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Comments are widely used (and misused IMO) for different reasons. At times they are real answers or elaborations of answers, at others they are used just to express personal impressions on questions or answers. Most useful and interesting comments usually receive a good numbers of up-votes and become part of the answers they relate to. But what about unconstructive or unuseful comments? Why don't we have the possibility of downvoting them instead of having to argue about their unhelpful content. In short, if comments ( like questions and answers) have the dignity of being upvoted or flagged, why not that of being downvoted too.

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    This is probably better asked on Meta.StackExchange, but I imagine the answer is to promote a positive atmosphere and ameliorate bickering and possibly to encourage contributions from people who otherwise refrain from posting answers for fear of being downvoted (or to mitigate fear generally). The reason comments have the "dignity" (so called!) of being flagged is specifically so that non-constructive or inflammatory comments can be removed. In general, I've enjoyed that comments can't be downvoted. – Dan Bron Nov 26 '14 at 15:11
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    Yeah, there are a couple of related questions on Meta.SE. – Dan Bron Nov 26 '14 at 15:17
  • @Mari-LouA - your comments are rarely unuseful -- so you think there is no point in making comments downvotable!!! – user66974 Nov 27 '14 at 7:31
  • I don't think they would make a great deal of difference in the end. If they are unconstructive and/or obsolete I will flag them, and the mods usually have deleted them. Especially after the election, I have since found my flags are taken more in consideration. Before the election, many of my flags on comments were "declined" or "disputed". Maybe I have become more discerning, or experienced with age—who knows? It's rare that I see comments which are offensive, but users should immediately flag them as such. Offensive comments are removed pretty fast. – Mari-Lou A Nov 27 '14 at 7:35
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It's not possible to do this because Stack Exchange administration has decided it's not needed. See this Meta SE post: Allow downvoting comments. So discussion here is unlikely to make a difference.

That said, I agree with Josh61 that it would be beneficial to be able to downvote comments. Flagging only seems appropriate to me for comments that are obviously rude or non-constructive. I don't think flagging is right for comments that present information that at first appears to be correct, but then turns out to be wrong: these require too much subjective evaluation to be flagged for deletion. (Just like incorrect but valid answers.) It also doesn't seem right to delete all comments that present controversial but valid opinions. (And I don't think the mods would do this).

Yes, people can respond to comments like these with new comments, but in order for this to be helpful it has to either convince the original poster to delete the unhelpful comment (which is rare) or gain enough attention and upvotes to appear alongside the unhelpful comment in the collapsed view of comments. The second scenario can be difficult when addressing comments on old or rarely viewed questions.

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The following answer only applies to the main site. Meta is expected to have discussion, so comments tend to be treated differently here.

Comments are not like answers or questions. They are not meant to last. If you see a comment that is unhelpful then please flag it so that it may be deleted.

Upvoting of comments is there, ideally, to raise the signal to noise ratio of comments. Comments with up votes will be seen above those without if there are 5 or more comments. Once a comment has been actioned it should be deleted. If you see a comment that has been actioned, then please flag it as obsolete.

If people stopped treating comments as a place to have a chat, then there would be less of a problem. (I mean, we have chat rooms for chat.)

Comments should only be made to comment on how to improve a post. If you feel you are getting into an argument then take it to chat. If you feel like you need to make a joke, take it to chat. Don't be surprised if a comment of yours gets deleted.

Comments don't get downvotes because they shouldn't stick around long enough to need them.

  • People are not going to stop using comments as a place to have a chat. Case in point :) – Dan Bron Nov 26 '14 at 15:24
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    feature-request Please can I have downvotes for Dan Bron comments? :Þ – Matt E. Эллен Nov 26 '14 at 15:28
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    I suppose it's inevitable that on average mods will think users post far too many irrelevant chatty comments, because you guys get the donkey work of tidying up afterwards. But I assume the fact that we don't get castigated on a daily basis means the current level of "off topic" comments isn't intolerable. As to OP's specific request, if I disagree with a comment (one which doesn't justify flagging for mod attention), I think it's quite enough to post a "counter-comment" and see if that attracts more upvotes than the original. Actual downvoting of comments is completely unnecessary. – FumbleFingers Nov 26 '14 at 15:33
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    Flagging comments is useless. I've flagged 95 questions/answers and only 6 of them have been declined; meanwhile, I've flagged 19 comments and 10 of them have been declined. Moderators just don't like to delete inflammatory, disrespectful, or snide comments for some reason. – phenry Nov 26 '14 at 16:59
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    @phenry Possibly, or possibly they have a different opinion of what constitutes "inflammatory, disrespectful, or snide". I think outright censorship of someone's voice should be reserved for the most egregious cases, but then that's my personal political leaning. – Dan Bron Nov 26 '14 at 17:32
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    @DanBron: also people are not going to stop using chat for screwing around talking about things having absolutely nothing to do with the subject, the site, or anything at all. Except when they do. Anarchy lives!! – Mitch Nov 26 '14 at 19:47
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    @phenry I'm sorry to hear that you disagree with our decisions on your comment flags. I can tell you that we delete about 20 comments per day between us (us being the mods), so I don't really agree that comment flags are useless. I do think that we could delete more considering the name calling part of the "Be Nice" policy. That's something to work on. – Matt E. Эллен Nov 26 '14 at 23:51
  • For me, the most awkward aspect of the "Be Nice" policy isn't exactly "name-calling" in the sense of "You are an idiot!". It's the boundary between "What you just cited was rubbish" (normally acceptable to me, since it only undermines the reference), and "What you just wrote (your own words) was rubbish" (not acceptable, since it undermines the addressee). – FumbleFingers Nov 27 '14 at 16:03
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    I agree (kinda) with @phenry. Offensive behavior is not dealt with assertively here. One user responded to my comments (disagreement) with comments about his foreskin, or masturbation (the threads involved icebergs and 'big words' respectively.) My flags were ignored for days. A mod did join a chat room where I was trying to get said user to stop and finally addressed this, though. Look at the recent edit kerfuffle in meta. I think some mods are too reluctant to risk offending the offender. That's my only complaint though. Flagging isn't useless, but the mods aren't tough enough (imo). – anongoodnurse Nov 28 '14 at 6:26
  • @medica did this happen before the recent mod election? Although I have had three flags ignored for weeks b/c I had notified an irregularity in one user's question. Eventually someone looked into it. I have no idea if any action was taken. Let me add however that the user I flagged hasn't repeated the irregularity (AFAIK). – Mari-Lou A Nov 29 '14 at 6:58
  • @Mari-LouA - yes, it was prior to the recent election. But I've had other occasional comments (even worse than those) that I've flagged that were not acted upon until I rounded up a mod (for one comment about a week or more later) and asked why those comments had not been deleted. I do want to say that when I address a mod directly, they have been very good about removing offensive comments. Obviously, I try not to do that except for really bad/worrisome situations. I also have taken up the topic of sexual harassment briefly with SE mods, who acknowledge its existence. – anongoodnurse Nov 29 '14 at 7:23
  • @medica well it's good that when you directly contact a mod action is taken, but not so good that you need to do this. The few offensive/vulgar comments (excluding posts) I have flagged have been dealt with pretty swiftly in my experience, but the comments were not aimed at me personally. Should that make a difference? I don't see why it should. – Mari-Lou A Nov 29 '14 at 7:29
  • @Mari-LouA - No, it shouldn't make a difference, and I think flags are being handled more quickly. I guess what it might boil down to post-election is what do the mods think is flag-worthy. – anongoodnurse Nov 29 '14 at 7:34

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