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Specifically, I'm referencing this question: Which character from Star Trek (TNG era) "died" the most times?.

Why I believe this question requires a lot of discussion

Initially, I left a comment asking for some clarification. (The request was based specifically on some examples presented in Praxis' answer; you can check the history to see that he was initially counting them all. Even now, it's not entirely clear whether some of them "count" or not.). This comment was deleted before clarification could be provided. (I don't think the asker even saw it.)

Based on the comments being cleaned up while discussion was ongoing and some significant clarification also being lost without being edited in the question, I concluded that the mods had decided that there was simply too much discussion for the Q&A format. A narrower choice of criteria for "death" would probably require much less discussion, but I don't believe that's the question the OP wanted to ask. Without extensive discussion of the criteria, I don't believe we can determine whether a particular event "counts"; it would either be opinion based or simply unclear. (Even with that discussion, it might still be considered opinion based unless the OP is allowed to have final arbitration on whether something "counts.") Based on this conclusion, I downvoted, flagged the question for closure, and left a comment explaining my reasons for doing so. (The flag was declined, but obviously, I don't have any insight on the reasoning for that; perhaps I should have chosen "Primarily opinion based" instead of "Unclear what you're asking".)

The behavior in question

After a couple more comments clarifying this reasoning to the OP, they suggested that the necessary discussion and clarification could occur in a chat room. However, I'm skeptical that this is acceptable. The Q&A format is explicitly designed to limit lengthy discussion, instead promoting clarity and narrow scope. This limiting is frequently credited as a major factor in why StackOverflow was such a huge success.

So my primary question here is whether this behavior is acceptable: are questions that require lengthy discussion and clarification but contain that discussion to chat acceptable as on topic?

Secondary questions about this specific case:

  • Have I misinterpreted the moderator action in this case?
  • Does this question require less clarification than I think?
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    If only there was some sort of room where you could chat. We could call it the "room of chat", or "chatroom", for short :-) – Valorum Aug 26 '15 at 0:32
  • @Richard Yes, I'm aware of chat, but I'm unclear on whether it's appropriate for discussion essential to arriving at an answer to a question to occur there, instead of within the question itself. Particularly, in this case, it would probably need to be ongoing discussion as long as answers were being formulated. If you have any suggestions on how to clarify my question, please offer them. – jpmc26 Aug 26 '15 at 0:35
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    My gut instinct is that any question that requires 30 comments to thrash out the details was insufficiently well-scoped to begin with. – Valorum Aug 26 '15 at 0:40
  • @jpmc26: Honestly, it seems you have a vendetta against this. If there's discussion you require and the result of the discussion is that some clarifying edit to the question makes sense, then what's the problem. The comments should never be needed for the clarification. They would be the impetus to edit the question. – ThePopMachine Aug 26 '15 at 0:42
  • @Richard It was mine as well (after mods cleaned up comments), but when the OP suggested that the discussion could occur in chat, I didn't really have a policy answer to that. – jpmc26 Aug 26 '15 at 0:43
  • @ThePopMachine I will admit I was initially a little annoyed when my comment was deleted, but I contend that the actions I took following are rooted in an attempt to conform to the expectations of the StackExchange network. (I considered noting this, but ultimately decided it wasn't relevant.) Additionally, I think the fundamental nature of the question is such that a clarifying edit will not solve the problem here. Edge cases will always come up, people will disagree, and I'm not even sure it's considered a valid approach for the OP to have some kind of final arbitration. – jpmc26 Aug 26 '15 at 0:46
  • @jpmc26: First of all, I think you need to take a long hard look at what you're asking. Are you trying to understand the purpose of comments or are you trying to bury this question you don't like? See the answer to this meta I'm working on which actually does answer your meta question instead of continuing to rail on the original question. – ThePopMachine Aug 26 '15 at 0:47
  • @ThePopMachine I suppose I have acquired a little zeal for this issue, but that's rooted in, "What kind of questions does this StackExchange allow?" Does this StackExchange allow questions where that much discussion is required? Is limiting it to chat an acceptable solution? – jpmc26 Aug 26 '15 at 0:48
  • @jpmc26: No. It's not "does Stackexchange allow this" because you don't appear open to edits which clarify the question. You just hate it. – ThePopMachine Aug 26 '15 at 0:49
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    @ThePopMachine If I hated it, I wouldn't have tried to participate in the question in the first place. This is not personal, and it's not a vendetta. I have tried to present my intuition and my reasoning here as clearly and objectively as I possibly can in an effort to better understand whether this class of questions is acceptable. – jpmc26 Aug 26 '15 at 0:51
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    @jpmc26: Well, admittedly you may be making me somewhat defensive, but if you dislike or don't understand the question so much, then why don't you just stop looking at it? – ThePopMachine Aug 26 '15 at 0:53
  • And this question itself gets loads of comments: how very Meta :-) A serious point: it's possible (and encouraged) to set up a special chatroom just for discussion of one question or answer. This might be the best way to go if a post is gathering loads of comments. – Rand al'Thor Aug 26 '15 at 11:56
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The purpose of comments is to suggest improvements to questions or answers.

If you think a question is unclear or ill-defined, then comments are appropriate.

It "ought to" never be the case that it's required to read comments to understand a question.

How you arrive at the improvements to a question is irrelevant. The discussion could happen in comments if it's short or in chat if it's long.

Ultimately the result of those queries may result in clarifying edits to the question.

Additional comment: Like I pointed out elsewhere:

It's not disapproval for the mods to delete comments. Comments are to improve a question or answer and it's normal procedure to delete those comments if there are too many and after clarifications or suggestions to improve may have been applied to the questions or answers

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I'm largely unfamiliar with the question, so I'm going to answer this in terms of the issue you raised, and not in regards to the specific question.

The real issue that needs to be examined when determining this is What sort of discussion is being kicked off?

We have two discussion-related close reasons:

  • They are primarily-opinion based. These are questions that inherently don't have a objectively "correct" answer that can be identified.
  • They are "too broad" in that they have too many possible answers, or the answers would be too long for our format. For questions like these, we often try to get the OP to narrow down their question and criteria to bring it within scope.

Now, let's talk about comments. What are they for? The instructions say

Use comments to ask for clarification or add more information. Avoid answering questions in comments.

So, officially, comments are for a back-and-forth with OP/other users to get more information. If the comments become too lengthy, the system automatically suggests that users move to a chat room for extended discussion.

What you've described in this situation sounds like the normal prescribed and suggested use of the comments and chat room.

But what about all this discussion? Does that make it a discussion-based question?

We come back to What sort of discussion is being kicked off? If the discussion is about trying to narrow down the question, or establish guidelines or criteria, the discussion and size of the discussion has zero bearing on whether or not the question is on-topic.

That said, if the question is generating an overly large discussion trying to nail down the scope, that may be a good indicator that the question is too-broad.

But... you just said the size of the discussion doesn't make it on/off-topic.

Whether or not a question is on or off-topic should be decided solely on the question. The comments are just a relevant side-effect.

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