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When viewing a question or answer that has gathered a lot of attention, viewing the comments on the answer become a pain. The comments are ranked based on the up-votes they receive and the ordering totally changes the context. See a response here.

There are many comments that are targeted to specific users and cause a small but important dialogue. It gets increasingly difficult to follow the dialogues as the question/response receives more attention and hence comments (yes I know, the comments should not include long dialogues, but still following up on them helps).

Is it possible/foreseeable to have a reply-to link as we do in chat?

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The problems that you mention come from a misuse of comments. Comments meant to point out issues with or suggestions for the post that they are attached to. They should be used if the question needs additional information or to ask about what has already been tried or to elaborate on points that someone answering would need to know about to provide a better, more relevant answer. Comments on an answer are likewise meant to ask for clarification of points or to point out errors or concerns with an answer. They are not meant for extended discussion. This Meta Stack Overflow answer provides a good overview.

If a post has a number of irrelevant or obsolete comments, flag them for deletion so that they don't cause the problems you're seeing. Once issues with the post have been resolved, the comments are probably no longer necessary and can be cleaned up.

Also, if you need to have an extended discussion that maintains an order, feel free to start a chat room and link to it in the comments. At 100 reputation, a user can create a custom chat room. This room may go dormant or get locked, but the content is preserved much like the content on the main site. A comment linking to the chat room can be left for people to follow and refer to the extended discussion.

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    Basically the functionality is not placed within the comments to promote long discussions only within the chat rooms. – arin Jan 17 '13 at 15:52
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The ordering of comments is always oldest to newest.

If there are a "lot" (for some value of "lot" I'm not sure of) of comments then comments with low or no votes are hidden, but the order remains the same.

As Thomas points out - if there are a lot of comments then that's a bad sign. You should be having that conversation in chat and, if necessary, updating the post as a result of that conversation.

  • i believe its 5 comments on main sites – Ryathal Jan 18 '13 at 21:47

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