Recently, this came up in a discussion:

I think we need to try and break this norm of answers from X viewpoint always being besieged with comments. It must be exasperating.

All depending on the circumstances, it could qualify as harassment.

The trend doesn't seem to be associated with any one viewpoint, but is about a line between viewpoints, usually on Bible passages that somehow relate to the doctrine of the Trinity—for or against, interpreted this way or that way, those passages.

This is the pattern:

  1. Either a question or an answer slightly relates to a text or hermeneutically-driven interpretation that fits a more in-depth discussion on Christianity.SE.
  2. The question or answer gets swarmed with comments that attempt to hold that discussion.

We need to avoid number 2 and keep the discussion on Hermeneutics. The status quo is filling up the queues.

Question or Answer?

There is a fundamental difference if the question itself is loaded. One example could be This question about John 8 v24 cf v58.

Is the ego eimi (I am) in John 8:58 and John 8:28 the same?

John 8:28[ASV] Jesus, therefore, said, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things

John 8:58[ASV] Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I am.

Fortunately, that one didn't get swarmed with viewpoint comments. If it had been asked in the last few months, it probably would have gotten a lot of comment-related flags.

How to identify viewpoint swarming

The actual question or answer is probably not the source of the comments. But, it might invite a swarm of comments if it is not clear enough. So, we need to consider:

  • Clarity in the question or answer
  • Staying focused on the topic of hermeneutics

If a post crosses the line of being swarmed by viewpoint-related comments, we need to look deeper and figure out the source. Even if the post could have been more clear, comments need to focus on clarity, not swarming over a viewpoint.

What else can be said about this?

Are there any useful examples of posts we can learn from?

How might we go about identifying these early to avoid them?

How should we respond as a community when we see that we have crossed this line?

  • Had some positive support about this from one user in a comment.
    – Jesse Mod
    Jan 4, 2023 at 0:40

2 Answers 2


This is an issue that has been on my mind for a while, as we've encountered a number of recent instances where site users seem to be 'chased' in the Comments from post to post, with each contribution being debated and ultimately devalued. This is clearly affecting the user experience of the site and discouraging many from contributing, which goes against the ethos of Stack Exchange. The whole point of a Q&A site is that there can be many different answers - you're not supposed to argue in the comments about why one Answer is wrong, but rather write a better Answer or upvote/downvote content according to its usefulness.

It's great that we have an increasing diversity of viewpoints on the stack, but that must go hand-in-hand with a tolerance of that diversity, where users are supportive of there being a range of viewpoints. It's not okay for users to be routinely targeted or harassed because of theirs or others' viewpoints.

What about using Comments to explain hermeneutics?

However, the counterbalance is that we are all about high-quality exegetical analysis of texts, and some site users don't have a good grasp of exegetical principles, or disagree about their importance. It's okay to explain these principles in order to help others. But practically, we have a great stack of Meta articles on these topics, and if they aren't cutting the mustard for day-to-day usage then we need to enhance them or write better ones. Where we have deep ideological disagreements over different hermeneutics (e.g. literal, allegorical, anagogical) those should really be happening over on Meta, or possibly Chat if it's purely between two users.

Using the right features for the right jobs

Essentially, unless an Answer is legitimately Not An Answer or Very Low Quality, if you don't like it then 95% of the time there's no need to Comment just for the sake of it - just move on without upvoting it. If it's obviously unhelpful, downvote it. But pestering it in the Comments just because you don't agree with its approach or conclusion isn't how the site is intended to work. So if you see this happening, please do raise a flag so that we can get this sorted out.

Thanks so much to everybody who's already doing a great job flagging content and Comment issues across the site - it takes a Community effort to keep the site on-track, and for everybody who has been concerned about changes in how these features are being used, please do know that most other regular participants want to see this improve as well.

I think there should be another Meta forthcoming to capture more clearly how Comments should be used on the site, so hopefully that can be a great touchstone to point people to when they're struggling to figure it out.

  • 2
    you're not supposed to argue in the comments about why one Answer is wrong
    – Jesse Mod
    Dec 20, 2022 at 23:54
  • 2
    @Jesse I appreciate where users articulate why they think my answer is wrong (even if they do that for the sake of vexation). That approach allows answers to be more self-contained than if clarifications were scattered all over the post, and it gives me the opportunity to showcase the robustness of my answer and/or explain the flaws in those commenters' rationale. To me their criticism would go unnoticed if they post it in a separate answer, since I usually don't keep up-to-date with posts unless someone tags me. Dec 24, 2022 at 13:14
  • 2
    @IñakiViggers commenting on your post to you about your answer, yes. But, debating other users or starting a swarm of comments won't help you with that. We want the criticism to be right there, easy for you to find.
    – Jesse Mod
    Dec 24, 2022 at 13:37

Let’s return to Stack Exchange first principles regarding comments.

I believe that if we, that is, the community, follow SE’s comment guidance, and the moderators enforce it, this problem solves itself. The privileges page for commenting tells us when and why we may leave comments:

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;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

What you describe here as “viewpoint swarming” doesn’t fit into any of these reasons. It is not a coincidence that this idea of view point swarming seems consistent with several of the “when shouldn’t I comment” reasons:

When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);
  • Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, downvote (and provide or upvote a better answer if appropriate);
  • Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;

I’ve omitted the irrelevant points above, and the ones that remain all relate to the idea of viewpoint swarming. For the first bullet, comments to the effect of "Well actually it is..." are clearly in violation. Competing answers should be put in answers, not comments. For the second bullet, comments to the effect of "this answer could be improved by saying the exact opposite" are not constructive. And for the third, comments are not for debating the answer. If you disagree with an answer, and any comment you might leave just amounts to stating your disagreement, don't comment; just vote and move on, and possibly write an answer of your own.

Enforcement and curation.

This is where it gets a bit sticky. On the front end, much of the enforcement of this will fall to the moderators. Conventional users are limited to flagging comments and comment sections needing clean up, and it is up to the moderators to review the thread and clean up. I say "on the front end" because I do believe that over time, active enforcement and reminders from aware community members will change the "comment culture", as it were, of the stack. This means that in addition to flagging impertinent threads, we need to be reminding users of what comments are for and not for; linking to the privileges page should be sufficient for this. Eventually, we will see the culture shift toward using comments for what they're supposed to be for.

  • We have been discussing your RPG site's meta post, Why are site comments being deleted?.
    – Jesse Mod
    Dec 19, 2022 at 18:14
  • @Jesse While I am not the author of that post, I do agree with our general approach to comments at RPG. Dec 19, 2022 at 19:22
  • Is it much of a problem? Have there been changes or improvements, or does it manage itself well?
    – Jesse Mod
    Dec 19, 2022 at 23:39
  • 1
    @Jesse The comment practices at RPG predate me by many years. Our current comment guidance was set in 2011 - 2013, and we haven’t really had many discussions around comments since. We had this one in early 2021, and my opinion is that we’ve done much better with that particular issue. Overall, I think we maintain some of the tidiest comment sections on the network. Dec 19, 2022 at 23:54
  • Thanks for your thoughts Thomas, I appreciate your contributions here on BH.SE! I think there is a strong willingness from the site mods and most on the site to improve our comment culture.
    – Steve can help Mod
    Dec 20, 2022 at 9:41

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