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I know that the official policy of Joel/SE is that comments are ephemeral and subject to unlimited deletion at a mere wish of a moderator.

However, I feel that deleting comments - which leaves ZERO backup of the comment data behind - is a very unthoughtful and ungratious thing to do to the users.

My problem is not with the deletion per se, but with the fact that the commenter(s) may have - as I have been known to do - spent HOURS researching material and polishing wording to put into comments. Wiping out that effort with zero option of recovery is basically a sound slap in the face of a person having spent the time and effort.

If possible I would request that the moderators adopt one of the two approaches, when deleting a comment thread that is not 100% clearly filled with junk only:

  1. Somehow back up the data in the comments (by forcing into a new chat room? I'm not familiar enough with SE tech to know if there's a good solution).

    This need not be permanent - again, only a temporary backup to make sure people who put in the effort in compiling research and wording can recover it, to post as an asnwer/edit/question/blog post/whatnot.

  2. Warn the commenters that the thread is about to be deleted, allowing them to back up the data.

    I realize that some comment threads are in possible need of an ASAP cleaning (e.g. when they degenerate into offensive language/name calling etc...). But a vast majority of threads that are deleted are merely "too discussiony", and not real-time-offensive, therefore allowing a grace period before deletion shouldn't be problematic.

  • BTW, this is not an exaggregation. I had a comment thread that had at least 2-3 hours work of mine get wiped out on another site, because someone else was not being nice in the same thread. – user4012 Jan 31 '13 at 14:43
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    Technical note: Deleted comments are available to moderators, if something truly valuable was lost when a comment was deleted we can retrieve it. We can't undelete the comments, but we can certainly recover the content if need be. – yannis Jan 31 '13 at 14:46
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    @YannisRizos - Thanks, didn't know that. However, unless there's an official policy that such requests are welcome, I'd feel like a complete jerk if I had to bother a mod to retrieve my comments any time I need to decide if they are worth salvaging as a separate post :) [ first, it gives extra work to the mod, and second, it makes me sound like I want some special privilege at the cost of that work ]. If the policy gives EVERYONE equal access to deleted comments, it seems a lot better. – user4012 Jan 31 '13 at 14:49
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    I elaborated more in my answer, but it's beyond silly to put hours of work in to a comment thread. If you need to have that much of a discussion do it in chat or on some other forum. Comments on a question or answer are NOT the place. – JNK Jan 31 '13 at 15:02
  • @DVK We recently got the ability to restore deleted comments. – yannis Nov 2 '13 at 19:44
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The very effort that is being placed into comments would, most likely, be better positioned in an actual answer, rather than in comments. Comments are intended to be disposable - they are post-it notes.

More importantly, comments are, to the best of my knowledge, not indexed by google. As such, to the rest of the world, they don't exist.

For these reasons, a rebuttal answer is to be preferred to a comment. A comment is supposed to be for inclusion in a post. If it is not being accepted, a rebuttal post (even one which pulls similar facts as the original) is to be preferred.

  • FYI - There was a meta thread on SFF.SE recently - plenty of people owned up to posting comments when they don't feel that they have enough for a good answer. This is likely doubly true here. – user4012 Jan 31 '13 at 14:58
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    BTW, this is exactly what happened here recently - I posted a comment (BECAUSE I felt the info wasn't thorough enough for an answer), was told to make it as an answer, and then immediately criticized that that answer wasn't up to snuff. In a fairly rude form, too. – user4012 Jan 31 '13 at 15:00
  • Also, on History.SE, I was at least once chastized when i took a rebuttal would-be comment and posted it as an answer for "putting rebuttal in an answer". >:) – user4012 Jan 31 '13 at 15:05
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It sounds like you already know that comments are considered disposable and impermanent, so it seems silly to me that you would write something so important as a comment.

I always think of comments like a construction I build on a beach at low tide. I'm not going to build anything too crazy because I know it very likely will get washed away in the near future.

The whole point of a comment is to clarify or seek feedback on something in an actual post. I get the impression that if you are researching and thinking through your wording very carefully that you are using comments as a discussion forum, which is anathema to their purpose and the Stack Exchange network in general.

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