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I'm sorry if this has been suggested before but it seems to be a common occurrence that people answering questions (at least on Stack Overflow) post their answers as comments (perhaps to avoid getting downvoted). If said comment happens to be an acceptable answer, the asker of the question asks the answerer to repost their comment as an answer. Wouldn't it make sense to allow the asker/answerer to be able to 'upgrade' their comment to an answer so it can be marked as an answer or voted on as such?

In the end I think it would help future searchers find their answers. Personally I generally ignore comments because if it isn't an answer I don't consider it to be important. Perhaps this is just caused by answerers not following best practices of the Stack Exchange family of websites but I still think that this feature would be valuable.

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If you chose to downvote my suggestion, please feel free to explain why with a comment. –  M.Babcock Dec 29 '11 at 3:25
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"We do not agree that this is a worthy suggestion." -- Downvoters. –  Anthony Pegram Dec 29 '11 at 3:30
    
@AnthonyPegram - Feel free to explain why. At least on SO, it is fairly common for a question to go unanswered because the asker found their answer in a comment. This is especially true with new people to the site who don't really understand how it works. –  M.Babcock Dec 29 '11 at 3:33
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How would this work? Could only the poster do it? Would there be some kind of approval required if the asker wanted to do this on someone's behalf? I think this would be either a slippery slope to lots of short/low-quality answers and/or a nightmare to implement. –  Jason Plank Dec 29 '11 at 3:44
    
@JasonPlank - That may be, but that is why I ask the question. In the end it seems a lot like the reversal of the automatic question downgrading that the sites already do. At least in this scenario someone has to initiate the upgrade. How would it degrade answer quality? It seems like what is done today ends up with an equally poor alternative (no answers at all). –  M.Babcock Dec 29 '11 at 3:47
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@M.Babcock As an example: User A asks a specific question, User B gives an incomplete answer in a comment. User A works out a solution to the question based on the comment and promotes the comment to an answer. Unless someone edits the resulting answer, there's missing information. I would much rather see User A post his own detailed answer in this case. (Also there are undesirable implications if User B never wanted the comment to be an answer, including the possibility of downvotes due to its incomplete nature.) –  Jason Plank Dec 29 '11 at 3:58
    
@JasonPlank - Do we really need to look at how often incomplete answers are posted to questions? I thought the point was more to spur thought and help the asker find their own answer as it is to actually do the work for the askers. I agree limitations would have to be imposed for downvotes on upgraded answers to ensure the commenter doesn't get penalized like an answerer. This could also become less important if a approval system was put in place so the commenter has a choice. –  M.Babcock Dec 29 '11 at 4:08

1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

If the user was interested in providing an answer, he would have done so. Perhaps the user did not think his commentary rose to the level of an adequate answer to the overall problem. However, here's what I recommend that you do, if you feel the comment indeed is the solution that you desire.

  1. Ask the user to provide an answer consisting of the comment and whatever other advice might be applicable.

  2. After a sufficient amount of time, if the user has elected not to provide the answer, simply do it yourself, attribute it to the user, and accept it. While we would all want the reputation to go to the original user with the idea, the ultimate goal is to identify solutions, and that is more important than individual reputation points. An example format (merely a suggestion) is below.


Answer provided by Obiwan Kenobi:

Use the force, Luke.

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+1 | I often post my answers as comments when they're a bit controversial. I don't want the question to turn into a non-constructive rant or anything, but sometimes I feel the OP deserves some alternative advice that may alter their thinking. Sometimes it answers their question. If it does, I'll usually convert it. –  animuson Dec 29 '11 at 3:40
    
@animuson - If it does, then shouldn't it be up to the asker to determine that it is an answer? –  M.Babcock Dec 29 '11 at 3:44
    
I would frown upon it if the original user hadn't been asked to convert it himself and given a reasonable amount of time to have done so. The definition of "reasonable" would also differ from person to person. Speaking strictly for myself, I would leave that between the asker and the commenter. It would be one of them to choose to provide the answer, not me. But again, ultimately, the idea is to identify solutions, reputation points are a side effect (although certainly a nice reward). –  Anthony Pegram Dec 29 '11 at 3:46
    
@M.Babcock: It's still that user's content and if they really don't want to make it an answer they shouldn't have too. If they don't want too, you can always summarize what they said and provide examples of what exactly you did so it's not really "stealing" their answer. But if the question is solved, I think it's better to post something on your own and accept it so it's not labeled as unanswered, rather than just leaving it because the answer is in the comments. –  animuson Dec 29 '11 at 3:48
    
@AnthonyPegram - I can see that but at the same time, that nice reward is a guiding factor for a lot of people to participate. I'm not saying the rules behind it wouldn't be hard to define, but I would just see value since answers are identified today without actually being marked as answers which is generally what people expect to see when visiting SE websites. If the goal is to have the most number of questions answered then we should facilitate that ability as much as possible. –  M.Babcock Dec 29 '11 at 3:53
    
@animuson - How is that any different than automatically 'downgrading' answers to comments when the answerer was specifically intended to provide their answer as an answer? –  M.Babcock Dec 29 '11 at 3:55
    
@M.Babcock: Well, making it into an answer also opens the door for receiving downvotes, not just upvotes. So if the answer is controversial and people don't agree with it, you could also start losing reputation. Some people would rather just leave it as a comment, as they believe it should be. In which case, you're perfectly capable of creating your own answer which is similar to that comment. –  animuson Dec 29 '11 at 3:58
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@animuson - Ok then only comments to be marked as answers should be able to be upgraded and cannot take more that 5 downvotes (so the commenter is no worse off then they would otherwise be). You're getting into the detail that is really up to how it is implemented, which is beyond how far I thought this through. –  M.Babcock Dec 29 '11 at 4:00
    
+1 If you had to post the comment as an answer after a reasonable amount of time, would it be more appropriate to post as community wiki? –  John McCarthy Feb 20 at 16:53

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