An example of what I'm talking about is here: https://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/113513/discussion-on-question-by-ellenoid-how-should-i-deal-with-coworkers-who-dont-wa
There were many comments, some with around 30 or 50 upvotes, on the question at hand. For a while, the comments were appropriate.
Then a question was raised in the comments, which received an answer...which then turned into an argument...and so on and so forth. At that point, all of the comments were moved into chat.
The concern I have with this approach is that one user - though their intentions and concerns might have been good - single-handedly turned the comments into an "extended discussion", whereas several different users preceding them had kept things perfectly on track.
Now those several different users, some with very valuable comments and with many, many upvotes, have had their contributions lost, just because of the divergence created by a lone individual. Now when somebody sees the question, they can't even get the information they would otherwise have had access to (without really treading far off the beaten path).
While the individual in this particular case may have good intentions (I did said a thing or two about it though, because I knew they were putting the group at risk of losing the comments), my concern is this...
SE is very quick to handle things this way, and all it takes is one individual to sabotage the group. While this person may have had good intentions, in other interactions going forward, all it takes is one deliberate troll to have a solid string of perfectly valid comments removed...which is the kind of thing that trolls want in the first place.
And even if it's not a deliberate troll - even if it's just one individual that keeps pushing an "extended discussion" within the comments - it's still just one user causing the whole group to be punished.
So what I recommend is, in many cases, only moving the comments to chat that started at the point of divergence. Anything above that point, where comments were not sidetracked, stays. Anything at the point of divergence into "extended discussion" and below gets moved. This way legitimate comments above stay, while the true problem is still cleaned up.
In Case this Comes up:
Yes, I understand a few individuals had to respond to the main user in question, in order to make this happen (my lone comment before the move was to rebuke/caution this user)...but that still means that random users are getting punished unfairly, and their valuable contributions, that were perfectly on track before this started, are getting lost to future readers.
While this time may be a casualty, I recommend tweaking our procedures moving forward, so that the discussion comments are still moved, but the non-discussion ones above are allowed to remain.
A recent answer made me decide to go ahead and add this: At least a couple of answers to this question earlier were describing comments as transient, and they really seemed to push the idea that comments were viewed, to put it bluntly, as basically nothing but worthless bloat after a very short length of time. While this did surprise me a little bit, it also makes me wonder:
If comments pretty much always have a super-short lifespan, then become worthless trash afterwards, then why are we not automatically deleting them? If they take up space, distract readers, and so on, without adding any value, why do we keep them? And why do we force moderators to spend any time worth mentioning on this, when it's far quicker and easier to just run a purge algorithm in the background?
This doesn't contradict the idea that comments are transient and always become valueless rather quickly, but it does seem to be striking a nail with a screwdriver, rather than with a hammer. And this is not the only reason that I really strongly feel that the rule about comments de jure and the moderation practices concerning them de facto are two very, very different things - they appear different for other reason(s) as well.
So while I understand what's being said, it doesn't seem to go along with how this or other Stack Exchange sites are actually governed or treated by the community. So I'd kind of like to hear more about this, before potentially accepting an answer.