The present situation regarding comments seems to be deteriorating. Bad comments stay, good comments go, and the site does not get any better with this.
Bad comments left standing
We all know what comments are, and how they should be used, or treated. Or do we?
Plainly superfluous, chatty, 'incorrect info giving comments' are left standing far too often. (In case an argument should come up like 'users need to flag those': Going back through my declined flags, the last two were 1. a primitive misunderstanding on a question's topic, rectified by a clarifying edit made to the question obsoleting the comment, 2. a chatty comment responding with incorrect info on another comment that responded on another incorrect info as well. That was 3 levels of 'not improving the question' left standing, to this day). It seems to me 'no-longer-needed' is a flag one can forget about entirely, as others noted a long time ago. But it seems that 'flag any comment as 'rude'', even obviously incorrectly, and it has a high likelihood of disappearing.
I can give more examples when requested, with links and screenshots.
Why are those chatty and incorrect comments not pruned? What happened to our 'comments are barn cats' analogy?
Don't we have far too many half-answers in comments, for which the official SE policy is: don't do that!? At all!
It's a big problem to see an utterly incorrect half-answer comment get double the upvotes than a full-on correct high quality answer posted at roughly the same time.
Good comments disappearing
Some posts are egregiously bad. Even if they seem to appear fine on first look. Many users just reading along, not checking the arguments made, and certainly far too seldom checking up on the links vote very superficially. That is bad. These posts need at least some comments to point out the flaws. That is what 'when should I comment'-help says to do, that is what the post notice "may be disputed" implies.
Some posts are in need of correcting comments below them! (Meta had this topic before) We also need more post notices for 'citation please'. If a flag requesting such a notice comes up, the banner should follow. My impression is that mods apply those notices on their own whim, if they, the mods have complaints about a post, but decline most flags in that direction?
Abusing the emergent system
Moderators lately abuse the 'move to chat function' — and at the same time have complained about 'users not posting to chat but continuing to post below a post'.
— 3.1. The first 'abuse' is that apparently there is an alert going off for a threshold of comments. Mods here then sweep in, move all of the stuff to chat. No pruning, no quality assessment to keep some comments attached to the post. Sorry, this is automatism, best done by a bot, and frankly: lazy. There are many many comments that do not need any conservation. And there are many important additions, criticisms etc that are far better and much more useful if left below the post.
The '20 comments alert and now move' is also not 'the law': around the SE network we can see posts that on purpose have much more comments below a post left standing for long time. Why? Because they are useful, and seen as such by mods, so they make exceptions.
— 3.2. The second abuse is that some mods 'move to chat' very short comment threads, also most of the time without any pruning leaving a message that says: "Comments are not for extended discussion", when in reality there are/were usually less than 10 comments made. In each and every instance this was evidently not an extended discussion. It seems some mods became somehow scared and want to avoid any form of controversy? But the effect is that
—— 3.2.1. Those chat rooms with less than 20 (?) overall messages do not just get 'frozen' after a while, but outright deleted! That fact alone proves that there was no extended "discussion" in the first place. It also achieves the opposite effect of 'preserving the comments in chat', obviously.
If that is the intended effect mods want: then why not either state that plainly in the comment message that goes along the move2chat?
Like: "I the mod want this discussion which I consider fruitless anyway to die in an abandoned/detached chatroom that's scheduled for deletion, but you guys have a few days to see how bad it all went down in the comments; and, if you insist can still participate in this mess"
That is understandable, even transparent to a degree, and honest. Move to chat with just six messages and this auto-comment is not honest.
Better yet: why not outright delete those comments? Those offending comments? Since some comments should stay, and some of those should stay attached!
Yeah, perhaps difficult to decide, maybe more work, complaints also guaranteed for that. But in my view: still an improvement?
—— 3.2.2. This effect is obviously also abused by certain users. Or is mod behaviour abused by those users? Those users that are prone to post things like "this is not a forum", but comment amply on other posts, make chatty comments, respond to comments that respond to comments; in short: users that are prone to indeed engage in extended discussion in comments. But those users start kicking and screaming, with ad hominem and personalised attacks, if their posts are commented on in what they perceive as 'negativity'. These comments are designed to escalate, not confirming to any expected conduct, and show 1. that these users cannot control themselves, and that these violations are selectively, and thereby arbitrarily enforced. (Archive of screenshots, actual usernames, and still working links omitted for now. It's a shame that personalised attacks and a barrage of plain insults were in effect useful to get this user's wishes fulfilled).
Those users do not like the flaws of their posts pointed out in comments, accuse others of 'spamming the comments', and then flood the comments, apparently counting on the mods removing the entire thread, either by direct deletion of: 1. factual, neutral, 'about the post & not the person', and needed correcting comments; or by 2: indiscriminate move to chat, with leaving valid comments below post or prior pruning.
What is to be done now?
What I'd like to see from this meta post is:
an update from mods on the current situation: what are the implicit policies, tendencies, rationales?
input from non-mod users about the current state and intended goal of our comment policies
That premature move-to-chat just stops! If an alert goes off, first prune the comments. Only if there is indeed 'a chat' developing, and is either semi-useful, or 'interesting', and above the resulting threshold for a room to not auto-dlete, then move to chat.
But leave useful, needed, on-topic & on-puropse (improving the post) comments as much in place as much as anyhow possible!