I've been stalking through the Unanswered Questions category on SO looking for reasonable questions that have slipped through the cracks, and have run into a lot of questions that look like reasonable questions with 0 answers, but turn out to have a bunch of discussion as comments on the question, ending with "thanks, so-and-so, I figured out my problem".

Is there anything I can do besides downvoting them to help weed those questions out from the ones that are just tough nuts to crack?

EDIT: Here are some examples:

  • Hopefully this isn't a duplicate. I saw several other questions asking about marking my own question as solved when there's not a great answer, or tagging answers as not being constructive, but not this exactly.
    – Mu Mind
    May 6, 2011 at 3:07
  • May you provide a link to a couple of those questions?
    – apaderno
    May 6, 2011 at 3:07
  • @kiamlaluno, examples provided!
    – Mu Mind
    May 6, 2011 at 3:10
  • BTW, I mentioned downvoting thinking of some particular questions that didn't get answered bc they were poorly asked / barely questions, such as this: stackoverflow.com/questions/2108438/python-openid-library-usage (and somehow still had a positive score?). I wouldn't downvote a question purely because it's not properly answered, but as a side-effect I think it helps to see at a glance: "poor question, no answers".
    – Mu Mind
    May 6, 2011 at 10:32
  • @Mu Mind Even in that case, I would first leave a comment, before to down vote a question for that reason. I would rather down vote a question that is a duplicate of another one, if both the questions use a similar title; yet, it's not always OPs' fault, if they ask a question already asked: there are some questions with a title completely unrelated with what the question is.
    – apaderno
    May 6, 2011 at 12:28
  • Can you answer your own question in a way that would help others? If you do, you can select yours as the correct answer. It may seem strange, but it is preferred way to handle situations like this.
    – user1228
    May 6, 2011 at 14:40
  • @Will you mean this question itself? The questions I'm referring to in this question would all be other people's questions.
    – Mu Mind
    May 6, 2011 at 14:46
  • @MuMind: That's the comment I put on questions like the ones you are asking about. Feel free to copypaste it.
    – user1228
    May 6, 2011 at 14:51
  • possible duplicate of Mark a comment as answer to a question Oct 30, 2014 at 16:44

3 Answers 3


If the comments combine to lead to an answer, I'd summarise them into an answer, and probably flag to get the redundant comments cleaned up.

If it's been a dead end for 'a while', then I'd flag for deletion.

There's a fine line (that moves) on when a comment is or isn't an answer, and you can't please everyone - if you don't want to risk a rep-hit for a small answer, you can always mark as cw (or you don't feel good about earning rep from someone else's answers)


In Selenium in Python, one of the comment should have been an answer, as (basing on what reported by the OP) the suggestion reported in that comment worked.
In How to create complex data-bindings for webpage <select> boxes?, the OP reported (using other words) that he was asking the wrong question. In such a case, if I would have asked that question, I would have deleted it, or answered to my question and accepted that as answer, if I would have thought somebody could have been interested to the answer.
In Django makemessages errors Unknown encoding "utf8", a user asked a question to better understand the situation, but then gave an hint about the error message. Probably that user should have answered the question, pointing out what the OP should have done, instead of adding a comment to give a hint to the OP.

Talking of what you can do in that situations, you can add a comment suggesting that what reported in the comment is really an answer, and as such should be written. I would use comments to ask a clarification on the question, as I did with this question when I asked you to add some links to the questions you were referring to.
I don't think that down voting the questions is correct; they are real questions. If the OP asks a question, and after 5 minutes he reports he found the answer, or that he is asking the wrong question, then I would think that he could have waited 5 minutes more before to ask the question, but that is a different topic.

  • 2
    If you find a question where a comment should'be been an answer, you can also post it as an answer yourself and harvest the delicious rep points.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    May 6, 2011 at 3:49
  • @Anna Lear It would be unfair, if I don't understand what reported in the comment, or I don't agree with what reported in that comment. Even in that case, I generally prefer to expand what reported in the comment, when possible. (Of course this is what I prefer to do, and it doesn't mean I am correct :-).)
    – apaderno
    May 6, 2011 at 3:53
  • @kiamlaluno Okay, point. :) I meant more in the case where the answer is actually correct and you're familiar with the subject matter.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    May 6, 2011 at 3:54
  • @Anna Lear We can say we agree, in this case, differently from the topic "it is off-topic to ask about function names on EL&U."
    – apaderno
    May 6, 2011 at 3:56
  • 1
    @Anna (and Kiamlaluno, but you'll get to see this without me addressing you): The answer can be posted 'Community Wiki'; that way, you don't get the undeserved rep for someone else's answer, but the question does get the answer it deserves. Then you have to hope the user accepts that answer! May 6, 2011 at 4:00
  • @Jonathan Leffler That is a good point; in that way, if somebody wants to add some details more, s/he can do it. This would be of benefit for the question, and who reads it.
    – apaderno
    May 6, 2011 at 4:12
  • @kiamlaluno Excellent. So next time we speak we should disagree about something to keep the pattern going. :)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    May 6, 2011 at 5:13
  • @Anna Lear I disagree on that. ;-)
    – apaderno
    May 6, 2011 at 5:17
  • @kiamlaluno I..uh...agree? Disagree? brain explodes ;)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    May 6, 2011 at 5:21

Post a comment to inform the OP that s/he is eligible to post the answer as a real answer instead of a comment, if necessary along with a link to Should I not answer my own questions?

In absence of feedback (or when the OP is such an unregistered user who hasn't visited the site for long according the profile), I would choose between voting for close as Too Localized or to post the answer myself if it has really community value, depending on how really valuable it is for the community.

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