We see a lot of occasions where a new user posts an answer when in fact they should be asking a question; for example here or here.

Given that:

  • we want to make life as comfortable as possible for new users (the life-blood)
  • we may have a different audience, especially on SuperUser

How about the ability (moderator?) to change a user's "answer" into a new question? (presumably retaining the tags etc from the original question, and the ownership from the misplaced answer/question).

The biggest gotcha with this, though, is that in some cases this group (the people who paste an answer when they want to ask a question) are the same group that you never see again - so it might not be a 100% return...

I'm posting this as a (not a ) as I'm mainly interested in people's thoughts... would this be useful? or not so much?

Update: I think that is enough support to upgrade it to ;-p

  • For the bounty, can we find out if this feature is being planned and/or an ETA?
    – Kirk Woll
    Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 2:14
  • 3
    No fair! Did I make work for myself here? Commented Mar 21, 2011 at 7:14
  • I think the answers here - and here - do a pretty good job of outlining why this is a bad idea. We've worked hard to put a lot of guidance into the Ask Question page, and that's all lost on folks who post their questions as answers; increasing the number of half-baked questions in exchange for not having to just delete answers doesn't seem like a very good trade-off.
    – Shog9
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 0:03
  • 1
    @Shog9 This is a great idea for travel.stackexchange.com because we get it all the time and there is a dearth of questions. This feature would generate questions for the travel site. I understand that it might be painful on the main site because of the volume. Please reconsider for sites like travel that are still evolving and have less traffic.
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 2:22
  • @GayotFow Those users get a comment inviting them to post their question using the Ask Question button. If they can't be bothered to even copy-paste their post into a correct place... do they really want an answer?
    – user259867
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 3:26
  • 1
    @1999, if flags are raised the mods will come along and delete it. And now all the helpful comments are gone, there is a rep hurdle to see deleted material; so the noob is left clueless
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 3:51
  • @GayotFow The templated comments left via review reach the user even if the post is deleted. There is no rep hurdle either: everyone sees their own deleted posts, regardless of reputation.
    – user259867
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 3:52
  • 1
    Post the questions yourself, @GayotFow. Then give a link to the person who posted the answer before you flag it. Assist and teach. Win-win. Also leaves you free to make any edits or expansions needed to produce a good question, which might be awkward otherwise. I've even used throw-away accounts for this in cases where I didn't wish to clutter my own with others' questions.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 4:36
  • @Shog9, I will try that strategy. I like the strategy of a secondary account for asking those. Good idea. Let me try that and get back to you...
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 10:03

11 Answers 11


Questions posted as answers are very often incomplete, depending very heavily on the existing discussion. So not only would a moderator be required to create a new question title, but they would have to generate or copy a great deal of other information from the existing question and answers to fill out the new question.

Honestly, if the big Ask Question button at the top is too difficult to use, then there's a good chance the question isn't worth asking formally.

  • 7
    I think the cases where it most happens, understandably so, is when a user does due diligence to find an answer that should help them but they have trouble implementing it. So, they tack onto the question so that 1) the people who were knowledgable to answer it the first time around might see it, and 2) to keep information close together. It's not the correct action, but I see how it comes about. But I definitely agree that a moderator probably doesn't have enough context to turn it into a proper question. Commented Mar 16, 2011 at 4:39
  • 7
    Obviously, moderators can be expected to determine when a question given as an answer deserves a -1, a big close hammer, or the hypothetical "move to a new question" feature.
    – sarnold
    Commented Jan 6, 2012 at 3:20

Nearly two years on - and I am entirely unconvinced that this still has merit. The type of question that gets posted as an answer is typically of very low quaility, and by a new user. At best, I can suggest maybe for new users posting an answer that includes a question-mark, offering a "are you sure you are answering [this question] - or are you asking a new question?" prompt, pushing them to "Ask Question" at point of posting. Anything else seems, based on much much experience, futile...


  • You're probably right that we can't make this automatic. What about more warnings as you suggest though? Seems like we could do a bit better in preventing this (extremely common) mistake. (by the way, thanks for responding. :) )
    – Kirk Woll
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 19:53
  • 1
    Sometimes I see a new user do this. They ask a valid question, related to the current question. They're not familiar with the site's Q+A format. It would be polite of a moderator to convert their non-answer i.e. repost it as a question for them. It would need some slight editing, e.g. adding a new title at least. But it would be more polite and welcoming (to a new user) than just telling them to re-post it as a new question, and deleting their existing/first post/answer. See e.g. here if you want an example.
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 12:17

Converting it to a question is a good idea. If they return or not, doesn't matter. If it is answered, someone else could be helped with. The only "benefit" the questioner has now, is being voted down to some nice place in nirvana.


Pointless and fruitless.

People who can't work out the distinction between posting an answer and a question are unlikely to have clear questions for upverting. There are enough questions coming through that you don't need to ruffle through the bin for more.

Good idea if you want the bot to have something to kill when it detects the deadwood.


I think this is a great idea. I think there should be another radio button on the Flag list to allow us to flag this sort of question for the moderators. It could even add a canned comment to the answer. Something like this:

@shalini: I see you're new here, so you may not have read the stackoverflow.com/faq yet (link at top of every page). This is not a discussion forum. It's a Q&A site. If you have a question, click the "Ask a Question" link. You've posted an "Answer", and one that has nothing to do with the question. Welcome to StackOverflow!

where "@shalini" is replaced by the user's name (obviously).

Ok, in retrospect, that needed a smiley. It's from the first example that Marc cited, and I wrote it.

  • Huge credit to you sir for your polite and explanatory comment.
    – devinb
    Commented Jul 16, 2009 at 13:54
  • 1
    I'm trying to grow, as a person and SO user. I used to be so, "Hey, dummy!" Commented Jul 16, 2009 at 13:57

Abstract: SO/SE is unfriendly to new users who are coming over from forums. It makes extra work for mods and community members, by not allowing us to move answers from new users who are unfamiliar with the format of the site into new questions.

It's disappointing to come to Meta and find out that a feature I'd really like to have has been shot down in flames already.

phoenix said:

I think this will be a burden for the moderator. He has to look into each and every answer a new user posts and should decide whether it should be moved to the question or not. When the user group grows to an enormous one this will be a huge task for the moderator.

No, the mods do not have to make this decision on each and every answer -- only the ones which the system has flagged.

And, tough beans -- I already have to look at the answer because someone has flagged it as 'not an answer' so what's the big deal?

A lot of the old hands have answered from the perspective of long-time SE users who are already familiar with the format. What about the brand-new user, who is coming to Stack Exchange for the very first time?

These answers are posted on the question which has drawn them to the site. Sometimes they are "me too!" comments, but sometimes they have a seed of a new question. Why can't we promote those?

It's easy to say that these new users are so stupid that they post an answer instead of leaving a comment. But they can't post a comment because we won't let them -- because they don't have any rep. They can't come into the chat room and talk to us before they post, because we won't let them, because they don't have enough rep. All they can do is plonk their comments down as an answer.

So then the mods have to come in and clean up, and say, here's where the help center is, here's the tour, here's how to ask a question. No matter how friendly I try to be, I'm stuck with the job of telling them you can't be a part of the community without doing homework first. It's unfriendly as hell. Aren't we supposed to play nice?

If I could take these answers which have the seed of a new question in them and spin them off into a new question, retaining the authorship of the person who posted it, it would give them the chance to earn some reputation, maybe enough to be able to use the chat room, where we could talk to them and encourage them to participate more.

Perhaps it is the case that the majority of these non-answers are from drive-by people who never participate again. If we can hack them and make them into a a good question, does that really matter?

These not-really-an-answer posts are going to be work for the moderators anyway. Having the choice to turn them into a comment OR promote them to a new question would give me a tool so I could do productive work instead of non-productive work.

Comment from @Shog9 on the original question:

Post the questions yourself, @GayotFow. Then give a link to the person who posted the answer before you flag it. Assist and teach. Win-win. Also leaves you free to make any edits or expansions needed to produce a good question, which might be awkward otherwise. I've even used throw-away accounts for this in cases where I didn't wish to clutter my own with others' questions.

We could try this, but I'd rather be able to promote the answer to a question, retaining the original author. Why penalize a brand-new user when they've made a mistake, simply because they are brand new to the way SE does things?

One compromise might be to make this a feature on beta sites, which may not have the same question volume as the main sites.

Re: this comment

Honestly, if the big Ask Question button at the top is too difficult to use, then there's a good chance the question isn't worth asking formally.

I wonder -- do the new users even see the button?

If the user doesn't have a widescreen monitor, the Ask Question button is practically invisible unless you scroll your window to see the right-hand side. I don't see why the row of buttons has to be right-justified so there's a huge glob of empty space in the middle of the screen.

Why is Ask Question buried in the corner?

  • I agree - this would be especially helpful for Beta sites who are trying to get a critical mass of content to help them towards graduation sooner. It could be a very useful tool in the hands of a proactive moderator and does not need to be used by moderators on sites where a fire hose of questions are already arriving.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 23:22
  • I wasn't aware that you needed a wide screen monitor to see this site... it's only 1000 px across... most monitors can handle that, easily.
    – Catija
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 20:37
  • Yes, I have an old crappy monitor. I have to scroll, no big deal. But unless I tell Firefox to scroll across, the banner at the top of the site is cut off. I only see "Ask Qu" at the top.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 23:19
  • 1
    The "Ask" button also isn't particularly prominent on mobile browsers. It's just the last link in a series of links at the top of the page, far from the input for new answers. Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 16:41

Some Stack Exchange sites need this feature more than others. I suspect Bicycles Stack Exchange sees many new users who are used to discussion forums and assume BSE is one. We see a lot of related questions asked in answer posts. The ability to convert these to questions would help a great deal.

I'd like to see 'Convert to Question' as a voting choice alongside 'Delete'. 'Me-Too' or un-salvageable questions get deleted, salvageable questions get converted.

Such questions are usually poorly constructed, relying on info in the original question. The new question should automatically contain a link to the original. The converted question can then be edited to bring it up to required quality.

  • I would argue that they should also be automatically pushed into the Low Quality Posts queue, since as you said, they will likely be low quality.
    – Picachieu
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 15:26
  • @pizzastaticvoidmain I concur. Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 15:31

I'm also going to come out as saying I think this would be a good feature at least at a moderator level. While technical sites may find that the questions asked in answers are typically low quality (and certainly some are), I often find that on less technical sites, where people are less inclined to recognize elements of the UI, it is entirely typical for well formed questions to be asked as an answer. These users are not technical and are confused by the process.

Instead of being able to helpfully get them pointed in the right direction with a bit of explanation. I have to leave them stranded to redo their work to get any help on a site that they are brand new to. In the vast majority of cases, they go away and never come back due to the bad initial experience, however I have no better option available to me.


I like the idea of being able to push it out to a new question, but I think what you may end up seeing more and more often is when people will post as an answer a reply to the other answers. In this way it would generally be useful more as a comment and not a separate question.

I don't know how useful it would be, but perhaps something that allows you to highlight some text and then push it to a comment (with you being able to pick where to put it). I don't know how well this would work, though.


What makes this community. Is it the questions and answers or the people?

I would limit the functionality to promote some thing to a question to some one who has a high reputation. As has been pointed out, people who ask question's in the answers section would most likely be passing through and not contributing to the community.

So to answer the question above. Its the people who make the community. If some answer really needed to be turned into a question let some one in the community who understands that it needs to happen do it. Does that mean we need to create functionality like migrating an answer to a question. Maybe, it could make it easier for the community to create those questions and accept an answer. A quick look at the number of unanswered questions makes me think that we will just be increasing that number significantly. I don't think people will be taking responsiblity to accept an answer and provide feed back on the problem check out this question and answer to see what I mean over 20 comments. This is what makes stackexchange, SO, and the other sites work. Its the people.

If people are not using the site in the way it was built is? Is it because it is difficult to understand or because the are not really interested in the community. If they are not interested in the community should the community really take up the slack and do a lot of extra work trying to maintain all those extra questions. If it is because the site is difficult to use and understand that is a septate problem.

May be some stats on the number of answers with comments which propose that the answer should be posted as a question would be helpful to understand how big this problem really is. I don't know how to do this type of query on the SO database. May be some who who works on the SO site could do it. May be this post need to be turned into a question.

About the site being difficult to understand, I think we / stackechange / SO have taken a very narrow view of questions and answers. A question should be concise and have one possible solution? This is ok for most questions but there are some that need more explanation and deeper answers. Which community wiki provides the functionality or as posted above active member participation. This post is related in the problem that is being talked about here. How answers and questions should be viewed.

  • The question posed it in the context of moderator functions; re numbers... let's just say: "lots" - however, most of these are of such little quality that I don't think they are salvageable Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 9:05
  • @Marc-gravell hence my point of creating a lot of work for the community, But is there going to be a return on the work. Is it going to make thing better. Just marginally or significantly. I don't think it will be significant improvement in the site. I posted this as a possible change.
    – nelaaro
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 9:43

I think this will be a burden for the moderator. He has to look into each and every answer a new user posts and should decide whether it should be moved to the question or not. When the user group grows to an enormous one this will be a huge task for the moderator.

If there's an option to vote the answer to be moved as a question for users with reputation above a specified level then it could be useful. Then the moderator will get a list of the questions that has been voted to move as a question.

Also if the provided answer is no way related to the new question then he has to enter new keywords also for the new question.

  • 2
    Note that something like the vote happens now; simply, people flag it for moderator attention. This wouldn't increase or decrease that, but from experience it isn't a big burden. Commented Jul 16, 2009 at 11:48
  • 1
    Things are far more burdensome now because we don't have an elegant way to deal with these posts except nuking them or turning them into comments.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 20:08

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