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Related: How much of an answer/suggestion should be in comments to questions?

Related (newer): Should users refrain from answers (or partial answers) in comments?

What’s the best way to deal with answers posted as comments? I’ve run into this a few times with my recent popular question. Some folks have been persistent about posting advice in the comments. Eventually I replied “please post that as an answer” and flagged the comments as “too chatty.” In the earlier meta question, mxyzplk suggests flagging as “not constructive.”

What’s the best way to communicate the situation to the commenter or the moderators so that this stuff gets posted as answers, or at least not as comments?

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Asking them to post it as an answer is a great first step. There are lots of users who honestly don't know better, and a few who do know better but slip up anyway. (Not that I'd know anything about that. ;) )

If they do post it as an answer, great! Vote on it as appropriate and flag the comments as mxyzplk mentioned. But what if they don't?

Steal It

Steve Jobs said that "great artists steal." In this case, it's an entirely legitimate thing to do. We want good answers. If someone posts a good answer in a comment, and despite cajoling won't post it as an answer, feel free to do it yourself. That comment won't be around forever, and we want to keep the good stuff.

Personally I don't do it without first asking the author to do it. If they don't, then I'll do it and make a note of who wrote it originally ("Thanks X!"). I don't think there's any rule that actually requires that, I just find it courteous.

Don't let good answers disappear if you can avoid it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this a bit better, it's good to preserve the information. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Oct 22 '14 at 23:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Steal it early. Credit if you'd like. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 23 '14 at 0:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would like to emphasize the credit being optional thing: if someone puts in a small comment and you wind that concept into a decently sized answer, probably ask yourself if the credit is actually earned and genuine or just a niceness you're doing to be polite. (And, really, the commenter won't have much basis to complain: they did choose to leave it just as a comment.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 23 '14 at 12:46
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To them - comment "this should be an answer, comments are temporary and not for answers" To moderators - again, flag as not constructive and we'll up and delete it

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Not Constructive" seems an odd choice of flag for a comment that answers the question. I mean, I agree that those comments should be flagged and deleted, but why that particular flag? Could you perhaps unpack the reasoning behind that? \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Oct 16 '14 at 0:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Because it doesn't matter, and it's less confusing than flagging as spam or offensive don't you think? If you want to go to the trouble of "other" and writing a message feel free, but the amount of time merited on comments by flagged and/or mod is low. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Oct 16 '14 at 0:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ That seems fair enough. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Oct 16 '14 at 0:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I recommend “too chatty” for this. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Oct 21 '14 at 4:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I see "not constructive" in the sense that it works counter to the purpose of comments: it's not trying to improve the parent-post, so it's not constructive (narrowly construed). OTOH, I usually take the ten seconds to throw an Other... "answer in comment" on it. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 20 '17 at 4:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Please see this for a better response to this problem: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/117251/… \$\endgroup\$ – user28291 Mar 17 '17 at 14:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ClaraOnager I disagree that responds to this problem, unless appended with "sure and let the answers in comments flow!" Which we're not gonna do. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 17 '17 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can disagree with it personally all you like, but as a moderator, if the community agrees that answers in comments should be given a chance to be stolen then you should go with that rather than personal preference \$\endgroup\$ – user28291 Mar 22 '17 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think Tridus has successfully synthesized an answer from both concerns. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 22 '17 at 13:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Besides, we do have much newer guidance on this. rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6533/… \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 22 '17 at 13:53
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I think that this approach to answers in comments is the one we should follow rather than the overly speedy deletion of comments that we have right now:

Steal comments that answer the question and post them as an answer.

It's also backed up as the right resolution in meta.stackexchange and is an answer stolen from a comment by Jeff Atwood and you can't get much better than that!

Obviously once you've created such an answer the comment should be flagged for deletion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Obviously once you've created such an answer the comment should be flagged for deletion." Or flag the comment right away, copy and save its text, and get to work on your answer. :) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 17 '17 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well either way works, provided you save the text, personally I tend to be one of those people who forgets to copy the original and save it somewhere else but instead relies on the original \$\endgroup\$ – user28291 Mar 17 '17 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ That meta is a bit more specific: it's titled “How to handle unanswered questions that have the answer in a comment or edited into the question?” That's not the circumstance here, though its solution is reasonable for a user to take in the case this meta is about. However, it's not presented as an alternative to mods handling comments — that's something you're adding here, without any justification for why. It's not a position supported (or even mentioned) by that accepted answer or Jeff Atwood, as this answer implies. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 17 '17 at 16:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Without that addition, this answer is a duplicate of the existing highest-voted answer on this meta question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 17 '17 at 16:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ That doesn't answer the question. Sure, maybe we do this once there's a successful answer in a comment and the OP doesn't want to hear more answers. But we want to prevent answers in comments in the first place, and will delete them before it gets to this point. IMO that meta is for an exception process for when it's gone so far that there's already a comment-answer that the OP has said "Oh that's right OK I'm out" to. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 17 '17 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you're both being quite picky in order to defend the way you're already doing things. Maybe you should reconsider. Because if you delete an answer in a comment before anyone has had a chance to process it and steal it then what you actually end up doing is suppressing answers in general and that's not very clever in a Q&A site. \$\endgroup\$ – user28291 Mar 20 '17 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ If "don't delete answers left in comments" is part of your answer, it needs to be said more clearly, and with more detail to be practically understandable and usable. For example, are you saying "never" delete answers in comments? If not never, when? Or are you saying that mods should be required to steal answers in comments before being allowed to delete them? I don't see enough info here to be a meaningful suggestion that's different than the existing top answer, or doable. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 20 '17 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you're deliberately being obtuse now, what part of 'the comment should be flagged for deletion' are you having trouble understanding? \$\endgroup\$ – user28291 Mar 22 '17 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I'm not sure I follow. You're saying this already says what mods should do? Perhaps there's a misunderstanding, then: When a mod flags a comment for deletion it is instantly deleted. We can't "just" flag. Can you see now how I'm confused about what you're saying mods should do? This seems to only actually say what regular users should do, while implying it is also what mods should do. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 22 '17 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah okay, I was unaware that mods get to instantly delete stuff. In which case maybe you should give it 24 hours before deletion so that someone else has a chance to steal it. Currently it seems like potential sources of a good idea (like comments with an answer suggestion) are nigh on instantly removed before anyone gets a chance to think about them. It's not deleting comments with answers that's at issue it's how quickly they are deleted \$\endgroup\$ – user28291 Mar 22 '17 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ The delay is a bit of a practical problem though—there isn't a way to track comments we've seen that we need to "come back to later". In effect that would be simply "don't delete". \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 23 '17 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, that is tricky to sort out then. Shame. \$\endgroup\$ – user28291 Mar 23 '17 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I post the answer and I let the comment remain visible for all to see. Haha. \$\endgroup\$ – can-ned_food Jun 4 '17 at 14:11
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When I post an answer as a comment, I take the risk that my comment will eventually be deleted. But comment deletions are not so quick nor frequent, and my comment will most probably be read and taken into account before it happens.

On the other hand, when I post an answer as a real answer, I take the risk of being downvoted and loosing reputation points. Once I will have thousands of reputation points I think I won't really care about it anymore. But currently I am still low rep and I have to pay attention to this possibility. When I was under 50 it was even more important because not being able to comment really sucks and the tiniest little rep point is important.

There are strict rules for downvoting answers, for example they must be nonconstructive or offtopic. But experience shows that among high-rep users who don't care anymore about the rep, some won't hesitate to downvote just because they don't like it, even if the response is constructive and ontopic, exactly as if they were on META where you are allowed to proceed like this.

Since I ask myself a lot of questions, I am the first happy that there are so much competent people that can make very complete and detailed answers. But when I am in the position of answering, I know that there is a high probability that a "Thousand goldish" user will post something three times better and more detailed and get most upvotes.

Once again I won't complain about this since it helped me so much in the game so far. And I am even more sorry that I don't exactly conforms to the rules, but most of the time I'd rather leave my two cents in a comment or say nothing, rather than taking the trouble of posting a useless answer that might even grant me downvotes

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    \$\begingroup\$ Saying "I engage in bad behavior to get rep" is a good way to not get much more rep. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Oct 22 '14 at 17:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are a few misconceptions here; clearing them up might help your experience with the site. 1) There are no strict rules for downvoting. People can downvote for any reason they like. 2) People went to "thousand goldish" from nothing by posting answers that others thought were good. You can do the same thing. 3) One reason comments are not for answering is that it can prevent the asker from fixing a held question. A held question left unfixed stays closed to new (maybe better!) answers forever, so leaving answers in comments hurts the asker in the long run. Don't hurt the asker! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 22 '14 at 19:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, because comments can't be downvoted, can't be edited and corrected, and providing clear feedback on them is not necessarily going to be straightforward, #3 can mean the asker took a not very good answer in comments, left, and will be off doing their own thing with either an incorrect approach, or one where something better is available. So, leaving your answer as a comment instead is kinda doing a disservice to the asker. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 22 '14 at 21:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also worth pointing out that you're not going to get 'thousands of reputation points' answering in comments. You want rep, you gotta put yourself out there. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Oct 22 '14 at 22:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ You gain 10 rep per upvote, and lose 2 per downvote. Given that upvotes are far more frequent than downvotes, the only time your rep should go down meaningfully is if you are consistently making poor quality answers. If your answers answer the question, you'll come out ahead on rep. That's all anybody with thousands of rep ever did to get it. :) You can't gain rep in comments, no matter how good they are. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 22 '14 at 23:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, as SevenSidedDie mentioned, the rule for downvoting answers is "I dislike this answer enough that I'm willing to spend rep to downvote it." That's it. That can mean it's not constructive, it can mean it's wrong, it can mean it's grammar is so bad that you can't understand it, and it can even mean that it's just considered rude by the person voting. It's deletes that have stricter guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 22 '14 at 23:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ You misunderstood me there. I am not a rep-hunter. If I was a rep-hunter I would never have posted this to begin with. I just feel a bit frustrated when the site tells me that I don't have enough to access some functionality. For example I still can't take a look at what is in the review queue. \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Oct 23 '14 at 9:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel even more frustrated when I have a lot of good questions that almost got no upvotes, and in the meantime my question about the 100k and no gear kept getting upvotes even while being on hold and became my most upvoted question so far. Not only I feel weird about this, but I also have the feeling that the system is unfair and conforts the people that already have a high rep, and that it might have been more easier to get many upvotes in the past, but maybe I am just jealous, who knows? After all I am still a minmaxer who likes earning levels whatever they are ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Oct 23 '14 at 9:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Epeedefeu In a way, it's not fair. My highest rated answer is nowhere near my best one, nor the one I put the most work into. It's just on a question that happened to get on the SE hot list and had a title that brought in a ton of people from other sites, so it got a ton of eyeballs that don't usually come here. In any real world system involving human behavior, "be in the right place at the right time" and "dumb luck" are things. Over the long haul it does even itself out. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 23 '14 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Epeedefeu It's perfectly reasonable to want privileges. But you won't get them unless you actually, y'know, post stuff people can vote on. Please, if you have something answer-worthy, post it as an answer. If you leave it as a comment... well, you can see the response this is getting. It is not welcome behaviour. At its best an answer in comments might be helpful but then it has to be deleted and valuable information gets lost, at its worst answering in comments has outright destructive results. In all cases it's better for everyone involved, including you, to post an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 23 '14 at 12:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Privileges come slowly so that, hopefully, users are more familiar with how they should use their new powers before they get them. That goes double for the review queue: bad reviewing is worse than no reviewing. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 23 '14 at 20:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ They should create a separate privilege for viewing the review queue read-only and grant it earlier. Actually I am more interested to see how the whole thing works and what is in it rather than actually reviewing \$\endgroup\$ – Epeedefeu Oct 24 '14 at 8:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Epeedefeu That'd be a cool feature to suggest on Meta Stack Exchange. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Oct 30 '14 at 2:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is actually informative because it explains why I think some people post answers in comments to begin with. It then either becomes habit or they manage to make it work — after a fashion. \$\endgroup\$ – can-ned_food Jun 4 '17 at 14:09

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