I have noticed that the site prompts two uses of the comment boxes: one, to clarify the question/answer; two, to indicate why one down-voted.

I wonder if it would be more to the advantage of the site and its goals to reserve the comments boxes for clarification of the Q & A's and for direct instructions that would help the contributor improve the Q/A.

  1. This would magnify the "Q & A only" aspect of the forum: that would be all one really encounters--Q & A (rather than discussion).

  2. The site would present itself as more friendly: it would be devoid of the appearance of shallow arguing.

  3. The quality of the communications would be improved--instead of quick thoughts or reflections being tossed back and forth, it would require opposing perspectives be framed in a well thought out answers.

  4. Better balance would be achieved for the answers as opposing sides or camps of an issue, would be endeavoring to present logically, clearly and thoroughly from their camp.

  5. Facts would be easier to find and more easily identified.

  6. It will be more clear to those who contribute that quality work is welcome and valued even if it comes from an unpopular camp, so long as it is in keeping with the goals and boundaries of the forum.

  7. Ways to improve will be highlighted.

Therefore, could we consider an overhaul of the comments, to weed out and encourage the community to present well thought out answers instead?


While this is an attitude I think regular contributors especially need to pay attention to both when authoring comments and when flagging them for cleanup, I don't think it is rule we can enforce in any way without ruining features that are required for the site to function properly.

One of the basic features provided by the SE engine is peer review. Obviously the primary mechanism for this is voting and the comment system is just a supplement to that. What you are proposing is equivalent of only having an upvote feature with no downvote feature. While this would provide some sorting mechanism in the same way that facebook "likes" express content popularity, it neuters the system by removing its real power: the ability for users to curate. Rather than a perpetual popularity contest, we actually want to be able to say "this content is wrong / not useful / not what we're looking for here". Taking away the downvote feature would take away this voice from the community.

Not allowing critical comments that point out flaws in a post would essentially do the same thing. At the very least it would amplify the one largest complaint people have with the voting system: unexplained downvotes! If anything we want to encourage people to leave comments when downvoting. This allows us to basically peer review the peer review process.

If you see comments that are NOT constructive in tone or content feel free to flag them. I would encourage the whole community to be aggressive in flagging comments that are less constructive than they should be. If there are valid points brought up in a comment but the comment itself is needlessly disparaging or personal rather than addressing the content, feel free to add a replacement comment that handles the situation better and flag the other one for deletion.

As you say, there is a chance here to set a constructive tone but I disagree that this can be done without the freedom to be critical.

  • May we talk about this? I wonder if I did not express myself clearly in what I proposed here. I do not advocate for not allowing critical comments at all. I advocate for showing one's work in comments as well. Comments that specify what does not work about an answer and why, can be addressed or edits made to improve the answer (and hence the site). Ones that simply fly in disagreeing or taking a contrary stance with no support are too easy to make and they make the site appear immature and nonprofessional. Contrary views should be posed as well thought out supported answers.
    – user2027
    Dec 13 '13 at 22:13

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