What is the purpose of the 5-minute window for editing one's own comment?

Especially since the ability to edit and submit it as a new comment and delete the old, renders the timeout a mere annoyance?

Edit: 'Purpose' in this context is meant to include not only "original intent" but "current usefulness" as well. What purpose does this serve? Why not lift the restriction?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm guessing the point is to allow you to fix typos and the like that are more obvious after you see the final rendering, but to otherwise "freeze" comments so that other people can reply to them, vote them up, etc, without the content being changed afterwards. Seems about right to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Feb 9 '12 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop, make it an answer. I agree. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Feb 9 '12 at 17:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't actually answer since I didn't make the decision so therefore can't know why it was made, as the OP asked. I can only speculate why, which I personally think is pointless. Discussing the merits of said decision would be relevant, but that's not what was asked. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Feb 9 '12 at 18:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a pretty rigid interpretation of 'purpose', so I'll edit to broaden it. I'd like to open it for discussion, with the goal of removing it if there is no compelling reason for it to exist. And there doesn't seem to be, given that the author can at least write a new comment, if not replace the old one outright. \$\endgroup\$ – JRobert Feb 9 '12 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Drive-by down-voter: How about commenting on your reasons? \$\endgroup\$ – JRobert Feb 9 '12 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JRobert That is something that is a little different about meta from the main site. A downvote here means that they don't think what you are asking for should be done. It doesn't mean it is a bad question to be asking. Don't worry, it doesn't hurt your rep or anything, just a way to have the community express their opinions easily. However, the way you have your question worded does make me wonder why people are down voting it. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Feb 10 '12 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kellenjb: I didn't realize that. Thanks for pointing it out. \$\endgroup\$ – JRobert Feb 10 '12 at 14:47

I propose to change the 5-minute limit into first-answer limit: I mean, until anyone replies to a comment, I don't see any problem in getting the comment better; then, if anyone replies, is right to fix the text to mantain the integrity of the discussion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sensible. That would definitely address thread continuity better. But in addition, how about when I later feel I've expressed something poorly and would like to re-state it better or delete it, especially if the fragment in question was off the topic? Or it was on-topic but I've since learned something that negates (or supports) what I'd said, and fixing it in place seems more appropriate than several putting it several comments down-thread? I know it would be hard to automate these distinctions, yet I think they make sense in some contexts. \$\endgroup\$ – JRobert Feb 10 '12 at 14:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know your problem, and I see it in this way: you can delete a comment, but you should do it only if you think that it's negative for the context; if you think that you have written something wrong, and a helpful discussion has raised, it should remain here, even if you changed your mind. And you can write below that you have a new point of view. Otherwise, delete it and ask the replier to eventually check the new comment. \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Feb 10 '12 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ That has been my approach so far; it's just a bit cumbersome. I like your idea for a first-answer limit, though. I think it addresses better the only apparent benefit of having a limit. \$\endgroup\$ – JRobert Feb 10 '12 at 15:23

I'm fine with the way it is now. I do sometimes go back and edit comments, but this is almost always because I messed up something I didn't notice until the final rendering. Comments don't have previews and the little edit window is smaller than a max size comment, so it's easy to miss something. 5 minutes is plenty of time to give it a read-over and fix typos. After that it should be frozen.

You should be willing to stand behind what you say and have a record of it be kept. If you don't like that, don't write comments. If you change your mind, write a new comment. It can be useful for others to see the evolution of your thought process as it changes. I find this less onerous than the record left with a strange comment that makes no sense and possibly looks stupid because its context was deleted later.

As for freezing a comment when someone replies, how does the system know until someone submits the comment? What happens when the two are edited simultaneously? The system can't always know when a specific comment is being replied to.

There isn't a problem here. Let's not fix something that isn't broken.


  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have enough to add for a full answer, so I will just tack my thoughts on to yours. Comments are only 600 characters or less. If you can't find a typo in 5 minutes for that little of text, then the typo is probably small enough to not really matter. If the issue is big enough that it really does need to be fixed at that point, then a simple delete and re-add of the comment should be just fine. And if you still have a problem with that, maybe you should think twice before posting something. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Feb 10 '12 at 20:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ As it stands, the author can delete it wholesale; isn't the ability to edit it less drastic? \$\endgroup\$ – JRobert Feb 10 '12 at 23:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JRobert it's true, but I would leave this feature to be able to clean comment space from useless comments used as flags or related to old versions of the question-answer \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Feb 13 '12 at 12:57

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