A new system for moving comments to chat has been implemented. Basically, posts are auto-flagged if there are too many comments, enabling mods to copy all comments to a new chatroom (and then spend some time deleting what doesn't belong on both side [sic]).

While this system is less than what you could hope for in several ways, one thing stands out: "many" is defined to be twenty.

I don't think this is a good threshold for cs.SE; we have far shorter series of comments that I'd like to be able to move to chat, in particuar meta discussions that don't warrant a Meta post.

Shog9 from SE has proposed we collect discussions we would like to (have) move(d) so we can figure out what a good threshold for our site is.

  • $\begingroup$ a good tool would just leave it to mod discretion and not be one-size-fits-all. the system already hides non top-5 comments by default, dont really see what the major problem is. arent there other areas of se to finetune before this, which already works somewhat ok? $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 14 '14 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ It looks like the new feature is primarily for "move all comments to chat", and is less than ideal for "move a subset of comments to chat". Therefore, we might want to be careful about selecting a set of long comment threads for Shog9: if half of the comments shouldn't be moved to chat, then maybe that's not a good one to use for selecting our threshold. $\endgroup$ – D.W. Aug 14 '14 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ I think there are 3 situations: comments which should be incorporated into posts and then removed, comments which should be moved to chat, and comments which should remain as comments. It might be better to first decide what type of comments are useful/helpful for future readers of the posts but should not be incorporated into posts. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 14 '14 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh, I'm not sure there are any comments that, in an ideal world, should remain as comments. Comments exist to help people improve their question/answer. However, sometimes the author of the post never gets around to doing that, even they really should have. In that case, deleting the comment isn't the right thing to do; neither is moving it to chat. The right thing might well be to leave the comment there, and hope that some generous bystander will eventually come by there and edit the post to improve it in light of the comment (or at least that readers will benefit from the comment). $\endgroup$ – D.W. Aug 15 '14 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ @D.W. I agree, it doesn't make sense to remove clarification/improvement comments if they are not incorporated into the posts. (As an example of comments which are useful to remain just as comments are links to related questions. It doesn't seem to me as a good idea to incorporate them into the post, they are useful side information. I think there are a few other cases.) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 15 '14 at 1:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh, good point, you thought of some cases I hadn't considered. $\endgroup$ – D.W. Aug 15 '14 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ @D.W. Yes, moving nothing or everything is usually wrong. That's another point I'm trying to make on Meta Stack Exchange but here, it's about numbers, as ill-advised as that is. Mainly, we need a number that screams "do something about the comments", even though only a subset (maybe empty) might have to go to chat. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Aug 15 '14 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh There's actually a fourth category, comments that should be deleted immediately, maybe after reading ("Thanks!" et al). I definitely agree that "move to chat" usually only affects part of all comments. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Aug 15 '14 at 7:28
  • $\begingroup$ (We just experience that the same limit does not make much sense on [meta], now does it? ;D) $\endgroup$ – Raphael Aug 15 '14 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Thanks! :) $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Aug 15 '14 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ it seems to me long comment threads are a side effect of voting patterns where there is little incentive for people other than authors to edit posts and even authors maybe are not incentivized much to edit posts by voting patterns. another aspect is that very few ppl show up in chat, even among the "frequent/ power users" of the site. possibly again because there are no voting incentives there & it is more timeconsuming in general... $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 27 '14 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn I don't think either complex (few editors, few users in chat) has anything to do with long comment threads. It's simply that discussions naturally start at its object. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Aug 27 '14 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ how about simply well-timed comments by mod(s) sometimes encouraging users simply to "take further discussion meta or chat"? those are almost never seen on the site... $\endgroup$ – vzn Aug 27 '14 at 16:08

Great analysis. Based on the data so far, it looks like 5 would be a reasonable threshold: a post with more than 5 comments within 3 days would raise a flag to moderators.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the right answer for all of those flags -- or even for most of those flags -- is going to be to move all of the comments to chat. However, the data does seem to support the implication that, in most of those cases, the large number of comments is a symptom that there's something not quite right and some kind of moderator action might be appropriate. The exact moderator action might be different in different situations (move all comments to chat, move some comments to chat, close the question, post a comment with a reminder of site policies, or something else).

So, I think the data does support Raphael's suggested threshold of 5, and it looks to me like his suggestion makes a lot of sense. Good call!

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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, I also think that many comments are only an indication of some problem. I'd prefer a review queue for that, so high-reps and mods can have a look and decide whether to pitch in or flag (for removal, move to chat, or whatever). This queue should, imho, be filled with "many comments in a short time" and "comments on old posts". $\endgroup$ – Raphael Aug 15 '14 at 7:23

Let's create a list of posts with not too many comments, some of which we'd rather have in chat:

  1. https://cs.stackexchange.com/a/29078 -- not the shortest thread and many comments belong here, but the stuff about teaching goals should be taken to chat.
  2. https://cs.stackexchange.com/q/28998/ -- Discussion needed/wanted about a question being ontopic resp. meaningful. Few comments, but need to go somewhere else is already clear.
  3. How come computer science books are so relaxed about specifying which set variables/values belong too? -- closed question that spawned an some interesting comments about scientific practice. Could have yielded more discussion -- in chat.
  4. Name for class of algorithms preserving accuracy/confidence -- the question needed (and maybe needs) some discussion in order to be clear/feasible at all. Might have been better to take that to a chat room.
  5. Finding the number of distinct maximal matching in a bipartite graph -- user was confused about how the platform works. From their first comment on, it was clear that that discussion belonged to chat.

  6. How is Turing's Solution to the Halting Problem Not Simply "Failure By Design"? – huge discussion between new poster and a couple of people trying to help them. Down side is that the new user doesn't have enough rep to use chat.

  • $\begingroup$ #2: I don't see anything here that I would suggest moving to chat. The comments are all about questioning the premises of the question and trying to get the author to improve the question to something that is more suitable/answerable on this site (unsuccessfully, alas, but still should be kept). This is more of a "please move future comments to chat" than "move the existing comments to chat", I would think. $\endgroup$ – D.W. Aug 14 '14 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ #3: Good example. I agree with you. It would be useful to move all but the first 3 comments to chat. Part of the problem here is that the question is too subjective, which generates long comment threads, and that the question author seems to be trying to use this as a discussion forum (e.g., using comment thread to ask new questions, etc.). $\endgroup$ – D.W. Aug 14 '14 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ #4: I disagree. I don't think the comments under the question should be moved to chat. They're all about trying to get the author to improve the question. Part of the problem is that the author was unable/unwilling to improve it in the ways suggested by commenters, but I don't think this fits the criteria for moving to chat. The proper remedy here is either to close/downvote the question if we are unhappy with that outcome. Fine to raise a flag -- it's a situation where many comments is a symptom that something's not quite right -- but "move comments to chat" isn't the right fix. $\endgroup$ – D.W. Aug 14 '14 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ #5: Gee, I don't know. Comments about whether a question should be closed/opened/re-opened aren't appropriate for a comment thread? That's new to me. It seems to me that such comments either belong in the comments or belong on Meta, but "move to chat" doesn't seem like the right outcome for that situation. Also, the comments from Gilles and Yuval Filmus seem worth keeping (should not be moved to chat and deleted). $\endgroup$ – D.W. Aug 14 '14 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps this answer should clarify whether it is trying to build a "list of posts with a long comment thread, where the entire comment thread should be moved to chat" vs "list of posts with a long comment thread, where the long comment thread is a symptom that some kind of action needs to be taken". Or maybe we should create two lists? $\endgroup$ – D.W. Aug 14 '14 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @D.W. It's supposed to be a list of "posts with not too many comments, some of which should (imho) be in chat". $\endgroup$ – Raphael Aug 15 '14 at 7:20

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