Comments are usually very helpful and valuable. However, sometimes it happens that comments to answers or questions become obsolete, and can distract from valid comments. For example:

  • Comments suggesting migration of a question could be removed after the migration.

  • Reminders to post a minimal example could be removed by the commenter after the question has been edited to include an example.

  • Comments pointing out a small typo or mistake could be deleted after the correction has been done.

  • A long discussion via comments, which came to a result and for example to a revision of an answer, could be cleaned up by the writers. Also, if they decided to continue in the chat, in that case a remaining link to the chat log would be sufficient.

I mean cleaning up by original posters of comments, to remove noise and to keep the site tidy. It might be especially helpful if there are further but still valid comments. Keeping in mind not to leave gaps if there are already follow-up comments - should we encourage users to clean up a comment from time to time, if meaningful, as etiquette?

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I have been trying to clean up my own comments, but it is extremely easy to forget to do it. So I wonder what would be the best technique for finding possibly obsolete comments? –  Jukka Suomela Jul 1 '11 at 0:22
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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I fully agree with deleting comments for the above reasons. This should be mostly done by the commentators itself, but might also be done by a moderator for the trivial cases, especially in longer comment threads.

I'm not sure about the encourage users part. I personally don't like to constantly add comments to tell people to remove their now outdated comments. It might defeat the whole purpose if it doesn't happen and I forget to remove mine as well after a while.


On special thing are comments which have five or more up-votes (or are short before that and might still get more votes). These count for the silver (Pundit badge) which requieres ten of them and I could image that users would not be happy if moderators would delete their (now obsolete) 5^ comments.

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For comments of the type "You've got a typo there" - "Ah, thanks, fixed now" without any additional content, I think that unilateral deletion by a moderator is no problem and would help keeping posts clean. –  Hendrik Vogt Jul 1 '11 at 15:39
    
Re: Pundit badge: I remember a comment of mine with 5 upvotes that was deleted together with the question I commented on. :-( –  lockstep Jul 2 '11 at 10:20
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Yes, definitely; that is why there is a specific flag reason for flagging comments as obsolete, when you click the small flag icon next to a comment:

enter image description here

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Thanks. That's relatively new, isn't it? –  Martin Scharrer Jul 1 '11 at 10:20
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@Jeff: I'd still be very interested what the exact effect of flagging as "obsolete" is. How many flags are needed for the comment being deleted? Does it depend on the number of upvotes? (And yes, this comment is addressed at you specifically :-)) –  Hendrik Vogt Jul 1 '11 at 15:36
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Although deleting outdated comments definitely has some merits, I think that they can also serve as a useful history about how the site is supposed to operate. So seeing a comment that says "please provide a minimal example", with quite few upvotes may have a useful educational effect, even after the original question has been updated.

This is true also (but less so) for "you should make this an answer" type comments.

For other types of comments, some cleanup is probably a good idea. But I think it's tricky for moderators to go deleting comments themselves. On the other hand, getting users to do it isn't likely to happen.

Does deleting comments bump the question to the front page?

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No, deleting comments does not bump the question. In general, they are stored and handled differently in and by the database, so they don't have much in common with questions and answers. E.g. no edit history. –  Martin Scharrer Jul 1 '11 at 10:22
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