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Example of where it would be useful
Another example

Clearly, that was the result of an inexperienced user.

If a question gets a bunch of replies, then the "comment" could easily get lost in the other answers.

I think that if there is no activity on the "comment" (no comments, no votes, etc.), then I think converting the answer to a comment is a valid operation for housekeeping purposes. If there are comments, votes, etc., then the answer should likely be left alone.

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Why not just add a comment to educate the new user? –  ChrisF Jan 11 '10 at 17:18
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@ChrisF: Because that doesn't solve the organization problem. Unless the user is cooperative enough to repost their answer as a comment, then delete the answer... but that may be too much to ask of a new user. –  Jon Seigel Jan 11 '10 at 18:06
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"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." –  ChrisF Jan 11 '10 at 22:03
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@ChrisF Unless he's crap at fishing. –  ceejayoz Jan 11 '10 at 23:03
    
@Jon Seigel: how should converting the answer to a comment take place? By some automatic means, by moderators (equipped with better tools) or by users with high enough reputation? –  Peter Mortensen Jan 11 '10 at 23:16
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"Give a man a fire, and you keep him warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and you keep him warm for the rest of his life." –  zombat Jan 12 '10 at 2:20
    
@ChrisF: I totally agree. If the user comes back and sees that his answer is now a comment (we could also give the user notification in the recent activity area), he/she may be shown what is appropriate and learn that way. On a normal forum, if I saw this, I would consider sending the user a private message, but there isn't such a thing here. –  Jon Seigel Jan 12 '10 at 2:46
    
@Peter: I propose this be done manually by high-rep users (10k+). It's too context-dependent to do automatically. I think some kind of in-page moderation tool would be appropriate, but honestly, I don't know what's available to those users right now because I only have ~3800 rep on SO. –  Jon Seigel Jan 12 '10 at 2:49
    
@Shog9: That question proposes a public voting system for converting posts, which is far from what I have in mind here. There is definite overlap in function, but zero overlap in implementation. –  Jon Seigel Jan 12 '10 at 2:53
    
Right, but you'll notice the popular answer there as here disputes the necessity of such a feature. There's another question I thought about linking to as well: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/12119/… - it's not a duplicate by any means, but still worth reading if you're going where I think you're going with this. –  Shog9 Jan 12 '10 at 3:00
    
@Shog: If I'm reading it correctly, the answer disputes the mechanism by which the feature would be implemented... it doesn't say anything about the validity of having such a feature. I see where you're going with that question (12119) -- I respectfully disagree with some of what you said, but that's a totally separate discussion. –  Jon Seigel Jan 12 '10 at 3:20
    
Well, it's only separate if you have some other use in mind for this... Remember, someone has to identify an answer as being 1) not an answer, and 2) still worth preserving somehow - the previous suggestion was that ordinary users "vote" on this; you appear to suggest that moderators choose them based on certain criteria. But unless moderators will be trolling through low-ranked answers looking for work to do, it'll still end up being regular users who bring these answers to their attention, and the question then remains: is it possible to preserve worthwhile but OT answers as comments? –  Shog9 Jan 12 '10 at 3:50
    
@Shog: The idea is that it's up to the community, in 2 ways. First, an answer can be flagged ("should be a comment"), but the recipient of that message has to be able to affect the change. Second, any user with 10k+ would be able to perform this function if they happen to see a candidate post. There's no reason to go trolling through every question... I think most of the time, every question will be viewed by at least one 10k+ rep person at one time or another (we could probably get stats on that?). –  Jon Seigel Jan 12 '10 at 13:35
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@Jon B ... I converted your answer to a comment :) –  waffles Jan 7 '11 at 5:40

4 Answers 4

up vote 27 down vote accepted

This is now implemented, moderators can convert posts to comments. They can also choose to retain the comments on the posts.

If you think something should be a comment please flag it.

NOTE this feature is designed to salvage "good" information from non-answers. It is not meant to be used to convert "thank you" answers to comments - they should be simply deleted.

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Excellent work, sir. –  Jon Seigel Jan 7 '11 at 17:17
    
I wonder that there isn’t a bug in the implementation. Or at least, an unforeseen consequence. –  tchrist Jan 26 '13 at 14:41

Comments have very different limitations than answers. Comments are restricted to 600 characters (only six lines of text of a typical post). Comments only support a small subset of the formatting markup supported by regular posts so you would have to strip all that out. Comments don't support hyper-linked text. No embedded pictures, either. Comments don't support paragraphs, line feeds, or lists so you would be cramming the text into one continuous line.

Then there will be people who want to covert comments to answers. Actually, that sounds much more useful.

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+1 Good points, and I would support converting a comment to an answer (for all users). I'm interested here in allowing the conversion of answers to comments for moderators only. There's nothing to say that the post text couldn't be checked for any of these conditions, and if it contains something that can't be converted, simply refuse to convert. –  Jon Seigel Jan 11 '10 at 18:29

Moderators can, I believe, already convert answers into comments: delete the answer and transfer the content to a comment (although the attribution will be to the moderator, not the OP.)

These types of "answers" come about for a number of reasons:

  1. The user acts like he/she is in a forum, mailing list or newsgroup.
  2. The user does not have enough reputation to comment (this is not the case in the example). Or rather thinks that 50 reputation is required and thus uses an answer instead of a comment.
  3. The user is inexperienced (as noted in the question)

The vast majority of these "answers" can easily be in comments. If not then the question can be updated with a follow-up. But in any case SOFU is not the appropriate place for this kind of extended threads.

See also this similar question over at Meta Stack Exchange: "Users treat Q&A like a forum. How can a mod easily move answers that should have been comments".

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Quite rare, but this is pretty much what I do - along with some explanatory text. –  Marc Gravell Jan 12 '10 at 8:37
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I think #2 is the biggest problem, because it can't be solved by simply educating users, and often leads to downvotes on very good comments, from users who either don't notice the low rep of the commenter or don't understand that the rep requirement is an anti-spam anti-duplicate-account feature and isn't meant to establish a caste system. –  Ben Voigt Oct 1 '10 at 13:40

Like Peter, I periodically see good comments from rep==1 users that are therefore entered as answers. Unfortunately they often get downvoted by people who comment "This is a comment, not an answer." Currently I usually leave a pre-emptive comment saying "not enough rep to leave comments, great comment" to try to avert the down-votes. It would be great if as a high-SO-rep user I could cause these pseudo-comment answers to become comments on my authority, without losing the authorship attribution. For that matter, maybe (optionally) give the new user a few rep points at the same time (after selecting "convert to comment" there needs to be a popup to ask whether it should be a comment on the question or on an existing answer, add a checkbox for "great comment" that gives +10 rep as if it was voted up as an answer, but to prevent abuse this option is only available when the author rep is not enough to leave comments directly).

Ironically, this would have been a great comment to Peter's answer, but here on meta I haven't enough rep.

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By your logic, why not abolish the minimum rep requirement for comments? –  Andrew Grimm Oct 1 '10 at 2:35
    
I think it's probably sufficient to flag the post for mod attention, so one of them can do the conversion. I'm very hesitant to propose this kind of feature for regular users. –  Jon Seigel Oct 1 '10 at 2:55
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Also, two things: 1. The rep requirement for commenting on Meta is 1, so you can comment on anything; 2. if you associate your accounts, you get +100 on every site. –  Jon Seigel Oct 1 '10 at 2:56
    
@Andrew Grimm: Because comments can't be downvoted, giving 1-rep users the ability to comment would be more subject to abuse than implementing a conversion request from a high rep user (I propose 2000 rep as the requirement for initiating conversion). Further, I see all over meta, including the FAQ, that only 1 rep is needed to leave a comment on meta itself. Doesn't seem to be true today. Did something change? Is there documentation? –  Ben Voigt Oct 1 '10 at 2:58
    
@Jon: Umm, the FAQ says the requirement is 1 rep, but it doesn't act like it. I can comment here on my own answer but e.g. not on your question or Peter's answer. Does that mean something's broken? Also the association bonus isn't retroactive. –  Ben Voigt Oct 1 '10 at 3:00
    
@Ben: If you can't comment on my question or anyone else's answer, you should file a bug report. To do the associations and get the bonus, dissociate then reassociate. –  Jon Seigel Oct 1 '10 at 3:03
    
@Jon: You also suggested that mods can do the conversion... what's the rep requirement for that particular ability, or is that merely speculation? –  Ben Voigt Oct 1 '10 at 3:04
    
@Ben: There is no such feature yet. That's what I'm proposing in this question. –  Jon Seigel Oct 1 '10 at 3:07
    
@Jon: Ok, I'm counter-proposing that the bar be a little lower than full mod rights. Somewhere in the general neighborhood of 2000 rep. Also, bug report filed and I'm not going to re-associate because it would prevent me from testing the fix. meta.stackexchange.com/q/66255/135695 –  Ben Voigt Oct 1 '10 at 3:13
    
@Ben: Consider this: converting a non-CW answer to CW is only available to diamond moderators because once that's done (irreversible), the post can no longer gain reputation. Converting a non-CW answer to a comment essentially does the same thing. That's why I think it only makes sense as a feature at the diamond mod level. –  Jon Seigel Oct 1 '10 at 3:18
    
@Jon: I was led to believe that 2000 rep was sufficient to force a conversion-to-CW-by-virtue-of-many-edits... Not that I would ever do such a thing, I'd like to avoid being hit with a ban, but just saying. Plus, there'd be no need for the ability to convert answers when the poster had >= 50 rep (at the time the answer was posted, maybe easier to just check for 100 rep at the time of conversion), and I think that sort of rule would be enough to mitigate concerns about rep cancellation. –  Ben Voigt Oct 1 '10 at 3:31
    
@Ben: It is, but there's a big difference between that and what I'm asking for here. First of all, CW-by-editing leaves a clear audit trail in the revision history. Moderator actions are logged, of course, but the prospect of going over a set of logs for 2k+ users would be significantly more work for the admins. Second, any rep gained by an answer before it's converted to CW is retained. This would not be the case for a comment because comments do not generate reputation (although, the score should transfer over, IMO). –  Jon Seigel Oct 1 '10 at 17:02
    
Its nice to leave a comment on their non-answer, but as soon as a mod sees it it's going into the bin. Just flag and we'll convert it or delete it as appropriate. –  Won't Jan 26 '11 at 14:14

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