7

I don't know if the question belongs here, but I have faced this mostly in this site.

When a question is overly difficult to answer and there is no easy way to tell who is correct, instead of up and down votes or new answers or constructive comments I see two opposite opinions starting to battle under the question and answer(s).

To tell that answer is wrong you can vote down and comment, but if things go arguing, I would go to chat. My first meta post was such case, then I moved the arguing to meta.

Is chat the correct place for arguing or should we just shoot down answers little bit with less arguing? Mostly I refer to cases where the opposite opinions are clear by first time said and the point of comments is more to say the last word than to be constructive.

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7

Use comments to point out problems, but take longer discussions to chat, and always remember to Be Nice.

In my view, the best workflow would be like so:

  • The OP posts something with factual inaccuracies
  • Another user points out the flaw in comments, explaining the issue clearly and, if possible, suggests a way to fix the error
  • The OP edits to fix the problem or, if the post is unsalvageably wrong, deletes their post
  • If the post was edited, the OP should then flag the comment as 'no longer needed'.

A wonderful piece of advice I read was this:

Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes them strive to justify themselves. [...] There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything. Did you ever stop to think of that? Yes, just one way. And that is by making the other person want to do it.

— How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

Once you reach the stage of arguing, you'll never get anywhere with actually fixing the problem. And fundamentally, fixing the problem is what you want when you leave critique—or at least it's what I hope for when I do. So I try my best to be constructive when commenting, because I want to help improve posts, rather than get into heated debates with others.

But sometimes, no matter what you say, you can't agree with everyone else. Your viewpoint might be completely different on a solution to a problem. If you're in that situation, it might make more sense just to drop it rather than fruitlessly argue on and on.

Nevertheless, it is still helpful to leave a comment explaining clearly why an answer is not correct—as well as being mentoring for the OP, comments can act as 'signposts' for anyone else reading the post—a friendly 'watch out' to stop people going down the wrong route.


I realise I've gone on a tangent here, but I hope that gives you something fundamental to think about before I get to the real points:

  • I recommend pointing out issues with answers and suggesting improvements in comments. Since they're directly below the post, it's probably helpful to write your critique there so that other readers see the potential pitfalls with an answer.

  • If the OP doesn't agree and wants to discuss the point further, it might be more productive to get a chat room and leave a comment pointing to that room.

But remember that the Be Nice policy always applies, in comments and chat. If you see a comment chain going the wrong way, please let us know. You can flag particularly concerning comments directly, but if you ever feel uncomfortable with the direction of the comments on a post (e.g. if it's more a case of getting the last word in than actually discussing a point), feel free to use a custom flag on the post itself. Don't feel like comments have to be blatantly offensive before you can flag; if you feel like the 'Be Nice' policy isn't being followed, or the comments aren't getting anywhere, feel free to flag.

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  • I'd generally agree. But when there are credible allegations in a comment that an answer is seriously wrong, and likely to waste readers time and money if followed, that really needs to remain on the page of the question - hiding the dispute behind a chat link by moving everything doesn't leave sufficient warning to those who merely view the question page itself. And the smaller a site's community of expertise, the more likely it's only going to be one or two people raising the issue, instead of a large volume of responders commenting and downvoting as would happen elsewhere. – Chris Stratton Jul 22 '17 at 18:36
  • A related point is that while it's often a lot easier to figure out what is definitely not the answer than what is, "doing x will not work because..." can't be posted as an answer itself - it's merely a comment on another answer, so that's the only way to post the issue. – Chris Stratton Jul 22 '17 at 18:39
  • @Chris Stratton good point that of site size. On bigger SO site same people don't visit same question again so often than in here and thus arguments don't polarize to two sides only so easily. – mico Jul 22 '17 at 19:15
  • @mico - yes and no, technical disputes are pretty common everywhere in the system, but it's generally the fringe topics (for a given site) where they become one-on-one; on questions asked on the proper site where there's a wide pool of knowledge the correct voices tend to simply vote the incorrect answers off the bottom of the page as fast as the comment accumulate. But here, we get a lot of disputes that start from a question that simply doesn't belong on this site surviving in a place where there isn't the technically informed consensus available to vote an incorrect post to deletion. – Chris Stratton Jul 22 '17 at 19:21
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    @ChrisStratton I agree with you—the important bit should be in a comment, clearly explained for other readers to see and acknowledge. That's why I suggest taking the rest to chat, so that the really important message that you want to get across doesn't get drowned out by tangential arguments. The last thing I'd want is for an important comment to get buried within a chain, so I'm open to leaving the most important comments on the post rather than moving everything and leaving only a 'moved to chat' stub (and the tools do allow us to selectively preserve very important comments). – Aurora0001 Jul 22 '17 at 19:32
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    @Aurora0001 that's a great approach. A common occurrence on other sites is often that the whole comment history gets moved to chat, but leaving something raising the key issue behind is a great practice. – Chris Stratton Jul 22 '17 at 19:38
5

First things first. You're in the right place.

I don't know if the question belongs here, but I have faced this mostly in this site.

[...]

To tell that answer is wrong you can vote down and comment, but if things go arguing, I would go to chat. My first meta post was such case, then I moved the arguing to meta.

Yes, meta is very much the right place to go. For asking about how the site works and where to do what that is.

Meta is our community for discussing the site itself, including bugs, feedback, and governance issues. — Help Center

Meta is where you can discuss and influence the things that don't sit right with you on a more general level. While there are discussions about specific questions on meta, most meta questions deal with general topics and try to add a level of abstraction to the problem. Now to your actual question.

Where to argue?

Generally there's five types of reaction open to you if you disagree with an answer.

  • Write a better answer — Stack Exchange is a Q&A site. It's not a forum. Good answers rise to the top. While I don't advocate letting bad content linger the preferred option is to offer good content instead. Especially when it's not so clear cut who's correct.
  • Comment on the answer1 — very much do remember Be Nice there. It's the most cited and highest listed policy on the network for a reason. The goal of a comment should always be to increase the respective post. Aurora's answer gives some great pointers about commenting.
  • Edit the answer — Only when it's containing objectively and factually incorrect information. (That doesn't seem to apply to your question though.)
  • Invite the other party to chat2 — the system will even automatically invite you when writing comments after a certain amount. Mods have the ability to move comment streams completely over to chat. However, remember that the other party might not want to join you there or might not be available at the same time as you are. The Stack Exchange chat works very asynchronously. That being said, if your comment discussion is a back and forth chat might be the way to go.
  • Go to meta — Don't carry every discussion about whether Alexa or Google Home is better for a specific solution over to meta. Meta does not dabble in solving the questions on the main site and it's not an escalation level to prove you were right — or even worse to prove someone else was wrong. For everything else meta is the right place.

You'll observe that none of the options above involves getting into bipartisan discussions about questions or answers in the comments. Trench warfare in the comments to have the last word is not what comments are for.

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer. — Help Center

There's a reason for commenting on other people's posts requiring the most reputation from all options mentioned above. They also do not generate reputation are to be seen as temporary. Don't pour effort into winning comment matches.

We — as mods — treat comments very much as the ephemeral virtual Post-It notes they are and delete tons of them. These are the reasons for deleting comments: Violates Be Nice, no longer needed, too chatty and otherwise unnecessary. That encompasses almost every I-want-the-last-level-word-debate. If you stumble across such debates or find yourself as a part of it feel free to flag it.

To summarize, every time you feel it's gotten to the point where it's just about having the last word and you wan't it. Don't.

XKCD 386: Duty Calls!


1: Don't worry about anyone's reputation. If you comment on a new user's post they can comment to answer there. The 50 reputation barrier only applies to other people's posts.

2: Remember that chat requires 20 reputation.

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  • Ultimately, comments on uncorrected bad answers can't be treated as temporary. Voting, especially for more obscure topics, is not a reliable way to determine what is accurate - it has only 1 bit of information content, so easily goes wrong in the face of intricate issues. Another key issue is that it's quite possible for an answer to be dangerously wrong, without it being (yet) possible to state a better one - a comment on a bad answer is really the only way to raise the specific issue that makes it bad, and as a result has to last as long as the error in the answer lasts. – Chris Stratton Jul 25 '17 at 14:39
  • @ChrisStratton temporary can last a while. That's true. The prime example are auto-comments for duplicates or off-topic questions where the OP never returns. However, if a post was actually dangerously wrong — as in very likely endangering someone — the correct way to handle it would be reaching out to the mods or CM team. In that instance the comment would very much be very temporary as it would be deleted when a more final action is taken. – Helmar Jul 25 '17 at 14:59

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