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I sincerely cannot find anything similar from searching.

Currently:
Questions are only used only by the questioner.
Comments allow for small replies/questions, asking for more info, code, or make a simple suggestion.
Answers are for providing (decent) answer(s) only.


This all works pretty well, sincerely, however, often I find the need to "suggest/discuss" something with the questioner and I cannot use the answer as it's not (yet) an answer, and the comments box is not adequate due to:

  1. Not enough chars;
  2. No formatting to get specific points across - No return carriage/paragraph means no separation of questions, suggestion, links, code example to try;

Comments have their place and are needed, however to fill the gap how about a third option in the questions - "Discussions".

"Discussions"

Description
Discussions are for asking questions too large for comments, suggesting things that are not really the answer, proposing ideas to assist including some links, code, that can't fit well in comments due to no formatting, but again is not an answer.
Discussions will be like Answers in some ways, allowing most of the same formatting/tools - code, return carriages, links.
However, they cannot be "accepted" in any way, won't show up on the questions list page or change the vote count/green/yellow system.

Max chars
2,000? Code is not included in char limit (or has a separate one of it's own with 2,000?).
This will allow for a decent discussions, suggestions or ask questions based on the info provided, and also some suggested code which is not quite the answer but worth proposing.

Perhaps with this in place, comment char limit is lowered to 400 to keep them shorter and sweeter. If it's a quick comment 400 is enough, for proposed links, code, etc, use the Discussions.

up/downvote
As with answers this will bring good ones up, bad ones down, really bad ones into the ether.

Placement
1) The Discussions would be intermingled with answers, with the vote count determining where within answers they would be. Just the same now with answer vote count determining the placement of answers within themselves, they would just incorporate Discussions in with them.
Or
2) As above, but Answer vote counts take priority over Discussions vote counts. So answer with 2 votes will be above all Discussions with 2 and 1 vote, a Discussion with 3 votes would then be above all aforementioned.
Or
3) Perhaps all Discussions can stack up together underneath all the answers, with Discussions votes determining their positioning among each other.

1) and 2) will also likely need the accepted Answer and/or largest vote count Answer taking priority over all Discussions, so there is always an accepted answer or answer with a upvote above Discussions.

I think I actually prefer 3).

Rep earned
Discussions would be half(?) what you get for answers.

Privilege
To use Discussions, you would need >=300 rep. Figure off the top of my head ish, I had some thought, but these are more dangerous than comments as would be more prominent and I think more easily misused. At least comments are out of the way and can to a certain degree be ignored, and people tend to shy away from answers if it's not decent (well, to a certain degree).

Discussion Comments
Would go under Discussions same as answers, each Discussion potentially having it's own comment

Is there any point? Is this reinventing the wheel, or fixing something that isn't broken?
Well, in my time here I've learned many of the "Stack" ways, and Stack-noobs, including me when I joined, feel certain things are not right, and change should happen. After a while, one sees the light and realises why XYZ are like they are.
This is not that. I have used comments and answers enough now to know I cannot answer if it's not an answer, but also dam those comments are sometimes not enough to help and assist the questioner in a decent way.

I understand this is a VERY large change to the way Stack is presented, so don't expect people to say "yeah let's do it". I just thought it was a good idea so wondered what everyone else thought, and Stack could consider it if so wished.

I haven't tagged this feature-request as it would be such a large change, so is discussion only imo.

  • 9
    Or you could just create a chat room and invite the user? Yes, it wont work in every case, but every question does not need such continuous discussion. – asheeshr Aug 28 '13 at 3:26
  • well thought out idea, but when the comments list grows too long, system popup suggests taking it to the chat rooms. Even if we're absent after posting an idea, we can get notification that people have responded in chat, click takes you right there. A lot of effective info punches through the chat background noise concerning Waffle-Eating Ponies Pretending to be Unicorns (WEPPU) – Howard Pautz Aug 28 '13 at 3:42
  • Thanks for the comments (17 votes and only two comments is poor). I think suggesting chat as an alternative is not right, and am sure it works, but often just because something is familiar to people and proven to work does not mean it's the better approach... – James Aug 28 '13 at 23:21
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While this is well thought out and a well put together proposal, you are trying to do something that is opposite of everything Stack Overflow is about. Stack Overflow was partially created to be an anti-forum, so adding this feature will just turn it more into a forum, albeit, with a slightly better way of separating the answers from the noise.

This will turn off a lot of users and drive them away because the noise and other drivel that pollutes forum discussions are some of the issues that made Stack Overflow as popular as it is.

That's not to say that if used properly, it couldn't be an effective tool, but there is virtually no chance it would be used properly by many users and just be another way for people to add meaningless chit-chat and require another level of moderation to keep it clean.

Well, in my time here I've learned many of the "Stack" ways, and Stack-noobs, including me when I joined, feel certain things are not right, and change should happen. After a while, one sees the light and realises why XYZ are like they are.

This is not that. I have used comments and answers enough now to know I cannot answer if it's not an answer, but also dam those comments are sometimes not enough to help and assist the questioner in a decent way.

Regarding your 2nd paragraph in the quote, Stack Overflow is not designed to hand hold someone through a problem. I think you realize that, hence this proposal, but you missed a point - it's not want the community wants to do. Helping people solve their problems is one thing, but walking them through solving a problem is something completely different - you are describing a support forum and that is not what SO is, it is just an Q&A site.

Ideally, someone will do their research, find an issue, ask their question, get some answers, then use those answers to solve their problem. If they encounter more problems, then they will update their original question (if it is part of the same problem) or do their research again and ask a new question if it is warranted. If the asker needs someone to hold their hands through the entire process then SO might not be the right place for them.

3

In addition to what this answer covers, making it prominent and rewarding it with reputation would create exactly the wrong incentives. We want people to produce answers, not contribute half-baked ideas to a discussion and then never actually get to an answer.

If you want to discuss a question, the best thing to do is to use chat. Granted that we should make it easier to get a room, but it's possible now for anybody who has the reputation, and it doesn't clutter up Q&A with discussions. You can drop a comment onto the question with an invitation and link to your chat room.

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