I recently flagged an answer with a custom flag saying:

Comments are obsolete now

I flagged the answer rather than each individual comment because several times on MSE and MSO I've seen that advice, for instance here and here. It's even on the flagging page:

If you see a post where many comments should be deleted, especially if there's an ongoing discussion, there’s no need to flag each comment. Flag the post for moderator attention, and use the “other” reason explain what's going on.

The flag was marked helpful but with this note from the mod:

This was a valid flag, but next time please just flag the offending comment or comments directly instead of using a custom flag.

Am I missing something? Do we flag individual comments (in this case I think there were five or six), or the post as a whole? I was a bit surprised to see I hadn't put "All the" at the beginning of my flag ("All the comments are obsolete now"), but the mod seemed to get it as they were all cleaned up. Was it just a missing "all"? Or a new mod not familiar with this convention?

  • I think there was only one comment left by the time the moderator handled your flag. – Martijn Pieters Feb 13 '16 at 11:00
  • @MartijnPieters: Yup, you were right. – T.J. Crowder Feb 13 '16 at 14:22

I handled that flag, so I'll offer a little insight.

You're right that it's okay to flag the post rather than the individual comments if they all need to go, as explained in the posts you linked above:

My comment when I marked the flag helpful wasn't entirely clear under the circumstances and was partially based on my ignorance of context. As explained below, there's more to the story.

The issue here is that, as Martijn Pieters said in the comments, there was only one comment left by the time I saw the flag. You and the other commenter self-deleted all of your comments except for one about 6-7 minutes after you raised the flag, well before I saw it. So, I saw a custom flag where a single, standard flag would have sufficed. In fact, the surviving comment was yours, so you could have deleted it, and no flag was necessary. None of this context shows up directly in the mod tools, and I didn't investigate the context enough at the time to see the deleted comments.

So, your flag was fine when you raised it. It just didn't make sense to me by the time I saw it.

  • Makes sense. Thanks Ed! (I didn't see the post in the state where mine was the only comment left, would have cleaned it up -- and then you would really have wondered what the flag was for!) – T.J. Crowder Feb 13 '16 at 13:59
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    @T.J.Crowder Thanks for understanding! – Ed Cottrell Feb 13 '16 at 14:00
  • @T.J.Crowder Edited to clarify. BTW, not saying you should have deleted that last comment; you had no way of knowing it was the only one. I was just confused why I was seeing a custom flag. – Ed Cottrell Feb 13 '16 at 14:05
  • Yup, I got that. :-) – T.J. Crowder Feb 13 '16 at 14:18

I am going to go against the help page in this matter. Flag the individual comments.

You already read through all of them, and you know which are the offending comments. No reason for the moderator to do work that you've already done.

Sure, it's slightly more work for you, but the moderators deserve our help where we can give it to them.

  • Have you read the links? Or the "flagging" help page? Consensus is not to do that. And I don't see that handling 5-6 flags is less work than handling one. At the end of the day, I don't care which I should do, I just want a solid, consistent answer on what I should do because I am very aware indeed of how overworked the mods are. – T.J. Crowder Feb 13 '16 at 12:37
  • @T.J.Crowder I disagree with flagging the question, despite what the help page says. We shall see if I am alone in the matter. – Evorlor Feb 13 '16 at 12:58
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    Okay. You're not just disagreeing with the help page, but also the likes of legendary SO moderator Bill the Lizard. Which is your right. (BTW, "Have you read the links?" sounds wrong reading it back, I meant it purely literally, not aggressively. Apologies if it came off the other way.) – T.J. Crowder Feb 13 '16 at 13:08

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