I wonder why arguing in comments is not allowed on this Stack Exchange website.

Example: I was reading the answer https://health.stackexchange.com/a/4332/43 and saw:

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since all comments got deleted, I can't see which points of the answer might be questionable.

Believing that answer is incorrect isn't always enough to write a new answer. And using the chat isn't so convenient for the future readers of the answer.

On other Stack Exchange websites, it's common to argue in comments.

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  • I too don't understand why arguing in comment is bad, but if the only choice you have is to create a chat room, then for the sake of future readers, you can describe which point you see is bad in the comment, then link the chat room to it. – Ooker May 16 '16 at 4:30
  • @Ooker See my answer why comment arguments are bad, but I absolutely agree that lengthy discussions in chat should be moved to chat and a link to that chat should be posted by the mod who moved it. Silent deletions have been far too common here and they are not constructive. – Carey Gregory Jun 2 '16 at 23:29
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    Frank, I've not seen any SE site where lengthy arguments in comments are tolerated, and that includes much more tolerant ones than health. – Carey Gregory Jun 2 '16 at 23:30
  • @CareyGregory okay for lengthy arguments, but I disagree for short arguments. – Franck Dernoncourt Jun 3 '16 at 1:03
  • Show me a short argument. Where does this mythical beast exist? – Carey Gregory Jun 3 '16 at 1:04
  • @CareyGregory aren't we having short arguments right now? – Ooker Jun 3 '16 at 2:37
  • @Ooker Seven posts and growing. – Carey Gregory Jun 3 '16 at 14:14
  • @CareyGregory eight. So we have an example now. What's your point? – Ooker Jun 3 '16 at 14:32
  • Visit almost any web forum that allows unlimited debate and you'll see threads that live on for weeks, months, even years, and diverge so far from the original subject as to be unrecognizable. Typically, nobody actually even reads those threads other than the combatants, so they become nothing more than worthless noise.
  • The comments here are simple, crude things. They're purely sequential with no threading, so even knowing who is responding to what is difficult if it becomes more than a few comments long.
  • Above all, the model of StackExchange is question and answer, not discussion and debate. Good answers are voted up and rise to the top, poor answers are voted down and sink from view. It's a form of natural selection, and as flawed as it can be sometimes no system has ever been found that is superior to natural selection for producing the best results. Allowing arguments in comments would undermine and ultimately destroy that system. People would engage in endless debate and argument instead of voting, which means bad answers could remain on top being argued endlessly while good answers languish unseen.

Just downvote bad answers and post a comment explaining why. If the OP fixes their answer in response to your criticisms, great! Upvote them. If they choose to argue, either take the argument to chat or just ignore them and let your downvote do the talking.

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  • Regarding your first point,i have made a separate answer. You may want to see that – Ooker Jun 3 '16 at 3:41

Let's say that we all agree that believing the answer is bad is not enough to write a good answer, then the most important point in the question is: "using the chat isn't so convenient for the future readers of the answer".

I don't think that "nobody actually even reads those threads". There will somebody read it, it's natural to read a couple comments after you finish reading an answer before deciding to continue reading them or not. If the answer has some hidden incorrect points in it, those first couple comments will be valuable to point out that. We want the future readers to have the best information, therefore we need to encourage anyone who can point out any incorrect points in that, and we also need to make those points as visible as possible.

I think the solution has already existed by default. After several comments, the system will ask if we want to move to chat. This way, we save the first precious comments pointing out what is might not right in the answer, while removing the noise for someone who don't need to read it. It is different between throwing a link without any clue and throwing a link and explain why it is interesting.

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  • If a link is left in the comments to the chat discussion, as it always should be, future readers will have no problem finding it. When I encounter such links I rarely bother following them, and when I do I almost always find it's not worth reading. Useful debates tend to end rapidly and don't get moved to chat. The ones that go on endlessly are almost always useless. – Carey Gregory Jun 3 '16 at 14:14
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    @CareyGregory that sounds right. I agree with what you say, since it is also what I do. My point is that you need a couple first comments to actually see if the conversation is worth to follow or not. It's different between throwing a link without any clue for you and throwing a link and explain why it is interesting. – Ooker Jun 3 '16 at 14:31
  • Yes, I also often read the first few comments to see if the rest is worth reading. Leaving the beginning of an argument in comments and then just moving the "excess" comments to chat would be a nice compromise. – Carey Gregory Jun 3 '16 at 15:43

The pointlessness of endless debates in comments and alternative solutions have already been covered by other answers. In comments to your post you've also asked about short arguments, and you've actually picked a good example - the comment exchange was in fact short, but the mods had very good reason to delete it.

In this particular case, I (the writer of the example answer) wrote a paragraph (just the last one) unsupported by references. To make things worse, this was in an area where professionals tend to disagree (not that there is a general lack of professional consensus, but if you ask 3 doctors about it you might end up with 4 different opinions).

The comments:

Another user used a comment to:

  • Point out that I shouldn't make unreferenced claims (fair enough)
  • Make a refuting claim, which conveniently they didn't have to support by references, since the claim was in a comment
  • Lash out by using somewhat harsh language (not cool)

So, I edited out the disputed part, but used a comment to object to the tone of the previous comment and invite the other user to substantiate their claim. As far as I can remember, this is when the discussion was deleted, and it was a good call for the following reasons:

  1. These things tend to spiral out of control - an argument isn't an exchange of constructive and well supported arguments anymore, but it takes the other sense of the word - a verbal fight. Deleting the thread of comments immediately puts a stop to it.

  2. There was in fact an unsubstantiated claim in the comments. Agree with it or not, but there is a strong policy on references here, and if answering in comments isn't allowed, then letting unsubstantiated claims stand in the comments refuting an answer would be a path to letting people answer in comments, just not comments to the OP but under other people's answers. This would be a terrible practice and ending it before it begins is the right thing to do.

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First off arguing is not allowed probably because it's arguing. Arguing has negative connotations and usually involves some negative confrontation, things we don't want or need on this site. Help Center:

Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate); Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;

Second of all, the arguing depending on how heated would fill the comments blocking others and probably lack in usefulness after the first few rounds. Due to the "I said, you said" effect, just useless back and forth.

However, would a discussion be useful? Maybe. I think some discussions are helpful for a site such as this, but the fact that a lot of arguments start from discussions is not encouraging. Or that discussions tend to stray from the point and fill the page.

I think it would be better like mentioned in the comments to link the discussion to the comments or leave them for a short while if it is deemed important and their respectful and not argumentative. However, allowing arguments on other SE's doesn't mean we should allow them. Arguing isn't a positive behaviur and in other sites when it turns really negative and people get banned they get upset. Well, the no arguing rule was made to protect people from themselves. Just because other sites break them doesn't mean we should. This site has other issues beside arguing at the moment, let's not add them please.

But going back to your point, deleted comments do actually hold a lot of info so deleting them sometimes isn't the best action. Maybe having the option to minimize a discussion with a message of why it was minimized would be helpful. But right now that is not possible so going to chat and linking the discussion to comments and maybe the comments for a bit would be helpul.

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