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Like many SO users, I check the unanswered queue periodically to find ... well, questions that need answers. However, roughly a tenth of the "unanswered" questions I view aren't unanswered at all: they have an answer, but it's in the comments. These questions sit perpetually in the unanswered queue because no one wants to answer an already-answered question (and you kinda look like a jerk if you steal the answer someone else posted as a comment and put it in answer form).

Now the real solution here would be to let lower-power users just convert these comments in to answers. The unanswered queue would clear so much faster, and there would be rejoicing through the land. But apparently (judging by related questions) that idea is hated here.

However, a similar compromise was reached in the other direction, with converting answers to comments, by making it a diamond-only activity. Why not make that an option for these cases?

Then, given that only "diamond" moderators would be able to convert comments, shouldn't there be some way in the site for non-diamond users to do something to get these "already answered unanswered questions" out of the queue? If you magically know (or came here and read that) diamond mods can do the conversion, then you might flag the question and put a custom message in requesting a conversion.

But if you don't know that you're out of luck. So what I'm thinking is, why not add another "flagging option":

  • it needs ♦ moderator attention
    • very low quality
    • answered in comments
    • other
  • it doesn't belong here, or it is a duplicate
  • it is spam
  • it is not welcome in our community

This way any user could solve the "answered unanswered question" problem, or at least contribute to the solution, and the site would naturally guide them towards that (when appropriate).

Alternatively, converting comments to answers could be handled more flagging to close. In other words, leave diamond users out of the process entirely, just add the new flagging option, and then if X people flag a comment as an answer it gets converted?

share|improve this question
Mods cannot convert comments to answers, only the other way around – Mad Scientist Dec 27 '12 at 21:40
Oh, I misread another question. I'll amend my question then. – machineghost Dec 27 '12 at 21:41
Because usually if you can fit it in a comment, it's not a good answer. – Dynamic Dec 27 '12 at 21:47
Also, I sometimes leave a short not-quite-answer in comments because I don't want to play the rep game with it. If someone can take it and make a good answer, great. But not me. – simchona Dec 27 '12 at 21:50
@Dyanmic I really think it depends on the questions. Try spending a day in the Javascript unanswered queue and you'll be amazed by the number of questions that revolve around some really basic info that can be conveyed in a single sentence. – machineghost Dec 27 '12 at 21:57
@simchona It's great that you feel that way about your "answer comments", but the problem is others don't feel that way. Or at least I'm assuming they don't, because none of them are taking "comment answers" and converting them in to answers; instead everyone just lets the "answered unanswered question" sit there in the queue. So while there's nothing "morally wrong" with converting someone else's comment in to an answer (and even if you encourage it), it's just not happening right now. – machineghost Dec 27 '12 at 21:58
"not happening" should not lead to "put someone else's rep at stake" – simchona Dec 27 '12 at 22:00
Agreed; I'm looking for a solution, and if the one I suggested is a bad one (say because it puts your rep in someone else's control) then clearly that's no good. But let's not throw babies out with bathwater: there are ways to solve your concern and still address this issue (like for instance making converted answers have no author, or not affect rep). – machineghost Dec 27 '12 at 22:02
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Converting comments to answers is not the reverse of converting answers to comments, our expectations for answers are very different from our expectations for comments, we are much more relaxed with comments. I sometimes post answers as comments (especially on Meta), but there's always a reason:

  • I didn't have time to post a complete answer, and/or
  • I didn't care much for the question to post a complete answer.

In any case all my "answers posted as comments" are short and sloppy, I wouldn't be very happy if they were converted to answers, especially if those answers would in any way be linked to my account.

If you feel a question is sufficiently answered in comments, just steal the comments and post an answer yourself, that's the Stack Exchange way.

share|improve this answer
Anyone suggesting they post those answers as community wiki is a communist – random Dec 27 '12 at 21:54
I hear what you're saying about "the Stack Exchange way", but the real life evidence demonstrates that that doesn't happen. I guess most people just feel like me that its wrong to "steal" another person's answer, and as a result the current system leaves a ton of "answered unanswered questions" in the queue. I'm not at all wedded to the "convert comments to answers" solution, but I feel there must be some solution other than "leave the queue filled with questions that don't belong." – machineghost Dec 27 '12 at 21:55
@random I never suggested CW, if you take the time to convert comments to a full answer, I don't see why you shouldn't get rep for it. – Yannis Dec 27 '12 at 21:57
Never suggested you suggested CW, but as you'll see on many other Meta answers, the suggestion is usually suggested – random Dec 27 '12 at 21:58
I think @random might have just been making a joke ... (but not being an SE regular I can't say for sure) – machineghost Dec 27 '12 at 22:00
@machineghost In almost every related discussion it's suggested that you should convert your "stolen" answer to CW as to not earn any rep for it. And yes random was joking. – Yannis Dec 27 '12 at 22:03
@Yannis right, and my point is: that's not happening. So maybe we just say "it's an unsolvable problem: questions with answers in their comments will just have to sit waiting for a mythical 'conversion' until the end of time in the unanswered queue." But I don't think it's unsolvable, and I do think there's something different that could be done with these questions (even if an automated conversion process isn't that something because of the rep issues). – machineghost Dec 27 '12 at 22:06
@machineghost Unanswered negatively scored questions are automatically deleted after a month. See:… – Yannis Dec 27 '12 at 22:10
Ok, you caught me, I exaggerated a bit with "until the end of time"; please forgive my hyperbole. But the issue remains: those questions will sit in the queue until they've been forced on to page 500 or whatever at the end of those few months. Until that happens they'll gum up the works, and after that point they'll still show up in the site as "unanswered" even though they really aren't. – machineghost Dec 27 '12 at 22:12
Definite +1 to this answer. I see it all the time, someone finds a syntax error, or lists the exact (usually brief) desired answer, as a comment. It helps me greatly and sometimes suffices. But I can tell that those 30,000 rep people know that's the answer, and I get the feeling that if others agree, someone looking for the points or with time, will propose a proper, and thorough answer. – d-_-b Dec 28 '12 at 4:58
@machineghost, is the problem that they are technically "unanswered", or s it that even if you properly submit an answer, the OP will probably never accept it since it was asked so long ago? – d-_-b Dec 28 '12 at 5:01
As I understand it, the goal of this site is to get questions answered. When people answer in the comments they have answered the question: the OP doesn't need any further info, later readers can learn what they need to learn, and no one needs to formally answer except to make the SO gods happy. But, it sits in the unanswered queue anyway, and people who actually want to answer unanswered questions have to open up a question, see that it's not really "unanswered", then go back to looking for a question that really is unanswered. – machineghost Dec 28 '12 at 17:36
So basically my problem is that the system is inefficient: 1) wasted answerer effort: rather than spending time answering people, answerers have to wade through "answered unanswered questions" trying to find something they can actually help on 2) busywork: to solve #1, rather than actually answering questions an SO citizen gets to waste their time copy/pasting someone else's answer comment in to an answer, helping no one, 3) because nothing stops comment answers and there's no incentive to do #2, #1 is pretty much guaranteed on a daily basis. – machineghost Dec 28 '12 at 17:43

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