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Here's an example of a question that's a bit older. The last edit of the question has been 3 years ago. At this point it seems clear that the comments there are not going to be used to improve the question (or the answers).

The question would be more clean if all of these comments, all of them not doing their job and just being a distraction, would be removed. However, flagging 26 comments is rather tedious.

So I just randomly flagged one of them and I'm assuming that that's enough. However, it feels mean towards that one comment, when it's not even the worst offender. So I want to be sure: Is flagging any comment as "not longer needed" acceptable in that situation? Or is there another way to make my intentions more clear?

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If your assessment is that all of the comments are worthless, flag the entire post and ask for a comment cleanup.

I'm not sure that's the case here, though. In particular, Eric Lippert links to a blog post that not only describes his personal philosophy about the use of comments in detail (and I am inclined to heed his advice since he was on the C# compiler team), but also points out that a large corpus of his code (the Roslyn compiler) is now open-source and online, so you can see his code commenting practices yourself.

In addition, there's some fairly sound (if somewhat overwrought) advice in some of the other comments posted. As a moderator, I'm unlikely to remove any material that might have value to others, whether it was "properly" posted in an answer or not.

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    "If your assessment is that all of the comments are worthless [...] I'm not sure that's the case here. In particular" - I actually agree with you there... and that makes it difficult again. Because throwing those comments out would be a shame, but right now they are a bit hidden between a lot of opinions and discussion. Or something like "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." that's smart and funny and everything, but doesn't really add value (IMHO, which might be different if it was in an answer). – R. Schmitz Jul 5 at 18:49
  • It might well be that currently, the only way to handle this is indeed to flag 22 comments. That's could also be an answer, if that's what it is. – R. Schmitz Jul 5 at 18:51
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    Well, I don't see 22 bad comments there. I removed the one you flagged, because it wasn't particularly helpful or insightful, but the remaining ones aren't especially troublesome. – Robert Harvey Jul 5 at 18:52
  • Well, I didn't count and 22 was just a guess/hyperbole/extrapolation. As example, to me the first 10 comments look like this: Answer; joke/"cool" comment; answer; comment-answer-discussion; answer; off-topic discussion; answer; comment-answer-discussion; off-topic discussion; comment-answer-discussion. Maybe I'm just being too harsh here? – R. Schmitz Jul 5 at 19:14
  • Which of those first 10 are (in your opinion) flag-worthy? – Robert Harvey Jul 5 at 19:15
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    Well, pretty much all of them, either because they're off-topic or because answers (plus their discussion) shouldn't be in comments. The only arguable one among these is actually the joke one, because if I understood it right, "we hate fun" but sometimes it is OK. Then again, maybe more leniency is appropriate here because the question is already older. I certainly don't want to be bothersome with this. – R. Schmitz Jul 5 at 19:22
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    I'm not an advocate of the "answers belong in answers" viewpoint. It's too difficult to compose a proper answer that meets the strict guidelines of these sites, and sometimes there just isn't time to do it properly. That's why we have comments as a safety valve. – Robert Harvey Jul 5 at 19:25
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    ... and why I'm so hard on questions (real questions have real answers). – Robert Harvey Jul 5 at 19:25
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    The only thing I take issue with is the narrative that's being peddled in the comments that most programmers are substandard. It's not particularly helpful, and smacks of elitism. – Robert Harvey Jul 5 at 19:36
  • OK, I've removed the four comments that discussed programming abilities on a bell curve. While I was there, I improved the answer a bit (the remaining comments, in the aggregate, are as good as, if not better than, the accepted answer, which has far too many populist upvotes). – Robert Harvey Jul 5 at 19:43
  • Yes, that was also just completely off-topic. It didn't add anything towards answering the question really. OK, I'm accepting this as answer then. – R. Schmitz Jul 5 at 19:48

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