Today I posted a straightforward "is there a word for concept X" question. One commenter made some opinionated and, arguably, condescending comments directed at me and the question. I resisted the urge to respond, but another user did, and it has spawned a 20+ comment argument that includes insults and other behavior that I'm pretty sure violates the code of conduct. Not to mention totally hijacking the question and probably turning away potential answerers. All this from a couple of critical comments that were just plain factually incorrect.

I flagged the question (rather than trying to flag 20+ comments individually) for moderator attention, asking that the comments be deleted. Is that the best way to handle the situation and get my question "back?"

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    By the way, I'm new to english.stackexchange.com but am a long-time contributor to stackoverflow.com (nearly 25K reputation, top 2%), so I know a thing or two about how people should behave on the platform. But I've never witnessed a comment stream this out of control. – E-Riz Jul 27 at 4:15
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    I think you handled the whole thing quite well. Presumably, a moderator will respond to your flag by reviewing the series of comments and removing the ones that add nothing to the progress of the posted question and answers. I'm sorry you encountered such a runaway comment thread on one of your earliest posts on English Language & Usage. It is possible that the most voluble commenter would benefit from a private communication from a moderator; the person evidently has been a site participant for only 26 days and may not be fully informed about the etiquette of Stack Exchange interactions. – Sven Yargs Jul 27 at 5:00
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes, that's fine, and it's been done in this case.

Comments are for clarification of the question. In some cases where the question really doesn't merit an answer on this site it can be helpful to provide an answer in a comment, but comments are not provided to allow a forum for discussion. If people have even the germ of an answer to an on-topic question, they should write an answer.

I don't know how the system handles authors' flags on their own posts: marking such a flag "Helpful" shouldn't ding the author, and I hope that doesn't happen. Your flag was helpful, so I marked it as such. To avoid any untoward effects, there is nothing inherently wrong with taking the trouble to flag each comment which you don't consider helpful: it only takes a certain number of flags for the comment to disappear without moderator intervention, and it helps the system keep track of troublesome commenters. Moderators receive automatic flags to have a look at commenters' behaviour once they have received a number of user flags. However, it's a good idea to do this as early as possible, before things get really out of hand.

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    After posting this I did go back and flag some of the individual comments, the ones that seemed to be the most egregious. I hesitate to do that in general, so I'm glad to hear that it's the right course of action. But it looks like all comments were removed, even though a few of them were about clarification and narrowing in on an answer. – E-Riz Jul 27 at 12:25
  • @E-Riz Were any of the flagged ones mine? I know there was were some indirect insults in that exchange but I don't think they were made by me. I don't think I was out of line with anything I said. I just felt the need to respond because many of the claims the other user was making were plainly absurd and unsubstantiated. I wish I could see the actual comments now with hindsight, but they've been completely deleted. Usually when comments get out of hand they're moved from there to a discussion chat room but that hasn't happened in this case. – Zebrafish Jul 29 at 15:56
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    It's actually very difficult to go back and see flagged comments. However, I don't believe any were yours, @Zebrafish. I removed all the comments because they appeared either to warrant deletion outright, or to have served their purpose and were therefore obsolete. – Andrew Leach Jul 29 at 16:39

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