The faq for Ask Ubuntu ... as well as, I assume, all of the Stack Exchange sites (?) ... states in the "How Do I Ask Questions Here?" section

If other users ask you for more information in the comments, edit your question using the edit link just below your original question.

Of course, people do not listen. A lot of users, both new and old, do not follow the suggested convention and respond to a comment with another comment. But I think new users are more likely to reply with a comment which reads like the text below.

irrational@MB-VB-Ubu32:~$ sudo fdisk -l Disk /dev/sda: 8589 MB, 8589934592 bytes 255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 1044 cylinders, total 16777216 sectors Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes Disk identifier: 0x000015d2 Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System /dev/sda1 * 2048 12582911 6290432 83 Linux /dev/sda2 12584958 16775167 2095105 5 Extended /dev/sda5 12584960 16775167 2095104 82 Linux swap / Solaris

My point is that if you could convince any of the SE users to alter their behavior, you might benefit most if you focused on the newest users.

Stack Exchange already restricts the capabilities of the newest users, those with 10 or less points. Why not add one more restriction and not allow the restricted new users to comment in the context of their own questions?

Note: I am not proposing any restriction to comments in other people's questions, only in their own.

Spending too much effort in a fruitless attempt to change human nature is clearly pointless. But as changes go this one seems less radical. And the policy of the site as expressed in the faq does seem to be to encourage responding via updates to the question and discourage comments.

Perhaps a minor tweak like restricting new users from commenting in their own questions would be a desirable step in this direction?

Re: notifications following edits to a question or answer

I asked the question linked below on meta stackoverflow to see what feedback I would get.

Why does the faq recommend updating a question to respond to a comment when (apparently) no notifications are issued?

2 Answers 2


Possibly, only if edits would send notifications, and you could tell what new information was introduced.

Things like system identification, and the text like you mentioned should allways be put in the question. But I have seen some new users do running edits to posts (with information best suited to a comment) without informing users or answer posters, causing people to down-vote answers, that seem to have already been tried by the user (when it was an edit to say they tried the specific solution).

Also to help users, when asking for specific information or clarification, say to edit the post so it is clear to new users.

Edit: here is an edit on my answer (may be diffrent with questions?) to test this out, did you get notified John

Also do you check the edit history when voting on a question and answers?

  • I had always assumed that edits do result in notifications. I am somewhat troubled if it turns out they do not. As for learning what new information was introduced, that is actually much easier with a question or answer than with a comment. You can always look at the edit history for a question or answer. I am not aware of any documentation trail in the case of a comment. Commented May 9, 2012 at 23:30
  • @irrationalJohn did you get informed about my edit the other day, I ran a little test.
    – Mateo
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 14:03
  • Here is an example, askubuntu.com/questions/113570/… a user posted a solution to install a program, the user commented in the answer about an unrelated problem, then edited his post, that makes in an entirely different question, making the answer look like it was already tried before. When a new question should have been made for the "lock" issue.
    – Mateo
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 14:41
  • @eliah Since I am no longer sure what notifications are sent or what triggers them, this comment is to mention I edited my question. (This is not the path I was expecting this to take ... ). Commented May 10, 2012 at 20:37
  • only notified about the comment... nice post on meta-stack, I agree at least people who are answering the questions should get notified on edits to the question (maybe the larger edits, a threshold or something, so you don't get just the capitalizations), so people posting questions can edit their posts in-line with the question, to avoid confusion. Take this question for example, askubuntu.com/posts/27213/revisions earlier this year there was someone that answered the question when it was first asked, the answer is not there anymore because he got donwvoted terribly and deleted it.
    – Mateo
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 21:23
  • maybe a message like this would be appropriate , "There has been substantial change to the form and content of this question, this could mean the OP has added troubleshooting information, added solutions that tried or failed, to the question, or a moderator has changed the format to improve the question, please consider reviewing the changes to see how best to modify your answer or respond to the OP." we could set up certain critera for the notification, and a moderator(or avanced usr) could mark it to notify automatically if they make a significant change.
    – Mateo
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 21:32
  • askubuntu.com/questions/82487/… here is another example, one of the answers answered with a unity specific answer, and later found out that poster was using earlier version of Ubuntu, otherwise it would be a good answer.
    – Mateo
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 20:29

Besides the problem with notifications that Mateo raises, there are a few problems with preventing users from commenting on their own questions, which could not be easily fixed:

  1. Sometimes, a user may not know how to obtain information that has been requested. It's better for them to ask in a comment (which can even be cleaned up later) than to clutter the question with a series of numbered or dated (or unlabeled!) edits at the end--"running edits," as Mateo puts it. Many of us have seen this happen on a number of sites including Ask Ubuntu, and it's way nastier than the problem of long comment threads (which, again, can be cleaned up).

  2. Sometimes, users will have already provided the information that was requested, and the commenter just didn't notice. A comment is really the only reasonable response in this situation. Even editing the question to make the information more prominent would not always be warranted, and would not usually be sufficient to call the commenter's attention to the presence of the information they requested.

  3. Users would probably feel that the system does not respect them, if they cannot reply to a comment someone has made to them. And they would be right. It's one thing to restrict new users from posting comments on other people's posts. It's another if they are at a disadvantage when speaking back to people who have spoken to them. The purpose of getting new privileges as you advance in reputation is to keep inexperienced users focused on functionality they're likely to use well. Rewarding users for their contributions might be considered a legitimate justification for the system we have, too. But if we impaired people's ability to express themselves on an even keel with people who have spoken to them, then I think we would have moved into downright elitism.

  4. New users sometimes have trouble figuring out how to properly edit their questions, or to properly undo accidental edits (like deleting most of their post by mistake). Meta is a good place for these questions but very new users cannot create questions here, and they're not likely to know to do so anyway. Simple questions about how to properly edit one's post are very reasonably and efficiently asked in comments, which can (again) be cleaned up later.

To clarify about cleaning up comments later: when a comment is no longer relevant, it can be flagged for moderator deletion for that reason, even if the OP doesn't delete it.

  • So, are you saying that the recommendation in the faq to update the question with new information is only appropriate some of the time? Should the faq be changed? Commented May 9, 2012 at 23:10
  • @irrationalJohn When the user has new information, they should edit the question to include it. All the situations I described above are situations where the user does not have new information that can reasonably be added to the question. I don't consider the information that they don't know how to produce the requested information to be "new information" in the sense used in the FAQ. I don't think the FAQ needs to be changed, but I guess if people are taking the FAQ to mean they should have conversations with commenters inside their questions, then it should be changed. Is that happening? Commented May 10, 2012 at 1:49
  • askubuntu.com/questions/85817/… Example of comments inside question. Comment that related to answer put in content of question, not in comment to answer askubuntu.com/questions/92017/… , askubuntu.com/posts/110895/revisions I think this user is taking that faq to mean putting most everything in the question, maybe the faq needs clarification on Comments verses Edits, and how to notify posters about added information.
    – Mateo
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 14:48

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