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Some of us know that comments are not to be used for answering questions but some of us may not know that.

But, many of us, either knowingly or unknowingly, sometimes do post answers in comments.

My question is what should be done to those comments?

  • Shall we flag the comments for deletion or shall we flag so as to convert the comments to answers (if that's possible)?
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    Possible duplicate of I found answers in comment section, is it right pattern? – iammilind Aug 28 '18 at 10:16
  • The answer of possible dupe post actually suggests that it's just OK to post an answer as a comment, though not recommended. Usually, it's a user's choice, provided that they don't complain when such comments are deleted (rarely here). There are some veteran users, who post really good answers as comments. There won't be any good flag reasons to delete. – iammilind Aug 28 '18 at 10:19
  • That is a 2014 Q u have found :O @iammilind "There are some veteran users, who post really good answers as comments" The answers may be good for u but may be absolutely wrong too.. And if those are really so good then we shd convert those to answers No? "There won't be any good flag reasons to delete." flagging for deletion isn't the only option I am discussing. – Rickross Aug 28 '18 at 10:38
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If we look at the purpose of comment feature, comments are not for answering the questions. This is clear from the FAQ:

Comments exist so that users can talk about questions and answers without posting new answers that do not make an attempt to answer the question asked. Comments are often used to ask for clarification on, suggest corrections to, and provide meta-information about posts.

Also have a look at the help center:

When shouldn't I comment?

Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one).

So, strickly speaking comment box shouldn't be used for answering questions. However, sometimes comments that provides some information that can be very useful for the investigation (i.e for finding an answer to the question) for OP or visitors usually deemed as worthy to keep.

How to handle such comments answering questions:

Mostly users post answers in comments when they are not confidant or lazy to frame into good answer. See Why do some people answer in comments?. Some related posts are also pointed in previous answer having very similar question. So, if you find such a comment answering question, reply commenter to post (or expand it into) an answer instead. If you can expand it into an answer (i.e can post an answer from the comment), do it! It's fine; refer MSE posts suggesting that. What should be done with questions that have been self-resolved as a comment instead of an answer?, also this or this.

If you find the question is already answered with that of comment (e.g commenter added an answer later on or other user posted an answer from comment or question has already an answer), comment is not adding any information. Then flag it for deletion with suitable option "no longer needed".

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    These faq, help centres Sa these but the practice is contradictory. Mods themselves say answering is ok and my flags were declined. When I asked a user to write comment ( which answer the question precisely with source) as answer they said answer will be converted to comment and mod intervened saying they did it many times and it's fine. When these posts are not followed, they are just good for reading. Long comments and series of comments which answer the question which don't give hints should be deleted by mods. We don't want comment answers or lazy comments here. – Sarvabhouma Aug 29 '18 at 6:24
  • One side you say "So, strickly speaking comment box shouldn't be used for answering questions". At the same time, you contradict by saying However, "sometimes comments that provides some information that can be very useful for the investigation (i.e for finding an answer to the question) for OP or visitors usually deemed as worthy to keep". So you are supporting writing answers in comments or not? You say it is not allowed but you are allowing here on the site? Your answer is unclear just like other answers. :/ – Sarvabhouma Jan 15 '19 at 16:10
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TL;DR:

  1. New users: Educate them to not use comments as answers. Send them here. Then flag for deletion.

  2. Users that already know the rules and still do it anyway: Flag for deletion straightaway.


From here, comments should be used for:

  1. Requesting clarification from the author;
  2. Leaving constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;

Additionally, you can also notify OP of any edits you made if they are substantial.

However, on this site, a lot of high-rep users including some mods are deliberately engaging in this "post (unsourced) answers as comments" practice. One major drawback of this practice is these answer-type comments are heavily upvoted by other users and they show up as the top comment(s) under the post whereas a question seeking clarification from OP or exposing a flaw in their argument appears somewhere down in the list. Also, what is OP supposed to do when people are posting all these answer-type comments? Should they ignore these or engage in a chat in the comments section and ask for sources?

This strange practice on this site has also been pointed in this feedback answer by @RubelliteYakṣī. She writes:

Users are afraid to give answers here. I have never seen so many answers in comments on another SE. I feel it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. This is why our question to answer ratio is low.

It's up to the mods and users to take this advice to heart and discourage this practice going forward. If we continue with this attitude of bending (or exploiting loopholes in) standard SE rules, there is a good chance this site will remain in beta forever.


For reference, current policy, as of 9/13/18:

Cloth, flower along with Kalash falling from the altar during Ganesha Puja - is this a good or bad omen?

Mod is using comments for writing unsourced answers! – sv. Sep 13 at 18:49 declined

User is using comments for writing unsourced answers! – sv. Sep 13 at 18:50 declined

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If a user has answers without citations, then better to put such unsourced answers as comments.

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  • but if you know the answer you will also be able to cite... at least it is so the case with me... because I know an answer because I had read about it in one text or the other and so one of those texts I'll be citing in my answer..(BTW my this comment is bigger than your answer :P) – Rickross Aug 29 '18 at 16:58
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    Comments are not for unsourced answers or putting incomplete answers. Comments are for suggesting improvement or asking clarification or correcting some info in the question or answer. If unsourced answers are allowed in comments, comments would be easily abused and increases laziness in users.No one would bother to write complete answers. It affects quality of site. Anything which answers the question sourced or unsourced should be in answer section only. – Sarvabhouma Aug 29 '18 at 17:55
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    Good! This is actually a self explanatory answer. I was about to downvote first for just writing only 1 line. But then by putting it in an answer, you made it realize that comment-like answers are better suited as comments. @Sarvabhouma, your comment is also technically correct, but for our site this guideline need not be applied. Because we specifically require sources to be cited; else the answer may get deleted. Such rule doesn't apply in most of the SE sites. – iammilind Aug 30 '18 at 5:54
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    @Rickross One might not have time to write answer or want to give his opinions reading scriptures or forgot the source. In those cases, comment here on HSE is useful and should be allowed. – Mr. Sigma. Aug 30 '18 at 10:52
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    Lack of time is not an excuse.. because one who has the time to post the comment can easily expand it to answer.. writing answers hardly take 3/4 mins... "In those cases, comment here on HSE is useful" -- Without the sources, in most cases, the comments are just the users' opinions so not useful IMO... In many cases, a Q can not have our opinions as answers. Can you answer a mathematical Q with your opinion? It's the same here.. So from what I can see it will be allowed but I can't agree that such comments are useful.. Usefulness comes into the picture when we are giving advice * @Rohit. – Rickross Aug 30 '18 at 11:44
  • to be followed in real life which we don't do here... – Rickross Aug 30 '18 at 11:45
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    @Iiammilind It should be applied on our site too. If we allow, everything will be written in comments. How does that help our site and whom does that help? You will have 15 days or more to update your answer and you may edit your answer anytime. We don't allow unsourced answers because they are low quality or unreliable. If they are done in comments, it's a backdoor and not useful. Allowing unsourced will decrease responsibility on users to write full answers. – Sarvabhouma Aug 30 '18 at 16:43
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Good question.

Short term solution:

Yes, flag for moderator attention. Let the moderator use his/her discretion to determine if the comment adds value. If they see no value, they can delete it.

Long term solution:

I feel we should use the following logic:

  • If 3 or more people vote to delete it then it should be deleted.

But to achieve that voting, we may have to request a feature on Meta Stack Exchange.

In the long term, I don't think it would be right for moderator to take that call to delete a comment as it should be a case-by-case basis. Moderators should be playing the role of human exception handlers. We have to make sure the community is more active and plays a greater role. Moderators should only come in under exceptional cases.

That way we take out any biases and give more power to community.

I'm one of the guilty ones who post answers as comments. I will refrain from doing so from this point, as it's clear that it is not the direction that this site would like to go.

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