It seems to me that when most answers have 30+ comments, it becomes very hard to follow what is going on or have a constructive discussion.

Is there a better way of using the site in such cases?

• The title and body of this question do not seem to agree. – Noldorin Dec 9 '10 at 22:44
• Why is that? It's the problem in the question that is controversial, the answers seem all fair (clearly none of them are flamebait) – Sklivvz Dec 9 '10 at 22:59
• The question talks about controversial of questions, and the body about there being two many comments. They're different subjects. What are you asking? – Noldorin Dec 9 '10 at 23:36
• @Noldorin: controversial questions imply many comments (more or less) so I think it's quite clear what Sklivvz is talking about. – Marek Dec 9 '10 at 23:56
• @Marek: It's clear from the body. I'm going to edit the question title so it agrees. – Noldorin Dec 10 '10 at 0:15
• This is actually interesting because one of the common objections I had heard raised about an SO-style physics Q&A site (this was in the pre-SE 1.0 days) was that physics is a subject that often requires extended back-and-forth discussions, and that a simple one-level question/answer association would not be very useful. These examples with lots of comments seem to support that. – David Z Dec 10 '10 at 1:05
• @David: Yeah, perhaps the design of SO did not anticipate this. The thread-based forum approach many are used to just doesn't apply here. – Noldorin Dec 10 '10 at 1:31
• @David, @Noldorin: true but I think chat actually helps with that a lot. I.e. discuss over in the chat room and once you have results come back to post/edit an answer. But I don't know how to teach people to do so. I guess instead of commenting directly we should start to post link to the chat room when it looks like the discussion might get out of hand. – Marek Dec 10 '10 at 13:21

If there are a lot of comments, only those highly upvoted show up at a first glance -- this of course make all comment conversations loose context. So, you can count that other people will upvote only relevant and valuable comments.

The better solution is to move discussions from comments to chat, but this may be hard to enforce.

Finally the moderator can delete some comments in order to clean the view, but it doesn't seem common.

• Thanks for a fix, but I'm pretty sure upvote should be spelled upvote. – user68 Dec 10 '10 at 0:22
• It's no big deal I suppose. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to vocabulary and grammar. Upvote would not be listed in most standard dictionaries (it's not a real verb if you're being harsh) - but by hyphenating it, it's always acceptable. I'm not bothered enough to revert it though! – Noldorin Dec 10 '10 at 0:27

I use the Greasemonkey script for displaying threaded comments to get a better overview:

You still have to click on show more comments... if necessary, and the heuristic is of course not always perfect, but I like it. Other useful greasemonkey scripts can be found in this thread and that one at meta.SO, e.g.

• This is very useful! – Marek Dec 10 '10 at 13:23
• @Marek: thanks, I was actually thinking about writing a welcome to physics.SE or pimp my physics.SE post with this information a while ago but forgot it again :-/ – Tobias Kienzler Dec 10 '10 at 13:40