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I have noticed a pattern while browsing the Android tag on SO. I will not mention names but there is a guy going around posting a cookie cutter "get a stack trace" answer, with a picture of Eclipse's logcat. This is something that should really be a comment, not an answer. I left a comment to him, but, he seemed upset, so I retracted it. He cited that he thought the newbies needed an informative resource. I think to most people, it would be a bit obvious why this is not the right solution to the problem.

Each time he posts this, he replicates information he posted previously. It's a canned answer, and offers no value to people who will find these questions when they are searching from the Internet. Which should really be, the primary concern. If OP is too lazy, or doesn't know how to get a stack trace, a simple comment is what they need. Finding a stack trace is really not rocket surgery.

Now, the problem still exists that needs to be solved: how do we deal with the general case of users in specific tags always needing to be told the same thing, again and again? Well, it so happens that this problem has been around for a long time, and it has been solved already. The solution is an FAQ. On IRC, if you ask a dumb question in a programming channel, usually they have a bot. Someone in the channel will type a trigger that will cause the bot to shoot you a canned answer. Such as..

!stacktrace -- "x wants you to know, that you should provide a stack trace! Here are instructions http://www.stackoverflow.com/faq/39r99fsd9f"

So, this feature would be really cool. I think each tag on stack overflow should have it's own FAQ that users can contribute to. Then, if a question comes up, that isn't a duplicate, but in the process of answering this question, OP needs to be told something repetitive, we could leave a comment in his question, with the special syntax regarding the case he triggered. Such as @John!stacktrace -- to tell John to get a stacktrace. Or click a button, or whatever UX you can dream up. The idea is to eliminate the replication of answers without having to eliminate the question itself as frivolous, because although something fundamental was missed, the rest of the question may still have value. Sometimes people just need a little pointer. This feature would accomplish that.

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Interesting idea. (Also, I suggest flagging the cookie-cutter answers.) –  Josh Caswell Jul 2 '11 at 20:26
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With respect to the Eclipse logcat guy: instead of leaving a comment, just moderator flag his answers as "Not an Answer." A moderator will delete the post, and the user will be directed to a page that explains why his post was deleted. –  Robert Harvey Jul 2 '11 at 22:52
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Link? I want to see the kitty. –  Rosinante Jul 2 '11 at 23:42
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I flagged two non-answers which resembled the aforementioned offense, but I didn't see a kitty. –  M. Tibbits Jul 3 '11 at 0:04

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Just use this, if you feel inclined to leave the same comment repeatedly.

There have been a number of proposals for automated comments, all of which have been [status-declined], with the notable exception of the "Possible Duplicate" auto-comment. Your proposal is the equivalent of a User-Defined StackExchange™ SuperCollider Automated-Comment-Generator™.

Given that the overall gestalt for the SE websites now seems to discourage conversation as much as possible (extended comments are now being pushed off to chat), anything that would increase the overall comment noise automatically seems unlikely to be adopted.

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The automatic comment tool definitely makes it easier to provide that little nudge in the right direction -- and I'm more likely to leave the instructions if it just takes me a few clicks compared to typing an essay, when I know full well that most of them won't ever make it to the specific user, what with non-answer answers being deleted so rapidly. –  sarnold Jul 2 '11 at 23:58
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@sarnold: Note that deleted answers can be seen by the original OP, including any comments that were placed on them. That's how SE is able to redirect them to a FAQ page describing why their answer was deleted. –  Robert Harvey Jul 3 '11 at 3:10
    
"extended comments are now being pushed off to chat" is not accurate; "extended comments between two users are now being pushed off to chat" is accurate. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 3 '11 at 8:36
    
@Jeff: Erm, have users actually talked to themselves in their own comments long enough to be considered, um, extended discussion? –  Robert Harvey Jul 3 '11 at 19:00
    
@robert what? Two users. Like you and I right now. If we replied to each other 3+ times in a specific time frame, this would kick in. It is specific to, and limited to, two users interacting in comments. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 3 '11 at 20:45

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