The mechanics of moving comments to chat
- If a post received twenty comments in three days, an automatic moderator flag is raised.
- Moderators can move comments to chat only once. After this, they can only delete comments.
- Comments moved to chat are not deleted, just less visible. Chat is public and permanent¹. Information is not lost there.
- Chat allows for everything that comments do and more. In particular chat allows for replying to specific posts – which comments don’t.
¹ There is an automatic deletion of chatrooms, but moved-to-chat chatrooms are almost never affected by it.
What are the advantages of moving comments to chat?
The vast majority of comment threads moved to chat fall into one of the following categories or a combination of them:
- A collection of unrelated things comments are not for, like expressing agreement or sympathy, answers in comments, etc.
- A discussion that began with addressing problems with the post and slowly digressed to another topic.
- An long and intensive discussion about an answer, which clearly will not lead to the answer’s author changing their opinion and where the dissenting opinion could be summarised in a valid answer to the question.
- A long discussion, which has mostly been addressed by edits to the question, but only mostly.
While such comment threads are often not completely without value, single comments with high value for future readers may drown in them (even despite comment voting), e.g.:
- Pointing out errors that cannot be addressed in an answer, e.g.: “What you suggest in your answer is illegal in the asker’s country.” (Note that this may very well be the starting point of a lengthy discussion.)
- Linking relevant material, e.g.: “You may also want to take a look at at this question.” or “I summarised my disagreement with this answer in another answer.”
- Comments arising from (community) moderations, such as: “Possible duplicate of …”, “This question should be closed because …”, “Comments moved to chat.”
- Really good jokes, e.g.: “28.7 kiloGhandis.”
Moving comments to chat while keeping the important ones solves this issue:
Most viewers can digest the remaining comments within a short time.
If they have a strong interest in the post, they can read the entire discussion in chat.
This in particular applies to the author of a post or the asker of the respective question.
Should I comment after comments have been moved to chat?
Moving comments to chat can only happen once.
Therefore new comments that would deserve being moved to chat will instead be deleted without warning.
On the other hand, your comment could be one of the relevant ones for which moving comments to chat made room.
First of all, read the moderator’s notice when moving comments to chat.
While it is a canned comment it is often modified to include a specific guideline.
As a rule of thumb, you can post as a comment if at least one of the following applies:
There is a realistic chance that your comment will become obsolete with a valid edit to the post or a (community) moderation action, such as closing or deleting.
Note that authors fundamentally changing the direction of their answer does not qualify as realistic (or a valid edit).
Your comment highlights a major problem with an answer that was not remarked upon in a previous comment (including those moved to chat).
You do not expect anybody to reply to your comment, e.g., because you were posting a relevant link.
The chatroom for the post has frozen.
Do not post a comment if:
You reply to another comment. Instead post the reply in chat. To alert the author of that comment and to direct the discussion, you may post a comment along the lines of (do not even hint at the content of your chat message):
I posted a reply to your comment in chat. Let’s continue the dicussion there.
You are posting along the lines of a discussion that has already been moved to chat.
Your comment on an answer or question would be a valid answer to the question.
Why has my important comment been moved to chat?
Moderators face two difficulties when moving comments to chat:
They have to assess a lot of stuff: certainly the post and all the comments; possibly the question, other answers, the revision history, etc.
It is easy to miss some important comment hidden in the middle of a lengthy discussion due to this (which is why we move comments to chat in the first place).
They have to draw a line somewhere.
There is a huge grey area when it comes to moving to chat, in particular when a discussion slowly digresses.
If you have reason to believe that there was an error when moving comments to chat, you can raise a flag (please do not post a comment), but before you do, please consider:
Does having a comment instead of a chat message significantly increase the chance that you reach those who need to read your comment?
If somebody visits the post in a month, will your comment be amongst the first things that they want to read?
Is this a worthwhile use of the moderator’s time?