From Meta Stack Exchange, How do comments work?:

... . Comments are often used to ask for clarification on, suggest corrections to, and provide meta-information about posts. ... .

Usually, users who post lots of comments in the scope of above sentence are doing a great job by helping OPs improve their posts. On the other, frequently commenting means there will be a long tail of comments in those user's history if such comments are not latter deleted, which is what happens in many occasions:

In reality, many obsolete or chatty comments remain untouched due to the high volume of comments posted ...

What are the downsides of not deleting our own comments (specially the obsolete ones) in relation to how we maintain GIS SE and/or in relation to how we expect to keep the highest signal-to-noise ratio as possible?

Right now, I am more interested to know if there are disadvantages of keeping a long track of comments (i.e., not deleting them), rather than to discuss if such disadvantages (if they exist) overweight the benefits of commenting to provide feedback to OPs (which again, I consider to be a very important activity).


2 Answers 2


I don't usually bother deleting comments. When I do, it's usually for one of these reasons:

  • The comment includes inaccurate or misleading information. In this case, I delete it to prevent anyone from being confused or mislead.

  • The tone of the comment was overly harsh, judgmental, or mean. (I mean, who hasn't occasionally wanted to shout "Read the d--m manual!" while on GIS.SE?) When I delete such a comment, I try to replace it with something more constructive like, "It sounds like you want to change the symbology of a vector layer in QGIS. You may find it helpful to read the Style Manager section of the QGIS manual."

  • I misunderstood something in the original question. Maybe I asked for information that was actually provided, or made a suggestion that the OP actually had tried (and had mentioned it in the question).

Basically, I delete comments when I think they might confuse/mislead people, hurt someone's feelings, or make me look bad. Otherwise, I see no reason to bother.

I don't see any downside to having old comments still exist. I don't really see any upside either. In fact, the post-it analogy seems apropos. I have several old post-it notes scattered around my desk right now; they're not really in the way, and I'll probably throw them out next time I tidy up, but it's not a top priority.


Yes, obsolete comments are disruptive and can waste people's time if we unnecessarily read them thinking there is something important there. I believe it is also hard (in the sense it is time consuming) for moderators handling flags raised on obsolete comments (but not sure, not a mod).

On the other hand, it is cumbersome and boring coming back and revisiting all comments and decide which ones should be deleted. However, I think there is one situation that might be worthy doing that:

One of the scripts from the community user bot which automatically delete questions, the RemoveAbandonedQuestions script won't delete questions which have more than 1 comment (among other criteria). And in such cases, sometimes it is one comment of ours which is preventing an abandoned question to be deleted.

Therefore, my suggestion is that users revisit such comments and decide if corresponding questions should be purged or not. If it is a valid question, then edit it, upvote it, and/or answer it. Push it away from the auto-delete script. If it isn't (an off-topic or unclear question, for example) just delete the comment and it will go away in a few days.

Here is a query in Stack Exchange Data Explorer (SEDE) one will find questions in which their own comments are preventing those Qs from being deleted.

  • 1
    I had no idea that comments would prevent the bot from deleting abandoned questions. Still, that seems like it could be corrected on the bot end. Maybe the bot could delete a question with multiple comments after a certain amount of time has passed since the last comment. It might not be realistic to expect all site users to tidy up after themselves. If the person who wrote the abandoned question in the first place also wrote some of the comments, they're probably not going to bother.
    – csk
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 18:29
  • 1
    @csk, I agree. I proposed a feature-request in MSE exactly like you suggests: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/322197/…. It is kind of obvious, right? Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 19:10

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