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In this question, we already have 14 comments (at last count), which prompted me to wonder whether there is any limit to the number of comments a question could have before some dire (software or human) intervention kicks in?

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    $\begingroup$ Moderators are alerted at the 20 comment mark. I believe this is only for 20 comments below a particular post (e.g., one answer for a particular question, not a total of 20 comments taken across all answers on the page and below the question). Also, if the "conversation" is between two participants, they'll receive automatic suggestions to migrate it to a chat room at some point, but choosing to do so is optional (at the time of writing). $\endgroup$ – cardinal Jul 11 '12 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ @cardinal Thanks. So a question with five answers could generate 114 comments in toto before any alerts. It's not clear to me whether that's good, bad, or a matter of no concern. $\endgroup$ – Rick Decker Jul 11 '12 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ I had a conversation spanned over 60+ comments once. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 11 '12 at 5:35
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The only semi-automatic interventions with regards to comments are:

  1. when the total number of comments passes 20, moderators are alerted. Most of the times these are harmless. But every now and then the moderators will intervene if the cause for generating so many comments is something worth intervention. For example, if two users started a heated discussion (possibly with name calling) and neither one backs down, comment exchanges can rapidly surpass 20 in total. In this case moderators may put the discussion on time-out (either by locking the post in question temporarily and/or suspending the users involved temporarily). In other words,

    Large number of comments is sometimes a symptom of something else going wrong. Moderators are notified just in case that is true; and moderators will intervene if that is true.

  2. when a large number of back-and-forth exchanges happen in a relatively short period of time, the software will automatically suggest that you take the discussion to chat. (You will see a some dialog popping up in the comment field informing you that you are in an extended discussion and encouraging you to take the discussion to chat, with a link which will automatically copy (not move) all the comments so far into a chatroom.) You are of course free to ignore that suggestion.

With that said:

Please keep in mind that extended comments will be folded: that is, not all comments are displayed under a post (until an additional mouse click). Furthermore, comments are naturally more ephemeral and the general guideline is that

  • If you have something important to say, please say it in an answer.
  • Please try to keep the comments short and too the point. Wading through a long comment thread is unpleasant.
  • The best way to respond to comments asking for clarifications and corrections on a post is to edit that information into the post.
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