Early on I got one comment on one of my answers that it should have been a comment, at the time I didn't have the privilege to post comments, which seems really silly. Comments are supposed to be less important than answers, so why is everyone allowed to write answers from the start, but not comments?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Seems like someone else should have pointed out to the commenter that you didn't have that privilege yet. It should be fairly obvious if the user has low rep that they might not be able to comment. \$\endgroup\$ – mirv120 May 10 '11 at 21:55

Because comments are less important.

We only want to be getting comments from people we know can and will add value to the site, not just the grand internet peanut gallery.

Note that you can comment on your own question and answers to your own question from the start.

Jeff states it rather clearly here.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That doesn't solve anything, you just get what's supposed to be a comment posted as an answer. And you'd only want answers from people you know add value to the site, but you don't find that out until after they've already given some answers. \$\endgroup\$ – migo Apr 5 '11 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @migo and we have tools for rating the quality of the answers provided. We have "less good" tools for rating comments. Our core business is the Questions and the Answers, we expect everyone to cut their teeth on those. \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Apr 5 '11 at 20:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ And then potentially drive away people who are told they're doing it wrong because they don't have the tools to do it right? \$\endgroup\$ – migo Apr 5 '11 at 20:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ It won't drive them away if they're actually here to ask/answer and not just comment. Frankly I'd like to see more comment limitations, as a mod when I see 10+ comments on one answer I start looking to do something about it. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 6 '11 at 2:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Although I understand Jeff's reasons, I agree with Mi-Go on this. When a new user wants to make a comment, they're forced to create an answer instead. That means that throwaway comments, from people that haven't learned the system, get promoted to answers. It rather goes against the idea that answers are more important. \$\endgroup\$ – Graham Apr 6 '11 at 16:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Graham: throwaway comment-answers don't necessarily get converted... They can (and should) just be deleted. We kinda want it to be a bad experience, since - comment or answer - these aren't the sort of contributions we want from new users. \$\endgroup\$ – Shog9 Apr 6 '11 at 17:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Those answers get downvoted/deleted because they're not real answers. When someone comes here and just wants to chat and comment, they have to get broken of that fast. If they can't deal with that format, there's many a forum to inhabit. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 29 '12 at 5:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk quite often I see an answer by a 1 rep user who never returns, who provides a helpful non-answer as an answer not a comment. That is the issue I see with the topic at hand. \$\endgroup\$ – AncientSwordRage Apr 2 '12 at 20:43

The answer to this is really the same as when we covered this in Meta Stack Overflow. So to quote that answer over here:

We funnel users to the answer input box for a reason -- because the focus is on getting answers to questions, not meta-commentary. Commenting is a privilege that should be earned by providing useful answers. And 50 rep isn't much.

It's highly unlikely a random drive-by user will

  • understand our Q&A goals
  • understand our commenting system

So by the time they earn 50 rep, they should have learned roughly how things work, and be in a position to offer a useful comment and not a "+1 AWESOME ANSWER" or "NO U R WRONG!!" sort of comment.

New users can't ask for clarifications except as answers

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why not add vote downs to comments as well then? \$\endgroup\$ – migo Apr 5 '11 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @migo: why not just ditch comments entirely, and create threaded answers? Because discussion is contrary to the site. And yes, we're fighting against the tide by actively discouraging discussion... But experience has shown that it's the only way the site will work long-term. \$\endgroup\$ – Shog9 Apr 6 '11 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ By threaded answers you mean answers to answers to answers? \$\endgroup\$ – migo Apr 6 '11 at 21:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @migo: right. That's the (well, a) traditional forum setup: you post a question, folks respond, responses get posted to those responses, etc. Which is great for discussion, but tends to require plumbing the depths to extract useful information. \$\endgroup\$ – Shog9 Apr 6 '11 at 21:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd think that flies in the face of the stack exchange system of organising posts according to usefulness. \$\endgroup\$ – migo Apr 7 '11 at 5:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @migo Exactly. Hence anything that leads toward forum-style discussion threads is discouraged. That just includes comments from unproven users. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 15 '11 at 22:32

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