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Answers in comments are a thing comments aren't for. It's an issue enough for RPG.SE and for IPS.SE that we have meta topics saying not to do it, and on the site I moderate, "answer in comments" or some variation thereof is the single most common use of custom moderator flags on comments.

Despite this people often don't recognise it's something they ought not do, and there's lots of sites where answers in comments are in abundance and not cleaned up.

I suggest the addition of an "answer in comments" flag — to prompt people to use it, to recognise the behaviour's definitely officially something to not do, to assist with speedy removal, and to help formally count "answer in comments" as a flag reason such that moderators might be prompted to contact those users to advise them they're using site features improperly.

  • Isn't this a duplicate of - meta.stackexchange.com/questions/49563/…? (I'd vote to close but I'd be dupe-hammering this & I don't want to do that). – ChrisF Oct 18 '17 at 22:00
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    @ChrisF I don't think so at all. This is a way to notify mods that a comment is an answer so that it can be deleted. "No longer needed" is the usual flag reason but it's not clear to users that's the right flag and seeing the flag as an option would remind people regularly that answers in comments aren't allowed. – Catija Oct 18 '17 at 22:02
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    @Catija - ah. Though I tend not to delete these unless they've been "promoted" to answers when the "no longer needed" flag would apply. – ChrisF Oct 18 '17 at 22:04
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    @ChrisF Yeah, we can't do that. They have to be deleted on IPS or the comment chains of "here's my quick and dirty answer" would never end... particularly when the comment answers beget responses that turn into arguments. – Catija Oct 18 '17 at 22:05
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    A lot of the pushback on that older question was because it was asking for an automatic way for a user to convert their own comments to answers. But that doesn't help when a user either doesn't realize their comment should be an answer, or simply refuses to turn it into an answer, which are very common situations. The flag reason being proposed here does address those cases. Ergo not a duplicate IMO. – David Z Oct 18 '17 at 22:08
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    I put a custom reason in that case, so this would be less work for me. I don't know how this might change things for moderators. Easier? Harder? No difference? It might help to explain how this would help a moderator. Is the workflow better? Or are you hoping that more people would flag if no custom message were required? – Brythan Oct 18 '17 at 22:24
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    @Brythan Mods can see all of the comments a user has had flagged and why. If we see a pattern of "user has 10 comments flagged as answers written as comments", we might send them a mod message that they're using comments incorrectly and refer them to a helpful guide to how comments should be used. That's what dopplegreener is saying in the last paragraph. But without a specific flag reason, it gets a lot more difficult to differentiate why the comment was removed. – Catija Oct 18 '17 at 22:56
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Remember this?

Make comment flags less stupid

I suggested your solution in my answer to that post — creating flags that actually describe the problem.

I am flagging this comment because...

⭕ unwelcoming comments violate our 'be nice' policy
⭕ does not seek clarification nor improve the post
◉ answer posted as a comment
⭕ comment no longer needed
⭕ other...

The solution was highly up-voted, but .

I've always thought that flags and close reason were best presented as a learning opportunity to show the author and onlookers what not to do. For some reason, the flag choices went in the opposite direction — being even less descriptive than before. That makes it difficult-to-impossible to pass on any useful guidance (or gather any useful statistics) through the comment-flag choices.

Most of them are vague; I rarely find them fitting the situations I flag most.

So I just select ⭕ other... (about 8 out of 10 times) and type in the reason I flagged the comment manually.

It makes me feel better, but I don't think anyone sees it.

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  • I'm afraid there is major flaw in the logic here. "presented as a learning opportunity" - to whom? I assume you meant the person who wrote the comment, however that person never even get to see their comment was even flagged. The flags are meant only for moderators, and only moderators see the various reasons users have chosen. I don't think moderators need to overthink this. Either the comment is fine and should stay, or it's not hence should be removed. The reason is really not important. It's just a comment. – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask Oct 19 '17 at 6:22
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    @ShadowWizard I figure it's a learning opportunity for anyone who ever clicks the flag dialog. Spam and abusive are easy enough, but the "no longer needed" reason has an explanation of "This comment is obsolete, chatty, or otherwise unnecessary." Obsolete we can get, but how does a newbie know what counts as chatty or "otherwise unnecessary"? (Especially since they're used to "comments" being a feature for conversing with people.) Adding a flag reason of e.g. "doesn't seek clarification or improve the post" tells us everything that doesn't do those things is flag-worthy. – doppelgreener Oct 19 '17 at 10:05
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    Basically the current flag reasons are the kind of thing you only understand if you already know exactly what they mean. The flag reasons help experts who already understand how comments are supposed to work determine which category they should use, but they don't teach a new person new things about how comments are supposed to work. – doppelgreener Oct 19 '17 at 10:07

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