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There should be a feature that provides all the "comfort" of an answer, but actually is more like a comment.

I often find myself in the situation where someone posts a question and I have some (hopefully) good ideas on what could be tried to solve or at least narrow down to the problem. But I wasn't quite sure or needed some more information to confirm my theory. So I added a comment. But in many cases it's very inconvenient to post a comment (for the poster as well as the reader) because it lacks of formatting options and other things. Say you want to add a comment that involves a lot of code.

It would be great to be able to post a comment that was formatted like an answer without actually being a (final) answer. It would be great if there was a possibility to write a "formatted answer" but flagging it as "discussion". Maybe even with the possibility to be "promoted" to an answer by the one who asked the question. There are quite some questions where the actual solution to the problem is lost somewhere in the comments.

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I can't say I would see any benefit to this.

If a user posts something that isn't an answer, then what is it? It's likely a comment - and if it's really off-topic, then it's something that should be taken to chat or elsewhere..

The way that SO is structured now doesn't leave room for extended discussions on topics. There is chat, but that's about it.

I've seen people take their comments and change them into answers, but that's more of a manual, if they elect to process.

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The point is not to support off-topic discussions, maybe it didn't explain myself very well. What I'm talking about could also be called 'extended comment'. The way I see it, the main purpose of SO is to provide valuable help to people seeking for it. So if you have something that might be helpful to say on a question, but it's not a definite answer, it would be nice if you could make use of the formatting an answer provides. Especially if your comment would involve a huge chunk of code... – Tobi Nov 5 '12 at 21:01
If a comment would involve a large chunk of code but doesn't answer the question, the signal to noise ratio is too low. – David Robinson Nov 6 '12 at 3:30

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