After a bit of fact finding back and forth in the comments about a fix-it question, the site will now display something like:

Please avoid extended discussions in comments. Would you like to automatically move this discussion to chat?

in the comments. Part of it is bolded, and the auto move portion is linked to an action. While nifty, and obviously took some work to write, is it more likely to be used than to annoy? It does stand out and is distracting. I wonder...

First, there is a bug in that there is no way to answer "no thanks, I'd rather not." Or how about, "No, I'd rather not. This discussion clarifies the question being asked." linked to a script that pulls the faux comment containing the hint and autochat link. Or even a little X box to dismiss it, and a counter somewhere for the admins so they can see how well this policy works.

Second, there are probably people chatting already. Does this flood their conversation with my concerns? Similarly, will other people auto-moving discussions in comments to chat be mixed in with the one on my question? Are all these separate chat rooms.

Third, are people following my specific question going to know to look in the chat for the clarifying discussion? What will they find there? Will they find others' chatter as well? Or is each questioner expected to continuously refine and copy-edit the question instead of leaving the clarification where immediately interested parties are reading? While this might be an ideal, it is not practice, nor is it a practical price to pay. Most questioners just want an answer and have no interest (or time to donate) towards leaving the Q&A database in shape for future generations. Most choosing to answer probably want some combination of learning by doing, social technical interaction in down time, helping people, advertising expertise, or collecting the points.

Fourth, if the idea is that all this chatter in comments harms the Q&A database making it unsuitable for future generations of questioners, then is it more or less harmful to have questions with the wrong answer because all the clarifying remarks occurred in volatile chat, which is now gone, and the questioner never changed the title? Because you can get more of those if more is moved to chat....

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    The reason you're encouraged to edit your question is so that when the next person that tries to read it to help you has all the information up front in one place instead of interspersed in a bunch of buried comments. Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 13:47

2 Answers 2


I think you may have some misconceptions on how the StackExchange network works.

Comments are second class citizens they're only used to pose comments to the Author of a post and shouldn't actual contain any real information pertaining to a post. For instance: If I were to ask you for the last 10 lines of /var/log/foo You should then simply edit your question to include that information (then I could just delete my comment as it's now obsolete) - by replying in the comments we become no better than any bulletin board or forum system on the internet. Where if a new user comes along to answer your question they would have to read through your initial post, then all the noise in the comments to get the whole story.

Comments are noise

They will always be noise and that is why the system does it's best to hide them - they shouldn't be important in the long run. The reality though - is some posts have 5, 10, 20+ comments all with mixed information, feedback, and noise. A lot of problem solving goes into the comments - but ultimately the solution needs to be in the answer or the information needs to go into the question.

The addition of "move this to chat" allows users to make use of our "third class" citizen: Chat. Where real time troubleshooting and discussion can take place - ultimately geared towards: Identifying the problem and supplying an answer. Then updating each post respectively to provide a solution for future users experiencing the same issue.

Furthermore: The chat never goes away - when you move to chat a signpost is left in the comments saying "this has been moved to chat" and linked to the room. The system then creates a whole new room for just discussion around your question. It doesn't interrupt the other rooms on chat (though you're welcome to ask for help in them). The conversations are always available for public review and don't get removed unless by a moderator.

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    Very nice answer. That's an excellent description of the problems facing traditional forums, and how the pieces of Stack Exchange (answers/comments/chat) work together to solve those problems that cause other systems to inevitably break down. I couldn't have expressed it better myself. Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 5:04

All relevant information should be moved into the question. If there's information that the asker initially provided in comments, chat or anywhere else and that was instrumental in answering the question, it should appear somewhere on the page.

Ideally the asker will edit his question to add information as requested. If he doesn't do it, feel free to do it (anyone can edit). Leave an edit comment indicating what you're doing, e.g. “added information from comment” or “added information from chat” or “added information linked to”. If the question is a troubleshooting question which led to a chat session, it can be instructive to future visitors to see how the troubleshooting worked to find the problem, so leave a link to a chat bookmark (or at least to the first message in the troubleshooting session).

Comments are more appropriate for specific requests. Chat is more appropriate when you're fishing in the dark at first. Either way, again, all relevant data should eventually be incorporated into the question.

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