I recently asked a question on meta "Will my account be closed like that of [insert-here-the-user-who-shall-not-be-named] if I stop participating on Physics SE?". It was being downvoted so I added a comment below it "why downvotes?". This was followed by a (peaceful) discussion between me and Manishearth. During this discussion Manishearth told me that my question broke no rules and so (on this basis) i refused to change the title of my question. However then one of the moderators (Shog9; who, as I just knew, is also a stack exchange employee) came and deleted all the comments also changed the title and main body of my question. I further added a comment that the changed title was not what i asked, to which he only replied after two days.

I want to know the rules moderators/stack employees follow in deleting comments in an ongoing discussion. Manishearth in his answer below says that there are no rules which, if true, is ridiculous because you can never question the action of a moderator even if s/he deletes some comment which is very useful to the discussion.

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    $\begingroup$ I really hope his answer to be more convincing than his profile's About me: Trust me - I think I know what I'm doing! $\endgroup$ – Mostafa Sep 18 '13 at 10:10
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    $\begingroup$ FYI: Shog9 is not a community moderator, he is a Stack Exchange employee. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ Also, do not presume to know who downvoted. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 11:51
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    $\begingroup$ In response to your edits: You can question moderators, email the team at stackexchange and they will look into any issues; You pointed out a question that called out a different user by name and it was deleted because those questions shouldn't exist. Just because one made it through the cracks doesn't mean it should be allowed. It just means the crack should be fixed. And it was, by the question being deleted. So everything you are complaining about is actually entirely consistent with how things should operate. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Sep 18 '13 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ "According to him there are no questions on meta in which any particular user is called out." -- I never said that. I said that they had recently been deleted. The Georg one had been missed, that's all. Which is why I deleted it. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth I took it from the comment that you yourself asked me to see. $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @user10001 "I've done my best to clean up" does not mean that "there are no questions on meta where [..]". It just means that he's tried to bring it to that state. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth Sorry I misunsderstood. No problem I will remove that part. $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 18:02

In general, yes, comments can be deleted at will, so there are no rules.

Usually, we refrain from deleting comments on meta if there's an ongoing discussion.

However, meta comments will be deleted if:

  • They serve their purpose by eliciting a modification to the post (Which is what happened with the comments that were deleted). This is generally followed on main as well, comments flagged as obsolete get removed.
  • They go off topic.

Finally, "please explain the downvotes" is a rather pointless comment, especially on Meta, where downvotes can express disagreement (So the downvote just means that someone disagrees with the post or its premise)

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    $\begingroup$ "They serve their purpose by eliciting a modification to the post (Which is what happened with the comments that were deleted)": In one of your (now deleted) comments you yourself told me that my question broke no rules and so (on this basis) i refused to change the title of my question any further. It was after this that Shog9 deleted all the comments and also changed the title and main body of my question $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ @user10001 Sure, a comment suggesting a change that is refused by the OP is also obsolete. Also, he changed the title so as not to call out any specific user. See this comment $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 12:11
  • $\begingroup$ See this question $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ @user10001 Thanks, deleted $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ "Usually, we refrain from deleting comments on meta if there's an ongoing discussion." So you haven't yet answered why the comments were deleted in an ongoing discussion in case of my question ? $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ @user10001 Usually. See the first line, they can be deleted at will. Also, there's the "however" bit: those comments were obsolete. The later ones were off topic. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Suppose a moderator is drunk and feels like deleting more comments. Since as you said there are no rules so he goes to an ongoing discussion and deletes all the comments and tells the OP that they were obsolete or off topic. But suppose during the discussion the OP wants to refer to one of his previous comments. Can he question the action of moderator? NO ! because there are no rules. Moderator can delete the comments at will. $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ @user10001 Yes, though if another moderator comes along and sees, then he can undelete them. If you feel that a moderator has misused his/her power, there's plenty of scope for oversight from the other mods and from the community team. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ Suppose another moderator saw but he too was drunk $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ @user10001 Contact the community team with the contact us form at the bottom then. Unless you want to say that everyone is drunk, in which case I can't help you. There's not much we can do for you if you don't trust us to a degree. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ In an ongoing discussion no one would like to take headache of contacting community team and complaint against the moderator. And in fact complaint on what basis ? The moderator is not bound to follow any rules as far as deleting comments is concerned! $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ So? What's your point? And in this case, Shog is a community team member. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 18 '13 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ Shog after deleting the comments and changing the title didn't even reply to my comment "this is not what i asked". He returned after two days to reply. $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I've been extremely busy caring for a sick wife lately, and hence have been slow to respond to a great many different threads, @user10001. That's not an excuse, but I do hope you can be a bit understanding as to why I'm not able to respond to your comments as quickly as I would like to. If you have something that requires urgent attention from the team, please use the "contact us" link at the bottom of every page - we generally handle most messages within 24-48 hours. Otherwise, flag for moderator attention. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Sep 18 '13 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Shog9 Actually i am still angry with you. But anyway please dont feel hurt by comments or questions. Hakunamatata:) $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 19:23

You have some good answers here already, but since I was the one who deleted the comments I'll take a few minutes to explain why.

This all started here - someone mentioned Physics, and upon visiting the meta here I saw 4 different threads calling out a specific user. As mentioned in the thread I linked to, this is something we generally try to avoid: there's nothing to be gained from publicly humiliating someone, particularly someone who isn't here to defend themselves. While a certain amount of curiosity is understandable, leaving these threads up long-term to be indexed by Google is kinda cruel; we frequently get emails from folks who are concerned about their online reputation and looking to distance themselves from mistakes in their past - no need to add to that.

So I deleted or edited these threads. While doing so, I observed numerous bitter, unproductive, tangential conversations - as EnergyNumbers notes, such comments are subject to removal without notice, so I removed them.

For the record, this is the guidance I gave the moderators at the time:

I know I've said this before, but... Try not to let threads discussing someone's suspension hang around forever. They rarely lead to anything good. Either edit to generalize them, or remove them once they've quieted down.

The ultimate goal here should always be to provide something of value to future readers. I doubt you're the only one who'll ever be concerned about suspensions - therefore, it's worth providing a clear, easy-to-follow discussion for those that follow. Lengthy comment threads hinder this goal - they are distracting and push actual answers further down the page. Comments that speculate on offenses committed by another user are particularly unhelpful - common decency dictates that one should address others directly with complaints rather than talking about them behind their backs. Expect the current comments on that question to be removed at some point as well, once the current discussion is concluded.

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    $\begingroup$ You could delete the comments after the discussion. And even if you deleted them you could at least leave your own comment as to why you deleted them. You just deleted comments, changed the title, changed the body of question, didn't answer anything to my comment and returned after two day. This is really annoying $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ I did leave an explanatory revision comment - sorry it didn't help. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Sep 18 '13 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ Yes it didn't help. And it was not for the comments that you deleted. Anyway please keep this in mind for future $\endgroup$ – user10001 Sep 18 '13 at 19:08

There are no rules that set the limits of what cannot be deleted, so any comment is fair target for deletion. That's because comments are, by design, second-class material, ephemeral and disposable. They are there to seek clarification on questions and answers. Once they've served that purpose, they can be disposed of.

Comments that are used to try to subvert a Stack Exchange site into being a medium for discussion, rather than Q&A, are always fair target for deletion.

There are rules that set out what must be deleted: material that is illegal, offensive, or that breaks the sites rules. The comment-flagging box gives you a good guide to this:

enter image description here

But in short, never put in comments something that you should put in a question or an answer: if it's got merit, put it in a first-class container (Q&A), not an ephemeral, disposable second-class container (comments)

My thanks to tgp2114 for their comment that:

long comment chains are sometimes allowed on Meta when they are constructive, but Meta is the exception not the "rule" ... So one may see long comment threads here, but they may be deleted at any time for any reason. Particularly when they are not on topic any more.

(my emphasis)


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