I have been using Stack Overflow for many years now, and recently I started contributing. My filtered questions have: C, Objective-C, and Unix in them. I want to help some guys, so I click questions which are "unanswered"

The fact it: most of these questions were in fact already answered, but people posted a reply in comments, instead of "Answer" field.

Is there a solution for this? Is there a way to promote a reply to an answer?

  • This is very site-dependent, I think. There are different ways to resolve the issue and different cultures use different solutions. On TeX SE, the best thing to do is to leave a comment suggesting the answerer write an answer by converting their comment. Failing that, a community wiki answer which combines multiple comments or converts a comment from an absent commenter is usual. As the answers which are not in comments attest, other sites' cultures use the available toolset differently. This is a case of when in Rome, in my view.... That is, do as I say; don't do as I do. – cfr Apr 14 '16 at 3:05

The "solution" is to answer the question yourself. Comments != answers so, technically, the question is still unanswered.

If you want to be "nice" about it (assuming you're using the same info they are), you can give credit to the comment author and/or make the answer a wiki answer (the latter prevents you from earning reputation)... but you don't have to.

If they didn't want to take the time to write a good, fully-fleshed out answer, and you're interested in doing so, do it and earn the rep for it and note that you're improving the site health when you do so.

Feel free to flag the comment answer for deletion after you answer the question, too. They really don't belong on any of the SE sites as they're against official policy.

| improve this answer | |

Existing features solve this problem already. They just need to be used.

The problem is comments containing answers preventing the Q&A format from working right. The question assumes the solution is adding a feature to promote a comment to an answer, when existing features do the job plenty.

We don't have this problem at RPG.se because we recognise comments that contain answers are broken windows. So, we aggressively flag and delete answers in comments.

They're not comments, they're answers. If someone wants to contribute an answer, they can scroll down a half-screen and use the correct input field. If they couldn't be bothered to do that, then they knew they didn't actually have a worthwhile answer for some reason, and we can use that helpful meta-information to categorise their comment as noise that the page would be better without.

The problem with comments in answers is many-fold, not least of which is that they don't receive the expected peer-review attention of the voting system. By deleting them, we force anyone who wants to actually contribute an answer to put in the work to write something that they actually have confidence in enough to stake their reputation on, or to keep their peace.

The result? We don't have broken windows answers in comments lying everywhere, the voting system is given the grist it requires, questions that have answers actually register in the system as having answers, and people can find quality help that much easier.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    On sites that permit troubleshooting-type questions, the line between "asking for clarification" and "answering the question" gets rather fuzzy. For example, "have you tried X?" is both: if they have, it narrows down the possibilities; if they haven't, it's quite possibly the answer. – Mark Apr 14 '16 at 23:01
  • @Mark This is a fair point. It's one of the ways that troubleshooting questions don't quite suit the Stack format, but Stacks that permit them are deciding the cons are worth the pros. Should I amend this to mention troubleshooting as an exception? (Existing tools still handle that case, but it's a different workflow.) – SevenSidedDie Apr 14 '16 at 23:08

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .