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Fairly often, I'll see a comment (or line in question or answer) that is unabashedly critical of the work in question in a way that I would not consider constructive.

Some examples of how these interactions usually go:

"Q: Why does [event] happen in [work]?" "Commenter: Because [work] is awful and no thought went into it."

"Q: How did [character] learn to [do thing]?" "Commenter: [Character] is just a Mary Sue."

I generally flag these comments as either unfriendly or not needed, depending on the specifics of the statement. These flags are accepted about 50% of the time, indicating that there is not a consensus on how they should be handled.

I am not advocating banning all criticism of works in all contexts. For example, if a work's objectively troubled production has been noted to affect plot details, those could be relevant details. However, overly frequent "this story sucks!" responses seem like they could scare off new users who are excited to learn more about their favorite work.

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    If the comment is literally just “X is bad” it’ll probably be deleted. If there’s more content to the comment then it won’t necessarily be.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Feb 19 at 23:47
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    Yeah, I'm not pushing positivity for the sake of it but negative comments like that are almost unconstructive by default
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Feb 20 at 3:07
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    I agree with you, and have argued as such on another site, but it'd feel hypocritical for me to post an answer here given my own "because the [Harry Potter] play/films are nonsense" comments :-P
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Feb 20 at 12:22
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    @Randal'Thor - At least this time all the comments weren't (I don't think) made by me.
    – Valorum
    Feb 20 at 15:55
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    @Valorum Ceteris paribus, it would be better to close the dupe the other way, as STD is a specific topic and this is general. The issue is complicated by the existence of several highly-voted answers on the STD question, but this new meta could potentially be used as a starting point or support for a new moderation practice of more aggressively deleting such comments.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Feb 20 at 16:09
  • @Randal'Thor In that case I'd urge you to port over at least some of the answers, since they tend to answer the general question anyway (and would be a shame to lose on this one if it ought to stay open).
    – TARS
    Feb 21 at 0:55
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    @Valorum: Personally, I enjoy your snarky comments about "better things to do than watch this movie".
    – FuzzyBoots
    Feb 23 at 16:56
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    This is because our guidelines are terrible and no thought went into it.
    – ibid
    Feb 24 at 11:20

1 Answer 1

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I would argue for a light touch. On the one hand comments are less important - and more ephemeral - than answers and receive less protection; but on the other hand we keep relatively low-value answers as long as they try to be answers, and comments are frequently used as signposts and clues to potential answers, so they don't even need to be as complete or fully-formed as answers.

Since comments are on a continuum (with multiple axes); there are going to be some comments that are obviously not appropriate ("The movie is crap, and you're crap for liking it."), some that provide insightful clarification of the question and some that essentially answer the question, but lack proper attribution or sources. (And some are just outright funny, which is still, in my opinion, useful because it can be a healthy reminder not to take ourselves so seriously.)

This question is about the murky subset deep in the middle, and my feeling is that it suggests going too far in policing the tone of the comments. Under the guidelines presented, "JKR is bad at maths" would be removed, even though it is (apparently) sometimes actually true and even acknowledged by the author.

To address the question specifically, there are cases where "no thought went into it" is canonically true, as some authors have admitted they rushed a work so much that glaring errors slipped in. It may not be flattering, but it may still be true; to insist it's "not constructive" is at least as much of a statement of opinion as the question accuses the commenter of making. (Similarly, "Mary Sue" is a well-known trope because it really does happen, and it's a useful shorthand for "overly idealized author avatar;" such a comment may be posted simply to reference an argument that has been hashed out elsewhere.)

Obviously any comment that makes what might be a contentious claim would be better if it included support, but that's a standard we don't even hold answers to. (Of course it's not great form to post answers as comments either, but if one lacks the time, or inclination, to chase down the necessary references, I'd argue that it belongs as a comment.)

And yes, in the SE system comments are expendable. I'm always a bit flattered if I revisit a question from months prior and find that a comment of mine has been deemed worthy of keeping around. But comments are also non-recoverable once deleted, so to the extent that a comment has potential value as a breadcrumb on the trail to a possible answer (even if it's an answer that you might not like) I would argue in favour of keeping it around.

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    I personally find that most of the time, good answers appear in spite of these comments. Any number of times, I've seen a comment basically say the question is pointless because the work or character being bad is the answer, only for another user to come up with a very good in-universe answer.
    – Rogue Jedi
    Feb 21 at 4:21
  • @RogueJedi, it's amazing what people can manage to wangle round here, especially when "JKR is bad at maths" is technically the answer.
    – Separatrix
    Feb 21 at 15:37
  • @RogueJedi I could equally claim that sometimes a good answer is posted because of a "negative" comment, as a "take that." It's hard to demonstrate that comments in some way discourage questions, but, despite being heavily snarked at, I've never noticed a lack of HP questions.
    – DavidW
    Feb 21 at 15:56
  • True, @DavidW, but the last couple of seasons of Doctor Who have been generally agreed as being bad and there's an absolute dearth of new doctor-who questions.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 21 at 16:17
  • @FreeMan - A large and excited fanbase is essential for lots of questions being asked. The Doctor Who fanbase is shrinking by the episode and can generally be described as 'wearied'.
    – Valorum
    Feb 21 at 19:28
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    Ain't that the truth, @Valorum! I haven't even built up the energy to watch the last episode of Series 13. I'm ever hopeful that the next Doctor & writers will bring it back to what it was in 2005-2017ish (prior to Capaldi's start, whenever that was).
    – FreeMan
    Feb 21 at 19:30
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    @FreeMan - Same for me. I stopped watching about halfway through the Capaldi era, restarted when they hired Whittaker, then stopped again when I realised that the appalling writing was a feature not a bug.
    – Valorum
    Feb 21 at 19:39
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    "comments are also non-recoverable once deleted" This isn't particularly relevant to this discussion, but that's not entirely true. Auto-deleted comments are non-recoverable (which is really annoying when it's a "thanks" by the OP on a story ID question that doesn't have an acceptance) but comments deleted by a moderator can be undeleted by any moderator. Moderators can view deleted comments, too (even auto-deleted ones), though deleted comments are obviously not likely to be seen by anyone.
    – Null Mod
    Feb 22 at 4:04

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