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This answer (10k link) was converted to a comment by a moderator while I was editing it (during the grace period).

Admittedly in its original form the answer was not fleshed out enough, but why so trigger happy? Why not wait for the grace period at least?

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possible duplicate of Suggestion: block edits by others in the 5 minute window after creating a post or doing an edit (and probably also a duplicate of the many questions about the "Fastest Gun In The West" problem) –  Cody Gray Feb 28 '12 at 19:09
    
@CodyGray - Blocking edits is one thing. This is about answers being converted to comments by a moderator. That's very different from an edit. –  Oded Feb 28 '12 at 19:10
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If you voluntarily posted a non-answer intending to flesh it out during the grace period, shame on you. If not, sorry. It's not the moderators' fault, they have better things to do than check the exact age of the answer. Worse, if you edit your answer after the moderator loads the page or the flag list, the moderator will not be notified of your edit, and may not notice anything if he's operating directly from the flag list. –  Gilles Feb 28 '12 at 19:13
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@Gilles - I post answers and flesh them out all the time. It's the wiki nature of Stack Exchange sites, you know? I don't post non-answers as a modus operandi, but do expect to be able to edit an answer if I want to add details to it, in particular within the grace period. –  Oded Feb 28 '12 at 19:17
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@Oded You seem to think you're entitled to the grace period to convert a bad answer to a good one -- if an answer is bad, don't post it. Most sites have a few minutes edit window because the first thing someone does when they submit a post is read it, so they'll notice typos and the like. It's not to give you a free 5 minutes to completely rewrite the post, even if people do abuse it that way for FGITW purposes –  Michael Mrozek Feb 28 '12 at 19:22
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"Why aren't mods perfect?" Damnit, you got us on that one. Busted. Completely. Of course, if you had flagged it and said, "Hey, I want to edit this and make it a good answer, could you undelete?" it would have been done and you would have been able to edit, and sunshine and unicorns. –  Won't Feb 28 '12 at 20:24
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More interesting is why this answer was deleted –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 20:29
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@Won't - well I heard you tried to delete the Jon Skeet MSO post, but I just figured there was some alcohol involved - or a dare, whatever. Anyway, this mod seems like a really nice person, but I've seen more meta threads like this about him than all others combined. –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 20:38
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@Oded Full explanation below. –  casperOne Feb 28 '12 at 20:42
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@AdamRackis: Nope. I did delete it. Was flagged as "if we can't have X anymore, why is this here?" and honestly that's correct. So I deleted it. Then I was overruled. Notice that I didn't delete it again? That's one of the good things about having multiple mods, they balance each other out. And if some other mod has a differing opinion, I'll respect that; its also a sign that the choice wasn't all that clear cut, and that it should therefore be returned to the community. I still do think it should be snipped. That stuff only invites drama, "why me when that" complaints, etc. –  Won't Feb 28 '12 at 21:19
    
@Won't - well soon hopefully we'll have the archive, and all this will be in the past :-) –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 21:21
    
@AdamRackis: Mosdef. –  Won't Feb 28 '12 at 21:24
    
אל תעשה לחברך מה ששנוא עליך? (you just did the exact same thing you complained about here and he also edited during the grace period, unaware the post was already deleted :)) –  Shadow Wizard Nov 6 '13 at 8:40
    
@ShaWizDowArd - You will see that I accepted the answer by casperOne... which makes sense. FGITW problem and all... –  Oded Nov 6 '13 at 9:34
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@ShaWizDowArd - I could query the DB to find if he had any posts converted to comments. But Jon, even a half-baked answer tends to be more complete than other fully baked answers. –  Oded Nov 6 '13 at 9:54
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4 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

That was me.

While browsing the site (i.e. not processing the flag queue as it was one of those rare times where it was empty) for questions to answer, I noticed the question and answers and converted them to comments (note, once I did this, I would not have answered the question, as I had taken moderator action on it).

Oded has provided a new answer, so his original one will remain deleted (unless he really wants it back).

Xander's answer was originally converted to a comment, and then deleted by him, not by a moderator. I've restored that answer as well.

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To be really fair, I think the system could do a better job of informing mods that answers are in the grace period (whether flagged or not). Or prevent flagging in the grace period at all. Etc –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 20:44
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@AdamRackis In regards to your "mentoring" comment, it should be noted that since being elected in November, I've processed 12.8K flags, which is quite high for everyone (Jeff has processed ~16K overall). Today, I've processed 180 flags alone. Needless to say, yes, my name pops up more than most, but what people aren't seeing is how many time's my name isn't popping up. Errors are bad, and we do our best to fix them when they happen, but if someone is simply doing more, you're going to see more errors even if the error rate is very low. That's true of any moderator. –  casperOne Feb 28 '12 at 20:47
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The mentor comment was a bit ****ish, so I deleted it. Still though, one does get the impression that you're a bit quick to delete questionable content rather than leaving to the community. And it might also be worth noting that others have mentioned you by name in this context as well. –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 20:52
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@AdamRackis And if you want to be really fair, I have 31K+ on SO, almost all in .NET/C# related answers, and I've effectively stopped contributing content so that I could moderate, effectively ending any benefits of having my name attached to new content on Stack Overflow. You neglect that there are people on the other end trying to make the site better for all of you who have given up public notoriety in order to do so. –  casperOne Feb 28 '12 at 20:57
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Mega EXP doesn't give you a by in whatever aspect other than throwing your ego around like a tool. If someone posts a paltry blah answer better suited as a comment, it should be converted/deleted. If they want to flesh it out before posting, they don't have to double-tap that submit button as soon as they see a chance for "FIRST!!!!!!!11!!! ZOMG!!@@@!!$" @ada –  random Feb 28 '12 at 20:59
    
@AdamRackis As for people's impressions, all due respect, there's nothing that can be done about that. The simple fact is there's more being done that you will never know, and only the worst is brought out on meta. Again, referring to low error rate and volume, it's going to happen. The only way you'll see it less is if there are less flags, which means less content, and we all know that is not the way the trend indicator is moving. –  casperOne Feb 28 '12 at 21:01
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I'd +1 for taking the blame, but I actually feel you're not to blame. Maybe the automatic short-answer-to-comment thing should take external links into account too! –  Arjan Feb 28 '12 at 21:02
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@casper - I've always been the first to defend moderators in general, and I do greatly appreciate the work you all do. And to be fair, you don't have to stop contributing because you're a mod. Bill and Robert both seem to be actively contributing, as does Marc Gravel. I meant my comment to be constructive criticism; I'm sorry it came off so d***ish. –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 21:03
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@random - I wasn't defending Oded's "right to throw his ego around like a tool." That's a straw man. I was stating that Oded is a C# expert, and deleting his answer before he can flesh it out does the opposite of help OP. Your post was quite funny, though. :) –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 21:05
    
@Adam-who-over-apologizes I'll be the first to admit that it's a choice to moderate over contributing. However, I'll point out that there are stats about mods that we can't (or it's not my place to) tell you that would probably shape your statement somewhat (about Bill, Robert, and Marc). That said, there's no need to apologize, let's just say the standard has been set for what what I expect the response to be from the community at Stack Overflow, and if I didn't break by now, well, I won't, which means you're stuck with me. You can't deny you're happy about that. =) –  casperOne Feb 28 '12 at 21:40
    
@Arjan I edited those out. We live in an over-apologetic society, and this is simply a matter of "here's what happened"; it shouldn't have been there in the first place. –  casperOne Feb 28 '12 at 21:43
    
@casper-the-hardworker, someone has to keep the trash out, so I guess I am happy we're stuck with you. Just be sure to make a few SO posts now and then so you don't go crazy :) –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 21:52
    
@Adam-the-slacker I actually posted twice today. I'm working on it. Also, I was going to answer that question, but once I took mod action on it, well, it's off limits. Being a mod really makes the site suck in that you tend to look at it as a moderator first, and someone who answers questions second. –  casperOne Feb 28 '12 at 21:55
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@Adam-recently-converted I'm winning over the meta crew one person at a time... "Lucky you!!! I do need to hit the 10K queue more though - do my part to help you" - Mission accomplished –  casperOne Feb 28 '12 at 22:00
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It concerns me when you say in your answer that you would not answer a question because you'd taken moderator actions on it, and even more so when you say that you've altogether stopped contributing answers because you've been only moderating. If that's truly the case, and necessary to keep the site clean as you imply, then we (once again) need to elect more moderators. Moderators by necessity come from our most helpful and knowledgeable contributors, and it's a shame to lose their contributions altogether just because they're moderating. I don't think either of these sentiments are positive. –  Cody Gray Feb 29 '12 at 2:37
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Admittedly in its original form the answer was not fleshed out enough

End of story!

In more words: SO mods don't have time to wait around for 5 minutes and see if you turn your comment into an answer. If you want your content to stick around, you need to prioritize its quality over how fast you can post it. I don't think the grace period is intended to provide immunity no matter what's posted.

Edit: As noted in the comments, the purpose of the grace period is not to enable the FGITW:

right after you post something you'll always notice some goofy mistake that you made, like immediately. [...] "you don't understand, this feature has to be in there on day 1 otherwise we're going to have so many revisions that are just in the first minute or two after posting and are just silly little things that are being corrected."

Minor corrections and additions are considerably different from turning a link into a proper answer. Answers should truly be answers to start out with.

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Then why have a grace period at all? The answer was useful in its original form, even if it was not as full as it could have been. –  Oded Feb 28 '12 at 19:06
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It was suitable as a comment in its original form. SO answers should be self-contained, not just a link to somewhere else. –  Wooble Feb 28 '12 at 19:13
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@Wooble - I don't argue with that. I am saying that converting the answer within seconds of it being posted does not allow one to edit and add details to it, in particular if the answer is still within the editing grace period. –  Oded Feb 28 '12 at 19:14
    
@Oded I've always assumed it's due to the fact that one's mind naturally continues thinking about a problem for a short time after solving it, and you may realize that there are other options or that you were unclear and so on. This seems to line up with Jeff's reasoning. –  Matthew Read Feb 28 '12 at 19:16
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The grace period is there so that small edits within a short time window can be rolled into a single revision in the edit history. It was never intended to serve as a grace period for moderation purposes. –  Robert Harvey Feb 28 '12 at 20:53
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Also, short comments like "I don't think you searched the web before asking. support.microsoft.com/kb/319292 " are just a few bytes away from being automatically converted into a comment? –  Arjan Feb 28 '12 at 20:58
    
(My bad: the automatic conversion into comments only applies to internal links, not to 3rd party links.) –  Arjan Feb 28 '12 at 21:08
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@Arjan: despite how much Tomalak hates it, I still wind up flagging a handful of posts each day with almost nothing but internal links. –  sarnold Feb 29 '12 at 2:00
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Mods are busy people, and are not mind-readers. If an answer is so ill-formed that it is obviously a comment and not an answer, then it should be converted to a comment. Leaving one-line answers will only encourage more of the same.

If you really want to get that answer up before you've written more than a sentence or two, I suggest leaving a note explaining what you're doing, something like: "Will add [foo] to this answer posthaste."

Alternatively, you could leave a comment, then expand that into an answer when you've had time. Sure, that won't get you rep for upvotes, but so what? Do you want your answer to be the first, or the best?

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This is an absolutely terrible call by the moderator. Oded is one of the top C# people in town (#9, actually), and I would be quite pissed if I saw a half-formed answer of his deleted from my question before he had the chance to flesh it out.

Can the mods, please, please stop being so trigger happy?

I'm glad this was an honest mistake, and +1 to casperOne for being so cool about it.


FGITW is indeed a contentious issue. If these half-formed answers are really offensive to people, then by all means man up and down vote them, and take your -1. But please don't go whining to moderators, asking them to delete the content. Edit 2: this was a rare case where moderator action was not precipitated by flagging. I stand by my comment that people shouldn't flag FGITW answers, but that's not relevant here.

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Er. Nobody went "whining to moderators" -- the mod just stumbled across the post –  Michael Mrozek Feb 28 '12 at 20:44
    
@Michael - yep - that detail was made clear after I posted my answer. I shall now edit it. –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 20:45
    
I'm not flagging FGITW answers, but downvoting doesn't seem effective to me either: an (invisible) edit within the grace period would make such downvote attract petty upvotes, I'm afraid? –  Arjan Feb 28 '12 at 21:07
    
@Arjan - probably, I guess. I've never had a problem with FGITW though, so I'm not the best person to comment. –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 21:08
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I stand by my behavior, I will continue to act on a post based on the state it is in, regardless of whether the edit window is up or not. If it's not an answer, it's not an answer. If the poster posted it in order to get a slot in early and intended to flesh it out later, too bad, post a new answer. In fact, I wish there was a penalty for FGITW with non-answers, because they waste everybody's time, but I don't have a concrete proposal for that. –  Gilles Feb 28 '12 at 21:11
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@Gilles - that's great. And if the consequences of your actions lead to answers that would have been helpful to OP in a minute or two being deleted, then so be it. Better for others to not spread useful information than for you to have to change your opinions. –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 21:13
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@AdamRackis Come on. If you cared about the OP being helped, you'd post a proper answer. Or a post a comment where it belonged. You wouldn't be exploiting the system in hope of getting more rep. –  Gilles Feb 28 '12 at 21:16
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@Gilles - I post answers all the time, and, for what it's worth, I don't (anymore) post answers until they can stand on their own. My only point is that, if others choose to act differently, and post something sooner, that's not fleshed out, why don't we not delete it, let them edit it, and let OP decide if it's useful. –  Adam Rackis Feb 28 '12 at 21:19
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How do we know that they're FGITW answers without meticulously comparing time stamps? I don't have time for that. I just flag useless content. Let the person who originally posts it sort it out. –  Cody Gray Feb 29 '12 at 2:38
    
@Cody - I think that's a broken feature in the way flagging works. Inside the 5 minute window I'd love to see it changed so that you can only flag for spam. That would prevent mistaken flags, prevent mods from comparing timestamps, etc. –  Adam Rackis Feb 29 '12 at 2:39
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