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A few months ago, I posted this question on the CV meta asking about why a flag for deletion that I added to a comment was declined. This question generated what I think was some very interesting discussion. In particular, @NickCox made an interesting point that there is no way to downvote a comment as a way of saying "this comment is inappropriate and/or does not add to the discussion", in contrast to how questions and answers are handled in the StackExchange model.

I'm actually somewhat surprised that comments are handled so different than questions and answers. I personally would appreciate a way to indicate that I think a comment does not add to the discussion without outright flagging the comment for deletion and/or responding to the comment (responding to some comments can sometimes take a thread off-track, so in some cases I would prefer to have a downvote feature rather than posting a new comment).

So, my question is, is there any reason why downvoting is not enabled on comments, and if there isn't, could downvoting on comments be implemented on CV and other StackExchange sites?

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    $\begingroup$ Main thread on meta.SE: should downvoting be allowed on comments ... several duplicates already exist e.g. ability to downvote comments, please let us downvote comments, and the revisit why was downvoting comments declined $\endgroup$ – Glen_b May 16 '15 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ So the short answer would appear to be: It has been considered. If it ever happens, it looks like it's not going to be any time soon. The most obvious response to a poor comment remains "reply to it, explain what's wrong". $\endgroup$ – Glen_b May 16 '15 at 2:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Glen_b hmm, how disappointing. The argument that seems to have carried the most weight is that the SE staff aren't sure what the use of downvoting would be. To me this is obvious -- it's a way to say "this comment isn't useful" without replying to the original comment, which in itself would create a comment that is also off-topic and/or not useful. $\endgroup$ – Patrick S. Forscher May 16 '15 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ Comments do not possess the same options as answers/questions, because "officially", they are considered lowlies and are discouraged in the SE ecosystem. I believe that SE knows very well that much activity goes on on comments, questions being answered there etc, and they very deliberately try not to encourage this even more. (It did not discourage me from posting this as a comment and not as an answer!). $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos May 18 '15 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe that system of comments works well for programming questions, but I think comments are quite necessary for statistics, wherein much of a given problem involves properly defining the scope of the question! $\endgroup$ – Patrick S. Forscher May 19 '15 at 4:29
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If a comment is not constructive, then flag it as such.

It seems to me that your wording "this comment is inappropriate and/or does not add to the discussion" is, for this purpose, a different way of saying "not constructive".

Non-constructive comments are clutter that should be removed. So they're qualitatively different to incorrect answers. Hence there's a flag for them, rather than a downvote button.

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  • $\begingroup$ Except that the consensus on the linked thread was that although the comment I flagged for deletion was not necessarily germane to the topic, it should also not be deleted. Either there is an inconsistency with how the community is treating comments or there should be some way to voice one's disagreement with comments other than flagging them for deletion and/or posting a new comment (that will also not be germane to the topic). $\endgroup$ – Patrick S. Forscher Jul 8 '15 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see a consensus on that thread. All that happened was that you flagged a non-constructive comment as rude & offensive, and your flag was correctly declined. Flag a non-constructive comment as non-constructive and move on. $\endgroup$ – 410 gone Jul 8 '15 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ The criteria for flagging do include being "not constructive". So you are drawing attention to what is already SE policy. But flagging creates work for moderators; that's a problem too. I think the difficulty arises when one thinks the other person's comment of view is incorrect or wrong-headed but is reluctant to fan the flames of an over-extended or over-heated miniature debate. Sometimes we best show our support for moderators by not expecting them to rule on what is wrong or wrong-headed! $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Jul 9 '15 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ The main reasons cited for not removing the comment were based on vague freedom of speech principles, whereas the main reasons for deletion centered on the fact that it was not constructive and created an unwelcoming environment. I did as you suggesting by flagging the comment, and yet it remains, and not because it added to the discussion. As I already said, I think something about the system is not working. $\endgroup$ – Patrick S. Forscher Jul 9 '15 at 2:46

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