Generally speaking, I believe that the moderation on this site is fairly lenient on comments.
Strictly speaking, here is what comments are for:
Comments exist so that users can talk about questions and answers without posting new answers that do not actually answer their parent questions. Comments are often used to ask for clarification on, suggest corrections to and provide meta-information about posts.
Comments also come with this caveat:
Comments are disposable: unlike posts, there's no revision history, and they can be deleted without warning by their authors, by moderators, and in response to flags.
Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer. You should not expect them to be around forever: Once a clarification has been made, an edit added to the post to include new information, or the issue in the comment is otherwise resolved, it is subject to deletion. In reality, many obsolete or chatty comments remain untouched due to the high volume of comments posted, but this does not mean that they can't or shouldn't be deleted in the future.
In a recent meta question, a user asked why their flag on a comment was declined.
One of the answers posted, which I believe summarizes my rationale as the moderator who declined the flag, says:
This site has a lot chattier atmosphere than other StackExchange sites. We tend to let comments like that slide unless there are a bunch of them on a post. Most of the comments we delete as "not constructive" are insulting or argumentative, not merely chatty.
Another answer on that question expresses concern that we are too tolerant with comments:
. I know that our comments are chattier than other sites, and that's fine within reason; but I don't believe our comments should be this level of chattiness. If you agree then you should push the "vote up" button, not leave a comment. (and I think "my speculations precisely" means "I agree", not "I think this is a speculation", which is almost the opposite in feeling).
In general, we use comments for more of a discussion forum here, and I think that's something that in the long run will hurt us. The comment discussions end up containing a lot of information that doesn't make its way back into the answers in some cases, and that's where the problem really is: in the long run, the answers need to contain all of the useful information. However, beyond that, assuming we keep more-or-less the discussions-in-comments that we do now, the lone "+1 agree" comments and such should still be removed, because they do harm to the rest of the discussion.
The Stack Exchange platform isn't made to make comment discussions really work; it hides all but a few comments, and can feel sort of at random which, so it's hard to follow the whole discussion when it has many comments. They're fine while the discussion is in progress, for the discussers; you get reply notifications and such. But days afterwards, they're not very readable. As long as the important information from the comments gets imported to the answer that's not a big deal - but if it doesn't, then having a lot of little random comments is very unhelpful, and it doesn't always get imported.
Moderating comments a bit more would be a reasonable middle ground, I think. Don't use comments to show agreement; those should be deleted. Comments should be used for clarifications or asking questions about the question or answer. Nothing wrong with a (even a long) discussion in the comments, as long as the comments are useful. But also don't use comments to answer the question; encourage people who 'answer in comments' to convert the comment to an answer proactively, at least once they've clarified things sufficiently if that's why it's a comment.
Either way I think we should discuss this, and in general our attitude on comments, either here or in a new question, as a community. It's one of the things that differentiates us greatly from other Stack Exchange sites, and I think it's worth discussing whether the current approach or something different is appropriate.
I believe this raises some valid points, and some very reasonable concerns. So, I would like to open this to community discussion.
What should our policy regarding comments be?
Where should we draw the line on acceptable comments? What type of comments should we be flagging?
Note that according to the rules on comments above, any comment can be subject to deletion, even if it provides valid and useful information. The way some of the moderator tools works makes it problematic to save useful comments under certain situations (such as useful comments in a chain of problematic comments, particularly if the moderator is trying to use a mobile device). Therefore, this isn't about what comments we should keep. Only about how do we handle cleanup of comments that we shouldn't keep.