Since I've recently noticed, for the first time, that some higher ranking users have the habit of deleting discussion in the form of comments in bulk, under the justification that it falls under the term "extended discussion", I would like to ask - can someone provide me clarification on the term "extended" and what is considered "extended" (as in "prolonged" I guess) and what is considered an "ordinary" discussion?

Just so it is not missed, I'm extremelly pissed (I picked this word very carefully) by this practice for I was under the impression that that is something one does not do in a community where expressing one's opinions is encouraged.

  • Going to sleep now (very late in my part of the world). If I don't find this comment (or this question here by the morning, I'll understand). – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 1:20
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    Just to clarify, the only users who have the ability to outright delete comments without going through a flagging process are moderators. – Adam Lear ModStaff Sep 7 '11 at 1:20
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    @Anna Lear - I was not sure, as to the specifics, therefore the intentional "high ranking users". Thanks Anna! – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 1:22

An extended discussion, as I see it, is anything that is not a clarification of the question/answer or a request for a clarification.

  • In the situation I was referring to, the whole comments discussion was in fact a clarifications of the answer. But yes, that looks like an acceptable definition to me. What if (see my comment to Anna)? – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 18:48
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    @Rook Comments that seek clarifications should ideally result in those clarifications being edited into the answer. There's no need to keep a long thread of back-and-forth figuring stuff out when we can just preserve the final "this is what I meant" or "this is how concern X can be addressed" in the answer or the question that needed clarifying. – Adam Lear ModStaff Sep 7 '11 at 19:07
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    @Anna - I agree. But if the discussion in the comments takes, let's say half a day, and ends up in one's person timezone at 2am, could at least some leeway time be given to that person to implement those conclusions in the answer, let's say 12-24 hours? Not all users here have the luxury to watch these forums all the time, and by moderator's deletion of comments without notice, the participants also lose valuable information from those comments that would've been implemented in the answer. – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 20:35
  • @Rook We do tend to wait after giving the warning, although I admit that "how long" is somewhat arbitrary. 12-24 hours sounds reasonable to me. Can you add that as a suggestion on the question Mark posted? Thanks! – Adam Lear ModStaff Sep 7 '11 at 20:38
  • @Anna - Maybe you do, but in Mark's example I haven't noticed. (I will add it to the question.) – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 20:41

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

An "extended" discussion for the purposes of migration to chat is at least 3-4 back and forth responses between two and only two users. That is, a total of 6 or 8 messages between two users with no intervening comments from other users.

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    Is this now an official guideline? And could you elaborate a bit on what goes under clarification and examination and refinement (since they are, to say the least, rather vague terms)? – Rook Sep 11 '11 at 17:05

Stack Exchange now automatically suggests moving the conversation to chat when some threshold for "extended discussion" is reached. I'm not sure what that threshold is, but it seems to be around six comments between two people. We can take that as the definition of an extended discussion.

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.

Related questions:
How can we improve our guidance about the purpose of comments?
Can we get a simple way to initiate a chat?

  • thanks for joining. 6 comments/3 per person? <- maybe it wouldn't be bad to put it in the FAQ so folks could get a feeling what "extended" in here means? Yes, I noticed the "call to chat", and although I like the feature, I'm curious as to how it works for example, when the participants are unable to be online at the same time due to time difference? – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 18:46
  • How long is chat saved for, and can the other users see it as well? – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 18:53
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    @Rook The chat doesn't have to be in real time. It works more or less the same as comments in the sense that you can say something and come back hours later to check on the room. Each conversation moved to chat gets its own room and the post that spawned the discussion is linked from it. You can read about room retention here. Basically, if the conversation has enough messages, it will be "frozen" and kept around forever. – Adam Lear ModStaff Sep 7 '11 at 19:06
  • @Rook We realize the FAQ isn't the most detailed when it comes to explaining why comments are deleted: we have an open question specifically about improving the wording of the FAQ so it's clear what Stack Exchange's expectations are for comments and what you should be using instead. – user8 Sep 7 '11 at 19:17
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    @Mark - If we disregard the meaning of "most detailed" which is also rather wide (obviously), I also object to equalization of rules in the FAQ and those that are not in it (which are only mentioned in some question on meta). FAQ is official, everyone can read it; a "question in progress" is not - one has to look (and to know exactly what to look for) to find it. Also, it is somewhat dubious practice when the same author introduces a rule proposal, answers and accepts the same answer (without much discussion) and suddenly it becomes "official". Also the same author is in charge of executing – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 20:55
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    that rule and does so without any notice. Separation of power in the modern world is there for a reason. I couldn't help but notice that the number of votes on a comment saying you're "trigger happy" was larger than the sum of the votes on that question you gave and all its answers. – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 20:56
  • @Anna - Can the users that have not commented see the chat and its contents without first commenting on the answer/question? – Rook Sep 7 '11 at 21:01
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    @Rook Yes, the chat rooms are public. I think the original comment thread gets an auto comment with a link to it when the discussion is moved, but I'm not 100% positive on that. – Adam Lear ModStaff Sep 7 '11 at 23:54

There are cases where comments should not used, such as:

  • You don't agree with a given answer, and you keep debating with the OP about that.
    If you don't agree with the answer, you can add a comment explaining why you don't agree with what reported; the OP could report you didn't understand what said in the answer, but an extended discussion about that is done in the wrong place, if it is done in the comments. If you completely disagree with the answer, you can answer the question yourself, reporting exactly why you would not do what reported in an existing answer.

  • You are the user who asked the question, and you report the solution doesn't work for you because something you didn't say in the question; the OP adds more details in the answer, and then you report that even the added solution doesn't work because something else you didn't explain in the question.
    It should be better to write a more complete question, where all the significant details of the question are explained. The reason is that adding details as comments of one of the answers would force who read the question to read all the answers and all the comments to completely understand the question being asked; this means the question would be less useful for the users that will read it. It should be reminded that a question and its answers are not for only being used from the user who asked the question, but from any users who read the question.

  • You are the user who asked the question, and you ask secondary questions about the answer given, in comments.
    If the purpose is to verify you understood what reported, that is fine, but if the question is asked because you are having difficulties on applying the suggested solution, then those comments should probably be a different question.

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