I didn't used to mind the odd ROT13 comment, but this:

Code Movie Wall (in answers - Community Wiki)

is getting ridiculous.

Can't these discussions be held in chat? Or just dealt with professionally somehow?

whfg zl gjbcrapr

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ "Professionally"? $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan Mod
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ I see what you mean. In my case it's fairly simple to read (most of them) since I'm using Alconja's script, but I can see a lot of people getting annoyed with that wall of ROT. $\endgroup$
    – dcfyj
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ "Dealt professionally"... like flagging for mod attention requesting to clean up obsolete/irrelevant ROT13 comments? (I dunno the culture of comment clean-up on this site though) $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ See also, How do we deal with coded comments?... $\endgroup$
    – Alconja
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ There is a comprehensive article about ROT13 at Wikipedia $\endgroup$
    – JMP
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ What I don't understand is how are people accidentally reading spoilers in comments. You have to go through a lot of conscious effort to get to and read a comment. So what is the point in making them harder to read? If people are genuinely interested in solving a question themselves, then they shouldn't even be looking at the answers anyway. $\endgroup$
    – musefan
    Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 6:55

5 Answers 5


I both use ROT13 in my own comments AND find myself agreeing with you. It does make the comments section look a bit of a mess and could be off-putting to first-time visitors to the site.

I suppose we have to ask ourselves why people use it. They want to hide potential spoilers.

Puzzling is unique on SE in that people reading the questions don't usually want an instant answer. They want a try at figuring it out themselves. We use the spoiler tag to hide details in our answers, but this can't be used in comments, and comments on Puzzling serve the same purpose as everywhere else - to improve the answers. They do need to be hidden in some way.

Spoiler tags cannot be used in chat, so moving discussions there doesn't solve the problem, it just moves it. In fact, there would be no warning to either first time visitors nor seasoned puzzlers that clicking into a chat page might contain spoilers. ROT13 or something similar would just have to be used there, and it would look just as messy and be just as off-putting. Okay, so more people visit the main question pages, but everything negative you can say about ROT13 on the site still applies to chat.

Also, from my experience on other SE sites, once someone suggests that a discussion in comments be moved to chat it usually ends there. That can be a good thing - on some sites users get into arguments about different opinions. On Puzzling though that isn't usually the case - people aren't pushing opinions, just swapping ideas to improve answers and solve puzzles with a "hive-mind" mentality. It is a big part of the community to force into hiding on "chat".

I could understand abolishing ROT13 comments if there were some other way of masking spoiler comments that is no less "secure" than the spoiler tag.

On the other hand, would it be right to prevent two people from communicating in comments in any other language we did not understand? That would be linguistic discrimination. If two people want to communicate to each other in ROT13, should we stop them??

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Re: "Can spoiler tags be used in chat?", no, spoiler tags can't be used on chat. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ Chat could work perfectly fine. Anyone can make a new chat room, and people make rooms for specific puzzles all the time. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi That is more like a new answer to the question than a comment on mine because it is a completely contrary position. $\endgroup$
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 14:30
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Sounds like the real fix would be to prevail upon the StackExchange overlords to permit spoiler tags in Puzzling.SE comments. $\endgroup$
    – R.M.
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 16:44
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @R.M. or rot13 hover text. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ "linguistic discrimination"? Relevant xkcd $\endgroup$
    – Maya
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ What are you talking about? Mods should remove discussions in foreign languages from comments. This is an English-language site and even the foreign-language stacks are supposed to generally use and explain things in English. $\endgroup$
    – lly
    Commented Jul 7, 2018 at 4:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That said, the mods need to keep permitting rot (not off-topic German, 廣東話, or Klingon) here until the site's support staff provide spoiler code for the comments that people can use from mobile devices (ie, not just hovertext). $\endgroup$
    – lly
    Commented Jul 7, 2018 at 4:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I disagree that "They do need to be hidden in some way." Why would I be reading the answers at all if I wanted to work out the solution for myself? I can see that if I scrolled down by accident and saw the answer it might be annoying, so the use of spoiler tags in the answers themselves kind of makes sense (though honestly it does seem a bit pointless), but comments on answers are underneath, in small type, and meant to be temporary --- I can't imagine any situation where I would be reading them while simultaneously not wanting to know what they say! $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 9:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You don't want ‘spoiler code’ for comments; you want a little bistable nub beside a comment which toggles it between visibility and being covered by a drape, which says something like “this comment hidden”. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ WRT the last paragraph I disagree: SE for the most part (i.e. with the exception of the various language SE) is English only. By condoning this, you'd also be saying that questions AND answers are now allowed in other languages entirely, which is not the case. $\endgroup$
    – Tas
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 21:44

I think this site should have a policy of not using rot13 in comments, or similar methods of obfuscation. In fact it already does, it's just not really enforced.

There are two kinds of comments -- comments on questions, and comments on answers -- which I will cover in turn, since the reasoning for each of them is different.

Comments on questions

Many Stack Exchange sites now have a policy against answering questions in comments. There are good reasons for this: it bypasses the quality control systems (since comments can neither be edited nor downvoted); it encourages low-quality, partial answers, which in turn encourages low-quality questions; and comments appear before answers in the page layout, making them more visible, especially to new users who are used to forums.

Since partial answers seem to be acceptable as answers on puzzling.SE there is no reason for this site not to adopt the same policy as other sites: if you have an answer, post it as an answer, not a comment. If it's not good enough to post as an answer, don't post it at all. This removes any need to use rot13 in comments on questions.

Comments on answers

The use of spoiler tags in answers is customary. I suppose this is for the sake of new users, or people who just forget and scroll down by mistake, so that they can avoid accidentally seeing the answer. But to get to the comments on an answer you must scroll down past the answer itself (which is likely full of spoiler tags itself, which you have probably already clicked on if you got to the bottom) and start reading the fine print. It's really hard to imagine how you could get to the point of reading the comment thread on an answer and still be trying to avoid spoilers.

So for comments on answers, just don't worry. Post them without any kind of spoiler indication. It's less alienating to new users and makes everyone else's life easier with no real drawbacks.

  • $\begingroup$ I think you've mischaracterized the "policy" post you linked to. It's not a policy, it actually gives recommendations on how/where rot13 comments should be used, and its author created a browser addon specifically to handle rot13 comments; reading into all of that a policy against rot13 in comments seems a stretch. The other answer to the question opines "Our policy should be to require either mentioning rot13 or linking to rot13.com in any comments that have rot13ed text - preferably, both", roughly mirroring the policy-suggestion in the question itself; if we have a policy, that would be it. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio Mod
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 17:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree that answers-in-comments are inappropriate. But comments on questions might want spoilers if they are specifically asking for clarification or correction to the question regarding an aspect of the solution. This is what comments on questions are for; it would be unfortunate if the only way to give that feedback would be spoiling the puzzle because we disallow rot13 comments. As for comments on answers, putting solutions in spoiler tags is of little benefit if people then give the answer away in unspoilered comments. I'd much prefer to preserve the mystery for future would-be solvers. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio Mod
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 17:55

As the one who made the answer, I can agree that this is an issue. Unfortunately, I don't have a perfect solution to this, but I can offer my thoughts and suggestions.

I was a bit confused as to all the ROT-13 comments since I did make it a Community Wiki so anyone could have updated the answer. As such, I can think of a few potential reasons for this flood of encoded comments. These are based on experience and review of the comments and edit history.

However, I want to start with the belief that this is not because the user doesn't want to click more links or is being lazy. Encoding their contribution requires them putting forth the effort to go somewhere to encode it (or worse, do it themselves).

Users are unsure if their answer is correct

This scenario involves the users suggesting a potential answer rather than updating the answer. This would raise the question of "Why". The explanations I can offer for that is either the user would feel embarrassed if their edit was reverted or they are more interested in the process and being part of a discussion.

I'm not sure of solutions to the first once, since I don't believe there is a penalty for reverted edits or such. The community also seems pretty forgiving on mistakes or inaccurate suggestions.

The second could theoretically be solved with the "move to chat", but I doubt it would. The majority of comments are the only one from that user and having to click through to a chat room would just discourage participation. Also, I think the idea of a "chat room" is off-putting to some users for whatever reason.

Users want credit

With a Community Wiki answer, you have to go into the edit history to see who all worked on it and which sections they worked on. With a comment, the user's name is tied to their contribution directly below the answer.

I'm not sure of a solution to this scenario. Moving to a chat room would not work as it would be similar to having to to through the edit history to see contributions.

Users are unaware of Community Wiki

This could mean that users didn't see that the answer is a community wiki or that users are unfamiliar with how community wiki answers work. Either way, the resolution lies in educating/training users.

Users want to alert/explain the update

When commenting, you can cause an alert to go to a user. You can also explain what and why you changed. I'm not sure if users are unaware that the edit itself also sends an alert, but looking at the edit history, users seem to be aware of the "Edit Summary".

Best Solution

I think the ideal solution would be encouraging users to put answers into answers, especially if that just involves editing a community wiki. I understand that there are some cases where making an entirely new answer seems excessive and there is no community wiki to update. In those cases, the best option would be if the user could find a clever way to word the comment that doesn't give away the answer but helps the answerer get the point. This isn't always possible, though, and that's where the encoded comments start becoming a thing. I think this instance just seems worse because a movie title is hard to format in a clever way that doesn't give away the answer.

  • $\begingroup$ One additional reason - comments are, by design, ephemeral; once they've outlived their usefulness, either by being demonstrated to be wrong/inapplicable or by being incorporated into their parent post in the case of suggested improvements to a question or answer, anyone can flag them as "No longer needed" and they are generally tidied up. .... $\endgroup$
    – Rubio Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 20:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A wall of comments, ROT13ed or not, should get cleaned up at some point ... at which point it's no longer particularly meaningful that they were ROT13ed at all. But while they survive, we strongly prefer (as many posts have noted) that we preserve the mystery for solvers; if clever allusion to what you mean cannot be used, ROT13 is a lesser evil than silence. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 20:23

There is an alternative method that would work without needing ROT13:

Hover over this!

Unlike spoilers, this works in comments. (I literally just checked, but feel free to verify this yourself.) The downside is that it's not entirely obvious, especially on mobile, how to see the secret (on my phone I think you hold down the link to see it).

Here's the format, in a conventional spoiler, so that you know how it's done:

[Hover over this!](https://puzzling.meta.stackexchange.com/q/6376/25084 "It's a link with hover text!")

(Note that you actually need something that will be parsed as a URL, so I suggest simply using the question or answer's URL.)

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Spoiler $\endgroup$
    – Sleafar
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 16:31
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I cannot make the above spoiler visible on Android. $\endgroup$
    – Sleafar
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Sleafar Try pressing and holding when on Android's web browser - that should show the link text instead of the address when in Chrome or the Browser. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ @CanadianLuke I know, the link text is the URL of this answer, not the text we would like to see. $\endgroup$
    – Sleafar
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ Ahhh dang, it doesn't work for me anymore! It used to, sorry. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Sleafar, It depends on the browser. It works in Firefox, but not in Chrome. However, it certainly doesn't work in the official mobile app (and reportedly not on Mac either). Overall, I think there's too many circumstances where it becomes completely inaccessible (as opposed to just inconvenient, like rot13) for this to be a good option. $\endgroup$
    – Alconja
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 3:35

I am for leaving the rot13. I didn't care when the spoiler tag didn't work on my browser. I didn't care when it started working. I don't care that people are leaving rot13. I could learn to read rot13 if I cared.

Puzzling is a diversion. If people wanna play w/ rot13 let them.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .