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Sometimes I find questions where another user has made a comment on the question that I think would be a perfectly acceptable answer to the question. Would it be in bad form to copy the comment verbatim and paste it as an answer?

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Yes, I think it would be. You would be receiving any rep for it at that point instead of the person who made the original comment. If the comment answers the question to the point that the OP would accept it as an answer then the OP should request that the original commenter add it as an answer so they can accept. Or you should make the suggestion to the original commenter that it is a useful answer and should be added as a full answer. –  Gnome Sep 10 '10 at 18:52
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@Gnome: why I outta.... That'll be nice in an hour when they both read "1 hour ago" :) –  squillman Sep 10 '10 at 18:56
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@squillman: Even later when full timestamps are shown they'll be only minutes apart... I couldn't resist. :) –  Gnome Sep 10 '10 at 18:59
    
Very similar –  Peter Ajtai Sep 10 '10 at 19:28
    
For anyone interested there's a good discussion about this in the Tavern... –  The Unhandled Exception Sep 10 '10 at 20:48

5 Answers 5

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Not at all. When I do this, I just start my answer with "As stated by XXX in the comments..."

I make sure to always do this if the question is in the unanswered queue.

Sometimes I even start with "I'm including this as an answer so that someone can up vote it so this will get out of the unasnwered queue. As stated by XXX in the comments..."

Sure, there may be people who say you shouldn't get rep for it, but in fact Stack Overflow is not about rep. Stack Overflow about gathering information for use by a community. Answers buried in comments are impossible to find. By creating a real answer you are adding greatly to the value of the site as a whole.... and doing that is great form.

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+1, this is basically what I was going to say except I was looking for the quote from Joel supporting it. Whatever, I guess. –  Pops Sep 10 '10 at 19:36
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Do people really find "successful"/"popular" (e.g. voted +5 or +6) comments really that hard to find? I don't think so, which means the information is already gathered and available for anyone to read. From that perspective, rewarding people for their contributions is more important than moving the comment to an answer. –  Gnome Sep 10 '10 at 19:52
    
@Gnome - Absolutely not. Stack Overflow is a site that people who are not familiar with find somewhat difficult to navigate (many people find Questions they are interested in through Goggle). So, making the text small and tucking it away somewhere does obscure it. ------- Also, an utterly brilliant answer as a comment will not even SHOW UP if there are already many other comments.... (it has to be upvoted to even become visible without an extra click) –  Peter Ajtai Sep 10 '10 at 20:01
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@Gnome, organization is important. You can search by inquestion or hasaccepted, but not by incomment. You can't search for comment text at all. And comments work well on questions and answers, but comments referring to other comments are hairier. Plus, there's simply no good reason to forgo an answer for a comment. Answering requires less rep, answers can get upvoted and downvoted, answers contribute to rep. The only reason I can think of is that some people aren't confident in their answers and are scared of losing rep if they're wrong, but that's really no excuse. –  Pops Sep 10 '10 at 20:03
    
@Peter: SO works (and sometimes fails) on the principle that it isn't brilliant unless it is voted up. If the OP really finds a comment to be answer-worthy (usually because they want to accept it), there's an easy solution. –  Gnome Sep 10 '10 at 20:04
    
@Popular: So let's teach those people leaving answer-worthy comments to post answers instead. How do we do that? Ask them to post answers. –  Gnome Sep 10 '10 at 20:06
    
For anyone interested there's a good discussion about this in the Tavern... –  The Unhandled Exception Sep 10 '10 at 20:09
    
@Gnome - I can use my time more efficiently by just copy pasting a good comment into an answer then by first posting a comment to ask the poster to do it, then checking if they did, then waiting XXX????? amount of time if they didn't............. We're dealing with adults here. If you post an answer as a comment, I assume you had a reason to do it.... you're not sure that you're right, you don't want to risk the down votes, you're in a hurry so you could only post a partial answer, etc. –  Peter Ajtai Sep 10 '10 at 20:14
    
@Peter: "If you post an answer as a comment, I assume you had a reason to do it," and I wouldn't want to merely copy your words into my answer. ( My answer covers if I have a significant addition building on your comment.) –  Gnome Sep 10 '10 at 20:17
    
@Gnome - Why on earth not? The information on this site is community content. You can do with it as you please. I may have a reason for wanting it as a comment, but if you want it as an answer go right ahead and knock yourself out. This site is licensed as CC-Wiki! –  Peter Ajtai Sep 10 '10 at 20:19
    
@Peter: Acceptable by the license (which in particular means you need to be very careful about two links which most people aren't) is very different from not being rude. Copying my comment into your answer (without significant addition) is rude — IMHO. –  Gnome Sep 10 '10 at 20:21
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That's a pretty ugly freehand circle. Can't it be smoother? –  BalusC Sep 10 '10 at 20:27
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Your recent edit puts way too much emphasis on the license. This has nothing to do with license for me and, I suspect, almost all others who agree. –  Gnome Sep 10 '10 at 20:33
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@BalusC: Looks more like a freehand tornado to me. –  gnostradamus Sep 10 '10 at 20:33
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Copy-pasting... sure, it increases visibility. CC-Wiki... sure, it means the content is public. But it's still a nicer etiquette to either add more or at least do something besides straight copy-paste. Being rude is not "fantastic form". If you want to share the information, spend just that extra amount of time (which shouldn't be much, you have a comment to build off of!) to just write something. –  Grace Note Sep 10 '10 at 20:35

There are two ways to do this:

Just The Comment

Is it poor form? As noted by squillman, "Yes, [...] it would be. You would be receiving any rep for it at that point instead of the person who made the original comment."

However, there are some cases where you feel that comment truly is the correct answer. The way to post it would be to give both attribution and community-wiki.

Simply post > "As noted by < attribution>: < insert comment here>" then mark it as CW.

That way the content is something which can be upvoted and you are not stealing rep.

The Comment, and so much more.

The goal of SO is content. This means that we should always be striving to create the best possible answer. In some cases you're going to read a comment that you agree with and you feel that you can add to it. In that case, use an attribution to the original author, and then write your own answer around it. This is completely acceptable.

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I would not answer by using someone else's comment unless both 1) they had a chance to convert it to an answer and 2) I had a significant addition/example/etc. I have done this before, but I have much more often commented to that other person suggesting they post an answer.

If the OP just wants to accept an answer and that answer happens to be in a comment, they should answer their own question, copying the comment and giving attribution. Someone else doing that for the OP (unless, e.g., the OP is confused and asks for help doing that) would be rude.

The main reason the OP should do it is they are intrinsically more involved in accepting answers: if the commenter comes back and wants to post an answer, the OP will both be notified and has the ability to change the accepted answer. I don't particularly see the need to make it CW and wouldn't suggest that, but I'd understand if CW was chosen.

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+1 give the commenter a chance to convert to an answer first. –  Kirk Broadhurst Jun 8 '12 at 5:03

Yes, I think it would be. You could appear to be rep-whoring by doing so. If the comment answers the question to the point that the OP would accept it as an answer then the OP should request that the original commenter add it as an answer so they can accept. Or you should make the suggestion to the original commenter that it is a useful answer and should be added as a full answer.

See this question as a recent example.

EDIT:
Before downvoting as a duplicate of Gnome's comment kindly check the timestamps....

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Looks like recursion fail in that second version edit. –  random Sep 10 '10 at 19:22
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HEY! That was @Gnome's comment! And I almost upvoted you, too! –  The Unhandled Exception Sep 10 '10 at 19:32
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@The Unhandled Exception. Check the timestamps. –  squillman Sep 10 '10 at 19:36
    
@squillman: I thought it would be funny and your reaction seemed to appreciate it too, but I apologize for any backfire you get. –  Gnome Sep 10 '10 at 19:44
    
@squillman: AH! I hereby reverse my downvote! I guess I just assumed because I was about to copy his comment and post it myself to make your point. My apologies! –  The Unhandled Exception Sep 10 '10 at 19:51
    
@The Unhandled Exception: @Gnome No worries at all :) It made me laugh. –  squillman Sep 10 '10 at 19:59
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PS: I downvoted it because I don't agree with it; nothing to do with what Gnome did. Reputation is irrelevant. What matters is that the user gets a proper answer, not through a comment. –  Andreas Bonini Sep 10 '10 at 19:59
    
@Kop Yeah, I changed the wording on that because that wasn't really what I was trying to convey. I really was trying to point out rep-whoring. –  squillman Sep 10 '10 at 20:00

The fact is that some people don’t blurt out “answers” willy-nilly, particularly for uncertain questions. They ask a few things of the OP to gauge the their abilities and clarify their needs. This is particularly true on SuperUser where it is common to ask some questions and have the OP perform some steps to determine the current state of the OP’s issue, as well as to offer some steps to lead towards a solution.

For someone (often “low-reppers”) to come along and create an answer by copying what someone suggested in a comment is clearly, as squillman said, “rep-whoring”.

This is particularly true when the question has not even been definitely solved yet. It is one thing if the OP has stated that what someone suggested in a comment solved the problem/answered the question, and yet, the question is still open after several weeks (don’t assume that everybody checks the site 100 times a day), but if the steps that were offered in the comment were just diagnostic steps or requests for clarification/more information, then “answering” it at all is—at best—premature, let alone if it was made with someone else’s information.

I have even seen some people rapidly throw up an answer as soon as possible, sometimes/often copying the steps that others have suggested in comments, in what is fairly clearly an attempt to just get an answer up. They then edit it as more information becomes available. In some cases, the original answer they posted was completely useless and premature (hence the probing questions that others started with); but they posted the answer quickly because they can start getting credit (some people up-vote prematurely too) by changing it to be more applicable later.

(For the record, sometimes this happens legitimately when two people see a question and start typing at the same time. One person types up a comment, the other an answer, each of their own accord. However, there are plenty of occurrences where the “answer” is clearly several minutes later, and is short enough that they cannot make the excuse that they started at the same time but took several minutes to type it.)

In summary, yes, usually it is indeed bad form to copy someone else’s comments into your own answer because the practice is often unnecessary, usually unfair, and often accompanied by other low-brow behaviors.

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