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Question: What if the author of a question can accept a comment?

The problem: Time and time again, answers are posted as a comment. Usually, the person who commented has the best of intention (e.g. it was a trivial answer [to the answerer], and they weren't sure if the OP would immediately edit the question after the comment). But this leaves the frustrating situation of an unanswered question with a perfectly good answer.

This problem accumulates over the years.

Candidate solution: The OP can just "accept" the comment, after which a duplicate of the comment is made an accepted CW answer, with a preface indicating that it was originally a comment, e.g. This answer was originally a comment posted by [[blah]] that has been accepted by the author of the question.

Comments on this scheme:

  • The author of the comment has indicated they're not interested in gaining/losing reputation through their comment (thus CW answer).
  • The original comment is still there.
  • If desirable, the "author" of the accepted question could be a "bot", so the answer is not attributed to a genuine account. (I suppose it would already be technically possible for Joe Blow to create a script for a bot that creates an answer from a comment in the proposed way.)

A similar question was asked before here (over 3 years ago), and in numerous other questions which have been deemed "duplicates" (here, here and here; see also here), so there seems to be demand for such a feature. The answers to these questions seem (to me, at least) quite weak:

  • "ask the commenter to add the comment as an answer"

The OP already did this by asking the question in the first place. And what if the author of the comment doesn't respond (or takes a long time to respond)? This also adds more chit-chat irrelevant to the question.

  • "add an answer of your own, referring to the comment, and accept it."

A hacky workaround. How could this possibly be better than accepting a comment? (Yet, this is the most up-voted response.) Moreover, this adds to the user's list of "answers" (thus making the user's page harder to look through).

  • "When i leave a comment, i do so because i want to leave a comment."

Great; now what about everyone else? In the immortal words of the FAQ: "Other people can edit my posts?!" And it's not even an edit, it's copying the post from one box to another (a more hacky version of which is regarded as the "accepted" method).

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8  
Whenever I post a trivial answer as a comment, somebody usually steals it and makes it an answer. So I don't really see it as a big problem. –  Mysticial Oct 8 '12 at 5:20
3  
As the OP, you can also post it as an answer yourself, and self-accept. If you feel hinky about any earned rep, mark the answer Community Wiki. –  Robert Harvey Oct 8 '12 at 5:40
    
@RobertHarvey: Indeed, I recognise that in my post; but why not have an "official" button to do this automatically? –  Douglas S. Stones Oct 8 '12 at 5:42
3  
Because what I suggested already works, and the problem is not serious enough to bother the developers with it. –  Robert Harvey Oct 8 '12 at 5:45

3 Answers 3

I'm very junior here, so my comments are tentative: Not being able to accept a comment is an artificial restriction, and the reasons I see above are trivial. Sometimes an answer is posed as a comment simply because it becomes evident in the context of another comment, and posting it as a separate answer would loose that context. Or perhaps the commenter is not sure it is a good answer, but indeed it turns out to be the best answer. Surely the asker of the question is the best person to to decide that his question has been answered, and it's hard to believe that the commenter would not want that reputation. And consider that sometimes the best answer can be a single word or phrase. In my recent question: "can we hot-swap from one install of linux to another", the best answer was 'hvd's comment: "Look into kexec"--it was as simple as that.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'm going to (partly for poetic reasons) accept Robert Harvey's comment, which offers a real reason not to implement the proposal (rather than hand-wavey arguments): "The problem is not serious enough to bother the developers with it."

If this is the case, then there's nothing to discuss, really.

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We can't force comments out of answers, even if we are absolutely certain that the comment is in fact a good answer, or even a great one. The poster of the comment decided to post it as a comment, and that's that. You can, however, steal the comment and post it as an answer yourself. Simple enough solution, and the answer now carries your name, you take full responsibility for whether it actually stands as an answer or not. Of course, as with every time you use someone else's work in your answers, you should add a reference to the comment.

Comments are second (third?) class citizens, I'd be wary of making them "feel" important like that and I'm afraid your suggested solution would do more to encourage answers posted as comments than discourage them, comments can't be downvoted, and I'm afraid people would opt to test the waters with a comment first (more than they do so now), if there was a feature in place that converted comments to answers.

I typically post answers as comments when:

  1. I'm bored to write a full answer,
  2. I'm browsing the site from mobile, or am in a hurry and can't write a full answer,
  3. I'm pretty sure that the question is unsuitable and will be closed soon, and don't want to bother with a full answer,
  4. Once or twice (thrice?) to test the waters, before submitting an actual answer. But even then, my comment was more of a one-liner than an actual answer, when I decided to post it as an answer, I expanded it with any relevant detail I could think of.

I don't think any of my typical answers-as-comments would qualify as an actual answer, at least not a good one and definitely not one I'd want carrying my username. I have seen comments around that could stand as actual answers, but an answer standing on its own doesn't necessarily mean it's any good, and when it happens to be, it's usually on a question that's about to go the way of the dodo.

Although I understand the motivation behind your feature request, I don't think it would be a feature that would actually be useful to a lot of people, if at all.

If all of the above doesn't convince you, consider these technical issues:

  1. What happens if the answer posted as a comment spans more than one comments? It's quite rare for a good answer to fit in a comment, almost all good answers-as-comments I've seen spanned at least two comments.
  2. Comments have limited support for formatting, especially code formatting, auto converting them to answers would result in some very ugly looking answers.
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...and here's a recent example of me stealing a comment and posting it as an answer. –  Yannis Oct 8 '12 at 5:39

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