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Why do some people answer in comments?

(Despite the similar title, I don't think this is a duplicate of this question.)

I often encounter the following situation: high-rep user A comments on B's question with something which is actually an answer. It is not uncommon then for B or other users to ask A to re-post their comment as an answer, and A usually accepts.

However, I think A's behavior should be avoided from the beginning. While I appreciate the noble gesture of not asking for a rep increase (?), such a habit often results, for instance, in cluttering the Unanswered tab with actually answered questions. You may argue this is not as important as the converse (answers should really answer questions), but still…
Question: Should this behavior be discouraged more seriously in official policies/FAQs?

One could recommend a community wiki answer instead of a comment, in all those situations where you have an answer for which you don't want to take credit, for whatever reason.

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marked as duplicate by random Jun 20 '11 at 12:10

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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I hope my English is readable; if not, feel free to edit or ask for clarifications. –  fudo Jun 20 '11 at 11:51
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Your English is, I would argue, better than 98% of the posts on any of the sites! (Except maybe English Language, where I'll bet it's still better than many) –  squillman Jun 20 '11 at 11:57
    
I'm sure that this has been raised before, but I can't find it at the moment. –  ChrisF Jun 20 '11 at 11:58
    
@ChrisF, I did a quick search before asking, but I couldn't find it either. –  fudo Jun 20 '11 at 12:00
    
@squillman Thanks. I'm always afraid of writing sentences which are too long or too complicated :) –  fudo Jun 20 '11 at 12:01

1 Answer 1

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I've done this a couple of times. I don't do this to avoid rep or anything like that. It's simply because I don't have the time to craft a well formulated answer. If I'm going to post in the answer section, I would prefer to post an answer that has some worth.

A comment is just that, a comment. It's a ~ one liner that (possibly) points out the problem to the user. This may or may not help the user go in the right direction. And, most probably, someone else will come along and give a more complete and thorough answer to the problem.

The reason I don't agree with discouraging this behavior is that it's beneficial to the OP. At worst the OP gets a pointer in the right direction, at best he gets the correct answer. And all of this happens quite quickly as well, and that will help the OP in the short run. When the answer is expanded, it will help the community in the long run.

Just to make clear, I'm not saying that people should use the comments to answer, just saying that there is some (might be little) justification for this. Don't misuse the commenting and answering.

If it's harming the community/site then yes, we should do something about it, but I haven't seen this to be that much of a prevalent problem. Just my $0.02

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I see your point, and I agree it's acceptable to use comments to just sketch a possible solution, or to give a strong hint for it. However, I was referring to cases where the comment is actually a complete (yet short) answer, to which there is almost nothing to add. I've seen dozens of those. –  fudo Jun 20 '11 at 12:17
    
@AlessandroDeLuca the dupe suggestion for this question has some interesting answers covering this ground. Looks like it's more common than I thought –  JohnP Jun 20 '11 at 12:19
    
I also agree that from the OP's perspective, this is not bad (unless he's so inexperienced he's just looking for the Answers number to grow positive…). It's more of an etiquette thing, for the whole community. It would probably be hard to find the right words for an official recommendation on this matter, but I still think that SE could benefit from that. –  fudo Jun 20 '11 at 12:22
    
thanks @random for finding the relevant question. –  fudo Jun 20 '11 at 12:27

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