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There are some questions that I found which I could answer by sharing links to another question. These questions have no answers and the solution is present in comments, which I feel is not user friendly as most of the basic users don't go through comments. On finding 0 answers displayed they keep searching or they post a new question leading to more duplicates.

I would suggest one should be allowed to post at least one answer and flag the post to be closed so as duplicates may be avoided. This will help a lot of answer seekers.

And is flagging such questions for closing a good thing to do?

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If they are dupes, certainly flag them, whether or not the other question has been answered. –  Martijn Pieters Aug 12 '12 at 8:01
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Comments hardly ever make good answers. If you are able to convert it into a good substantial answer, by all means do so. But otherwise I don't like the idea of them simply being made into answers for the lack of a competing answer. –  Bart Aug 12 '12 at 8:19
    
@Bart: Somehow a solved question with no answer doesn't do it's purpose. It's an incomplete workflow. –  Maitreya Aug 12 '12 at 8:52
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That does not imply that bad answers are the solution. Those answers we convert to comments should not have been answers to begin with. And those comments that can't be made into a good enough answer, should not be answers either. Though like I said, if you can make a comment into a good substantial answer, go ahead. And if that is not possible, perhaps the quality of the question should be evaluated if it can be answered with a comment, but not with something that is a real answer. –  Bart Aug 12 '12 at 8:59
    
@Bart: got it! :) –  Maitreya Aug 12 '12 at 9:28
    
If you can answer a question by sharing a link to another question (without the need for enough substance to prevent a conversion to a comment), then the question is, by definition, a duplicate, and should be closed as such. It does have an answer, and that answer can be found by clicking the link to the question it is a duplicate of. –  Jim Oct 2 '12 at 17:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

With regards to converting comments into answers, keep in mind that comments hardly ever make good answers. That's why they are comments and not answers. So simply converting comments into answers is not a solution. (This besides the practical issues of preventing them from being flagged "Not an answer" should they be converted, but that's besides the point).

Those answers we convert to comments should not have been answers to begin with. And those comments that can't be made into a good enough answer, should not be answers either.

However, if you're able to take the information contained within one or more comments and make it into a good substantial answer, by all means go ahead. If you can use them as the snippets of inspiration for something good and valuable, that is just great.

Should you run into a case where a comment does answer the question, but even with the best of efforts it cannot be made into a substantially good enough answer, then perhaps it's the question that should be evaluated. After all, if the question does not seem to invite good answers, it might be in need of a touch-up or perhaps even closure.

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I'm not sure this response answers the principal objection raised by the question. From the point of view of someone looking for solutions on the site, the question appears unanswered, and thus is likely to get overlooked, even though it contains a pointer to a place where the answer can be found. –  dthrasher Oct 2 '12 at 14:35
    
@dthrasher Feel free to add your own answer with thoughts on how to address this issue. I have added mine. –  Bart Oct 2 '12 at 14:45

I think the problem with the conversion of trivial answers to comments makes a question appear "unanswered" when there could be at least some useful information in the comments.

A pointer to another SO question or answer could be a step in the right direction for someone seeking a solution.

Some suggestions:

  • On the search results page, note the number of comments as well as the number of answers.
  • For an individual search result, note the questions that have been linked as possible duplicates / related issues.

Or perhaps:

  • Don't convert trivial answers to a comment if it contains a link to another Stack Overflow answer. (A short comment with a link to another question is probably a duplicate notice.)
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I don't think we should sacrifice overall quality just for the question to appear answered. We convert those answers to comments because they can't stand as quality answers. Furthermore, if the "answer" contains a link to another SO question and as such solves the problem, perhaps the question should be closed as a duplicate instead. –  Bart Oct 2 '12 at 18:29
    
Not all questions with the same answer are duplicates. Sometimes the same problem can manifest with a variety of different symptoms, so while the solution may be common, the particular problem night not. –  dthrasher Oct 3 '12 at 19:24
    
Still, if it's not good enough as an answer, it should not remain an answer. Simple as that. And a link to another question is certainly not good enough as an answer. –  Bart Oct 3 '12 at 19:26

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