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The comments page says https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/comment

"When should I comment? You should submit a comment if you want to:

Request clarification from the author; Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post [...]"

but

"When shouldn't I comment? Comments are not recommended for any of the following: [...] debating a controversial point"

It seems to me that 'requesting clarification' or 'constructive criticism' can easily be seen as 'debating a controversial point'. Why would you offer 'constructive criticism' if there isn't a controversy? Similarly, 'requesting clarification' goes hand-in-glove with believing someone is saying something controversial.

Furthermore, some back and forth in the comments often elucidates aspects of the answers - of course, it might not!

So, is it possible to get better wording of what comments are for and not for?

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  • 1
    Also, why are extended comments discouraged? They are 'post it' notes. They can easily be deleted. Why is having significant back and forth problematic? Mar 31 at 22:32
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    They can be deleted, but only by mods, unlike other things there's no community moderation option to clean up comments. So be considerate of us too.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 31 at 22:56
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I see that Dannii has already provided quite a lot of feedback on this point, and so I don't want to reiterate too much of that. I'd emphasise that Comments are not the primary or only form of feedback, and so depending on the case you may choose any of the following, in order of typical priority:

  1. Vote on answers - indicate whether each is useful or not.
  2. Write an alternative answer yourself - this is the best way to express your view, and then let the community vote on it.
  3. Add a comment - provide specific feedback that's clear, patient, respectful and constructive, in line with the SE Code of Conduct. Typically this should target specific points made by the answer, with a view to gaining clarifications or encouraging the author to edit/refine their answer further, not to debate the merits of their worldview.
  4. Suggest edits to answers - minor improvements in line with author's intent.
  5. Use the Chat function - if you are interested in deeper engagement with other users beyond simple clarifications, or if the clarifications appear to be extending past 4/5 comments, consider starting a new Chat with them instead.

I understand that the guidelines can appear a little vague in isolation from real cases, but this site isn't here for the purpose of enforcing rules - the purpose is to engage in Q&A as a community of individuals interested in hermeneutics and exegesis of biblical texts. The whole system of building rep is there to encourage that process of building up experience interacting with the community to learn how to use new privileges appropriately.

For this reason, I'd encourage you to consider the way experienced members of the community use the Comment feature, and learn from them. This may help put some of the more abstract guidelines into practice and understand how it all fits together.

The experience of users and the community is important - when members of the community write an answer, they should expect one or two specific comments that can be addressed or clarified briefly. But nobody should be chased with ten or twenty comments trying to demolish their underlying worldview - if others disagree with everything that's written, they really should just be downvoting and posting their own answer instead. Or opening a new Chat with the user, where they can explain their views to you in greater detail.

At the end of the day the clue is in the name - when you leave a 'Comment', that's exactly what it's supposed to be: a short, simple interaction. Comment, move on. If you're seeking or expecting lengthy engagement on a matter, that's a 'Chat'.

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  • Although still vague, this seems like an excellent, fairly comprehensive clarification to me. I think the crux of the problem in the case curiousdanii and I were discussing (and what prompted my question) is the user's argument consisted of a large number of verse references. If many (all?) are problematic and could use 'constructive feedback', or you're seeking clarification on how the answerer thinks they support his argument, what's the modus operandi? Sounds like just pick one or two that are emblematic, make one comment summarizing the problem, and move on. Apr 1 at 16:37
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Those are general documents that were original written for the programming Q&A site Stack Overflow. The mods don't have the ability to add any specific guidance for this site. What remains true is that this site is not a discussion forum, and we're not here to debate.

Good uses of comments include asking for clarification, pointing out a relevant cross reference, raising a factual error (that quote was from 2 Corinthians, not 1 Corinthians), or requesting sources and supporting evidence.

If you disagree with something in a post, probably the best way to do so is to request them to explain it better, or to request more supporting evidence for it. We mods will use our best judgement to review comments, but if you simply argue against something in a post it's likely we'll delete the comment. Especially if the argument is based more in theology than in the text. There have been just too many bad debates in the past, so we have a fairly low tolerance for comment debates. Most of the time it's better to write one comment, vote on the answer, and consider writing your own answer.

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  • "There have been just too many bad debates in the past, so we have a fairly low tolerance for comment debates" This is what I don't understand. Why is having a debate in a chatroom fine, but not in comments? Mar 31 at 22:53
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    @AnthonyBurg Because it's not what comments are for. We don't want comment arguments to hide those comments that are actually important, such as the clarification requests, factual errors, requests for sources etc. Comments are also a worse user interface for discussion.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 31 at 22:55
  • Would it be fair to say then the problem isn't bad debates, but obscuring relevant info more directly applicable to the post? Mar 31 at 22:58
  • @AnthonyBurg That's maybe one of the direct problems, but we won't allow comment debates just because there are no other comments they're obscuring.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 31 at 23:00
  • @AnthonyBurg Your comments on this answer are completely inappropriate after the first one. Do not make substantial debates in the comments especially over theological differences. You cannot ask for a rejoinder on every verse mentioned in an answer. Vote it down and move on. Or ask follow up questions for each of those verses.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 31 at 23:03
  • See, the problem is this is your personal opinion. I'm asking for clarification. The question makes an argument from verse after verse. So how is it 'completely inappropriate'? Mar 31 at 23:09
  • I also don't understand what you mean by "You cannot ask for a rejoinder on every verse" and then "Ask follow up questions for each of those verses". ? Mar 31 at 23:19
  • @AnthonyBurg I meant that you can't demand the author to reply to your comments on each verse. You can ask follow up questions, but the author is under no compulsion to answer them.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 31 at 23:20
  • Why would you ask a general question on SE if you're asking clarification from a specific answerer? That sounds ridiculous to me. Mar 31 at 23:23
  • How can you 'demand' replies? It's up to the answerer to answer or not. Mar 31 at 23:24
  • BTW, I in no way was asking about every verse in that example. I was being quite choosy. Mar 31 at 23:27
  • @AnthonyBurg Sure, I may have exagerated. But you were still asking Dottard lots of questions. You even started interrogating him about James 1:17, which wasn't mentioned in his answer and isn't even relevant to the question! (IMO)
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 31 at 23:30
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    @AnthonyBurg Call it whatever you want, just stop doing it. And if you think I'm abusing my powers as a mod, feel free to contact SE staff. I feel like I've explained my position here enough now, so I'll bow out now.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 31 at 23:33
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    @AnthonyBurg They're for everyone to read. Have you never seen an answer, thought initially that it was good, then saw a comment pointing out that the crucial plank in the argument was completely unsupported by textual evidence? And sorry if the guidelines seem vague, but they feel pretty clear to me. If you comment asking for clarification, sources, or to point out a factual error, you're all good. If you write more than one comment arguing against the answer you're not.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 31 at 23:39
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    Maybe here's a rule of thumb: Try to leave just one comment for the author (between comments of theirs). If you can address several small things in one comment, fine. If you think of something after the edit time is up, delete the earlier comment and combine it with the new issue. If you have too much to write in one comment, then you probably need to condense it to focus on only the most important things.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 31 at 23:48

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