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After reading some of answers in Stack Overflow that certainly should not be called answers, I have thought of an idea that comments should probably be awarded more than they are now. How on Earth did I come to this idea? Well, I will try to explain you.

I am a pretty new user in Stack Overflow. Even though I am here for 3.5 years, only not much time ago I started considering myself qualified to answer at least simple PHP questions as I am still a high school student and do not have a lot of experience. But even I have experienced that dilemma: I have 5 minutes, I am sure that I will not be able to write a long and decent answer to the question and I can choose: either I write a comment, which will be helpful and not long, containing the most important information AND get nothing, or I will write a short answer and hope that Stack Overflow veterans will not notice or at least will not down-vote, and the asker will give me some reputation and mark my answer as the best (at least +25 YAY). Have you ever experienced that?

Sometimes I see a short answer and comment under it says: “This should not be an answer.” But it is. And why? Again, because of what I wrote above: people want their work to be accepted, even though it is just a short answer, but it may be extremely useful for the question giver and it still took some time for the person to write it.

I did what Stack Exchange asks to do before asking a question: I did some research. And I noticed that there was already a question like mine and I would like to give my solutions to the problems and later answer to some of the counterarguments in that question.

  1. More intelligent comments reputation system. (Similar idea was already written by TecBrat but the comment is probably not that visible as the new question) If reputation for comments could be given, the system like this could be created: comment does not get any reputation until it gets n up-votes. Since nth up-vote, the up-votes will be converted to reputation points. I have noticed that there is a tendency to up-vote the comments which are really useful and provide the asker with required information which could not be explained more in a normal question (again, noticing syntax errors, calculation mistakes, spelling mistakes, etc.) In this case, people who wrote nonsense will certainly not get +75 up-votes on the comments, but the ones who wrote a great idea that is accepted by others will gain a fair amount of reputation points which he/she definitely deserves.
  2. Useful comments. Okay, let’s say that we leave the reputation just for helpful and informative answers and well-asked and popular questions. But what could we do for people to actually write comments when they are lazy or just do not have enough time for a proper answer? Useful comments section in the user profile could be created. If we look at a profile of a person who has 100 reputation points and “100 very useful (+n up-votes) comments” we can see that the person is really worth something, has a decent knowledge in the subject, he tries and writes the comments not only when he does not know what to write for a good answer, but also when the answer is actually really simple and does not require a long explanation (for example, noticing syntax error in the code).

I know that there are badges for writing some useful comments, but in my opinion, it is not a good solution for solving all the problems. When I look to another person’s profile, I do not care about all the badges he got: reputation, profile views, similar information says a lot of about a person: if he/she is interesting to others, if his/her answers are good and important, etc. And if there was additional number which would show information about useful comments, it would also say a lot.

These are ideas for now. I have found many counterarguments for a traditional reputation system used for comments and I partly agree with them. For example, a part of this answer:

Comments are not supposed to contain answers, in any form. If you feel you have an answer to contribute then post it as an answer; in which case it will have all the usual voting you describe as wanting for a comment. Comments are to ask for clarification or point out a mistake.

But in my opinion, we should not look at what is supposed to be, instead, we should look at what actually is. And the truth is that you can find a lot of answers in comments – it just happens, people cannot perfectly control what they write, especially, if they write something they believe is important. If answers are not supposed to be written in comments, what should be written there, then? The only thing that is related to the question, is answer. Or comments on question or answer containing information that would probably improve the question/answer what is also useful even though it does not directly answer the question. Using either of the systems I wrote about above, unrelated comments would not give any benefit to the writer, while useful ones would.

I rather like that comments don't affect reputation... It seems to add a conversational element without some of the grandstanding that conversational answers so often devolve into. Not everything useful to the site needs to be tied to rep. – Shog9♦ Jun 28 '09 at 18:14

Well, I can agree with that. Even the speech in comments is usually less formal, people tend to joke in the comments, etc. But not many unrelated comments get up-voted (actually, it is quite rare, at least in “more serious” Stack Exchange pages (for example, StackOverflow) as I noticed). In Meta page I have noticed some people getting easy up-votes for absolutely unimportant messages, but not in Maths page or as I already said, not in StackOverflow. Comments could be evaluated differently here, maybe?

These are my ideas, feel free to say if you disagree with anything, attack me with all possible counterarguments if there are good ones, as maybe these changes would actually damage Stack Exchange? I want all the best for the community, but I am not capable of thinking about everything. I could have also missed a part of important information, maybe an answer to what I wrote here. If so, tell me. Thanks for your attention.

marked as duplicate by a CVn, Robert Longson, Ward, Werner, Donald Duck Jul 20 '18 at 0:11

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • I would love to know if those -1 are because I am asking the same thing again or because my ideas are wrong? I feel like I have put some effort to write a long explanation of my ideas and I just think that we could discuss the same question again, or is it a taboo? Because if it is, I can understand. – Danielius Jul 19 '18 at 10:02
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    Here on meta, discussion and feature-request are kind of melt too often and people express agreement/disagreement to the proposal with votes. All in all comments are second class citizen and we discourage answering in comments, so rewarding them sounds counter productive I think – Tensibai Jul 19 '18 at 10:14
  • When I provide hints, or a possible nanswer, in a comment, I don't expect, or want, any rep or other reward for it. Often, I comment such so that the OP understands their problem, fixes it and deletes their question before it accumulates too many downvotes, eg. for being a mega-dupe. – Martin James Jul 19 '18 at 10:15
  • @Tensibai, thank you for the explanation, I really appreciate that. I understand the system that is in Stack Exchange and I will try to write a comment to answer to yours later. – Danielius Jul 19 '18 at 10:31
  • @MartinJames I see, but in my opinion, not everyone is like you, because I have seen examples of really short answers which should just be a comment. What other reason for writing that really short answer could be if not the one that user wants some kind of profit? Otherwise, he could simply write a comment. Well, usually such people are newer to Stack Exchange thus I am unsure that they do this to improve the database of answers to questions, but who knows? Maybe I am wrong. – Danielius Jul 19 '18 at 10:33
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I'm opposed to this largely because I prefer that the system rewards answering rather than giving rep for one-line, half-baked comment-answers.

Taking a step back from all this, the goal of Stack Exchange is to provide useful answers to many people in future. That's generally done by answering with context and details, something which only answers really support. Comments fundamentally aren't suitable for answering because of:

  • the length limit of 600 characters, preventing all but the most brief of messages
  • the lack of wiki-editing from other users to improve the answer, even if you leave the site many years in future
  • the lack of proper sorting and ranking so the best solutions rise to the top.

Giving no rep for comments is a fairly good discouragement from using comments when you should really be posting an answer. This also works the other way currently, unfortunately, that there are no repercussions if you post something incorrect or misleading in a comment, whereas answers have the features to correct it via editing or downvote. That's why you sometimes see people posting things in comments if they don't want to risk downvotes on an answer (but this is not appropriate behaviour, mind you).

If your choice is between, say, +25 rep for posting an answer but having to spend more time, and +10 for a one-line comment that gets upvoted, many people would choose the latter. And the site would be all the worse for it, as we'd miss out on potentially great answers.

Some other miscellaneous concerns:

  1. Neither of your proposals include any way of losing rep for posting content that the community disagrees with. As above, I fear that this "no risk" participation would encourage more people to use comments to answer which we don't want.

  2. Moderation of comments becomes more difficult as there's the added factor that people might lose rep if comments are cleared. As it is, moderators don't have to spend excessive amounts of time worrying about comment flags and can quickly make decisions one way or the other.

  3. Often snarky comments get upvoted on questions which aren't well received. Is there a way that your system could avoid giving rep for that? Otherwise, it would actually give rep rewards for being rude to new users.

    While I do hope that most eventually get flagged and deleted, sometimes a few slip through and don't get flagged up.

    Often the question eventually gets deleted, leading to another consideration: should you lose your "comment rep" if the question is deleted? And, additionally, should users be prevented from deleting their posts if it has comments just like we currently do with answered questions?

And as an aside... I do appreciate that you've written a detailed discussion post, and I also understand that many people on SO will discourage short answers when technically they are valid and you should be able to be rewarded for these contributions. But I also feel that giving comment rep causes many more issues, too.

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    thank you for your ideas and detailed explanation, I will write what i think about it eventually :) For now, I certainly can say that I did not think about some negative effects which should have been included in my (essay?). – Danielius Jul 19 '18 at 10:30
  • @Danielius - Well there's Aurora0001's well though out answer that can be voted on, or chosen by you, or there's this quick quip: Comments are for constructive criticism (and occasionally misused for plus oneing), a short tip to improve the Q or A. SE's goal is clear questions and best answers (there may be some distance to go in some cases but that's a different complaint), the idea isn't for someone to arrive, weed through a bunch of comments and read every answer - they should be able to determine quickly if the question is similar to theirs and if the top 2 answers are great. – Rob Jul 19 '18 at 12:24

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