# Survey of attitudes regarding arguing in comments on StackExchange sites

This is intended as a reference post. I survey the attitudes of the StackExchange team, and users and moderators of StackExchange sites regarding arguing (also referred to as "debating" and "extended discussions") in comments. I tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but I haven't gone through all 150+ sites.

This is important: The StackExchange staff have repeatedly and unambiguously told us not to do this, and that the graduation of the site depends on us resolving this issue.

FAQ: This is not a debate forum, nor a place to ask "How can you guys believe this stuff?" -- Robert Cartaino ♦, 2012

...you have also completely disregarded the lessons learned from other sites in our network by engaging in fighting in answers, comments, chat, and meta. ... And if it is not possible to ask and answer questions on this topic in a polite, peaceful fashion, then it has no place on Stack Exchange. -- Aarthi, 2012

My [colleague], Robert Cartaino, encouraged adopting a moderation policy that accepts Islamic diversity and rejects trolls. To summarize a whole bunch of words: Islam—Stack Exchange is a site for expert Q&A, not debate. -- Jon Ericson ♦, 2014.

...this site is in trouble. A site full of childish bickering and answers copied from others isn't a site to be proud of. ... All of this has been discussed here before; therefore, these are not up for debate. If you disagree, then you may wish to go somewhere else. It is a big Internet. -- Shog9 ♦, 2014

At some point, I intend to make a request for stricter moderation of the behaviour of users who are aware of the harm debating causes the site, yet debate anyway. This post is in anticipation of that future post.

# Islam.SE meta

Comments should be used to ask for more information, and not insight debate or extended discussions, our chatrooms are open for respectful debate and discussion if you want to do so. -- مجاهد in 2014

How can we discourage users from using the site to preach Truth

Users are still regularly using answers as a soapbox to post Truth claims, the community is still encouraging them (by voting based on agreement/disagreement rather than usefulness), the users are still arguing about them in comments, and the actual experts are still being driven away. -- goldPseudo ♦, 2015

only long discussions are not welcomed in comments or any kind even if short?

...the reason for deletion was the non-constructive argumentation of the other user. -- Ansari ♦, 2012

SE sites are generally Q&A sites, not discussion sites, any form of discussion and debate is discouraged. Discussion, debate, and arguing are generally not welcome. ... Comments are not meant for discussions/arguing/providing an alternative perspective. -- Kaveh, 2012

Why does this SE site issue out more downvotes without comments than other ones?

We definitely had a lot more constructive criticism going on in the first year of the site, but, frankly, nobody cared. Comments were often just ignored completely, and that was the in the best of cases; more often than not they were just taken as an excuse to argue, which just drove away most of our core experts. -- goldPseudo ♦, 2015

Sometimes I get the odd snarky comment because it goes against their preconceptions; and sometimes people do use it to engage in debate or argumentation - but this is what chat is for. -- Mozibur Ullah, 2015

Dealing with users who use questions to express their criticism of Islam/Muslims

This is not a debate/discussion site, nor a site to criticize Islam/Muslims. It is for people who genuinely want to learn about Islam from Islamic perspective(s) to ask questions, not for expressing or discussing what others think about Islam/Muslims. -- Kaveh, 2012

# StackExchange meta

This simple strategy proved to be quite durable, working admirably in most common cases - but it suffers from a few drawbacks: ... With the addition of comment replies and real-time notifications, comments can be used for casual conversation and debate - fun and perhaps even enlightening for those involved, noise for those just looking for an answer. -- Shog9 ♦, 2014+

Why is a “too many comments” auto flag raised even after most of the comments have been deleted?

It's very much by-design. The purpose of the flag is to flush out threads that are getting an unusual amount of comments. Because that often (though not always) corresponds with something problematic happening: people arguing, tangential discussions, someone trolling someone else by posting nagging comments on their posts... -- Shog9 ♦, 2016

... while some people love to use comments for tangents, arguments, jokes, and long-winded discussions, comments do still serve a purpose. -- Monica Cellio, 2016

On every single site on the entire Internet except here, comments are intended to discuss things, provide personal opinions, argue with others, etc. -- enderland, 2016

How can I backup SE comment debate before I get a moderator to clean it up?

It happens that a comment thread gets interesting. To the participants, that is, not other visitors. -- Tomáš Zato, 2014

Should we use comments to debate if a question is on-topic?

There's a spectrum with, at one end, a single comment pointing out a scope problem, and, at the other end, a 30-comment-long thread arguing whether a question is on-topic. I think we'd all agree that taking the former to meta would be overkill and continuing the latter right there in comments is going overboard. -- Monica Cellio, 2014

How many comments are required to qualify a post as “debated”?

You have to read the comments in order to determine if the commentators are debating or not. You can't use the number of comments posted to figure out if there's a debate going on. -- BoltClock's a Unicorn, 2013

If the comments were not explaining/discussing the content of your post then I'm afraid those comments were just creating "noise" on the post. ... engaging in a comment debate about someone else's decision is simply not needed -- Lix, 2012

# Christianity.SE meta

How to handle comment trolls?

Flags fix these quite nicely. If you make a single or a couple of replies and the argument is going in circles flag the comment as too chatty and a mod should come along and clean it up as unproductive. Comments are completely disposable and should be scrubbed regularly.

However if you have an issue with a single user continuously trolling your posts it might be time to get a mod in on it in a more serious way. Try pinging an SE employee (for now) or a site mod in chat and talk to them about it. They can analyze it from an objective perspective and possibly talk to the user about it or if necessary take more serious action. -- wax eagle ♦, 2011

How can we improve our guidance about the comment practices?

But on Stack Exchange, routine cleanup of comments helps enforce the purpose of comments. Comments are there to discuss improvements to the post. When their purpose has been served, they are deleted. When comments drift into conversations, they should be deleted. It's all part of discouraging comments from becoming mini chat systems... -- Robert Cartaino ♦, 2011

I'd rather see action being taken to remove noisy/obsolete/off-topic comments than to allow the problem to propagate and change Christianity.SE into something it's not intended to be. -- Waggers, 2011

Comment Deletion

Comments are deleted zealously across the network. This post on MSO outlines why. Comments are disposable and intended for question clarification, if they go beyond that purpose they should be deleted. -- wax eagle ♦, 2011

Comments are temporary and are meant to point out flaws with the answer. Any and all comments can be deleted at any point, without justification, without reasoning, and without consent. -- Richard, 2011

If you want to have a discussion with an OP, invite them to chat, then link the chat conversation later. Every message, room, and even delineated conversations inside rooms have permalinks. Chat messages are typically NOT deleted. Unlike comments, chat is a permanent record of a conversation on a topic. -- Caleb ♦, 2011

We also generate reams more comments than most SE sites do and spawn more chat rooms from excessive comment threads than any other site per capita. -- Caleb ♦, 2011

Anyways, our comment deletion is not something out of the ordinary for SE sites, and its for a purpose, we are trying to keep things clean here and make this a useful site, not just for our regular users, but for our primary audience, search engine visitors. -- wax eagle ♦, 2011

How can we stop the comments from being an area for arguments?

The comments section has recently become an area where disagreements are voiced and the exchanges have detracted from the answers to the posters questions and often go far astray from the context of the original question. ... I am guilty of getting into this in trying to defend my views as have others, but that only serves to degrade the site as it gives the poster the impression that we are not united in our faith. -- BYE, 2014

Far too often, even those of us that should know better get caught up in comment discussions. The best you can do is to try to avoid doing the same thing yourself, and just flag invalid. non-constructive, incorrect, offensive, or otherwise unwelcome comments. -- David Stratton, 2014

I think there is a difference between arguing in comments and doing what I sometimes do: point to something in a question or answer that to me appears to be illogical, and ask for a better explanation. -- curiousdannii, 2014

# Mi Yodeya.SE (= Judaism.SE)

Some matters regarding comment deletion

For open-ended conversation, even including extended discussion about improving particular posts, we have a chat system that does archive content indefinitely, does provide for threaded conversation, and is in other ways optimized for that purpose. -- Isaac Moses ♦, 2015

...on-site clutter (that is the view of comments in Stack Exchange for better or worse) -- Yishai, 2015

I will frequently delete comments that stray from the above guidelines, especially if there are many comments on a single page or some have strayed far from the guidelines. -- msh210 ♦, 2015

Some may find this approach too deferential, but I ask you to think again: better that we err on the side of deference than have an argument and bad feelings that could have been so easily avoided. -- Monica Cellio ♦, 2015

# Buddhism.SE meta

What does it mean to “be nice”?

Comment less; a mechanism which can minimize social friction on an SE site that people have an opportunity to answer and are not required or expected to argue. So (instead of arguing) you can put your time into writing an answer which clarifies what you want to say on a subject, and which you think is a useful answer to the original question. -- ChrisW ♦, 2015

How to Deal with Factually Wrong Answers

Unless there is an obvious factual mistake... I would not rush with comments. We don't want to discourage new users by long flamewars in the comments. Certainly, if you asked for clarification once and the author responded, but you are still not satisfied, I would strongly recommend to restrain your horses. Instead, post your own answer with whatever facts you consider valid. If you absolutely must argue, please kindly proceed to chat, and there discuss your point to your heart's content. -- Andrei Volkov ♦, 2014

# Health.SE meta

Arguing isnt condoned anywhere, but if they join you you could have a conversation in chat about it. -- Pobrecita, 2016

Why is arguing in comments not allowed?

Just downvote bad answers and post a comment explaining why. If the OP fixes their answer in response to your criticisms, great! Upvote them. If they choose to argue, either take the argument to chat or just ignore them and let your downvote do the talking. -- Carey Gregory, 2016

# Community Building

Can't watch 24x7; how do we keep comments under control?

"Don't read the comments" is pretty common advice on the Internet, and for good reason: once somebody starts leaving snarky or rude comments others tend to follow suit. -- Monica Cellio, 2015

A large part of keeping comments under control is “monkey see, monkey do”. If you want to keep comments constructive, make sure that non-constructive comments aren't left around. -- Gilles, 2015

# RPG.SE meta

Can we affirm that RPG.SE embraces a plurality of playstyles?

Remember, good information goes into questions and answers. Comments evaporate. Comment arguments are burned by the gods with prejudice. -- Brian Ballsun-Stanton, 2014

That said, one of the things that the religious sites do, that we've only semi-adopted for this site is to make questions tightly define what sects/doctrines they are about (in our case playstyle) and then delete answers that don't conform to that (in addition to shutting down discussion and arguments about who is right and who is wrong). -- wax eagle ♦, 2014

Deleted comment that is still relevant

Comments are not for arguing. The larger an argument gets, the more we are inclined to delete it (starting at "really quite" and moving upwards). -- Brian Ballsun-Stanton, 2014

Reminder: comments are for clarifying content, not discussion. Please take any discussion to Role-playing Games Chat. All prior comments have been purged. -- SevenSidedDie ♦, 2014

The bottom line is that comments should be used to suggest an improvement. ... But if they don't, then comments are not the place to object to their opinion. You write your own answer. -- mxyzplk ♦, 2014

What should I do when I want to downvote a comment?

Comments are ephemeral and not meant to hang around being useful. If they were useful, they would get incorporated into the answer or question. -- SevenSidedDie ♦, 2015

Arguing in comments isn't worth it. -- Brian Ballsun-Stanton, 2015

Yes, it's called "refrain from arguing in comments." ... If you disagree with someone - post a competing answer, or live with the pain. -- mxyzplk ♦, 2013

# Bicycles.SE meta

What if comments on answers start to grow and look like a forum?

I think when there's a debate, it might be better to put each "side" of the debate into an answer that fully explains that "side". Edit them as more points come up. Use comments to briefly discuss details, edit the answers, then delete the comments. -- freiheit ♦, 2012

Heated comment threads on some sites are deleted, but Bicycles seems to trend towards just leaving the comments there unless they're really bad. -- Neil Fein, 2012

Is it okay to have an extended debate or discussion in comments?

No, absolutely not. You want chat for discussions, and meta (here!) for specific questions about how the site works. ... If you find yourself frequently posting comments which are flagged/deleted, you're probably using comments for the wrong purpose, creating unnecessary noise for other readers, and giving moderators more cleanup work to do. -- Jefromi ♦, 2013

# English.SE meta

Comments are not for debates or discussion. Comments are intended as brief messages to provide feedback, add minor information, ask for clarification, or discuss the content of the post with the intent of improving it. Comments are temporary. You should not think of them nor use them as a vehicle for information that is worthy of archiving. -- Kit Z. Fox ♦, 2014

# Math.SE meta

I don't mind debate, but I understand that comments on MSE are not a place to have extended debates. -- Rob Arthan, 2015

Avoiding extended discussion in comments section with low rep user?

I know it's bad practice to have extended discussions in the comments section, and I understand why. -- Ataraxia, 2013

Does it make sense to enumerate the comments to a question?

The comment section has never been intended for extended discussions. If you find yourself in a situation where you need complicated systems to keep track of the discussion, you should have it in chat instead. -- Willie Wong, 2013

# Gaming.SE meta

(How) should we discourage extended discussion in comments?

So the question here is whether you agree with me that we should actively discourage extended discussion in comments, and if you agree, how should we do it? -- Oak, 2010

Since everyone involved in these lengthy debates needs to have the last word, the debate in the comments will not end. ... One technique which has worked well in the past is deleting the relevant comments. -- tzenes, 2010

# Apple.SE meta

Comments are ephemeral. Especially if they turn into a long exchange, we delete them. Notice the warning telling you to avoid extended discussions in comments. Either edit the answer if the answer's poster is on board, or propose a new answer. -- Daniel ♦, 2014

# Tex.SE meta

Is it possible for moderators to edit my comments?

As a moderator on another site, I've also edited comments to remove rude/offensive content if the same comment also contains useful information (e.g. in a debate in the comments). Similarly, comments can be edited to remove personal information (such as an e-mail address) while keeping useful information. -- Null, 2016

Why topics and comments disappear from a post?

In particular, long threads of comments are not encouraged by the StackOverflow model and may be removed/reduced once they have done their job. (The back-end of the site automatically flags up any question with 20 or more comments.) - Joseph Wright ♦, 2015

# English Language Learners.SE meta

If you don't want your comments deleted, then don't belabor the quibbling, don't be rude, and know when it's time to let the matter rest. -- J.R. ♦, 2016

# Physics.SE meta

Should we make an official policy out of cleaning up comments?

What I do mind is extended discussion in comments where there are 10-15 comments going back and forth between 2 or 3 people. -- Jeff Atwood ♦, 2011

Trying to preserve "substantive discussions" in comments goes against the grain of how Stack Exchange is designed. Stack Exchange is designed specifically to make discussions difficult as part of its core functionality. ... Stack Exchange is not about on-going, unbounded, threaded discussion… and certainly not in comments. ... What you are asking simply is not what we do here… and most like it that way. -- Robert Cartaino ♦, 2011

I would like to point out that the comment threads in question are prone to deletion simply because they developed into extended discussions, not because of any problem with their content. -- David Z ♦, 2011

# Software Engineering.SE meta (= Programmers.SE meta)

I say comments should stay around forever. In fact, I think that fewer comments need to be deleted overall. Comments serve as kind of a record of how the answer developed. -- Thomas Owens ♦, 2011

Comments have always been and probably will continue to be second-class citizens on the network. That is entirely by design and that's shown in the limitations that comments have ... The design of each site places primary focus on questions and answers. -- Adam Lear ♦, 2011

What is an “extended” discussion?

Comments aren't for discussion, per se, they are for clarification, examination, and refinement of the parent post. -- Jeff Atwood ♦, 2011

In general, discussion (ordinary and otherwise) should happen in chat and answers should contain complete information. Comments can be used to enhance answers, but they're not a substitute for chat or forum threads. -- Adam Lear ♦, 2011

If there's already a comment stating that the the answer is deficient in some way then there's no real need to add another one. Just up-vote the original comment. -- ChrisF ♦, 2011

I see no reason to kill off comment chains until they turn nasty, personal or offtopic. -- Paul Nathan, 2011

How does one deal with trolling, when more than a single comment is involved?

But if all comments are relevant to their respective posts and follow the normal comment guidelines there might not be much a moderator can do. But do flag anyway, if the behaviour is persistent it will most likely lead to a temporary suspension. If not, at the very least the moderators will clean up the flame-ish comments. -- yannis ♦, 2012

Flagging the comments is the right way to go. -- Adam Lear ♦, 2012