The stack exchange sites chose a unique approach regarding who can post answers vs. who can post comments. This occasionally leads to anonymous / low-rep users leaving answers-which-should-have-been-comments simply because adding answers is easy and accessible while adding comments is unexplained on a question page.

I propose to make it clearer to anonymous and low-rep users visiting just the question page that commenting is only available to registered and higher-rep users.

I'm not quite sure how this could be done; I guess it's a good question for the UX SE site. A couple of ideas I've thought about:

  1. Make the "add comment" visible to these users, but make clicking it show a friendly "you have to be registered and with over X rep to add a comment" message.
  2. Add a grey "you must be registered and have over X rep to comment on this answer" line in the comment area of each answer.

Optionally, make one of the above visible only when the user hovers over the question/answer area, in a similar way to how the "useful for me" link is displayed.

  • 4
    How about we just remove the restriction altogether? It seems odd to me that we have a peer review system to allow edits but not comments. If quality of first-time comments is of that much concern just have them require approval. I see people frustrated all of the time by not being able to post a valid comment. They often resort to adding an non-answer and then are chastised for doing so. Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 21:32
  • @MarkPeters that's indeed another way to solve this problem, you should post it in an answer so that people could vote on it :)
    – Oak
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 21:38
  • 1
    @Mark: Do you really want to review all the comments that would inevitably show up in the queue? I don't. And I've probably reviewed more suggested edits than most at around 3500 total, so it's not that I'm lazy, I just don't see the benefit. We push people toward the "Answer" button for a reason. Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 7:37
  • @Cody: I fail to see how first-time comments are any harder (either by content or by volume) than first-time edits. They're arguably more useful (most edits by new users I've found to be pretty insubstantial) and would require less thought to review (just check for abuse). And we push people toward the answer button and then inevitably end up flagging the answer for deletion because it should have been a comment. Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 13:46
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    @MarkPeters they would be a LOT more numerous. There's a lot larger set of new users who would like to add a comment than the set of new users who want to go to the effort to edit someone else's post to improve it.
    – JNK
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 13:50
  • 2
    New users should learn a little bit about how the site works before posting comments. Allowing new users to post comments would just push the "Not an Answer" posts into the comments, where there is little infrastructure to manage them. New users should be guided towards posting good answers, not engaging in discussion.
    – user102937
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 15:45

2 Answers 2


I am in favor of option 1: showing the link and displaying a message box when they don't have the privilege. It teaches new users how to use the system.

In defense of the developers, it's probably much easier to just not render the link at all. New users should be focused on providing good answers and leaving anonymous feedback (the "like" button).

  • 1
    "click me to do something" -> "actually, you can't yet" ? I don't like that, better directly put a "you cannot yet comment" instead of the link Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 6:40

As a new user (but not a new developer), I find that many of the questions I wish to comment on are so ill-worded that the meaning is ambiguous at best. I want to help, but the poor wording of the question makes the author's intent murky.

I see that answers are not for asking for clarification... Not being able to make comments makes this difficult.

Additionally, it's exceptionally frustrating, as I see others make comments, and went searching for the mechanism by which they're able to do so ... no links and no hints as a new user makes for a frustrating experience.

  • 1
    But you just need only 50 Reputation to comment everywhere. And earning 50 is not difficult for experienced developer.
    – Himanshu
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 4:12
  • Perhaps, but misses the point that with no affordance explaining why commenting isn't available, it's frustrating for a new SO user, and inhibits being able to answer questions well.
    – alttag
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 4:21
  • If it is allowed to comment everywhere with 1 reputation, spammers will misuse it and will add spam comments in every questions and answers.
    – Himanshu
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 4:24
  • @hims056: No one is denying that... I think alttag just wants to express that having a message regarding comments for new users is useful.
    – Felix
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 4:44
  • @Felix - I know that. I felt that situation when I was new user in Stack Overflow. That's why I did not downvote this answer. But as I comment here, earning 50 rep. is not a big deal in Stack Overflow.
    – Himanshu
    Commented Nov 28, 2012 at 6:23

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