A frequent occurrence, in my experience, is that someone who

  • does not understand the comment system, or
  • does not have enough reputation to post a comment, or
  • would have been able to comment due to being the OP, but lost their account

will post an "answer" of the form

@Alice: Good point, I agree. @Bob: Interesting perspective, thanks. @Cathy: ...

(This example is short for the sake of conciseness; such comments are not ones I'd actually care about.)

Since progress is made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something, I would like a way of dealing with such "answers" that does not require the following process:

  • Edit it to contain only the reply to Alice.
  • Convert it to a comment on Alice's answer (which deletes the post).
  • Undelete the "answer".
  • Edit it to contain only the reply to Bob.
  • Convert it to a comment on Bob's answer.
  • ...

I find having to do this especially frustrating when this "answer" contains replies to comments all contained in a single thread; why can't I just convert it once? Ideally, the system would automatically break the post into separate comments for me. I also dislike the fact that my edits will bump the thread (normal answer-to-comment conversion does not).

At the moment, when I attempt to convert an answer containing more than one @-reply into a comment, I'm blocked by the error message

Only one additional @user can be notified; the post owner will always be notified

I'm pretty sure moderators are well-aware of this fact. Shouldn't the system trust our judgement that converting this "answer" into a comment is the right thing to do? Even if, for some reason, the system just absolutely cannot abide the presence of more than one @-reply in a comment (even ones it will not send notifications for!), why not just strip the @ signs after the first one, leaving the user names.

Taking an "answer" and automatically breaking it into its proper comments should (usually) be easy; the @ signs are the demarcation points. However, there are sometimes "answers" that instead look like:

Hey, @Alice, @Bob, @Cathy, thanks for posting - can I ask you to explain...

Maybe in this situation, moderators can be given the option to, in a single stroke, convert the "answer" to a comment in multiple threads, and if necessary, multiple occurrences within a thread, each copy being identical except for which @-reply doesn't get stripped.

I don't think my question is a duplicate of

New rule preventing multiple @notifies causing Convert to Comment to fail
Allow the moderator comment conversion tool to override the @ limit

because those questions are both asking about this issue in the context of "answers" that include multiple @ signs as a part of their content, whereas I'm asking about "answers" intended as several comments. Moreover, I am proposing the solution of breaking the answer into multiple comments (each with one @-reply), instead of just allowing moderators to override the restriction.

2 Answers 2


Are those comments really necessary? Perhaps you have better examples, but in this case it seems like they'd all be too chatty to justify a feature request like this. The better action may be to simply flag/vote to delete as Not An Answer (because it really isn't), unless there are aspects that truly has something of meaning to contribute.

If it's addressing more than one person as in the second example, simply remove all of the @ replies when converting to comment (or all but the most relevant one, if you prefer). Creating duplicate comments that are exactly the same is spamming, regardless of volume, and I doubt anyone would actually appreciate that.

How many times have you come across truly non-trivial cases?

Disclaimer: I am a software developer, but am not actually a moderator on the Stack Exchange network

  • Well, here's the answer that had prompted me to ask the question. And I do think the first example is rather common too, and usually addressing actual content to multiple users. Apr 25, 2013 at 1:57
  • That looks like something that should be added to the question, rather than a comment.
    – Hannele
    Apr 25, 2013 at 13:38
  • Even with my lack of moderator tools, I might be tempted to do so manually (add to question, flag as Not An Answer) should I come across something similar.
    – Hannele
    Apr 25, 2013 at 13:43

If the user hasn't got enough rep to comment, then why give them a backdoor to achieve it? It might go against your good nature to do it but as a mod you need to be brutal and eliminate the answer - it doesn't belong.

If it was simply innocuous comments in the answer they can disappear. If they contain elaboration on the question then they need to be added to the question.

IMVHO what is missing here is a way to mark the answer for delayed action, so that you can leave the OP a comment and then come back to it in three days (for example) to delete it. This gives the OP time to rectify things that they can (i.e. edit their question), and saves you from having to do the work.

  • I'll be honest, I'd never even considered the possibility, but I do see that in the case of users who just don't have enough rep, the proper thing to do would be to delete the answer. Apr 25, 2013 at 1:04

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