Due probably to the policy rule "if you downvote, please explain", I find that downvoted or trivial questions in the site are actually answered in the comments to the question!

The problem is the contrary to " Pseudo-answers are the enemy ". Real answers should be answers, no comments. But on other hand, it is arguable that a person actually wanting to downvote a question and suggest the OP to delete it, does not want to give an answer.

Also in some cases I find that people just answer in comments just because they think their answer is too short or too humble.

EDIT: So my questions are:

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

  • $\begingroup$ So, is there a problem in answering in comments? $\endgroup$ – MBN Nov 13 '11 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @MBN pseudoanswers are OK. Answers are not, IMO. $\endgroup$ – arivero Nov 13 '11 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ A number of the things listed in that other question could count as answers, though. In general, I think it is preferable to err on the side of posting an answer, if you think what you are going to type might constitute an answer (even a partial one). Gardening & Landscaping has a good meta question on the topic. Also keep in mind that comments can be deleted pretty much arbitrarily, so any information that is worth keeping around should go in an answer (as long as it does actually constitute an answer to the question, of course). $\endgroup$ – David Z Nov 13 '11 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ By the way arivero, what are you actually asking by posting this? $\endgroup$ – David Z Nov 13 '11 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ Why are answers not ok? $\endgroup$ – MBN Nov 14 '11 at 15:14

Do you find that answers in comments are a problem?

Yes. 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.

If so, what measures should be taken to discourage that kind of answers?

  • Whenever you see someone post something as a comment that seems like it should be an answer, ask them to make it an answer. Or post it as an answer yourself. (It'd be good etiquette to give the commenter a chance to convert their comment into an answer first, but you have no obligation to do so. And it's good for the site to have things that are answers posted as answers.)
  • Sometimes people post answering information, especially links, in a comment because they don't have time to make a full-fledged answer out of it. We should encourage people to make these posts as answers instead:
    • If you have a partial answer - more than just a link, of course, but anything that actually does answer the question, no matter how short or lacking in detail - post it with a note that you'll come back and edit more detail in when you have time. (And of course, actually come back and edit more detail in when you have time.)
    • If you downvote a post where the author has indicated they are going to come back and improve it later, make sure to check back after a few days and adjust your vote accordingly. You may, if you wish, leave a comment to indicate that you will do so. This is a further incentive for the author to make the edit.
    • If you see that someone else has posted a link-only answer, as long as it seems relevant and not spammy, it's best to edit the answer to contain the relevant material from the link. If you can't easily identify what the relevant part of the linked content is, then go ahead and flag it as not-an-answer. The moderators will encourage the author to add in the relevant part of the content.
    • Remember that the criterion for downvoting answers is that they are not useful. If an answer is sparse on detail or less complete than you'd like, but still useful, don't downvote it. If the lack of detail causes it not to be useful, then sure, go ahead and downvote, but check back after a while to see if the answer has been edited, and change your vote if needed.
  • On the moderators' side, we will continue deleting comments that exceed the scope of what comments are meant to be used for. This includes answers posted as comments, although we do prefer to encourage the poster to convert the comment to an answer before we delete it. Still, be aware that if you post answering information as a comment, don't expect it to last.
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    $\begingroup$ If it's a quick answer (but answers the question), often times if that's posted as an actual answer, it gets downvoted for being too brief or glib. So then there's the hassle of wrangling the answer to something more acceptable and often the downvotes still remain. So answering as an answer is often not worth the trouble. (See? this is sort of answer as well....) $\endgroup$ – Jiminion Mar 2 '15 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ It's also view as kind of crappy for a 3rd party to post a comment-answer as a regular answer even if the original answer poster has long left the question. (More downvotes.) $\endgroup$ – Jiminion Mar 2 '15 at 16:47

Do you find that answers in comments are a problem?

In my opinion, there isn't a simple answer to this question. Comments are intended to be a means to interact with the OP and others to, e.g., refine the question or an answer.

Thus, as such, comments are transient. On that view, a comment isn't an answer.

However, it is the case that on some occasions, a comment contains a legitimate answer to a question. But that doesn't mean that such occasions should be discouraged in any way.

That is to say, comments are often a way to determine precisely what it is the OP is looking for and if it is determined that a comment is an answer, then other comments to the effect that "isn't that an answer?" can be posted and then, I've observed, the comments are often expanded into an answer.

Why would anyone want to discourage this discovery process?


No, answers in comments are not a problem. If you are looking for an answer to a problem and find a question that seems to relate to your problem, you will comb the comments to find your answer anyway, so not really a problem. So no, not really a problem to people going to the site to get answers to their problems.

For a third party looking at the question to find an answer, having an answer in the comments does not materially affect their ability to find an answer.

On the other hand, the poor quality of the Stack Exchange searching mechanism/metric is a much bigger problem in that relevant and pertinent questions are not found in the first place.

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    $\begingroup$ I note this is downvoted with no explanation as to why. Upvoted. $\endgroup$ – user56903 Jun 26 '15 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ I downvoted this answer because I think it is not useful. The SE network rises above other forums specifically because of its organization and voting of answers. There are too many features based around answers to completely list here (marked-as-answered, unanswered question queue, downvotes possible, highest scores float to top, ..., the list goes on) that are all entirely undermined when answers are just posted as questions. Posting a question as an answer is a way to shield onself from downvotes and hijack visitors' attention since the comment will be higher up on the webpage. $\endgroup$ – user1717828 Jan 12 '16 at 8:26

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