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Here is a quote from the Physics Meta and related

Any time "answering information" is posted as a comment instead of as an answer, it makes it more difficult for people to find, and we also lose access to the mechanism of voting as an indicator of the quality of the answer.

The discussion there also states how answering in the comments can also lead to many unanswered questions and/or take away the chance for a user to actually answer the question.

I was guilty of the latter for this question, however, realizing this I quickly deleted my comment answer, as I realized it was taking away the chance for other users.

Considering this, however I think it's okay to write an answer in the comment if you intend to go back and fully answer the question or else suggest that someone can use part of your comment in a better answer. Just don't forget! For example in my comment turned answer here Nike helped me formulate my answer a bit in the comments: I think it's also okay to offer possible solutions if it's unclear what solution the OP is looking for, e.g. "I can describe X for you, would that answer your question?"

Considering all this, Do you find that answers in comments are a problem? If so, what measures should be taken to discourage that kind of answers?

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In this comment I reminded a user that comments are temporary, by providing a link to the definition of a comment:

enter image description here

Comment at your own risk. I have had many thoughtful, detailed, and well-researched comments disappear because a moderator felt they were cluttering the page. Users cannot vote to un-delete a comment. Unless you are taking screenshots of your comments, you can lose them forever.

Sometimes it's just better to answer the question (as the user did in the case I linked to at the beginning). However, people often comment because they don't want to write a poor-quality answer or don't have enough time to. We don't want to discourage them completely from commenting, when the value of the comment would still be better than having nothing at all.

How can we encourage people to write answers as answers rather than as comments? Well many of us, including you, have been leaving comments encouraging people to (as I did in the linked example at the top of this answer).

But also, we should continue to encourage people to answer (and to participate in general) by upvoting their high-quality contributions. Some people think that an answer has to be a masterpiece in order to get upvotes. Some of our most active users vote a lot, and others don't vote much at all.

There are Meta posts on other sites which encourage upvoting answers not because they are masterpieces, but because they are something that you believe belongs on the site. I was not going to go digging up such Meta posts (since I didn't know exactly where they were), but I decided to go and find at least one example:

I would just like to remark that upvoting, in my opinion, should not be meant as some sort of "reward" to be given to exceptional answers (which is what bounties are for).

Personally, I ask myself a very simple question to decide whether I should upvote a question or answer: do I believe that this question/answer should be on this site? It's not really about the quality of the post, but more about indicating whether I think that this post is a good fit for the site. How good the post actually is will still be reflected in the upvotes, because a more useful post will be found by more people which will therefore hopefully vote it up more.

Consequently, I believe that upvotes should be given generously and without too much overthinking. On a practical level, this also encourages participation to the site, as many people like to see that their post was appreciated by others, and will therefore be more likely to stick around more when this happens.

With this principle in mind, we might see more generous upvoting. This encourages users to answer more often (and to participate more often in general). This will "implicitly" discourage people from answering in comments when what they really have is good enough to be an answer.

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Do you find that answers in comments are a problem? If so, what measures should be taken to discourage that kind of answers?

No, and none.


First and foremost, I don't think that a question, which truly belongs on this site can be answered in a comment. If a comment really answers the question, maybe the question doesn't really belong.

What will be more problematic in the long run: A low quality answer or a loose comment. Unanswered questions can be answered, badly answered questions might go down with it, too.

In many cases I don't find the time to write an answer, but maybe I know a factoid that can help someone to answer or continue their research. Sometimes I don't think a question belongs here, and still want to give some helping input. At the very least they don't interfere that much with the garbage collection on the site.

Comments are also not as temporary as they are taught to be, and they are not as gone either.

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    $\begingroup$ This is not correct. Answers should be posted as answers, not as comments. Comments that are wrong cannot be downvoted. Comments cannot be edited by other users or even by the poster after 5 minutes. No revision history is available for comments. Comments cannot be accepted. You cannot award bounties to comments. There is a reason that the rule about not posting answers in comments applies across every site on the network. $\endgroup$ – TylerH Sep 25 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @tyler You are of course a little bit right, because I'd love to down vote your comment. Functionally, for most purposes you are correct, however, for moderators most of it is not. Comments can be edited, deleted, undeleted, and they do have an edit history. In any case, whatever fits into a comment is likely never a full answer, or the question is so trivial it shouldn't live in the first place. Your last sentence is probably correct for most of the sites you frequent, it's incorrect for the site I'm moderating on. But that is another story. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 26 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ This question is about how users should use the site, not how moderators should moderate the site. Also, while moderators may edit a user's comment, doing so is not something that does or should happen with any frequency... it is always reserved for edge cases. Where a comment is extremely useful that it is worth keeping around (which is rare) but also has some inappropriate or dangerous content (even more rare). $\endgroup$ – TylerH Sep 28 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know what site you're a moderator on, but if you think the 'not posting answers in comments' rule does not apply to that site, then, with all due respect, you're simply moderating wrong. $\endgroup$ – TylerH Sep 28 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ @TylerH I guess I would just say that not every site has to run exactly the same as StackOverflow nor would it necessarily be ideal to do so. StackExchange as a company seems to give a lot of leeway to the individual communities in how they want their site to operate. StackExchange's "rules" are more of guidelines (besides the CoC) and if a community feels it would run better without one of those rules, I don't see a problem with them making their own rules. If you want to make a case for why this site should follow this rule, I suggest posting an answer. $\endgroup$ – Tyberius Sep 29 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ @TylerH I'm quite positive about my moderating being what my community wants me to do and obviously within the moderation agreement. I would actually go as far as to assume that most of my community approve of my moderating style. I think you are arguing for the sake of arguing and I find your comment quite rude. That is quite obvious, because you've not even bothered to find out which site I moderate, even less what would be seen as a comment answer. Your initial comment simply was inaccurate, which I wanted to correct; I'm sorry to have fallen into your trap. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 29 at 6:51
  • $\begingroup$ Martin, I also found the "I don't know what site you're a moderator on..." comment to be extremely rude, and I brought it to Tyberius's attention, which lead to his comment above. I was about to write a comment to TylerH explaining that "it only takes X seconds to look at Martin's network profile and see the diamond next to chemistry" but while timing myself to find out an approximate value for X, I discovered that your network profile is not visible from here. In any case, TylerH is not a moderator on any site, and yet is telling someone that they are "simply moderating wrong", which is rude. $\endgroup$ – Nike Dattani Sep 30 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Nike thanks for the insight on the network profile. I think I hid it during the private beta phase as to not indicate that I'm wandering off. Now that this site is in good standing and developing quite well,I should change it. Unfortunately I'm currently operating exclusively from my mobile, so that'll have to wait (and I hope I won't forget). In any case, I think we should let this site down here as this isn't leading to anything productive. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Oct 2 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Tyberius There was an answer suggesting divergence from a rule, and I commented under it explaining the issues with it. Such post-specific remarks are more appropriate as a comment than as a standalone answer, where it would lack necessary context. $\endgroup$ – TylerH Dec 1 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @NikeDattani What on Earth is rude about stating I don't know something? I find it odd that you claim that even after you clicked through to Martin's profile and found no network profile. Having disagreements, likewise, is not rude, but rather engenders a more rich, diverse culture where ideas succeed on their merits and not on who puts them forward. The entire Stack Exchange network is designed around questions and answers, and treating each as first class citizens. If a site starts to encourage/accept answers in comments, the entire model breaks. $\endgroup$ – TylerH Dec 1 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ @TylerH This is the part that I thought (in my opinion) was rude: "with all due respect, you're simply moderating wrong." I quoted that at the end of the comment. $\endgroup$ – Nike Dattani Dec 1 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ @TylerH I've never suggested diverging from a rule and what you have written simply wasn't correct. I have to admit that I don't care about your opinion or how you use this site or any other site on the network; I currently care about the fact that this comment section developing in a direction that is hardly constructive. And just to make this absolutely clear: Some of your remarks have been very hurtful. I am willing to forget about this, but somehow this comes around every so often again and I get notifications for it and I get hurt again. Just let it be please. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Dec 1 at 21:16
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Interestingly, we tend to comment quite a lot more than Drones.SE, and to answer a lot less:

enter image description here

Our answer percentage has steadily improved though, from 61% to 73% in the first 8 days, and then up to 81% in the next ~30 days (I just haven't updated that answer with a screenshot because our questions/day average has gone down 😂!). I think in the next 30 days we can reach a 90-92% answer percentage if we work hard at it!

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I was recently drawn into a question on Skeptics.SE via the Hot Network Questions box on the side of MMSE, and I was reminded of this Meta question by this comment for which I have given a screenshot in case that comment gets deleted:

enter image description here

I just thought I'd mention it, as now we are aware that there's other sites that are "sticklers" for what it is that you're proposing we be better at (encouraging people to answer rather than comment). This may be something about which we might like to put more thought, but at present I feel that there's more important things for us to do at a higher priority level.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's also a big thing on politics.se for these SE, however it is an even greater problem because it can easily divulge into long comment exchanges $\endgroup$ – Cody Aldaz Sep 2 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ I think such strict policies make a lot of sense for SE sites that (often) deal with controversial topics. It's not great if comments end up being used as a way to avoid downvotes, for example. I haven't noticed anything of the sort at this stack. $\endgroup$ – Anyon Sep 3 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Anyon Most new/young SE sites do not have many behavioral problems because they are populated almost entirely by people who are very gung-ho about the site's success rather than about personal success. Users on such sites probably participated in the Beta on Area 51 and are directly invested in the site getting successful so that there can be a new permanent place to discuss questions on a new broad family of topics (e.g. Materials Modeling). $\endgroup$ – TylerH Sep 25 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Anyon As the site grows in popularity and you get people who care more about personal gain, reputation, or just getting an answer, instead of about the site's success, you will see this and other such problems expand accordingly. $\endgroup$ – TylerH Sep 25 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @TylerH We have 34 people with the Beta badge (46 people if you expand to include the Precognitive badge) but we have 1363 users (187 being "avid" users), so we are not "populated almost entirely" by people that probably participated in the Beta or A51. The majority came later, but a lot of what you're saying is true about the behavior of people caring about the site's success vs personal success. We've seen some people that seemed more focused on personal success than others, but for the most part we've instilled a culture of being more welcoming. $\endgroup$ – Nike Dattani Sep 26 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ I hope that we do not see the problems expand as you describe, but it's certainly something for us to keep in mind! The specific point from Anyon about commenting to avoid downvotes, might actually never be a problem for us since we don't downvote here. There's no downvote button on MATLAB Answers, and there's no "dislike" button on Facebook, so it's possible to use comments, flags, close-votes, and "lack of upvoting" to encourage people to improve their questions/answers. You are right though that this can get harder to maintain as the site expands, & we might also get other problems. $\endgroup$ – Nike Dattani Sep 26 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ @NikeDattani "we don't downvote here" Er... huh? Downvoting is crucial to the success of every site. It is, by itself, the most important curation tool users have to make sure wrong/unhelpful content does not survive/get passed around as truth/the solution to a problem. It is important not to conflate "downvote rarely" with a blanket "no downvote" policy. The latter would never fly on a Stack Exchange site, at least not as a matter of policy. $\endgroup$ – TylerH Sep 28 at 19:53

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