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Comments are ephemeral by nature, and a lot of them get deleted everyday on different sites. (See this)

I stumble upon old questions sometimes, which contain some comments, naturally. I know I can easily flag Martin's welcome comment as obsolete, or "thanks" comments as too chatty, but what should I do to ones that contain useful content?

  • Edit them into the post they're under, which seems to be the recourse SE prefers. But how should I format them?
  • Leave them be, which I would normally do, but that would negate why I'm asking this. Let me explain below.
  • Flag them for deletion, without any other action which is an option I don't like. These comments are really useful.

I ask this because at times there are "Y U DELETE MY COMMENTZ MODERATORZ" meta posts with different levels of ranting built in, and the ultimate response is that comments tend to not matter and are delete-able. If there was any info worth preserving, it should've been edited in the question.

Thus, the first option is what I prefer, because it preserves content. I'm, however, at a loss on how to proceed since I don't know our stance on this and how exactly useful comments should be edited in the post.

What do y'all think? Of course, I won't flood the "Active" tab with numerous edits, and I recommend users against doing so.

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    $\begingroup$ "Y U DELETE MY COMMENTZ MODERATORZ" Aw, M.A.R., you didn't quote me? I thought this was one of my best lines. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Mar 29 '17 at 2:19
  • $\begingroup$ I actually don't remember what you said. o.o $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Mar 29 '17 at 10:16
  • $\begingroup$ I just had a comment deleted that I was fond of and got testy. Pullin' your leg. :-) $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Mar 29 '17 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry if nobody wants to hear more about comment answers but that's my personal biggest frustration with old comments. I like cleaning up old posts with answers where I can (feeds my OCD ;) but when I browse old "unanswered" posts anymore, I expect to find that they've actually been answered in comments. Sometimes the comment can be converted to an answer without feeling like I'm "comment jacking" someone else's comment into my answer, but usually not. You didn't mention this in your question though, so is it just me? $\endgroup$ – airhuff Mar 29 '17 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Airhuff oh, I never thought of those, because I pictured a thread with one question and a couple of answers, one of which is accepted. It's not just you, but I don't think the problem of comment-answers is as prevalent here as other communities I participate in. Of course, the boilerplate response is turning the comment into an answer, turning the answer into Community-Wiki if you don't want the rep, and link the answer in chat so we can upvote and it gets out of the unanswered list. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Mar 29 '17 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, Community-Wiki probably is a good solution for a lot of those. Anyway, thx for the good question and ideas! $\endgroup$ – airhuff Mar 29 '17 at 16:48
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Comments are not forever, that is true. However, comments are also there to serve a purpose: this purpose being criticising the post or suggesting an edit etc. As long as the comment has served its purpose (which is about ten minutes after posting for thanks comments) they are free to be deleted.

However, as long as a comment has not served its purpose and cannot reasonably be edited into the posting without changing OP’s intentions or OP’s apparant knowledge, it should be allowed to stay.

Thus, in line with ortho’s answer, they may be left.

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I guess there are two extreme positions that we could take with regards to the issue of comments.

  1. All comments should be incorporated into the post (if necessary), and deleted.

  2. We should never delete any comments.


However, neither of these positions are tenable.

See, for example, my question about tetravalent sulfur oxidations: What are the practical differences between the various DMSO oxidations (Swern, etc.)?1 The comments are all giving me very good suggestions. However, they also cannot reasonably be edited into my question without making me sound stupid, because these comments belong in the answer section. So, those comments are probably there to stay, unless and until somebody writes up an answer incorporating all the information there. If you are not equipped with the resources to write up such an answer, there is nothing you can do about it.

On the other hand, we do not want to keep all comments. It has the potential to become a huge mess and often detracts from the content that is being discussed. This is a bigger issue on big sites, but despite this, you don't see big sites deleting all comments. See for example Academia: they utilise the "move comments to chat" function quite regularly, and I am sure that they delete plenty of comments too, but not all of them.


So, we have to selectively remove comments that can be removed without a loss of information. Our "comments are temporary" stance is often used to justify deleting comments that have been rendered unnecessary. However, I don't think any of us could use it to justify deleting comments that are still useful.

Tl;dr Leave them, unless you are able to edit them into the question or write a new answer with them.


Note

(1) I have no shame in linking to it because it hasn't been answered and I would very much like an answer, even if it's a relatively short one. Pretty please?

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