Someone decided to delete all comments posted under my question here:

Do "almost black holes" exist?

This is insane, there were valuable comments. They should have been moved to chat if they were too numerous as this is usually done, not deleted!

Edit: I have seen rob's comment at the location of said comment thread. I do agree with what he says. However there are better ways to enforce policies on SE than throwing everything and everyone to the trashcan without even a warning. The move to chat is way more considerate.

This is clearly a high profile question, given its score, so mods should be even more careful. Chris did move comments to a Chiral Anomaly's answer to chat and I am fine with that.

Edit: After reading two mods here, once again, I find SE a hostile environment. You mods seem to have lost contact with how people feel.


A large proportion of these comments were made by users who have been repeatedly told not to have lengthy discussions in comments, and not to use comments in lieu of providing an answer where they can be properly downvoted if what they say is false. So I deleted them, since apparently moving to chat has so far not enticed these commenters to play by the rules.

We do not delete comments because we are evil and want to deprive anyone of "interesting information" - the problem with comments is that corrections and other responses to them quickly get lost in the threads and hard to other users to see, and that they cannot be downvoted like answers. Particularly on popular questions this poses a problem since wrong (but authoritative-sounding) comments might be upvoted by users who think they have been given correct information, and there is no counterweight to this.

But we also do not delete things simply for being wrong (and it is impossible for moderators to be subject experts to the degree that we could always make such a judgement anyway), so comments will be deleted indiscriminately.

See also this and this for prior answers of mine on this topic. Because this is a high-profile question, we should not be more careful, we should be even more stringent about this!

PS: I would very much appreciate it if we could have a discussion about things that happen on the site without calling the actions of other users "insane".

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    $\begingroup$ While I appreciate you answer here, you did not convince me you had a good reason not to move these comments to chat. I stand by my dissatisfaction with the way you handled this. $\endgroup$ – Exocytosis Sep 18 '20 at 16:34

I didn’t delete the comment thread, but I’ve read the deleted comments. I don’t see any that should be restored because they add value to the question. The interesting back-and-forth was mostly on a tangentially related topic. I understand the purpose of the move-to-chat feature as a way to support an extended discussion about the question, not as a way to preserve every interesting conversation that happens. If there’s something in an SE comment thread that you would like to be preserved permanently, you should take action to preserve it: move it into a question, an answer, or start a chat room yourself. To some extent, the more accommodating the moderators are about preserving inappropriate uses of comments, the more work we make for ourselves from users who don’t use comments for their intended purposes.

I’d like to address two errors in this sentence of yours:

This is insane, there were valuable comments. They should have been moved to chat if they were too numerous as this is usually done, not deleted!

The first is an etiquette error. “Insane” is not a synonym for “undesirable,” “upsetting,” or “confusing,” and using it that way is unwelcoming for folks who deal with real mental health issues. That usage is common; let’s make it less common here in our little corner of the internet.

The second is the assumption that comments are “usually” moved to chat. There is a selection bias there, because moving the comments to chat generates an informative comment, while simply removing problematic comments does not. I think it was the case when I started as a moderator that more deleted comments were moved to chat in big batches than removed singly; however, in the years since, our community has evolved away from chatty comment threads, so I’m not sure whether that’s still the case or not.

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    $\begingroup$ Merriam-Webster, which tends to be more reliable source of words definitions says: insane adjective 1a (1) : exhibiting a severely disordered state of mind : affected with mental illness (2) law : affected with insanity (see insanity) criminally insane b : unable to think in a clear or sensible way : crazy insane with jealousy — not used technically 2: used by, typical of, or intended for mentally ill people an insane asylum 3: absurd an insane scheme for making money 4: extreme $\endgroup$ – Exocytosis Sep 18 '20 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ Insane is absurd and extreme both in people mind and the dictionary. You are just making your answer less credible by using such low arguments. $\endgroup$ – Exocytosis Sep 18 '20 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ And regarding part two of your complaining, yeah move to chat is usual. In more than a year I have never seen a comment thread destroyed like this, while I have seen plenty of such moves. $\endgroup$ – Exocytosis Sep 18 '20 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Exocytosis At least two people (me and rob) have told you now that they consider your use of "insane" rude. Citing dictionaries at us doesn't make us consider it any less rude. We expect users to adhere to a standard of polite discourse, part of that is to accept that things you might not personally consider unfriendly nevertheless come across like that to others. If you consider not calling other people's actions 'insane' an impossible request, you might find communities with different standards a better fit for you. Please let's drop this line of discussion here. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Sep 18 '20 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ This usage of "insane" is completely idiomatic and normal. It's not rude in the slightest, unless you want it to be. I've never heard anybody, anywhere, complain about it before. Except two moderators defending moderation activities, which is particularly ironic since you're attempting to school the OP on exactly what they're complaining you didn't do: "accept that things you might not personally consider unfriendly nevertheless come across like that to others". So, overall, not a great response really. $\endgroup$ – Asteroids With Wings Sep 18 '20 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ @AsteroidsWithWings Many not-okay things are completely normal. Many okay-but-unwelcoming things are completely normal. And that's tangential to this question and answer: the point is that this comment deletion was not unusual, nor was it a bad call by another moderator. $\endgroup$ – rob Sep 18 '20 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ The actual point is that there are people who disagree with you, and people who have taken the action in an unfriendly manner, and instead of engaging on this in a constructive fashion you've decided to deflect by berating one of those people over a completely normal use of the word "insane" that you know full well was not used to offend anyone with mental disabilities. This is not moderator behaviour, Rob. $\endgroup$ – Asteroids With Wings Sep 18 '20 at 20:46

It looks like you have a misconception about what the purpose of comments are. They aren't to have discussions, give "valuable information" etc. Anything worth value should be in an answer. Comments should be used to either ask for clarification from the OP or to give suggestions to improve the post. If they don't do this, then they shouldn't have been made into a comment in the first place, and so I don't see an issue in them being deleted.

Additionaly, I'm not sure what feelings have to do with this. There is a definitive comment policy. Why should it be ignored in the case when it would go against users' feelings? If you don't like the site policies then you don't need to participate in the site; I certainly don't participate in things I don't like if I have the choice.


My 2p:

When this comes up, people love to trot out the old "comments are transient" speech. They're right, of course. We should not hold any allusions that our comments should or will last for a protracted period of time, particularly if they start to venture slightly outside of the "requesting clarification" zone.

But, if you start arbitrarily erasing entire swathes of comments without warning or, frankly, any particularly strong reason to do so, then comments are not just transient: they are entirely without purpose. It means people are literally just wasting their time in writing them. And these are not random jokes or abusive arguments: these are short half-discussions about the question and its wording and its assumptions. They're relevant.

Deleting these does not actually add any value to anyone.

So, either leave them for a longer amount of time such that they actually be read, deal with them in a fairer way, or just have the dev team disable the comments section and be done with it.

Deleting things for the sake of deleting things is just flexing internet muscle. Please stop it.

(But please delete answers-as-comments immediately because these are evil and should never be allowed to happen! Answers deserve peer review in the usual way.)


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