I have came across to this situation a couple of times.

One guy (or my self) ask something like:

How can I delete the whole filesystem in LISP


Is there a way I can shoot myself in the foot using HTML

And people answer back:

What's wrong with you? You should not do that, you should do this or the other etc.

and the (we have to admit it) stupid question gets down voted while the "comment" placed where the answer should go, gets upvoted.

The comments are very useful indeed (sometimes I have my head in another planet and ask stupid questions), but they should go in the comment section, not in the answer section.

If the user in turn don't know the answer, please don't post an answer, post a comment.

When the question is in the form "Is it ok to shook my self in the foot or in the arm?" Well, that's a different story, here you are asking for the opinion, and then an acceptable answer is "Are you stup..." etc. etc. But I don't think it is something we should do when the user is asking something very specific.

Now, what is your opinion?

  • I won't semi-duplicate this question so I'll ask here: What happens when a user has < 50rep but wants to participate in a question? She/He maybe has something interesting to say/suggest but don't have enough rep, so, She/He decides to post an "answer" that it's clearly a comment. An analogy: I probably should post this as an edit to this CW, but since I don't have enough rep, I use an alternative way. Jul 14, 2009 at 21:36
  • Finally I posted it on MSO: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5416/using-answers-as-comments Jul 15, 2009 at 1:35

9 Answers 9


I disagree. Sometimes the premise of a question is simply wrong, and the knowledge that it is wrong is valuable information that was gained throught experience.

Also, if I want to paste the lyrics to a Hermin's Hermits song into the answer box, you're always free to vote it down.

  • 3
    Actually, the song lyrics would be spam and marked offensive. The answers should answer the question (though not necessarily always directly). Nov 25, 2008 at 20:15
  • I guess my hyberbole went a little too far. But I don’t care. I’m Henry the Eight, I am.
    – Jeffrey L Whitledge
    Nov 25, 2008 at 20:24
  • 2
    And I agree with you. In that case, it deserves a "comment" saying: "The question is wrong because ( and you can include all the history you want )" But it turns out that sometimes we want to achieve something and having to explain the whole history behind the software we are building is irrelevant
    – OscarRyz
    Nov 25, 2008 at 21:04
  • 1
    I mean, there are sometimes when I need information on how to achieve something, and not necessarily if you think I have a valid question or not. Probably the explanation of whats wrong with the question AND the ANSWER of the question will do. Who knows.
    – OscarRyz
    Nov 25, 2008 at 21:07
  • 1
    @Oscar Reyes, Remember that these answers are not JUST for the person that asks them, they are for the benifit of the software community. If the "whole history behind the software...is irrelevant" at least some mention of "I know the usual solution X, and it's invalid" would be useful.
    – Jeffrey L Whitledge
    Nov 25, 2008 at 22:31
  • And I don't see how telling people "Don't post a moderated answer, instead hide your information behind Comment link" is helpful to the software community.
    – Jeffrey L Whitledge
    Nov 25, 2008 at 22:32
  • I idea it is not to say "don't post a moderated answer". The point is to not post a comment and the question as if it is an answer.
    – BlackMael
    Nov 26, 2008 at 20:02
  • Grr.. hit enter too soon. Not advocating hiding answers in comments. Advocating using "Comments" for making comments about the question or answers and not submitting an "Answer" just to comment on the question or answer.
    – BlackMael
    Nov 26, 2008 at 20:11

I don't agree categorically with what you're saying.

If a user asks "How can I do XYZ when I ABC?" and the obvious answer is, "If you don't do ABC, but instead KLM, you don't need to do XYZ, but you will get the same end result, faster, in less memory", then just blindly answering the question the person is asking might be ... well, "ok", but it certainly wouldn't be what I would do.

Now, the problem here is that the "question" you're asking doesn't have an answer, so obviously we should all just comment your question.

I'm not going to do that either.

Personally I am going to decide what constitutes an "answer" to your question, even if it doesn't blindly answer your question uncritically.

note: see comments below

  • You could editorialize your answer, though. To do XYZ with ABC, you do DEF. However, I would recommend that you should do KLM which will give you the same end result, faster, with less memory...
    – Elie
    Nov 25, 2008 at 19:13
  • 3
    I agree, but you don't say. "You should not do that at all, It's against the rules of the mother nature, forget it, nevermind, if you do that your user will hate you and you'll have 7 years of bad luck". I mean provide alternatives its ok, but not comments without ( any ) answers.
    – OscarRyz
    Nov 25, 2008 at 19:17
  • I agree with you oscar, that's different from my what I was considering. Nov 25, 2008 at 19:22

I agree with you. Comments about the quality of the question or subject matter belong as comments. The only thing that should go into the answers are answers.

However, we as users decide by placing our votes, so in the end, there's not much you can do about it except for trying to behave as you personally deem fit. Other users will do as they deem fit. And may the most correct opinion on this matter get the most votes.

  • Maybe if the comments could be longer that would make more sense? Jan 16, 2009 at 18:02

You can't get the right answers until you ask the right questions.


And questions are for questions, not rants about how other people use the site. You've now polluted the question listing with a non question! OMFGBBQ!

  • he he he I post this comment somewhere else but no one answer. Feel free to close it!.. It is its destiny.
    – OscarRyz
    Nov 25, 2008 at 19:47

Perhaps there should be a 'vote to convert to comment' feature? Or even vica versa?


Yes it is hard.

People are used to forums and the format/protocol/structure here is a little different. It takes a little time for this disseminate the populous.

Of course not everyone reads the FAQ and so without a little guidance, people will continue to use StackOverflow like a traditional forum.

Just because a question is "wrong", if all you want to do is correct his question you either edit it, or comment on it, not answer it.


It does seem that finding guidelines regarding what is a Comment and what is an Answer are hard to come by. Having read the other answers here, I think I could condense my thoughts, and, I believe, thoughts shared by others, to this:

An Answer is a response, which, either directly, or indirectly (that is, suggesting testing techniques, or further actions to gain more information on the problem to be solved) provides the Question-Asker with either a solution or a basis for a solution.

A Comment, I think, are handy for off-thread questions and clarification - Adding to an existing Answer in details, or asking questions for personal edification from the Answer-Provider, etc.

I think that a lot of instances where people are told "This should be a Comment" should be quelled - even if an Answer directs the OP to a prior question which may be appropriate, etc. It would be nice to see people be more confident in posting Answers - I see so many great solutions being posted in Comments, which kind of then annuls all the great features allowing for Answers to be voted up and marked as Correct.

Mind you, this is just the view of a (relatively) new and low-rep'd user. I may well be off-base.


Have some cheese with your ...

No wait, you make a legitimate point and I've wondered the same as you. But, as was said before, people do their own voting, with their own reasons:

C'est la vie, say the old folk, you never can tell!


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