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This may already have been discussed, but I couldn't find it...

It takes 50 rep to be able to post a comment, but you can post an answer with 1 rep. One of my main uses for comments is to request extra information in order to be able to provide an answer. I've seen people post requests for clarification as answers, either because they didn't have sufficient rep, or they've got into a bad habit. In this instance, it seems like the privilege limit is having the wrong effect.

It takes 2K rep to be able to edit somebody else's answer / question without requiring it to be approved, which can take a relatively long time. In this question, I answered a question and then Duck answered a different aspect of the question. The OP still had some difficulty understanding the answer. We eventually resolved it through comments on that answer. The preferred behaviour (in my opinion obviously) would have been to edit Duck's answer and put appropriate clarification/examples in it. However, when I've done this in the past because I'm the only one that can see the edit, the OP is none the wiser for an indeterminate period of time. The easy option would be to put the clarification in my answer, since it would be visible immediately but this seems like the wrong behaviour.

From what I understand users with < 3K impose a heavier weight on the moderators (because they can't vote to close posts, they can only flag them), which ironically means it's probably easier to raise your flag weight while you're a new user than it is when you're an experienced one... Again, this seems wrong...

Maybe the balance is such that the privileges provide more protection than detrimental impact (feel free to downvote if you disagree)...

If you do agree it is a problem, is there anything that can be done about it?

Random thoughts include:

  • Lower the rep limit for commenting to 10/20 - I'm sure this has probably been discussed in the past and denied.
  • Have something like flag weight play into the ability to vote for closing, rather than just rep. It seems like ability to identify bad/off topic posts is different than the ability to ask/answer questions anyway.
  • I'm not really sure what could be done about editing control, maybe link it to number of succesfful edits / sportsmanship badge, but this seems overly complex...

Is there anything better out there? Is it an insignificant problem?

share|improve this question
I'm pretty new and at the start noticed that if I wanted to clarify something, then I needed to post it as an answer because I couldn't comment. – Blowski Apr 27 '11 at 22:14
@Blowski you can always edit your own questions, regardless of reputation – Daniel DiPaolo Apr 27 '11 at 22:20
@Blowski: Nonono, not "needed"; could. Except that non-answers usually get killed with fire, so they're not really helping anyone. It's much easier to just get those points, by providing some actual answers, or fixing a few typos here and there. That is helping everyone. Oh, and if you want to comment on your own stuff, you can do it at any rep level. – ЯegDwight Apr 27 '11 at 22:22
@Daniel Sorry, I meant clarification questions. Example: User posts "Why isn't my HTML working?" and I need to find out what doctype they're using. Without permission to comment, I have to ask through an answer, then edit the answer when the user responds. I think that's what OP is referring to. – Blowski Apr 27 '11 at 22:24
@Blowski ah, yeah, though I think the general consensus to this question will be "50 rep isn't super-hard to get, so if you really want to be a part of the community you will find a way to get it" – Daniel DiPaolo Apr 27 '11 at 22:26
@Daniel Yeah, that's kind of what I felt. It's not a big deal, just that receiving the privilege of posting an answer before posting a comment meant that I misused the answer box when I first arrived here. – Blowski Apr 27 '11 at 22:30
I do think the inability to comment is a bit annoying; presumably there have been problems with dummy accounts used for spam/abuse. Maybe a 'needs clarification' flag with commentary would work better for that class of comment, but I'm not convinced it wouldn't be abused. – Phil Lello Apr 27 '11 at 22:31
The same way you can comment to answers of your own question without taking rep into account, it should be possible for a low rep user to comment on any question. – user150068 Apr 27 '11 at 22:56
Skip those questions, answer the ones you can answer, and build up sufficient reputation. Jeff and the others have said numerous times that leaving comments is a privilege. You haven't earned that privilege yet, you need to contribute some actual content of your own. – Cody Gray Apr 28 '11 at 8:36
@Cody Gray: Users are... users! If you don't allow them to comment but to answer, they will post comments as answers. This will cost you more than just let them comment on the question for clarifications. – user150068 May 1 '11 at 23:12

There's a lot of detail in you question, but it looks like it boils down to the ability to post comments. The rep requirement for comments has been discussed on numerous occasions, and while it has taken me awhile to get my head around it, the principle is this:

Comments have a rep requirement because the purpose of the site is to encourage people to post answers, not engage in dialog. New users earn the privilege of posting comments by posting good questions and answers, and learning how the site works.

If a person is posting comments as answers, those answers will get deleted by a moderator. New users can post comments on their own questions without a rep requirement, so it's not like we're handicapping them in any way.

share|improve this answer
I think the comment limit is an aspect of it, and the one that has so far been focused on, the aspects affecting me are the ability to edit posts + vote for closure. You could rightly say I haven't earned those rights yet, but what I'm saying is that without them I feel like I'm being encouraged to act in a way that I would view as 'wrong' for the site's goals. – forsvarir Apr 27 '11 at 22:57
"If a person is posting comments as answers, those answers will get deleted by a moderator. New users can post comments on their own questions without a rep requirement, so it's not like we're handicapping them in any way." I'm not saying that we are. What I'm saying is that we're encouraging them to behave a different way from the way we expect them to behave once they have the privilege, which feels wrong. – forsvarir Apr 27 '11 at 23:11
Yes, there is a desire among new users to post comments as answers. Once several of those get deleted, hopefully they get the message: that's not what answers are for. There are many signposts and instructions that a new user must get around to post their answer/comment, so it comes down to a teaching process about how we do things here. The collateral damage that occurs when new users abuse the answering system to post comments is the price you pay for that teaching process. – Robert Harvey Apr 27 '11 at 23:14

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