.
    – G. Bach
    Mar 31, 2017 at 21:53
  • 1
    Yet here, if someone says something like "the Non-Muslims are brainwashed to think slavery is evil while it's actually great" and offers three paragraphs of rationalizations, comments criticizing that get ignored instead of dealing with that statement. I think islam.se would be a more professional and useful platform if the user base dealt with criticism professionally.
    – G. Bach
    Mar 31, 2017 at 21:54
  • What about constructive criticism? Imagine you said something that doesn't match with a verse of Qur'an. Shouldn't I leave that as a comment?
    – Thaqalain
    Apr 2, 2017 at 12:32
  • 3
    Arguing in comments (along the lines of nit-picking, prolonged debates, etc.) is not the same as constructive criticism (along the lines of a succinct, on-topic correction, addition, etc.). The former chases people away; the latter encourages improvement. Apr 2, 2017 at 12:36
  • 1
    Correct. Additionally "Islam is an inherently subjective top" <- This isn't usually right. If this statement is true then all answers on ISE are opinions. If something is against verses XYZ then it's no longer valid and it's not a subjective topic. If you look into Christianity.SE this issue isn't common. Yes people have long discussions which can be moved into chats. But I've had a few incidents where the OP or the person who I left the comment for was happy (based on their reply)—then moderation deleted the comment. <-- I feel like they just don't want to allow an open discussion.
    – Thaqalain
    Apr 2, 2017 at 12:44
  • 1
    @Honey: The main aim of comments is to improve questions and answers; outside of that, they're considered "noise" and get deleted. (goldPseudo sometimes explains this as: "<comments deleted> Please limit comments to those intended to improve or clarify the actual post; they are not intended for tangential discussion or chatting.") The StackExchange team has designed the software this way. Apr 2, 2017 at 13:48


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