A small feature request. I would be interested to hear what you think about the idea, and also practically if it would be possible to implement.

When you have placed a comment to an answer, you receive a five minute window in which you can make edits to the comment. If five minutes expire you can no longer make any edits. I think this is sensible and avoids confusion, for instance if someone comments, then a series of chain reaction comments ensue, if the original commenter then edits their comment substantially it could a make a nonsense of the following comments already made.

The point of this meta question however concerns the last comment made on an answer. The last comment someone has made does not have the quality of being able to throw into confusion any other comments if edited.

Currently if you are the last to comment and wish to edit the comment after the five minute window (e.g. 6 minutes, 10 minutes later etc.,) then you have to delete your comment and post it again.

This creates no confusion as there are no comments after the comment you are reposting.

On the surface this might seem not important. Yet, if you are in the process of editing your comment three minutes into the five minute window, you might spend 3-4 minutes on the edit - especially if it is a complicated comment (involving hyperlinks etc). Then you click submit and are told it is too late to edit.

You then need to copy the comment. Click off the comment. Delete the comment. Create a new comment. Paste your comment. Press add comment.

Also from a pure principle of use point of view it seems to me that the deadline for editing comments should be removed from the last comment to an answer.

What does the community think?

  • 3
    I like the idea, but what guarantee do you have that yours is the last comment? Somebody else might be typing up a comment at the same time, and what if they post it? So when should the time limit for editing your comment start then? – NVZ May 18 '17 at 10:45
  • @NVZ My thinking is the system would check it at the point of applying the edit. So when you click 'Save Edit' , the system checks if this comment is still the last comment, if it is it applies the edit regardless of timestamp, but if the comment is not the last in the list, then it reverts back to the regular 5 minute rule. – Gary May 18 '17 at 12:15
  • 5
    1) I don't see the problem that you are trying to fix. What is the actual thing that you can't do now? 2) you already provided an alternative yourself 3) This seems like an issue for the entire SE system, not just ELU. Have you tried this question on meta.SE? – Mitch May 18 '17 at 13:47
  • @Mitch There was already a discussion (not feature request) about this on the main meta here. – Laurel May 18 '17 at 22:41
  • @Laurel Whether discussion or feature request, this question is essentially a duplicate of the existing meta.SE? – Mitch May 18 '17 at 22:48
  • @Mitch No, it probably wouldn't get closed as duplicate (see here). But the answers would be similar. – Laurel May 18 '17 at 22:55
  • @Mitch it is not about adding non existent functionality, but about improving a cumbersome process. There is no reason at all I can see, why there is a deadline on editing the last comment in a series of comments. What purpose does this deadline serve? Why should I go through 5 steps to edit my comment that has lapsed past 5 minutes, when instead if this functionality existed I could simply edit the comment directly. That's the point of this suggestion.The fact you can delete the comment and start a new one, means if you did this, it would be semantically indifferent to editing the original - – Gary May 19 '17 at 12:33
  • Because there is no comment flow as the comment in question is the last comment in the list, so why have a 5 minute deadline on editing? – Gary May 19 '17 at 12:34
  • 1
    @Gary That's not how the development of the feature happened. You're lucky you have an editing feature at all. First they came up with the idea of adding comments. They're added in order of time (that sounds empty, and is). Then they added the possibility of deleting your comment (very easy to implement). Then they added the feature of editing your comment (you could have deleted and then resubmitted). Then they put the time limit on it so that people couldn't come back hours/months later and change things (to subvert a dialog by making things say something different). – Mitch May 19 '17 at 13:26
  • 1
    @Gary Maybe it would be easier for you if they removed editing altogether, then it's just two steps if you make an error, delete and resubmit. – Mitch May 19 '17 at 13:27
  • @Mitch Not really. Then an edit would require: copy.. delete... new comment... paste... edit... submit ; instead of edit... save comment // Secondly this isn't about 'me' it's about the community, hence 'meta stack exchange'. Thirdly luck has nothing to do with anything. I'm talking about a feature improvement. You're lucky to be alive on that usage of the word luck, but what has that got to do with the current discussion? – Gary May 19 '17 at 13:51
  • @Gary Since you're talking about the community, are you sure this wouldn't be better on meta.SE? Or do you really just expect this for just ELU? – Mitch May 19 '17 at 15:21
  • 1
    @Mitch While it is a thing applicable to all of SE network, it is perfectly fine to ask in a meta site the user is familiar with. – NVZ May 19 '17 at 15:58
  • @Mitch I really don't see you adding anything useful to the discussion here. I detect a sense of superiority in your comments which is no doubt misplaced, you also seem to be trying to antagonize with your comments, which while not working, is similarly not moving the discussion forward. – Gary May 20 '17 at 7:52
  • OK, well thanks all. It appears that the community has spoken, and most feel this is not an idea they would like to see implemented. In that case I'll accept Tim's answer below, which attracted the most up-votes and appears to be aligned with the community consensus on the matter. – Gary May 21 '17 at 12:37

Personally, I think this is a bad idea both practically and theoretically.

Practically, it adds complexity for no reason. If somebody else comments while you are in the process of editing your comment, then by definition yours is no longer the last, so you will gain no benefit. If not, there is no reason to alter your comment that did not exist before, so you could have spent longer writing your comment before posting it.

And theoretically, this goes against the whole raison d'etre of Stack Exchange. Comments are for pointing out something relevant or for asking for clarification of the question; they are absolutely not for 'contributing to the debate'. If that is what you want, you should either start a chatroom (which were designed specifically for that purpose) or try one of the dozens (hundreds?) of internet forums where a comment responding to the latest comment will be welcome. Stack Exchange is not one of the latter, but a question and answer site; the largest typeface on the first help page is for the important point "Ask questions, get answers, no distractions". The five-minute grace period for comments was introduced to allow the correction of typos; anyone using it to continue a discussion without triggering a 'comment chain too long, moved to chat' is misusing the feature.

  • The complexity is only on the side of the developers, it's transparent to users. Further there is a reason as I believe I've articulated just fine in my question. It is to improve on a tedious process of editing the last comment in a comment chain when the 5 minute window of editing has lapsed. – Gary May 19 '17 at 12:36
  • Interesting to read your answer Tony. Regarding why you might want to edit a comment. You may have made a typographical error. You may have pasted a hyperlink incorrectly. You may want to add an additional link (e.g. you find a better duplicated question match). Yes, yes, I understand there is an argument for checking the comment and getting it right in the first place. But we are busy people and mistakes happen. If they didn't there wouldn't be any edit functionality required in the first place. – Gary May 19 '17 at 12:43

Your question (by your own explanatory statements) is not related to the scope or content of comments but only seeks to simplify the steps / effort required to edit a comment after the expiry of 5 minutes. I have experienced exactly what you described in terms of editing a comment and finding that 5 minutes has elapsed, therefore having to copy and paste the edit as a new comment and delete the earlier comment to clean up. It is only slightly laborious, IMHO, but I can understand that your suggestion is meant to smoothen the 'flow' of the user experience.

I am sure you are aware that we can delete any of our own comments at any time, which by itself is sufficient to throw confusion upon the comments that follow. Deleting a comment which was in the middle of a 'discussion / debate' can create as much confusion as editing it. Hence I don't think there is any real reason for specially allowing the editing of the last comment alone, after a specified time period. If editing is to be allowed beyond 5 minutes, then editing all comments could be permitted without setting any time limit.

Why then did the democratic process at StackExchange in all its collective wisdom set such a limit on editing comments? The senior member has already set out the major reasons in the earlier answer, of which I am mainly convinced by the following (theoretical) point:

And theoretically, this goes against the whole raison d'etre of Stack Exchange. Comments are for pointing out something relevant or for asking for clarification of the question; they are absolutely not for 'contributing to the debate'. -- TimLymington (extract; see earlier answer for details)

I also infer (again as stated in the earlier answer) that we are meant to edit the comments only to remove typographic errors, or clarify the point, and not to substantially change the content. If 5 minutes have passed after commenting, we shall have no choice but to delete and re-comment. IT WOULD SEEM that StackExchange is telling us, think before you comment! Even if unintended, it is an effective way of discouraging impulsive and possibly inflammatory comments, especially on sensitive issues.

Now I shall try to consider a few other, practical problems with actually allowing the editing of 'the last comment' after 5 minutes:

(1) this is possibly the most serious: simply editing the last comment after a few hours without fresh responses may provoke a fresh round of discussion / debate, which is not the intended purpose of comments, as already highlighted in the previous answer.

(2) if the last comment was rather contentious, or very interesting, or even simply if someone woke up 6 hours later in a different time zone, somebody might well be composing a delayed response even as you are busily editing your 'last comment'. Now, if that response is posted a fraction earlier, your edit will be automatically denied because yours is no longer the last comment, as has been noted in the earlier answer. (On the other hand...)

(3) if that 'delayed response' to your last comment happens to be posted just after your edit was allowed, then there is a good chance that much confusion will ensue because somebody responded to something in your comment that you (unknowingly) changed by editing it a moment before they (unknowingly) posted their comment!

In either case, the purpose will not be served. And what if some sort of entirely avoidable chain reaction of comments were to occur over such a misunderstanding? I have actually seen that happen here over some controversial topics. That is exactly why no more 'contesting the ball' is allowed in rugby union after the referee has blown the whistle.

So I hope you will understand why it was left simple as we do it now!

  • I see many contradictions here. (1) is irrelevant as far as I can see, as you have mentioned a user can simply delete their comment and enter a new comment, so the problem you describe in (1) is not created by this suggested improvement to the current process it already exists. (2) If the comment was contentious... someone may be composing a delayed response, this goes against the ethos you've already articulated "Comments are for pointing out something relevant... they are absolutely not for 'contributing to the debate". (3) this equally applies if someone chooses to delete their comment. – Gary May 19 '17 at 12:40
  • @Gary it is unfortunate but true, irrespective of the site's lofty intentions, that many of us have misused the comments section for discussion and debate! You are also completely right to point out that copying, reposting and deleting the original comment works just the same as editing a comment, and all the problems and confusions in (1) (2) & (3) will occur in either case. It's just that the site wants us to avoid impulsive, loose or badly thought-out comments in the first place as in think before you comment. So that's probably the only use of putting a restriction on editing comments! – English Student May 20 '17 at 5:51
  • @Gary (cont'd.) In short, deleting any comment can introduce confusion and the time limit on editing any comment is easily circumvented by editing, copying and re-posting it as a new comment, though this, too can create confusion. However, by the same logic, your feature request to remove the 5 minute time limit on editing need not be restricted to the last comment, but can be extended to all comments! – English Student May 20 '17 at 5:59
  • May I also add that the author of the post is notified each and every time someone posts a comment underneath their post, and after a day or two it get's to be annoying to receive notification after notification when the comments are not directly connected to your post. One solution, for those users who find themselves in a similar predicament, is to tell users to lay off, in a polite fashion. – Mari-Lou A May 20 '17 at 6:08
  • When this doesn't work, and sometimes it doesn't, users can flag their own posts and ask the mods to intervene and do a general clean-up. Now, I don't want to do this, because some of the comments are interesting and informative,e.g the "She bear" video link, which I really liked, is related to the question but not related to the answer I posted. I would like that to remain, along with a few other comments, but now the trail is getting ridiculously long. – Mari-Lou A May 20 '17 at 6:10
  • @Mari-Lou A you are right again, as you (almost) always are; it is a lucky and very useful thing that you are not only empowered but also willing to take appropriate corrective action, and in a nice way too! I think human beings are naturally predisposed not only to love and war but also to discussion and argument, and we routinely indulge in it within the comments section, ignoring the real purpose of comments; but I didn't realise that every comment would be notified to you as well, thinking that only the addressed person would be informed. And I do understand how annoying it can be! – English Student May 20 '17 at 16:25

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