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First off I have already read Mark a comment as answer to a question and I want to suggest something somewhat different.

Presently when a comment has been sufficient to lead the poster to the answer, or has in fact been a direct answer, we have the ability to @username them to tell them to answer the question with a proper answer, (which is in my opinion, the polite thing to do since they can get reputation for this). We can also post our own answer, for which I would tend to want to post something that gave credit where credit is due like:

"The comment by FooUser has answered my question"

Unfortunately the second option, is not really an answer (and may get flagged as such) and doesn't notify the user who posted the answer comment, so while in theory they could come back post their answer and the author could then switch the checkmark to their answer, that probably almost never happens because it is simply too much work.

However it seems more user friendly if we provide a tool to the person asking the question to take their question out of the queue of unanswered questions immediately, notify the person who they think helped them, and make it easy for folks who find the question in a search to understand what is going on all in one (or maybe two) click(s) :).

So what I propose is this: A button, icon, widget related to each comment or or a dialog related to the question as a whole with a list of comments. This would provide the following functionality upon selection of a comment:

  1. Question no longer shows up in the unanswered questions list.
  2. Author of the comment is sent a notification that the poster would like him to turn his comment into an answer.
  3. The comment gets a check mark or other icon to let everyone know that this is what solved the problem.
  4. The answer section gets a temporary automatic answer pointing to the comment. The author of the comment will also see a button that says turn my comment into an answer. If that button is clicked, it will bring up the text of the comment in the standard answer editing UI. If the answer editing UI is approved (saved) then the comment text turns green in the list of comments and an answer is added to the answer list. The comment also becomes a hyperlink to the answer.

I don't feel that this endangers the use of regular answering because in many cases the comment isn't really sufficient space to answer the question. Also, up-votes on comments do NOT get translated to up-votes on the answer, to encourage people to post answers when they believe they have an answer. If people subsequently up-vote the comment instead of the answer, so be it. Still no conversion to up-votes. If you want full points, write an answer to begin with. If folks take the time to upvote the generated answer, then points are awarded.

The most important part of this is to get the questions that do not need an answer off the unanswered list. The other important aspect of this suggestion is that everyone still remains in control of their disposition of their content.

Another thing I want to point out is that I do not favor removal of any of the existing workflows. If the comment doesn't constitute a good answer by itself the poster should craft an answer, or contact the comment author as we do today.

And another benefit I just thought of is that if the poster has become enamored of a comment that is actually bad advice, and the comment author opts to take credit and turn it into an answer, it can now be down voted!

share|improve this question
    
Downvoter, how is my question unclear, or lack research effort? If you aren't in favor of the feature, perhaps answer with an explanation of why you disagree? –  Gus Mar 10 '13 at 17:54
    
Please note that downvotes on Meta are sometimes indeed used to indicate disagreement. meta.stackoverflow.com/faq#vote-differences –  Bart Mar 10 '13 at 17:55
4  
Hmm, that seems the least constructive way of communicating, but ok... –  Gus Mar 10 '13 at 17:57
    
It takes some getting used to, admittedly. ;) As for your request, my thoughts are entirely "meh". It seems a rather involved solution for a situation that is already easily resolved. As you say, leave a comment. If the author does not respond, the OP can always make it an answer himself. And given that it resolved the issue for the OP, it can be a good answer. (And not just a link to/hint at the comment) I don't really see a need for this feature. –  Bart Mar 10 '13 at 18:00
    
I just hate it when I read a question, perhaps think about it some and then get to the comments only to find that the answer is already given, and the question author has said "thanks!". Wastes my time. –  Gus Mar 10 '13 at 18:03
    
That doesn't mean you shouldn't still answer it. By all means, go ahead. Good answers are always welcome. No matter if the primary issue for the OP has already been resolved. And comments rarely make for good answers, even if they answer the immediate needs of the OP. –  Bart Mar 10 '13 at 18:04
    
Seems like plagiarism. I'd rather be able to up-vote the useful answer already given (when it's useful, and an answer). –  Gus Mar 10 '13 at 18:07
    
If it's not an answer (and no, comments are not answers) it's not plagiarism. You should of course not simply copy paste the comment into an answer and submit. If you don't, you're absolutely fine and should feel no hesitation. –  Bart Mar 10 '13 at 18:08
    
Hmm, I most certainly do not want to be downvoted for a comment that I left exactly because I was not sure it would make a good answer. That seems to be a bad thing to me. –  Bart Mar 10 '13 at 18:15
    
That would only happen if you accepted the offer to turn your comment into an answer. –  Gus Mar 10 '13 at 18:16

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