Hovering with the mouse above the upvoting arrow of a comment shows the text "this comment adds something useful to the post". Therefore arguably the number of upvotes a comment receives equals the number of people who find that "the comment adds something useful to the post", and thus a comment with no upvotes is found useless by everybody.

Is it considered good practice to remove comments of one's own after some time (say, a few days) if they have received no or only very few upvotes?

There is a related question Cleaning up comments, but that question addresses such cleanup done by the moderators.

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    $\begingroup$ (Lots of stuff redacted, very much in keeping with the spirit of the post. :-) But my final summary statement was:) The rule of thumb might be: delete your own comment if you yourself judge it is no longer useful, and don't worry about the rest. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 23:12

1 Answer 1


Too few users bother upvoting comments for this to make sense as a policy. In general, only very problematic or absolutely useless comments should be deleted on MathOverflow.

In order for MathOverflow to have lasting academic value, the MathOverflow community should strive to maintain as accurate an historical record as possible. A perfect historical record is impossible due to the highly interactive nature of MathOverflow but unmotivated deletion of contents clearly goes against this ideal.

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    $\begingroup$ François, what about the case where someone makes a clarifying comment to fix an issue in the post, and the OP then makes that fix. In this case, I often delete my comment, since the issue was resolved, and it would be confusing to have that objection still in the comments, when it no longer applies. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ It depends on the nature of the fix and the degree of desire for historical accuracy. Many might say "stop living in the past; just keep what is new", whereas noting the process of evolution of ideas is important to some, especially noting why a change was made. If the comment and name of commenter are effectively transcribed into the question, then I see that there is less of a point in keeping the comment around. Gerhard "Some Small Things Are Important" Paseman, 2013.10.31 $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ @JoelDavidHamkins: I don't think such comments are confusing but they could be considered useless, especially if the resulting edit is self-explanatory. It's up to the user to judge whether they are removing a relevant piece of information or not. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @JoelDavidHamkins Preserving errors (perhaps some and not all) is useful and not necessarily confusing. Errors are also useful information. Sometimes, errors turn out not to be errors after all, or they are also the error of the next reader, who can be then warned by the comment. This is why I don't use pencil and I don't erase. I only cross over in a way that I can still read the error. Of course, common sense, some comments the writer can see is not relevant to preserve. $\endgroup$
    – O.R.
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @JoelDavidHamkins I agree. But often both the comment and the next by the author saying "sorry - corrected" would need to be deleted. $\endgroup$
    – user25199
    Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 9:54

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