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Some of the comments on Gil's recent question are flagged as not-constructive.

They are not literally offensive or rude, they are not irrelevant to the question, but honestly they don't seem to contain anything that anyone who is a little bit familiar with the topics would not know (and surely Gil is more that a little bit familiar with these topics). In other words, anyone could have written a similar comment. They don't add any new information/knowledge.

The reasons for flagging a comment supported by the software are:

  • rude or offensive
  • not constructive / off-topic
  • obsolete
  • too chatty

I am not sure if any of them applies to these comments (maybe "too chatty"?). On the other hand I personally feel that leaving such comments are inappropriate and possibly harmful to the usefulness of the site (as I understand, people don't come here to read general comments that anyone would know or could find out by a simple Google search but to ask question from people who have expertise on those topics).

On cstheory, we generally don't remove comments as long as they are not really off-topic or clearly rude.

Is leaving general comments that do not add any significant information to the question OK?

Questions that are answerable by simple Googling or looking at the relevant Wikipedia article are considered off-topic on cstheory. Should these criteria also apply to other posts on the site like comments?

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    $\begingroup$ If there was a way to downvote comments, that would solve the problem. Useless comments would just be downvoted, just like useless answers. Given that the software doesn't permit this, one solution is "don't feed the trolls." If a useless comment isn't acknowledged by anyone, perhaps the user will tire of posting such comments. $\endgroup$ – Robin Kothari Sep 13 '12 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ Your definition of "anyone would know" is interesting. :) $\endgroup$ – Raphael Sep 14 '12 at 6:16
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Here I will write about the general issue because I do not think that it is constructive to discuss about specific comments.

Is leaving general comments that do not add any significant information to the question OK?

Yes, I think that it is ok.

Deleting a content posted by a user is a huge intervention, and moderators should be very careful to decide to do that. In general, people who post questions are, or at least should be, aware of the possibility that someone may post silly or off-topic responses, and I do not think that it is moderator’s job to decide which responses are silly/off-topic or to hide these responses.

If I am not mistaken, even answers (which are supposed to be more useful than comments) which do not add any significant information are not usually deleted by others, although they are usually down-voted. Given that, I do not think that it makes sense to delete comments just because they do not add significant information.

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    $\begingroup$ I also think that courtesy is important. If, for instance, the OP wants to to say "thanks" it shouldn't be deleted. And if the answerer wants to say "your welcome", it shouldn't be deleted either. For those cases, what Dave Clarke suggest is the best option. Just leave those comments to a minimum. $\endgroup$ – Marcos Villagra Sep 15 '12 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ there is a hierarchy that few here seem to observe/respect ie the difficulty or "big picture" abstractness of the question vs answers. generally, from the pov of users & group sustainability, some kind of response is better than no response. a fringe/sketchy comment is probably better than no comments at all. an answer that is not exactly on target to a hard or obscure question, ie "best possible" is probably preferred to no answers at all. but voting frequently does not reflect this tradeoff & therefore it can be risky to write answers at risk of downvotes instead of comments. $\endgroup$ – vzn Sep 16 '12 at 18:34
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I agree that these comments are not constructive and too chatty. Either the perpetrator should write a proper answer or keep the comments to a minimum.

General comments like these should not be okay. Comments are generally for clarifications, not essays.

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It seems to be a fairly straightforward solution to add a "Downvote comment" button. Proposed changes are:

  • Add a "Downvote comment because ..." button (but we need to find an appropriate wording instead of "...").

  • Deeply hide downvoted comments. That is, first show comments with high vote count, then show comment with low vote count, and at the end allow anyone to un-hide downvoted comments.

  • Do not change (main) reputation on comment up/down vote.

  • May be maintain completely separate reputation based on comment votes and show it in user's profile page.

  • Precise rules for hiding is subject for discussion — that is, not all the users will have equal weights; weights may depend on reputation; it is reasonable to get more weight to moderator, to the user that ask question, etc.

  • May be to inherit comment reputation? That is in order to prevent unwanted discussion to automatically downvote replies to downvoted comments.

Implementation of the first item seems to be a very simple task because we already have "Upvote comment" button. Other items may be not so simple to implement, but definitely they are not complex.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe the highest hurdle is to convince administrators of the Stack Exchange network that this feature is good to have. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 16 '12 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ SE views comments as temporary, any comment not needed should be removed in their view. So down-voting comments doesn't make much sense from their perspective. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Sep 17 '12 at 4:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh I do know how annoying may be opinions of a low-educated persons. Also I do know how annoying to search an information withing a junk. However, I claim that every character produced by a human deserve to be stored for at least 100 years (copy-pasted characters are not counted as produced by humans; links are counted like characters). The opinion of a moderator that "comments are temporary" scares me. At the other side, thanks for your warning -- so I shall start to locally mirror the most valuable part of SE -- that is, cstheory. With comments, of course. $\endgroup$ – user1123502 Sep 17 '12 at 7:05
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    $\begingroup$ @user1123502, SE is distinct from community moderators, please read the site's FAQ and about to understand how things work here. We don't remove comments on csthoery as I said in my post, but that is how the people who have designed the software and own it (i.e. StackExchange Inc.) think about the comments and that is also how other sites on this network works whether we agree or not. From their perspective comments are temporary and any comment that is not useful should be removed therefore as I wrote a feature to down-voting comments $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Sep 17 '12 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ doesn't make sense from their perspective. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Sep 17 '12 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh I do know that SE is distinct from community moderators. However, I suspect, that SE Inc did not delete any comment by themselves and will not delete any comment by themselves in the future. Clearly, they may reject to add a new button and a couple of lines of code, but this, I think, will show SE's great disregard for computer scientists. The point here, I believe, first to convince ourselves that the button will really solve some problems. To devise an implementation for downvote in such a way that downvote button and its handler may be easily disabled on other SE sites may also help. $\endgroup$ – user1123502 Sep 17 '12 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh Could you give a link to precise place(s) in FAQ/whatever that explain temporary nature of comments? Also, I doubt such opinion that feature to down-voting comments doesn't make sense from SE Inc. perspective, because they implemented complementary up-voting feature, so, it seems, they are interested in ordering and hiding of comments. Just like we are interested in ordering and hiding of comments, except that we are interested to hide some comments deeper. I suspect that comment down-voting was discussed, and was rejected on other sites in order to prevent wars or like this $\endgroup$ – user1123502 Sep 17 '12 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ @TsuyoshiIto I wonder how administrators of the Stack Exchange network may reject request of community moderators and respective cstheory members. The point here, as I think, is to verify that such a button will really solve the problem here (and that it may be easily disabled on other SE sites, if not needed). $\endgroup$ – user1123502 Sep 17 '12 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ @TsuyoshiIto That is, there may be hidden flaws in this down-vote button idea, so it need to be considered in depth before request to SE administrators. Also, it's interesting to find whether this down-vote idea was discussed before and what the result of the discussion. $\endgroup$ – user1123502 Sep 17 '12 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh I suspect that comment down-voting was discussed, and was rejected on other sites in order to prevent wars or like this, but this site is completely different from other SE sites so that considerations do not apply to this site. $\endgroup$ – user1123502 Sep 17 '12 at 9:12
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    $\begingroup$ Here is question about comment down-voting meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3615/… $\endgroup$ – user1123502 Sep 17 '12 at 9:18
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    $\begingroup$ They do regularly delete comments as well as moderators on other sites. See Robert's post. For more about the use of comments please read this. I don't think the feature-request for down-voting comments is rejected because of what you are saying. Thanks for digging that question up, though note that it is from 2009 and the system and policies have changed quite a bit since then. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Sep 17 '12 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh On Robert's post: Some comment threads are like report of bug in a correspondent question (that is, they points out that the question is not elaborated enough). I also (independently) realized, that such "bug reports" to my question indeed looks very strange and clutter the space when they accompany new, re-worked version my questions. Still I shall take offense if these no-longer-relevant comment threads are deleted, because they do contain valuable information. So the following idea comes to mind: handle such a comment threads like bug reports are handled. $\endgroup$ – user1123502 Sep 18 '12 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh ... That is, to make hide/unhide button instead of down-vote button. "Hide" means "hide because this bug is closed or it is not a real bug". The hide/unhide button may work independently of comment score, because even high-scored bug may be fixed by new edition of the question. At cstheory site "it is not a real bug" also means, say, that user that ask question has already read all the papers that are suggested to read by the comment. Or any other too simple or too obvious suggestion. Also thanks for pointing out that my valuable no-longer-relevant comment threads are in danger. $\endgroup$ – user1123502 Sep 18 '12 at 6:46
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    $\begingroup$ I was not implying that you should refine this answer. Sorry for misleading. I just do not think that arguing that it is easy to implement will affect their decision much. They sometimes reject reasonable feature requests, and changing their mind seems next to impossible (and they sometimes change their mind randomly). $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 19 '12 at 22:19

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