When is it appropriate to delete comments?

+11 votes
There is a parallel discussion going on regarding when it is appropriate to ADD comments to a profile.  This question is about when it is appropriate to remove them.

There is a sense that it is NEVER appropriate to remove them, that somehow the comments section of a profile is intended to be a permanent record of the thoughts people have had about it at different times.  Is that sense correct?  

If you seek to delete a comment you yourself didn't write, you get a red warning comment from WikiTree suggesting that this is a bad thing to do and implying that if you go ahead and do it (which you can), you have become a bad person.  

But comments can be time limited.  On the linked profile, there is, at the time of writing, a comment suggesting that a project be added as manager of the profile.  That's a useful comment.  So useful in fact that the suggestion has been accomplished, and the project is now added as a manger of the profile.  

So does the comment need to remain?  Should only the commentor be encouraged to remove it, if at all?  Or should anyone, who sees that a clearly time-limited comment, its objective now achieved, feel free to remove it?
WikiTree profile: George Bush
asked in Policy and Style by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (227k points)

5 Answers

+14 votes
Best answer
I regularly delete comments from my profile and also from profiles where I've added them if the merge/correction I've suggested has been completed.  On my profile, I tend to keep the comments where someone is collaborating with me.  But, if it's just a "We invite you to participate in ...", those are very time-limited and there's no reason to keep them. Working on the data-doctor project, I leave a lot of comments on public profiles with suggestions for corrections, a source suggestion, and many possible merges.  Those should be deleted when the merge is completed or the corrections are made (frequently these are spelling errors, no gender, etc.)  Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.  If I run across my own comments after the work is completed, despite the red "warning" , I delete the comments.
answered by Kathy Zipperer G2G6 Pilot (212k points)
selected by Susan Laursen
+13 votes

I think we should be removing old comments that are no longer relevant, but I am generally reluctant to do so.

One reason why I am often reluctant to remove comments (even my own comments) is that there is no logging of either the substance of the comment that was removed or the reasons for removal. When my activity feed or a profile's change history shows that someone has removed a comment from a profile, there is no indication as to whether the comment was one that had outlived its purpose (a good reason for removal) or the profile manager didn't like the comment (usually not a good reason for removal, but it happens sometimes).

Also, I often don't remove merge-related comments when I complete a merge because I think that the reasons given for the merge request may help someone else understand the history -- particularly in the first month or so after the merge (e.g., for profile managers who haven't been paying attention and for non-manager trusted list members who may have been unaware of the merge request).

Logging of reasons for comment removal would make me feel a lot better about removing other people's comments (not to mention my own).

answered by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (850k points)
So if the substance of the comment became part of the change history, that might reduce the feeling that the comment needs to be retained as part of the profile's permanent record?

Of course that would make it important to get it the way you want before you save it the first time.  I have the feeling now that sometimes when I see, "you might want to consider removing the reference to Sir George's final paramour" that it replaced an earlier version of the comment which was "OMG John, do you have to keep reviving that story about Sir George's final moments?"

Rather than making the substance of the comment part of the change history when the comment is added, I'd like to make the reason for removal part of the history when it's removed. Most reasons could be covered by a short list of check-off boxes. Here are three:

  • Duplicate comment
  • Merge completed
  • Information was added to profile
+9 votes


I saw your post on the parallel discussion. I chose not to respond then and only do so now because I see that most people are in agreement with you and I'd like to offer an alternate opinion.

Big Picture observation/concern: this and the other discussion cause me to think that this site may be becoming so anal retentive and uptight as to squeeze all the joy/fun out of this endeavor--which is a HOBBY for most of us and if it becomes so rigid and soulless that it simply equates as WORK.......

As far as this specific topic, I think everyone should just do what they feel is appropriate. 

I really prefer to keep ALL of the merge request and other comments on the profile FOREVER. For me those are primary resources for changes to that profile and for the PEOPLE involved with those changes. Additionally, they add quick-links to those very distant cousins or others interested in that profile. I may not be able to remember their exact names years later, but I usually do remember that someone was connected at profile xyz and can get to them and their e-mail without much fuss. I have no problem seeing Keith Hathaway's invites on my profile--if I ever need to chat with him directly; there's my quick link to get to him!

It is the collaboration with those other PEOPLE that got me started at this site and has kept me here.

answered by Nick Andreola G2G4 (4.1k points)
Nick -- genealogy is a form of play -- fair enough -- none of us are getting paid for what we do on WikiTree, so yes, if it stops being fun, we're outta here.  

But the thing with a playground is we have to learn how to play together.  If on this playground person A is having fun by doing things that make person B not have fun, then there need to be some conversations to help figure out how we can do thing in such a way that everybody has fun, and not just some.  And that's the purpose of this conversation.

What hasn't been addressed yet is that we encourage people to spend time improving profiles so that they look nice and present facts about the person profiled clearly and coherently.  We try to get the LNAB right and if we realize it isn't, we change it.  We try to get facts sourced, and we praise people who help create a well-sourced profile.  We encourage people to care about the appearance of a profile, and we encourage adding photographs.  One can even add a pretty background to a profile -- not something that appeals to me, but I mention it as an illustration of our support of people who do what they can to improve a profile.    

And then we have comments.  Given the red ink message that shows up if someone thinks a comment has served its purpose and is now simply cluttering the profile, I will say that I understand it to be current WikiTree policy to NEVER delete a comment.  That means that people who want to improve a profile can change anything on the profile to improve it -- even the LNAB when appropriate, except comments, over which they are expected to exercise no control.  If that is a correct understanding, then it becomes painful whenever a comment is posted on a profile on my watchlist, because somebody has just put something there over which I am expected to exercise less control than any other part of the profile.  

Now, I don't think forever-comments displayed on the profile page itself ARE a correct understanding of what a lot of us think or want, but because there are mixed messages, the playground, in your analogy, is becoming less fun.  People on WikiTree have different ways of having fun and they are in conflict with each other. My hope -- and my intent in bringing this topic up -- is to try to surface what has been unexpressed so that we can find ways of playing that are fun for everyone and nobody feels they have to leave the playground!
I think you may have clarified the issue for me, Jack.

 I agree with you 100% that the contents of a profile is an area that requires meticulous detail work that should conform as best as possible to the generally accepted practices. (We all play together nicely)

However, I am in agreement with (my understanding of) what Chris said and Keith added to; the comments section are NOT part of the biography/contents proper--they are a place of public, possibly casual, hopefully friendly, discussions/connections etc....(We all are individuals with our own personalities)
Agreed that comments are not part of the biography proper -- but they consume 1/3 of the real estate on the page.  

I grant you that I am certainly learning of how other people see things differently from me -- I rarely use comments -- if it needs a big discussion I go directly to G2G and if it needs just a little, I send the profile manager a private note.  Certainly if it could be taken as criticism in any way, i send a private note, that should not be public.  I use the comments section as a means of notification -- if I've taken on a project of reviewing some profiles as part of Magna Carta or Euroaristo I'll sometimes put an identical comment on all the profiles to be affected letting the profile managers know I'll be working in the area.  

I think if the comments were tracked under changes so that one never lost what they were, but did not intrude on the appearance of the profile once they were no longer relevant, that many of the issues would go away.  

Meanwhile it appears from the discussion that there are others who feel it is OK to ignore WikiTree's red warning message and go ahead and delete comments which they feel are no longer useful.  But if we don't have a common understanding of what should happen and what should not happen, there are bound to be hurt feelings when someone who thinks comments are forever discovers their comment deleted.
+8 votes
I believe it's ok to delete duplicate comments that were put on multiple profiles and then after merges all end up on the same profile. I frequently leave the same message..See the G2G post.. on multiple profiles. After 3 or 4 merges, only one of the duplicate messages is needed. So far those are the only messages I've ever deleted.
answered by Anne B G2G6 Pilot (971k points)
+5 votes
As a data doctor, I often put comments on the bulletin board. If the issue is resolved, I delete the comment. I see no value in keeping the comment since it is no longer relevant, since the profile change history would track the change, and since keeping the comment adds confusion about whether the issue was or was not resolved. I also find merge comments of no value after the merge as they do not help me understand the current profile. The fact that there was a merge is in the Change record.
answered by Paul Gierszewski G2G6 Mach 2 (25.8k points)

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