In some situations, a question can have more than one meaning, and a new user with less than 50 rep points would like to ask for a clarification that would make sense. In this case, they have to ask in an answer field.

Shouldn't we allow at least a clarification field, if comments are not allowed for less than 50 rep?

Clarification if a new user wants to get clarification on an ambiguous question asked by another user, they can't ask in comments, instead they will ask in the answer field.

shouldn't we allow this new user to be capable of making that inquiry? does it make sense to make the user ask in answer field or ask a new question to get clarification on another question to answer it!?

  • 6
    I thought you could always comment within your own question?
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 8:55
  • 8
    @Jon: He is saying that User A posts an ambiguous question, and New User B reads it and wants a clarification. They can't comment on User A's question - they have to answer it. Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 8:58
  • @Daniel: Ah, I see. That makes sense.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 9:18
  • 1
    @A. Thanks for clarifying your question.
    – Gnoupi
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 10:24
  • I had one up vote and one down vote, shouldn't we explain the reason for both?
    – A.Rashad
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 11:46
  • 3
    @A. - on meta, votes are showing simply that people agree or disagree with your proposition.
    – Gnoupi
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 12:13

5 Answers 5


We funnel users to the answer input box for a reason -- because the focus is on getting answers to questions, not meta-commentary. Commenting is a privilege that should be earned by providing useful answers. And 50 rep isn't much.

It's highly unlikely a random drive-by user will

  • understand our Q&A goals
  • understand our commenting system

So by the time they earn 50 rep, they should have learned roughly how things work, and be in a position to offer a useful comment and not a "+1 AWESOME ANSWER" sort of comment.

  • Okay, good points.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 11:42
  • 2
    It doesn't really take long to get 50 rep. Even now, if a question is not clear, I may simply bypass it in favor of one that is clear and well-written. I suggest that any new user do the same.
    – IAbstract
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 12:12
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    @Bill the Lizard: +! AWESOME COMMENT Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 12:50
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    @Jeff Atwood, So it’s better to have them leave me-too and +1-awesome comments as so-called “answers” instead?
    – Synetech
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 15:38
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    @syne the alternative is forced registration for all users which is a "boil the sea" solution I am not fond of, to put it mildly. So, yes. Discipline takes active moderators and flagging -- and we have plenty of both. In the digital world, undoing vandalism takes less time than the vandalism. (Plus: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/84668/… ) Commented Mar 26, 2011 at 12:20
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    I'm currently trying to achieve my 50 rep and started by browsing through the list of 'unanswered' questions, only to discover that the questions I wanted to answer had already been answered. However, because I didn't have enough reputation, I was unable to point the OP to please close the issue as 'answered'?
    – thaJeztah
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 18:52
  • @thaJeztah Questions show up as "unanswered" until either an answer is accepted, or an answer is upvoted. So the next time you spot such an answer, assuming you verified it's really correct, upvote it. It doesn't help you towards your rep, but how can you expect anyone to upvote your answers if you don't do the same? Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 8:40

I don't know the history that led to the introduction of the rep threshold for comments, but I'm for removing it. It frequently generates noise from new users with good intentions that has to be cleaned up manually.


I interpreted you as meaning a clarification on an answer or on an "solved" question, if you mean a clarification on a new question by a new user (e.g. new user B wants to answer it), then see even further below.

If we did add a clarification field, it would just turn into a comment field, and we'd be back at square one. We should instead encourage these new users to work within the system (as giving them comment abilities has been declined).

That might mean posting a new question asking about the clarification. I see nothing wrong with this, especially for a new user: I'd gladly upvote their well-written question. (Yes, if you have 10k rep, I treat your questions different than if you have 1 rep.)

However, I also include my public email address in my profile, and wouldn't mind a random new user from using it. (If I'm comfortable spending time responding to comments on SO, might as well do that for email, etc. Some users are still hesitant to send "random" email, though.) It's never happened to me, but it'd probably make sense to update SO with that clarification anyway.

If you mean a clarification on a new question by a new user (e.g. new user B wants to answer it):

The new user could wait, as another user with 50 rep will likely ask or the clarification will otherwise be made obvious. Or they could make their best guess at a good answer that attempts to solve what they consider to be the most likely scenario in the question. Upon clarification they can edit or delete their answer to solve the actual problem.


From most FAQs:

you can always comment on your questions and answers, and any answers to questions you've asked, even with 1 rep.

So if referring to the posts you made, as new user, it's already implemented.

If you mean about new users wanting to ask clarification on another question or answer, they should ask a new question, referring to the one on which he wants more details. It would be better than posting a new answer which wouldn't be one, and probably better than a simple comment if what you want to ask is a bit more elaborate than a simple comment.

This situation happens very often on Super User, where a question is abandoned (or even answered for the Op's particular case), and someone has the same problem, or a similar problem with a few differences. In this case, they should post new questions, to be able to provide their own details.

  • 5
    (-1) new users who are asking for clarifications should not ask completely separate questions if their new post is essentially a "comment" on the other question. That would be just noise.
    – devinb
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 9:05
  • @devinb - depends on the case of course, but I prefer to see a new question asking about a detail of implementation, or something like this, than another answer on the previous question (or even a comment. Finally a new question can be useful to more people). Of course, it depends on the question. If only a small detail, or if worth a full question.
    – Gnoupi
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 9:20
  • 4
    let me quote Daniel Daranas' comment "He is saying that User A posts an ambiguous question, and New User B reads it and wants a clarification. They can't comment on User A's question - they have to answer it."
    – A.Rashad
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 10:00
  • @A.Rashad - then edit your own question to make it more clear. Also, note that I answered to both meanings.
    – Gnoupi
    Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 10:07
  • New User B can also answer: "You asked X; that can mean X1 or X2. If you meant X1, I have a great answer here for you: {insert answer to X1}. However, if you meant X2, I can't help you." Later, A can comment on B's answer and clarify it, and B can edit his answer, and everybody's happy. Commented Jun 1, 2010 at 12:49
  • 1
    a good "workaround" for the existing system. However, I've seen answers down voted for this before.
    – A.Rashad
    Commented Jun 4, 2010 at 5:21

I disagree with Jeff Atwood. Having fewer than 50 rep points doesn't make someone a complete moron. There are certainly situations where clarification would be helpful to many other readers, and instead new users are forced to begin an entirely new, but nearly identical, question rather than just building a comprehensive answer in one place.

  • 1
    Nor did Jeff imply that such users were morons. Experience learns though that opening up comments for everyone will result in even more problematic content than we have to clean up already. And believe me, there is a lot of work happening already. As he says, 50 rep isn't all that much. Earn it and you'll be able to comment.
    – Bart
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 6:10

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