Let's start with how comments are meant to be used, according to our own rules:

What are comments?

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer. They can be up-voted (but not down-voted) and flagged, but do not generate reputation. There's no revision history, and when they are deleted they're gone for good.

[...]

When should I comment?

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

  • Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit;
  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);
  • Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!"); instead, up-vote it and pay it forward;
  • Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);
  • Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;
  • Discussion of community behavior or site policies; please use meta instead.

As well as the message in the comment box itself:

Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements.
Avoid comments like "+1" or "thanks".

This all seems pretty reasonable. The way the rules intend comment to be used is as temporary suggestions or as notices and reminders.

Specifically, according to the rules, comments should not be used to replace any other site functionality:

  • Don't comment just to say a post is good or bad, that's what votes are for; such comments don't add anything that's not already shown by the post's score
  • Don't comment to answer a question, that's what answers are for; comments cannot be down voted, edited, or accepted, and as such bypass a majority of answers' quality controls
  • Don't mention things not strictly related to the post you're commenting on; there are better places to discuss, places where posts won't just vanish without leaving a trace

However, in practice that is often not the case. I'd like to bring up some examples from my own declined flags:

On this answer:

Ohhh thanks, such a big help 😉

On this question:

This is only a guess, but I believe it's pre-mitigated damage, from my experience playing since it was in closed beta.

On this question:

If you're not fishing and mining at the same time, wouldn't disabling one of them help while doing the other? (right click the minimap and choose what to display)

On this question:

Are cheats enabled? The /weather command will only work if cheats are enabled. Another thing to check is the formatting. /weather requires a second argument specifying the weather type (/weather rain, /weather thunder, or /weather clear)

On this answer:

TL;DR. Skyrim belongs to the Nords

On this question:

As far as I know, collecting codexes and medals are only used for unlocking things in multiplayer, there are no additional stories to unlock.

On this question:

Great, I'm playing WaW too. Some of the levels of Nazi Zombies is playable before completing the entire game. But I would suggest you to complete the entire single player campaign as it is quite awesome.

Three different comments on this question:

I mean, use arrows?

Consider using 1-3 spells in your deck; at least one that does damage (Arrows, fireball, ect)

Its recommended not to use all your elixir in one shot (delpoying many troops), and to conserve some.

On this question:

Check your internet, antivirus and/or firewall connections. If that is all good, contact customer service over at the Support Portal.

I could go on.

I understand that this community really likes using comments this way, and that trying to change that would be met with wide disapproval. So I'm asking to change the rules to notify people that it's fine to post answers, jokes, fluff, and so on in comments.

  • Just a note - that page is, if I recall right, the standard boilerplate for all SE sites - I'm not sure we as mods have the capability of changing it. – Ash Jun 5 at 23:22
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    Why would you ever want to remove useful comments? Sure, some of them would fit better as an answer, but a little help is better than no help. The one from me was meant to be a hint for the OP and I was hoping to get a response from which I could have created a proper answer, but unfortunately that never happened. Still it was useful in my opinion and the flag declined rightfully. – dly Jun 6 at 7:05
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    Humm... I was In one of those comments, but I dont really get the question. Are you asking to never put an short answer in a comment? "I mean, use arrows?" Cannot really be an answer sinse its obvious (for that question in that game) and its like 5 words. – GamerM Jun 16 at 22:20

When handling comment flags, mods have few options: 'Delete', 'Edit' or 'Dismiss', and no way to give the flagger a canned or custom reason as to why a particular action was taken, so we get it would probably be frustrating to see declined flags on stuff that - on a quick reading of the rules - may be valid for removal.

That being said, context context context. I cannot stress enough how important context is when flagging (and when we handle them). To quote Grace Note, when a community member thought it'd be a good idea to build a script to auto-flag comments:

Do not flag based purely on naive keyword searches. If I thought a simple keyword search was sufficient to remove these comments, I would remove them en masse and cut out the middlemen.

This is why when looking at those comment rules, I generally go "yeah, ok", and then proceed back into the real world. Moderators have long been called 'exception handlers' for the stuff that automated scripts and moderation-by-community-review can't handle, or in some cases, get wrong (e.g. deleting highly-voted but wrong/detrimental answers). We're not automated scripts that blindly delete comments just because you think they aren't needed and flagged them. We take into consideration the broader picture, the context: what's happening around the comment?

  • Is the question closed?
  • Is the comment on a up/downvoted answer?
  • Does the comment call an answer wrong?
    • Is there another answer that disproves the current answer?
  • Is the comment a clarification that hasn't been edited into the question/answer?
    • Why hasn't the comment info been added to the post?
  • Is the comment part of a short ongoing discussion that's still currently needed, and it's removal would make the thread confusing?
  • Is the comment an 'answer in 'comment' and the only response the question has had since its posting?
    • Is the information in the answer-comment already part of an answer (from the comment OP or otherwise?).

And probably most importantly:

Would removing the comment be detrimental to the site or it's visitors?

As an example of what I mean, let's look at each of those declined flags, and cover why they were left on the site:


Ohhh thanks, such a big help 😉
this answer

Putting aside the fact that the question is closed and that the comment was flagged 4 hours after the question was closed (busywork for the sake of busywork?) this comment is useful info to have, and therefore a 'No longer needed' flag is invalid here. Why?

  • This is a comment from the question OP
  • The question OP is saying that the answer helped them
  • The question OP has not accepted an answer (and likely will not accept an answer being a low-rep user).

Having this comment remain in existence is basically as good as answer acceptance.

If the question wasn't closed and the answer (or a different answer) was accepted, then yeah, a flag would be useful and we could probably remove this comment.


This is only a guess, but I believe it's pre-mitigated damage, from my experience playing since it was in closed beta.
this question

This one is a bit of a weird case, in the sense that the 'post-it note' comment and an unverified answer is basically all we really have on the question currently.

If the answer cited some sources/evidence rather than just being a one-liner, we could probably remove this comment, but as it stands having two people say the same (unverified) thing is better than one - removal of this comment in the question's current state would be detrimental to future visitors.


If you're not fishing and mining at the same time, wouldn't disabling one of them help while doing the other? (right click the minimap and choose what to display)
this question

and

Are cheats enabled? The /weather command will only work if cheats are enabled. Another thing to check is the formatting. /weather requires a second argument specifying the weather type (/weather rain, /weather thunder, or /weather clear)
this question

and

As far as I know, collecting codexes and medals are only used for unlocking things in multiplayer, there are no additional stories to unlock.
this question

These are all useful information that are/were (at the time of flagging at least) not contained in an answer. Deleting them would be at the detriment to future visitors.

In all cases, the comment OPs are fairly high-rep users, so I've left them friendly comments requesting they expand them into answers.

If they don't respond in the next couple of days, I will turn them into community wiki answers and remove the comment. (I have done this occasionally for both answers in comments and answers in the question body).


TL;DR. Skyrim belongs to the Nords
this answer

We're not fun-averse here. While yeah, if this sort of thing was becoming a serious concern with everyone trying to be funny to the point that serious discussion was being drowned out, we'd address it by being stricter on this sort of thing (see the discussions around 'funny out of context titles' comments), but this? It's one comment that got more upvotes than the answer it's on. Yours and the moderator's time is better spent worrying about something else.


Great, I'm playing WaW too. Some of the levels of Nazi Zombies is playable before completing the entire game. But I would suggest you to complete the entire single player campaign as it is quite awesome.
this question

This flag, I kinda agree with - the only new thing that it brings to the table is the fact you can play some Zombie maps without completing the campaign, which the current answer doesn't touch on, so I can kinda see where it might be useful too.

This might just be one of those borderline cases where even different moderator tastes would've ended up with the flag being handled differently.


I mean, use arrows?

Consider using 1-3 spells in your deck; at least one that does damage (Arrows, fireball, ect)

Its recommended not to use all your elixir in one shot (delpoying many troops), and to conserve some.
this question

This is again, one of those cases where the time and the context are important. At the time of flagging, (and at the time the flags were handled):

  • There was no answer to the question
  • The discussion was ongoing.

These were rightly declined at the time. If they were flagged now, these comments would probably be removed, although you might want to just flag the post and say "all comments here were used for clarifying the post and are now obsolete", rather than flag individually.

Check your internet, antivirus and/or firewall connections. If that is all good, contact customer service over at the Support Portal.
this question

And again, no answer was posted that contained this information, so it's deletion would be detrimental to the site.

Now that the question is closed, and unlikely to be reopened, there's really not much to do here. If the question was open, we could request the comment OP expand it into a full answer, or post it as a CW ourselves.


Conclusion

Look, we get that comments are supposed to be temporary post-it notes, but sometimes, if a post-it note is all we got, then we gotta work with that. Your enthusiasm is great, and we get it can be frustrating especially as we can't normally share these explanations with you via the comment-flag-handling-process. We can't even mark the flag as 'Helpful' without deleting the comment, so we have to decline if we think the comment is useful.

Moving forward, can I suggest a 3-tiered approach to fighting the onslaught of answers in comments:

  1. Check if the info in the comment has been incorporated into an answer yet.
    • If it has, then flag as 'no longer needed'. We'll try to be diligent about checking this, I can't promise that we will agree with every flag, but hopefully this answer will at least help you understand our thought process.
    • If it hasn't, move to the next step:
  2. Request that the comment OP writes up a full answer. And be nice! People are more inclined to be helpful if they feel like their contributions matter to you:
    • Thank them for contributing
    • Tell them they have provided useful information
    • Request that they move (or expand) the comment into a proper answer
  3. If no answer is written in say, 2-3 days or something, write one yourself (cite or quote the comment if you wish), then flag the comment as no longer needed. After all, that way everyone wins:
    • The OP's question gets answered
    • The site gets a useful answer
    • You get the satisfaction of seeing a comment get removed.

I hope this helps explain where we stand in regards to comments, answer-comments, and just flag handling in general.

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    As I said, I perfectly understand the effective rules that exist to handle comments. I disagree, but I understand what the community's stance is. I'm not asking for an explanation as to why these flags were declined, I'm asking that these rules be made official. – Wrigglenite Jun 6 at 7:18
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    Sure, the rules you've linked are the rules for leaving comments, but your examples are all declined comment flags that were declined because of the context surrounding them - removing them (at the time of flagging) would leave the site worse off. You're seeing comments, thinking "this comment doesn't follow the rules", and then flagging it without considering the wider ramifications that removal would have. – Robotnik Jun 6 at 7:44
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    What I'm trying to communicate here is to look at the bigger picture: what matters more? An answer in a comment, or the 10,000 people that viewed the question and didn't find what they were looking for, because the answer-comment had been removed before it had been made into an actual answer? – Robotnik Jun 6 at 7:45
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    Sorry, but you're not addressing my question. – Wrigglenite Jun 6 at 12:23
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    Your question is based on the premise that these sorts of comments must be allowed because you're getting flag-declined and therefore the 'commenting free-for-all' should be codified in the rules. I'm saying that premise is flawed, and that the flags were declined for the reasons stated above. So no, I'm not addressing the question, I'm addressing the agenda behind the question. – Robotnik Jun 6 at 12:33
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    This is going to be my last comment on this answer. This post explains in detail the way the community has decided to ignore the rules that make things work in the first place, which I'm already familiar with. I'd be happy with these rulings if they were mentioned anywhere at all in the help center, but they currently are not. I hope that clears any doubt there was about my question. – Wrigglenite Jun 6 at 12:44

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