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For various reasons and various thresholds, some comments to questions and answers can become hidden.

When this happens, the link below the comments changes from add comment to something like:
add / show 5 more comments.

It does not appear that it is always the case that all hidden comments have no up-votes or that all visible comments have some up-votes.

The first problem:

If after reading through the comments, you see that there are hidden comments, you click the link and the hidden comments are then shown, but you have no way to identify which comments were hidden and are now shown. Then, if you want to read the now unhidden comments, you have to go back to the top of the list and read or scan through everything again.

Second:

If there are only a few comments, you might be able to see that there are hidden comments so you can click to show all comments before you begin to read the comments... but even this is not very intuitive. If there are many comments, the link is not immediately visible, so you can't tell that some comments are hidden until you have already read through at least some of the visible comments.

Proposed new feature:

  1. When comments that are hidden are shown by clicking the link, the unhidden comments should be identified in some way. They could be identified by:
    • Displaying them inside a full thin border.
    • Displaying them with a vertical bar on the left or right.
    • Displaying them with a light colored (different colored) background.
    • Displaying them with an (small) icon to indicate these were hidden comments.
  2. Place the link: show 5 more comments above the list of comments so you are aware there are hidden comments ahead of time, so you can expand the hidden comments (if you wish) before reading them. The link below the list could remain as it is so you could click it to expose the add comment function if you didn't click it from above the list.
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    AFAICT hidden comments are those with the lowest scores that are the furthest down. So if there are 4 comments each of score 0, 1, and 2, and 6 comments are shown, 6 are hidden, it will hide all of score 0 and the two newest of score 1. But yes, displaying them differently might help. – Daniel Beck May 12 '13 at 10:11
  • +1, very nice suggestion! It has always irritated me that clicking the link silently inserts comments and I need to go back and start reading from the top again so I get the proper order and "flow". I personally wouldn't really mind if all comments were displayed by default, but others may not agree and of course loading on demand reduces server load no doubt. – Karan May 12 '13 at 21:46
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There are two things that I'm going to address:

  1. Why I think you're suggestion isn't really worthwhile
  2. Why I agree that the comment system needs fixing and a possible solution

Knowing which comment was hidden really doesn't matter

I don't see the reasoning of knowing which was hidden and which wasn't after de-collapsing the comments. Comments should rarely be long enough to be collapsed in the first place, and those that are collapsed, are typically not worth reading.

De-collapsing the comments is usually done to get the entire story of the comments, and therefore knowing which was hidden and which wasn't doesn't matter, as it matter more of when the comment was made and to whom. This leads me to my next point:

Our comment system is crap

In the rare cases where comments are lengthy, it's difficult to read what's going on especially when there are replies to users. One user may make a comment, and then another, and then another, and then finally another but in response to the first comment. This is crap, because I have now have to look back up and reacquaint myself with what the first comment was said, to understand the latest comment.

I suggest that we at least have a system where responses to previous comments are right below the root comment, and tabulated to the right. This would make the comments a little bit easier to read. (This is similar to reddits style of commenting).

Better yet, we could do a discourse page for each post of SE.

  • Seems like this should be mentioned here – Der Hochstapler May 13 '13 at 16:53
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    I don't see the reasoning ... the reason is when the unhidden comments are shown, they are scattered among the existing comments and you can't identify which comments were added. Not a big problem if there are not many comments (say 8 total with 2 hidden), but if many (say 15 or 20 total), it becomes difficult and frustrating. – Kevin Fegan May 13 '13 at 16:56
  • @KevinFegan Post's shouldn't typically have the 15 to 20 comments. That would mean that there is way more conversation going on within that post. That's why I actually think there should be a discourse page on the post. Then comments can be made freely on the post and kept in a clean fashion. But for now, comments should stay on relevant to the post and should be limited in number to keep the site clean. – James Mertz May 13 '13 at 17:02
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    I like the idea of grouping related comments together. The problem is, if a user has made multiple comments, its still hard to tell which of those comments a later user was replying to. If all replies are grouped only by @user it becomes a (possibly incoherent) list of all replies to all of @user's comments. To make this work there would have to be a Reply button associated with each comment so replies could be associated with a specific comment. Even this (indenting) could get messy in cases of replies to replies to replies to a comment. – Kevin Fegan May 13 '13 at 17:10
  • @KevinFegan Hence the reason that every post should have a discourse page IMO. A place where users can discuss and talk about the post in a concise and clean manner without cluttering up the main post. The current commenting system's purpose is entirely for small comments to clarify posts, which rarely happens. – James Mertz May 13 '13 at 17:14
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    'Post's shouldn't typically have the 15 to 20 comments.' Perhaps, but in some cases it can be useful. So what to do in those cases? Perhaps you don't, but if someone wants to follow along, why make it so difficult, or rather, why not make it easier? Frustrating the reader can lead to them not returning, or at least not as often. – Kevin Fegan May 13 '13 at 17:17
  • @KevinFegan I agree that the system is broken. I just don't think that the resolution is found in highlighting the posts that were hidden, but rather a re-work of the current system to make it more user friendly. Discussion of posts is discouraged, and can lead to 'noise' on the post. If however, we had a dedicated areas that we could discuss the posts that didn't clutter the post, then I think the amount of comments wouldn't matter. – James Mertz May 13 '13 at 17:28
  • Take this very conversation as an example. You're replying to certain comments that I'm making and I to those as well and sometimes not in order. Someone from the outside, would have to come back and retrace the steps that we're making. Eventually this is going to be collapsed, and someone reading it will get lost if one of the later comments is upvoted, but not its parent comment (thus showing the child and not the parent). Just highlighting the unhidden posts doesn't solve this issue. Organizing the comments in a more useful and readable way is. That make sense? – James Mertz May 13 '13 at 17:32
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    @KronoS - 'Take this very conversation...' I'm sorry, but I see this reasoning as exactly making my point. If after expanding the comments, I can see two comments have some indicator that they have just been unhidden. I can go back and read just those two comments. They could be "original" comments or replies. Currently (not shown as grouped conversations) if it's not precisely obvious which parents any unhidden replies belong to, I may have to do some digging, but I won't have to read every comment from top to bottom again in order to be sure I have read them all. – Kevin Fegan May 14 '13 at 5:08
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    @KronoS - You're saying (I think), that it's broken and nothing short of a total redesign would be acceptable or even help. I'm saying that it could be said that anything (working or not) could be improved by a redesign (even the newly redesigned thing). If a total redesign will happen to commenting here, then my suggestions probably don't apply. But, if there won't be a redesign here, I'm suggesting a tweak (or perhaps a bit more than a tweak) to the current design that I think will help. – Kevin Fegan May 14 '13 at 5:24
  • @OliverSalzburg - I like the threaded-comments thing. Am I wrong to think that doesn't apply to IE browser? – Kevin Fegan May 14 '13 at 5:30
  • @KevinFegan: Correct, getting it to work in IE could be challenging. – Der Hochstapler May 14 '13 at 9:11

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