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This answer was tied for 3rd place out of 9 answers - at least 12 people thought it was good. While it didn't adhere to one restriction provided in the question, I did try to make the argument that the restriction was unreasonable and provided a solid answer for solving the problem behind the question. I'm sure it had value to the people who came across it later. As a comment it's much more likely to be ignored.

http://stackoverflow.com/a/307257/5987

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Yes, it got a bunch of upvotes, but are you really saying it's an answer to the question? It's an on-topic comment, and it got a "this comment adds something useful to the post" from me, FWIW. –  Michael Petrotta Apr 5 '13 at 1:54
    
@MichaelPetrotta, as I said it answers the question behind the question - how to make sure pointers get deleted when the container is destroyed. And as I say above, a comment isn't nearly as strong advice as a highly voted answer. –  Mark Ransom Apr 5 '13 at 1:57
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I agree. If the system is this aggressive in converting answers to comments, all it's really doing is taking the stance that good answers are verbose and dawdling. –  AAA Apr 5 '13 at 1:58
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The OP said "I'd like a solution not using X," and you replied "You should really use X." You didn't really "try to make the argument" for your solution, you just said "not using X is dangerous." 12 upvotes over 4+ years isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, and at 98.7K it's really hard to see why you care about this. Finally, "as a comment it's much more likely to be ignored" isn't a reasonable justification for posting a comment as an answer. –  Caleb Apr 5 '13 at 3:27
    
@Caleb, my motivation for being on StackOverflow is to be helpful. It's not about the votes, it's about guiding people to the best results. It's probably true that I didn't make my case forcefully enough, but that doesn't make it undeserving of being an answer. P.S. due to a probable bug in the system I think I lost 2 points on the whole exchange - a downvote was double counted. –  Mark Ransom Apr 5 '13 at 3:33
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@MarkRansom It's not answering the question that makes it undeserving of being an answer. It's unfortunate that the OP didn't say why he/she didn't want to use boost -- that might have given you room to point out a problem in the OP's reasoning. I think any high-rep user will have strayed at times from an OP's requirements, usually in an effort to be helpful, and I have no doubt that that's exactly what happened in this case. And I think it is helpful; it just doesn't answer the question that the OP posed. –  Caleb Apr 5 '13 at 3:50
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@Caleb, I think you forget that the answer isn't just for the OP - it's for everyone who finds the question later. I'm sure a good percentage of those do not have the same prejudice to using boost, thus the answer is relevant to them. –  Mark Ransom Apr 5 '13 at 3:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Well, it's not really an answer, but it's very old and has a score of 12. A relic from another time; today that answer would never pass muster.

I undeleted it, but left the converted comments (since they really do make more sense under the question).

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As I said, it's not a direct answer to the question but rather an answer to the problem behind the question. Thank you! I'm interested in knowing why it "would never pass muster" today, as I would probably give the same answer even after so many years (although I might phrase it differently). –  Mark Ransom Apr 5 '13 at 3:09
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The answer would be a better one if it explained in detail why Boost is better. It hints at that, but without further explanation it's not really compelling, especially since the OP already stated that he didn't want to use Boost. –  Robert Harvey Apr 5 '13 at 3:18

SO takes the stance that answers are preferable to comments. In fact, this came up earlier today:

Quoth Shog9:

You're right. Comments are terrible. This is particularly obvious when you contrast the comment UX with the one available for answers.

It's almost as though the system is subtly suggesting that answers are preferable to comments.

Conversely we have a problem with chatty answers. But IMO it's clear that this one, the system called wrong. We do not want terse, informative answers like Mark's to wind up in comments; rather we want terse, informative comments that answer the question to be posted as terse, informative answers. In any case it is possible to write high quality answers resembling Mark's, where "resembling" means, "up to the point our tools can detect."

To flesh this out - if humans are debating this, then the machine was too aggressive. It is much preferred to let something questionable be an answer, where our community is much better at moderating it. Comments can't receive downvotes, all they can do is produce more comments shouting them down where they are very difficult to ignore. If Mark truly posted an uninformative answer, it would get downvoted, critiqued, etc., possibly edited or deleted. This wouldn't happen to a comment, you would just get like 6 more nearly equally valid looking comments. And now we're starting to sound a lot more like the opposite of what SO is.

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I honestly don't think this was done by any automated tool. The answer got a downvote yesterday, and probably also got flagged at the same time. All it takes is one moderator who agrees with the flag, and wham! –  Mark Ransom Apr 5 '13 at 2:17
    
@MarkRansom My mistake in assuming it was. That weakens my point some but I still would agree with you for the reasons I outlined, i.e. that answers can be community-QA'ed better than comments. –  AAA Apr 5 '13 at 16:09
    
It was indeed deleted manually by a moderator: stackoverflow.com/posts/307257/revisions –  Josh Caswell Apr 5 '13 at 18:24

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