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It is not uncommon for a question be solved in the comments before a formal answer is given. Is it then poor etiquette to take the solution out of the comments and formally combine it into an answer rather than leaving the question appearing to be unsolved.

Is this behaviour encouraged or frowned upon?

Scenario

  • Person A has asked a question about how many lego blocks are required to build a car and provides a picture.
  • Person B has recently built a car out of lego very much like that- but instead of providing a formal answer for whatever reason, simply writes a little comment about his experience and how many it took him.
  • Person A then decides that the comment is enough of an answer to solve his problem and leaves.
  • Person C comes across the latter question and comment roll and decides to transphorm the given data into a pretty answer for the aid of other people.

Edit #1

  • although this is very close to this question, rather than moving attributed comments on the answer into the relevant answer I'm talking more about questions where it looks like the question has not been solved where it actually has in the comment roll on the actual question rather discussed answers.

Edit #2

  • This is also tying into what kind of rights a person may claim to have on content that they post as answers or comments (if any). The CreativeCommons states you must attribute the work of the other person however i'm not sure how formally this applies and how messy an answer might get if all the knowledge you've aggregated for a question is being referenced. Are we going to have to start writing bibliographies on answers?
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possible duplicate of How to handle questions which are answered in the comments?, there are quite a few similar questions. In short, yes, it's acceptable to post an answer built from existing comments. –  Mat Jul 29 '12 at 6:46
    
I just added an edit explaining the difference between the questions ;), but i wasn't sure if the answer there was speaking generally over all instances of this sort of thing. –  Michael Zaporozhets Jul 29 '12 at 6:49
    
The question you link to isn't the same as the one I did, and doesn't present the same situation. In any case, look at the linked questions from both. There are plenty of variations on this, and the result is that it is ok to "transform comments into answers". –  Mat Jul 29 '12 at 6:52
    
oh right yeah sorry, brainfart on my part. Thanks, but it seems as @PhpMyCoder has kindof hit the nail of the head when saying the Person B wouldn't be very happy with stealing his intellectual property (sort of?) so would Person C actually require permission to do this sort of thing? –  Michael Zaporozhets Jul 29 '12 at 6:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The goal of Stack Overflow is to become a resource of knowledge that makes the Internet a better place. One of the most interesting things that differentiates Stack Overflow from forums and other Q&A sites is how organized it is. It's almost like your eye is trained on where to look for the question and where to look for the answer. Enforcement of these rules/guidelines makes it easier for those landing on Stack Overflow from Google to find the answers they seek.

If you can write a great answer to a question, do so. You're making the Internet a better place. Here are some tips to make sure that you do this the right way:

  • Don't be an opportunist. If the comment was just posted, give "person B" a chance to write up his or her comment as an answer. Being an opportunist is frowned upon by some, and your actions may not be well received by the community.

  • If it's clear that the person who left the comment is not going to post an answer, use that comment as inspiration to post your own.

  • Be sure to make the post your own! Don't just post the comment as an answer word for word. Just because a comment technically answered the question doesn't make it an actual answer to that question. Remember, answers posted should also help future visitors, and to ensure that what you post helps the largest number of possible visitors, you should be sure to show code examples and provide a thorough explanation. At this point, you're no longer addressing the asker, but the wider audience of the Internet. Make sure what you post will stand the test of time.

Lastly, consider this. If the question was easily answered with the comment. You might want to ask yourself if the question actually fits the guidelines of Stack Exchange. If a question can be answered in a simple comment, look at the question and make sure it shouldn't be flagged as "Not a real question" or voted as such. Questions of this nature don't really have value here and are not what Stack Exchange strives to be.

In summary, if you do use a comment as inspiration for an answer, just be sure to respect the other people involved in this transaction, and you should be fine. Good luck!

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So i'm going to assume that it's a loose creativecommons based on maturity and respect of one another rather than 'omg u steel mi work; I keeeel you.' Ideally this sounds great although it worries me that people might see me stealing their great minds' work on simply 'reformatting' it into a question. –  Michael Zaporozhets Jul 29 '12 at 7:20
    
This is where you must use your best judgement. If it's clear the post will be a broken window without you, by all means, fix it. Also, your answer should hopefully be more than just a comment. If not, then it's not worth your time, and the question should just probably be closed. Hope this helps! –  jmort253 Jul 29 '12 at 7:24
    
yep, you've shown me the stairs to the princesses room. thanks :) –  Michael Zaporozhets Jul 29 '12 at 7:25

I would say formalizing a comment that solved a question is good practice. Visitors not acquainted with SO's interface (maybe ones coming from a Google search) may not think to look in the comments and leave when they see the "Your Answer" header with no answers above it. However, in your scenario I would be annoyed if I was Person B and Person C simply copied and pasted my correct comment into an answer. In an ideal situation, Person B should format his or her comment as an answer and Person A should accept it. If Person B clearly is not involved in the discussion anymore (and won't respond to an @ reply) and didn't make the effort of converting to an answer, then it is fair game for Person C to format the comment as an answer and post. This is to the benefit of the community, but also Person A because he can accept the answer, which positively impacts his or her accept rate.

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I think this is starting to tie in with what kind of intellectual copyrights a person may claim to have on content that they post as answers or comments (if any). –  Michael Zaporozhets Jul 29 '12 at 6:59
    
Everything on SO is CreativeCommons so I don't think you can claim intellectual copyright: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 –  PhpMyCoder Jul 29 '12 at 7:00
    
well the creativecommons states you must attribute the work of the other person however i'm not sure how formally this applies and how messy an answer might get if all the knowledge you've aggregated for a question is being referenced. Are we going to have to start writing bibliographies on answers? –  Michael Zaporozhets Jul 29 '12 at 7:04
    
@mikeymeows Some already document sources by linking to other SO questions and webpages. Maybe it would be appropriate for original comment content to be included at the top of a converted answer as a quote and attributed to the proper user. –  PhpMyCoder Jul 29 '12 at 7:10

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