I've had several comments deleted on here (and as far as I can determine, no way to see who deleted them so cannot ask directly). I'm assuming it's because I sometimes try to inject a little humour. I'm sure I've seen other peoples' comments in a similar vein deleted too.

My question is, is this kind of comment welcome? Is it the intent that this site should only be dry, fully factual and fully referenced?

An example: I recently posted this comment which, whilst providing an answer, also exhibits some of my sense of humour which I do acknowledge, may not be viewed as humour by all.

My comment was on an answer to the question - Why are FDR's called “black boxes” when they are actually orange?:

Actually, there are plenty of naturally coloured orange things. One of the reasons is that orange is particularly visible in murky water, much more so than say red or yellow. The very first recorders were black, in common with all of the avionics stuff, which to everyone except Wizards, was considered to be powered by magic and fairy dust. To avoid having to call everything by it's correct term (INS controller, PFCU relay, Fungleberry generator) they were all called "black boxes" which both described them, and implied that ordinary folk didn't need to know what was inside them.

I was asked why I didn't post it as an answer to which I responded that I had no references, it is simply something that I learned during training as an avionics engineer. In my mind, this comment adds information, is tinged with a dubious sense of humour, and adds a little character to the site.

Personally, I love reading anecdotes and seeing quips, funny retorts and getting a feeling for the characters behind the words. I know it's not Facebook (thank the stars!) but should it be Janes?

Thoughts?

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I can assure you that it wasn't your sense of humor that caused the comment to be deleted. Many of our users like to interject humourous content into their posts and it usually makes them easier to read then your typical dry textbook prose. We aren't like some other sites that require everything to have a citation from a relible source. Instead, it was deleted because it didn't meet the guidelines for when and how comments should be used on the StackExchange sites.

From the help page on comments:

When should I comment?

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

  • Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit;
  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);
  • Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!"); instead, up-vote it and pay it forward;
  • 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;
  • Discussion of community behavior or site policies; please use meta instead.

Notice how each of the situations described in the "When should I comment?" list are situations that are short-lived. Comments are supposed to be transient and are used to prompt specific action from someone (for example, an edit to their question or answer) at which point they are deleted, preferably by the person who created it.

If you have the attitude that any comment that you post is only there to accomplish this purpose at which point you will remove it on your own, then you have the right attitude and won't be bothered if someone removes it for you. For the people who don't follow up and delete the comments on their own, there is the ability to flag the comment as obsolete to have it removed.


In your specific case, you actually posted the comment on an answer to the question that was asked.

You actually gave a perfectly acceptable answer to the question that was asked in your comment. Had the comment been on the question instead of on the answer, then while still technically not meeting the comment guidelines (see the second bullet on "When shouldn't I comment?" above), at least it would have made more sense. Sometimes comments are used for this purpose when the poster doesn't have time to write up an entire answer. This can be useful in order to give someone else a start or to get the asker something while they are waiting for other answers. In either case, they should still be considered temporary and expect them to be deleted when they are no longer relevant.

If you have lasting information to add to the site and don't want it to be deleted, then by all means add it as an answer or edit the other persons answer so that it is where it should be.


In response to your comment about answers without references being down voted, please understand that there is no policy to down vote answers that don't have them. It is up to individual voters to decide what they feel is a good or a bad answer and to vote accordingly. The fact of the matter is, not all answers can have references. Generally though, answers that do provide references are higher quality and will gather more up votes/fewer down votes.

I myself sometimes write up answers without references. Sometimes it is because I don't have time to look them up, and sometimes it is just something that I learned and there isn't an official reference that I feel would be helpful. If you write them correctly and are clear, I wouldn't expect them to be down voted.

I agree with you that, to a certain extend, witty answers should be allowed as they add value to the site by exposing a bit of the user's personalities.

Also anecdotes can be valuable answers even without reference. I work in standardisation of avionics and ground systems and it happens that we make decisions based on "anecdotal evidence", simply because there aren't statistics on every possible event that ever happened. In other cases only a few old engineers still vaguely remember why a certain design choice was made in the past. Nowhere it is proper documented, but their anecdotes are invaluable.

My feeling is that because this site is relatively knew, and that most of us wouldn't like to see the site evolve into a "Facebook" for aviation, it is being kept closer to "Janes".

In my view we should allow for some freedom of form, especially for users who have build some reputation.

And as @BretCopeland already said, the chat is actually a good place to get to know some of the users here a bit better.

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    And if his comment had been an answer as you suggest, then it wouldn't have been deleted. :-) – Lnafziger Mar 25 '14 at 22:26

I deleted your comment because, like I already told you, it was an answer, not a comment. Saying "I don't have references" doesn't count as an excuse to post an answer as a comment. The primary intention of comments is to ask for clarification or to point out inaccuracies in a question/answer.

Furthermore, the comment had nothing to do with the answer you posted it on, and my reasons for deleting it have nothing to do with humor. If you had simply made a one-line joke about something said in the answer, it probably would have been fine (as long as you're not obnoxious about it).

If you're interested in more free-form discussion or talking about anecdotes, feel free to join us in The Hangar where pretty much anything goes.

  • Thanks Brett, but it had everything to do with the question since the first recorders were black in colour. All avionics boxes were. It also coined a generic term for a component of a system the contents of which did not need to be understood to understand the overall system. I have also seen answers downvoted because they do not provide references and since I cannot supply a reference to the first recorders being black, was reluctant to post an answer. I also believe the more general thrust of my question remains. I know about the hangar but I'm not asking about anything goes. – Simon Mar 25 '14 at 21:51
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    @Simon All of that still counts as an answer - if you get trivial facts like the color of the first black box wrong out of a legitimate uncertainty or misunderstanding don't worry too much - someone will correct you and you can edit your answer. The network-wide consensus on comments is that they're intended to be ephemeral - anything that should be permanent should be in an answer. – voretaq7 Mar 25 '14 at 21:59
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    @Simon I said your comment had nothing to do with the answer you posted it on. The comment wasn't posted on the question itself (where it would have been more relevant, but still unacceptable since it should have been an answer). – Bret Copeland Mar 25 '14 at 22:06
  • Ok, I actually don't mind and in a roundabout way my question (which incidentally was not "why was it deleted") has been answered. I only posted it there as the person who answered made the statement about not much in nature being orange; hence the first sentence of my comment. However, I'm making this look more like a chat. Thanks for your time, comments and moderation. – Simon Mar 25 '14 at 22:10
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    "I deleted your comment because, like I already told you, it was an answer, not a comment." Wait, wait, wait, you deleted relevant, possibly valuable or useful information from a question because it was posted as a comment and not an answer? That's ridiculous. Destroying something valuable because it was posted incorrectly is wrong, unless you converted it to the correct form so as to preserve it. Saying that you'd leave humorous but non-valuable information around, but delete valuable information isn't logical. This is a terrible policy. – Adam Davis Mar 26 '14 at 14:51
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    @AdamDavis I responded to his comment by saying he should post it as an answer. He responded that he didn't want it posted as an answer. That was his choice. Moderators don't have the ability to convert comments into answers (we can convert answers into comments). No Stack Exchange site allows answers in the form of comments because it hurts the site experience. – Bret Copeland Mar 26 '14 at 16:00
  • @Simon There were two parts of your comment, and since they were together, probably that was the issue. That particular comment was on my answer, and as you mentioned on the top of this page, I too wanted to add a little anecdote. I know that besides oranges, there are many other orange things (carrots, butterflies, leaves, Sun and clouds sometimes, Mclaren F1 etc etc). – Farhan Mar 26 '14 at 16:47
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    "No Stack Exchange site allows answers in the form of comments because it hurts the site experience." I'm somewhat familiar with Stack Exchange, and I've never seen a mod remove informative comments even if they could also have been an answer. Can you provide pointers to where it says that answers provided in comments should and/or will be aggressively removed? – Adam Davis Mar 26 '14 at 17:31
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    I suppose I should qualify that "never" with the fact that I've seen them remove informative comments if they fail in some other way - part of a long, noisy comment section, offensive, etc. But to remove just the informative comments, particularly if they are so informative they could have been an answer in their own right, just sounds so very wrong. – Adam Davis Mar 26 '14 at 17:38
  • @AdamDavis it's a judgment call, but yes, I've seen it elsewhere, especially if the question already has other answers. If this concerns you, feel free to write a separate meta question, but the multitude of reasons why this particular comment was deleted have already been explained, and the community has spoken in support of those reasons. – Bret Copeland Mar 26 '14 at 18:08

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