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:
- Question no longer shows up in the unanswered questions list.
- Author of the comment is sent a notification that the poster would like him to turn his comment into an answer.
- The comment gets a check mark or other icon to let everyone know that this is what solved the problem.
- 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!