The Turkey Shoot doesn't seem to want to abate any time soon. And the most common flag has got to be

Not an answer

We must get a couple of hundred of these flags a day. I think it is high time that we let high rep regular users have the ability to convert non-answers into comments.

It would help reduce the pressure on mods caused by these turkey-shooting basterds. The process is reversible--the converted comment can be deleted and the answer undeleted.

There just isn't any possible reason why this would be a bad thing. Not a one. And I won't be deleting all comments and answers which suggest any, so don't even try.

Good suggestions on limitations (will update as found):

Only answers by users with < 50 rep can be converted.
Only answers with < 0 votes can be converted.

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    I agree, it seems odd that you can edit an answer out of existence, but can't put it where it really belongs. Also, 'not an answer' doesn't give the flagger the opportunity to attach any guidance note for the mod - like saying that the answer needs to be a comment on some other answer, rather than on the question. – martin clayton Apr 5 '11 at 21:07
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    @martin: well, if you do have such guidance you can always just leave a generic mod-flag and write whatever you want. But of course, this does nothing to reduce pressure on mods. – Shog9 Apr 5 '11 at 21:08
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    What about non-answers that don't add much value as a comment, such as "Any luck finding a solution?" Few of the non-answers I encounter seem to have much redeeming value, even as comments. – Brad Larson Apr 5 '11 at 21:13
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    @Brad - if the "answer" goes into negative votes then it becomes eligible for 20K users to vote to delete. So down-vote! You'll get the -1 back when the post does get deleted and you recalculate your rep. – ChrisF Apr 5 '11 at 21:18
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    @ChrisF - With only five delete votes a day, the number of non-answers that can be cleaned up this way is fairly limited (as I've noted elsewhere). With ~50 moderator flags a day, I can make a much larger dent on the pile of non-answers out there. Of course, that shifts some of the burden to the moderators. – Brad Larson Apr 5 '11 at 21:23
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    @Shog - I do that if appropriate, but it seems like I'm making more work for the mods, as you say. Sometimes I think that it'd be good if there was an alternate reason 'should be a comment on...' with a field to enter the appropriate id - a bit like when voting to close as a dupe. Then the mod needn't make the association manually. (I don't know what mods see, so forgive it I have this wrong.) – martin clayton Apr 5 '11 at 21:24
  • @Brad - I didn't realise it was still that low. I don't have time to search SO for content to delete. – ChrisF Apr 5 '11 at 21:25
  • @martin Flagging as "not an answer" is the exact same as if you were to make a custom flag that says "not an answer" as its message. – Grace Note Apr 5 '11 at 21:25

We generally don't want answers converted to comments.

We want them deleted.

Therefore, I don't support this, since it would

  1. encourage backdoor commenting

  2. encourage converting all non-answers to comments, when the majority of them should just be outright deleted.

  • Yes, this. Personally I raise plenty of not-an-answer flags but only find that one in ten are should-be-comment flags... the rest delete. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Apr 6 '11 at 9:02
  • We have a lot of non-answers on Gaming, and most would fit as comments. Would it be better if we deleted them instead? – juan Jan 22 '12 at 15:28
  • @juan I find most such answers are of little value though there are rare exceptions – Jeff Atwood Jan 22 '12 at 16:56

In most cases, there is no need to convert these answers to comments. Lots of non-answers are just me toos, thank yous, and other similar junk that isn't necessary as a comment. Even witty quips don't typically get converted.

A prevalence of the privilege means an increased utility of that privilege. What we really don't want to see is high rep users and moderators becoming proxies for low rep users to post comments. We can restrict conversion from becoming a "norm" much easier when it's a rarer event.

The more wide-spread comment conversion becomes as a general practice, the "more forgiveable" it becomes to post non-answers, also extending the tolerance of "Oh, just convert that" instead of deleting plain junk. Worst case scenario, we start getting post prefixes of "I'm posting this as an answer so that someone with high enough reputation can convert it".

Unless a significant number of those hundreds of flags are actually preservation worthy, I don't think it's really useful to expand the reach of this privilege.

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    I don't see the case for abuse; by the time a user figures out they can abuse it, they'll probably have over 50 rep. And, if it becomes obvious a user is abusing, you don't necessarily have to convert. You can always flag as a second option. – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 21:21
  • @Will I'm not so much concerned about any individual user learning to abuse the system, as I am creating any sort of dependency or expectation that answers should be converted to comments. Are there really that many preservation-worthy non-answers out there? – Grace Note Apr 5 '11 at 21:29
  • I'd have to sit down and do some analysis to actually answer that. It isn't a 100% solution to the problem, just a way to help take some of the pressure off. – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 21:31
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    @Will If the problem is the pressure from the volume of non-answer flags, then increasing access to comment-conversion is a solution to a different problem. We already have delete votes for 10k and 20k users to use on non-answers - if they're thus far insufficient, that is probably where a solution should be looking. – Grace Note Apr 5 '11 at 21:34

I'm a little nervous about 10/20K's having access to something so powerful. There's a lot of room for error and abuse. And with so many people having this power, the line between comment and answer might be difficult to pin down.

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    I imagine that if it were expanded to non-♦, there'd be some restrictions like with deleting answers (possibly tied to author rep, even). So at worst, the abuse would be limitted to editing the post aforehand and converting the edited post and misrepresenting the original author. Which... in retrospect... is actually pretty bad. But I don't expect many 10k-20k users would stoop to that. – Grace Note Apr 5 '11 at 21:17
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    Feh. Its easy to undo, and you can see who did it (via who deleted the original answer). – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 21:18
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    @GraceNote: Good point, you can't convert to comment if the user has 50+ rep. – user1228 Apr 5 '11 at 21:19
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    This is easy to solve: Congrats, you've gained a new privilege: Infallibility. – Pekka Apr 5 '11 at 21:50

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