53

When reviewing close votes, I regularly encounter questions with the following history:

  • New users ask a question which is unclear because it is lacking relevant information.
  • People add comments, asking for the missing information.
  • The OP adds one or multiple comments, so that it in the end becomes clear what she wanted.
  • The question gets answered.

Now the problem is that the question as such is still unclear - IMHO reading the comments should not be required to understand the question. I obviously have the option to edit the question myself, or add a moderation comment. This works to a certain extend, but it would be better if the system helped to guide new users in this situation.

So, when a new users clicks on "add comment" on their own post, the system should show a notification informing about the option to edit their own post instead.

  • 6
    This is a brilliant idea and one I came on here today to post myself. We've spent sooo much time working on new review queues and triaging questions, yet a simple fix like this might help new users improve their own questions. – Duncan Jones Mar 6 '15 at 8:35
  • The good news is, Tim Post is now aware of the problem so hopefully we'll see some traction. – Duncan Jones Mar 6 '15 at 14:33
  • @TimPost any time frame for this? – Tim Mar 6 '15 at 14:49
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    @Tim Six to eight weeks, I'd imagine. – Duncan Jones Mar 6 '15 at 15:12
14
+50

There's a few ways that we can go about this, so we're going to have to play with some ideas to see what works best.

The first way is a wall that they have to acknowledge in order to comment. E.g.:

If you're responding to someone asking for clarification of your question, there's a very good chance that you want to be editing your question to include this information instead. Are you sure you want to comment, or would you rather edit?

That might work for some, but people are sometimes .. flaky ... when it comes to reading stuff that you put right in front of them. Another thing to add to this might be giving anyone logged in with the ability to edit or suggest edits the ability to one-click convert a comment to an edit on the post, even if it just sticks it at the end of the question with a system note that it's additional information that was left as a comment. Moderators routinely convert answers that folks leave as clarification to edits.

Gonna think on this a bit. Users do see help in the text box for comments when they go to add comments to their own questions:

enter image description here

.. possibly a bit too subtle.

In any event, this will be implemented in some form in the near future.

  • What about a box in the Question box itself, rather than the help text? I do like the idea of 2k+ users click converting it, though. I would worry that someone would click convert to delete a comment they disagree with - especially on meta - and then editing it out of the post. – Tim Mar 6 '15 at 14:57
  • @Tim I'm not so sure we'd enable it on meta sites, while I can imagine some would come up, I don't really see a major use case there. If someone used it as you described, that's a pretty clear pattern of abuse, and we'd deal with it that way. What I'm considering is something more along the lines of a modal that you must at least pretend to read, rather than the help text as we currently show it. Have to think about it a bit, you did raise some interesting concerns. – Tim Post Mar 6 '15 at 16:06
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    if you decide to go with a message, consider presenting word "edit" there as a link. "...or would you rather edit?" -> "...or would you rather edit?" – gnat Mar 6 '15 at 16:38
  • @gnat That's the idea. – Tim Post Mar 7 '15 at 2:58
5

I can only think of two reasons why authors comment beneath their own questions:

  1. Clarifying or dismissing another comment

  2. Providing information requested by a comment

So I propose that when the question author presses the add a comment link for the question, a pop-up dialog appears:

Add a comment to your own question

New information should be edited into your question, not added as a comment. Do you really need to add a comment to your question?

I think it's important to make the user choose between two options. Simply showing a notification above the comment window might not be enough.

I've noticed the comment window already says:

Use comments to reply to other users or notify them of changes. If you are adding new information, edit your post instead of commenting

Despite this, there are tons of violations. This is what leads me to believe a simple pop-up is not enough.

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    This would make the interface confusing - they wouldn't realise the difference between Edits and Comments, and may end up thinking they are interchangeable. – Tim Mar 6 '15 at 14:16
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    I like the idea but not your implementation. A sigle yellow information popup is maybe an alternative? – rene Mar 6 '15 at 14:18
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    @rene I've tried to adjust it a little in that direction, but I still favour making the user choose between two options. That being said, anything would be an improvement. – Duncan Jones Mar 6 '15 at 14:25
4

I'm in favor of this, but for the love of all that is holy (which is to say, not importing horrible habits people have been forced into by webforums), can we do this in a way that does not inspire to add their edits with the tag EDIT? Like this...

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Proin dignissim in lorem a cursus. Sed rutrum, turpis at faucibus hendrerit, est dui maximus ipsum, a sodales leo tortor eu diam. Nunc in facilisis dolor. Nulla quis auctor tortor?

Edit Cras dignissim, nulla a volutpat congue, ligula tellus vulputate dolor, at elementum neque orci semper metus.

Edit 2 Nunc non suscipit purus. Duis ultrices justo mauris, vel ornare ante bibendum vel. Donec aliquet sollicitudin orci, id lobortis mauris semper sit amet?

Edit 3 Aliquam sit amet dui urna. Aliquam commodo nisl erat, et fringilla erat dictum sed!

This isn't really any better than a series of comments, and requires just as much cleanup (with, I guess, the advantage that it at least doesn't take moderator intervention to remove).

  • It would still be an improvement in the sense that people wouldn't be posting code or stack traces in comments (with no formatting or line breaks). I agree this is a potential problem we should try to mitigate, though. – Jeffrey Bosboom Mar 7 '15 at 1:40

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