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I noticed many people with high rating tend to post their answers as comments. Doesn't this defeat the purpose of the site (by not allowing an answer to be accepted)?

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It also allows other people with lower ratings to "snag" the answer and get the points for it - high rankers don't need more points since they've already got plenty –  Marc B Jan 7 '11 at 13:01
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@Marc B - yeah I thought it was generosity thing but most people with low ratings are not likely to copy somebody else's answer. –  phirschybar Jan 7 '11 at 13:05
    
@Marc I'd say it's rare behavior (though it does happen). Such misuse of other person's answer becomes visible for everyone who reads the whole topic, and such answer can be downvoted, thus giving the effect opposite to desired. –  Eugene Mayevski 'EldoS Corp Jan 7 '11 at 13:17
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@phirschybar my main reason for posting comments is when 1) I'm not sure whether it's the correct answer (which I will point out clearly, though) and/or 2) I don't have the time, or I'm too lazy, to do the research to back it up. –  Pëkka Jan 7 '11 at 13:18
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I understand the rationale behind stepping back so a user with a lower rating can formally answer however it is equally annoying to users with lower ratings who are hunting for questions to answer (to boost their rating, perhaps) and look for "unanswered" questions only to find the answers are all in the comments. –  phirschybar Jan 7 '11 at 13:37
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Because we don't need the reputation. Oh wait I do! my preciouss... –  abel Jan 7 '11 at 13:40
    
@phirschybar If an answerer's in a hurry and the choice is to post a quick comment that will put the asker on the right track, or nothing at all, it's usually better to post the comment. But I can understand the frustration –  Pëkka Jan 7 '11 at 13:40
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Because I'm not going to take the time for a full answer, but want to get the main idea out there. –  John Saunders Jan 7 '11 at 13:56
    
+1 @John Saunders... I'll take time to write a detailed answer to a question as long as I feel like it's a topic that's hard to find a good, complete answer for. But if I'd just be doing someone else's googling, but maybe I can help them figure out how or where to look for their answer, a comment with a basic gist or a pointer seems sufficient. –  jamietre Jan 7 '11 at 14:05
    
I do not seem to have the ability to award an answer for this question even though I posed it. I think it was migrated without retaining the proper owner info. –  phirschybar Jan 7 '11 at 21:59
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jan 7 '11 at 13:07

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7 Answers

Many times answers in comments are not complete answers but more of the form: "Have you tried X?". Which is really more of a comment than an exact answer. From my perspective this is more common for vague questions, where you might have several "Have you tried X" type comments and don't want to clutter up the question with several answers that no longer apply.

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If I have an answer, I'll answer. If the question doesn't contain enough information to answer conclusively, but I have a "try this" suggestion, I'll probably comment.

This seems to be the case more often than not - comments are more like Q&A with the OP, and the question may end up being answered that way. But clearly written questions usually get answers, not comments.

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Exactly. If I'm not quite sure that I have the right answer, but I can suggest something or ask a question to point them in the right direction, I'll comment rather than answering. Sometimes this solves the problem and sometimes it doesn't. –  Brad Larson Jan 7 '11 at 15:33
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Sometimes if I don't have time to answer properly but have the answer, I'll give the answer (or at list a pointer) as a comment. Ever since I went over 10k rep, I don't care about points that much.

The other case where I would answer with a comment is when I'm not totally sure about my answer, either because the question is unclear or because my knowledge is a bit off on the subject.

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(posted this ANSWER as a comment accidentally!)

Because the other users don't need the reputation.

But I do!

♥ ♥ my preciouss reputation

(Please select as answer and upvote with all your accounts)

{/sarcasm}

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+1 for "my precious" and the sarcasm –  Will Jan 7 '11 at 20:35
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Replies by posters with higher ratings get more attention and even more rating, thus discriminating (to certain extent) perfect posts of people with low score rate. Next, perfectly valid (according to rules) posts are sometimes downvoted by certain groups of people (such as open-source evangelists) who think they are above the rules. To avoid this, it's better to answer in a comment.

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Not sure I understand your point about high ratings getting more ratings, nor do I completely understand why it is better to answer in a comment? –  jzd Jan 7 '11 at 13:17
    
@jzd . The answer being given with somebody with rating of 10K will (in average) get more upvotes, than the same answer given by someone with rating of 100. This is empirical observation of how SO rating stuff works. –  Eugene Mayevski 'EldoS Corp Jan 7 '11 at 13:19
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I tend to give upvotes and accept answers from lower-rated people more often (all else being equal). That's just a basic charitable principle, you know, Bill Gates doesn't need my money, so I give it to Wikipedia instead. –  jamietre Jan 7 '11 at 13:22
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Jon Skeet (no. 1 SO poster) said that points aren't important anymore for him; badges are. Also, it's fair play, since it allows folks with lower amount of points to attain more and it helps keep everything in balance.

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If Jon Skeet jumped off of a bridge... (...he would not be injured, as a result of some truly marvelous programmatic wizardry. This comment is too small to contain it.) –  Pops Jan 7 '11 at 13:37
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try { jump off bridge } catch { jon skeet } continue { as if nothing happened } –  jamietre Jan 7 '11 at 14:11
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One explanation. Some of us, upon seeing a question of questionable validity, feel a dilemma. We might know something useful. But we don't want to encourage poor questions by answering them. And often, with low-quality questions, it's quite unclear what's really being asked, and so any answer has a good chance of being (ahem) pointless. There's also a certain hypocrisy about answering and also voting to close. In these cases, a comment is a way of offering some possible assistance to the OP.

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