I know it's like it is for some reason, but on Gaming we get a lot of new users that post comments as answers because they have 1 rep.

Is it possible to lower the rep requirement for commenting to 1 rep?

What is the official reason for it being 50?

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Thanks @Pop, upvoted them -- however, Jeff's replies do not explain why this is like it is, and why it can't be lowered to 1 on every post (as far as I could find). There are quite a few users on Gaming that post answers as comments because they cannot comment. –  jmfsg Dec 2 '10 at 20:16
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@Juan - yeah, it gets old to be cleaning up the new user "me too" answers (I see it on Seasoned Advice), but I'm not sure having a bunch of "me too" comments would be an improvement. –  justkt Dec 2 '10 at 20:28
    
If you are aiming to get this changed on gaming only, you should post this on the gaming meta. –  jjnguy Dec 2 '10 at 20:29
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@jjnguy We see it a lot on Gaming, but I hear about it a lot on other sites as well. And since we're expanding into new ground here as SE 2.0 grows, it's going to be an increasingly prevalent problem. –  Grace Note Dec 2 '10 at 21:21
    
Probably you wanted to say that they are posting comments as answers, not the other way around? –  sth Dec 2 '10 at 23:58
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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

We funnel users to the answer input box for a reason -- because the focus is on getting answers to questions, not meta-commentary. Commenting is a privilege that should be earned by providing useful answers. And 50 rep isn't much.

It's highly unlikely a random drive-by user will

  • understand our Q&A goals
  • understand our commenting system

So by the time they earn 50 rep, they should have learned roughly how things work, and be in a position to offer a useful comment and not a "+1 AWESOME ANSWER" or "NO U R WRONG!!" sort of comment.

New users can't ask for clarifications except as answers

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I still think cleaning up comments would be easier than cleaning up answers, but fair enough. –  jmfsg Dec 3 '10 at 1:35
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Well then, can the answer box clearly indicate how it's to be used. I think the new users often don't know where else to turn to get some interaction with the questioner or a specific answer. –  Lawrence Dol Dec 3 '10 at 1:45
    
I respectfully disagree. The problem is, if you assert that meta commentary isn't useful, then why is it a part of the site in the first place? Comments can contain valuable corrections and minor points of additional information that aren't substantial enough to on their own warrant their own answers but serve to improve the quality of their parent answer. –  James McMahon Mar 25 '12 at 16:15
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@james no, I assert that meta commentary from new and inexperienced users is unlikely to be useful. And I have a lot of data to back that position up. For one thing, just look at the fraction of "answers" on questions (this requires zero rep) that are not answers at all.. –  Jeff Atwood Mar 26 '12 at 5:37
    
The problem isn't weather they understand the difference between A and comment -they dont! The problem is when many new 1 rep users come in (by Google I guess), find a Q/A that fits what they were looking for, and for some reason need to get something elaborated. If they were able to comment on the Q/A they probably would do so, but they can't so they fill out an answer. I see this all the time and again as moderator. And its quite annoying moving these comments over and over again especially since we dont have standard templates that say "you dont have enough rep... bla bla bla" –  Anders Rask Oct 15 '12 at 6:51
    
@anders see comment directly above yours. The solution is not to equip people who have no gun training with guns. The solution is for them to spend the time to get firearms training before becoming armed. –  Jeff Atwood Oct 15 '12 at 6:54
    
@JeffAtwood agreed, but the problem still persists for us mods :-) Moderation templates would be a nice way of mitigating the problem. Even where we deleted A instead of converting it to comment, user will persist adding new answers 3-4 times as they got deleted... –  Anders Rask Oct 15 '12 at 9:57
    
Just this morning another batch of "I'm trying to achieve the same thing. Can you share your solution?". Firearms training here would be so much easier if we had a selection of "often used moderation answers" to choose from. It could be a (preferably customizable) list of common moderation comments like "This is really a comment, not an answer. With a bit more reputation, you will be able to post comments. See answer for general guidelines." etc –  Anders Rask Oct 16 '12 at 6:56
    
I don't disagree @anders but you gotta tell shog9 and the community team, not me! –  Jeff Atwood Oct 16 '12 at 6:59
    
@JeffAtwood: I think anders is right about several things. For one, even as a non-moderator and SO user of only a few months, I see this a lot. Furthermore, between low quality answers and low quality comments, I'd say comments are the lesser of two evils. This question is 2 years old and still gets attention; it's something that a lot of people notice and think of. How about giving a +50 rep bonus for reading the FAQ, and for citing this bonus under the comments for users who can't comment yet? –  Wug Oct 18 '12 at 20:27
    
One of the benefits of a rep bonus for reading the FAQ is that you could also restrict posting answers to +50 rep. Users with less would get a "You need 50 reputation to post answers! You can get a +50 reputation bonus for reading the FAQ." banner after they attempt to post their answer. EDIT as an aside, you could use a timer as a heuristic to make sure people actually read it. –  Wug Oct 18 '12 at 20:31
    
@wug read Grace Notes answer here very carefully –  Jeff Atwood Oct 19 '12 at 3:49
    
I wholeheartedly disagree: 50 rep can be a lot. I'm a Linux person, and since I do most of my activity on Unix&Linux forum, I can't expect to get out of the reputation trap on SO so soon. (currently on 45). The users who were first on SO have a great (and not so fair) advantage there IMHO, since to my knowledge the "Unix&Linux" sub-project did not exist back then. So they could even get their rep up with good Linux questions. I'm no longer allowed to do so, since Unix/Linux questions are considered off-topic on SO. (for a reason)...A Catch-22. You're blocking me. And that bugs me. –  syntaxerror Sep 23 '13 at 22:35
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Answers are, in some ways, harder to clean up than comments as they have no utility outside of moderator intervention to remove quickly. Comments can be flagged because one of the flag reasons is noise; there is no equal option for answers. There's also that whole thing where every time a new user posts a comment-as-answer... there's often a very unwelcoming surge of downvotes that follow it.

However, answers are a lot more visible to receive that clean up. Posting an answer bumps it to the front page. There is also the "new posts by new users" list which helps identify these very comment-as-answer posts. Comparatively, there is no real method to monitor for comments apart from manually opening every post or every user's activity logs. If a comment is placed on a really old post, then it can remain unseen for a very long time. Multiply that by a lot to see how problematic it can become when that's granted to everyone.

That's speculation, of course; we don't have exactly proof that this is opening some floodgate and I don't even think it'll turn that bad. But I think it would still be wiser that we have some method conducive to policing and monitoring comments better before we reduce the threshold.

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On top of this, there's a whole system in place to deal with users who post tons of unsuitable answers (especially if they get flagged...) - lousy / unwanted comments are much easier to get away with, largely because they're seen as disposable. –  Shog9 Dec 2 '10 at 21:40
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The main point of the sites is to provide answers. If you don't have anything to say that answers the question it's not all that important that you post it.

New users need some time to learn that answers are the central point, not chatting in comments. The hope is they realize that "thank you" doesn't answer the question and therefore don't post it. Having comments available as an obvious place to post such valueless remarks can only increase their amount, not helping anybody.

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The reason there is a threshold for comments, is to prevent spammy comments.

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But answers can be posted with 1 rep –  jmfsg Dec 2 '10 at 20:13
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I think answers are more likely to see spam than comments. I'm with Juan on this. –  user27414 Dec 2 '10 at 20:15
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Answers are not blocked because if I've got good input to solve a problem, why should others lose out because you are new? New users need some way of getting rep. –  Moshe Dec 2 '10 at 20:17
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I am not saying you shouldn't be able to answer with 1 rep, quite the contrary, you should be able to participate more (with commenting enabled from the beginning) –  jmfsg Dec 2 '10 at 20:19
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The non-answers are a worse problem than spam comments. And nothing prevents spam answers, which are more visible than comments anyway, and therefore more enticing to the spammer. –  Lawrence Dol Dec 2 '10 at 21:17
    
20 or 25 would be OK, that can even be reached by users that are rarely here and whose interest mainly comprises some "niche subjects". But 50 on SO is quite a lot; it can be the unreachable Olympic height in High Jump, if you focus on server issues (->serverfault) or Linux (->Unix&Linux) :) May take you years until you've reached the 50. But unfortunately that's what you "main guys" never pondered about. –  syntaxerror Sep 23 '13 at 22:38
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I suggest we allow commenting and answers with 1 rep, and force a CAPTCHA for all posts until the user meets the minimal rep currently required to post comments.

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The problem isn't bots. –  muntoo Mar 6 '11 at 1:35
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