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Lower the amount of reputation needed to comment

I understand why Stack Overflow does not allow new users to comment everywhere: this keeps discussions from being dominated by "me toos!" and other potential spam left by new users who have no intention of or reason to be a respectful contributing member of the Stack Overflow community. Unfortunately, this means that many new users simply leave their comments as new answers instead, which is arguably worse because

  1. it takes up more screen real estate and
  2. it clutters up the answers section of the page rather than the comments—at least comments will auto-collapse when discussions get long!

Besides, any poor comments left by new users can be flagged for moderators' attention anyway.

Could someone explain why it is better to allow new user spam in the form of answers rather than comments?

UPDATE: My concern appears to be the same as the one voiced in this question, but as far as I can tell Jeff's answer essentially boils down to this: there are few enough new users who would provide constructive comments asking for clarification that it is disallowed.

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    If you see an answer that should have been a comment (or any answer that doesn't really answer the question) please flag it for Moderator attention. – ale Jun 13 '11 at 19:15
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    Here, and all the links provided at there, should be some reading on the reasoning. – Grace Note Jun 13 '11 at 19:16
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    @Al That's precisely why I asked the question. I just found two dozen such answers in the space of a day, and there's no signs of it abating. While that's nice in that it allows users to gain the Deputy badge, it seems like it could indicate a defect in the overall system design. – Chris Frederick Jun 13 '11 at 19:17
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    please add your finding strategy to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/83075/… - and you may enjoy some of the suggestions already there. – Kate Gregory Jun 13 '11 at 19:18
  • This question is kinda strange. Your title says Mechanism to Allow New Users to Comment Everywhere which implies that you have an idea on this. Your question however is just a question that asks for reasons why it is the way it is. – Octavian A. Damiean Jun 14 '11 at 6:21

Answers can be downvoted; comments cannot. Answers appear in /review; comments do not. Answers carry value, a benefit worth incurring the risks of spam; comments do not - many are questions, jokes, and "I don't know but I'll check when I get home" or "I have this problem too, please somebody answer". Answers are what this site is all about. Comments are not.

The one use case for low-rep users to comment is that they might want to ask for clarification on a question before answering it. I think even that scenario is suspect. IMO, you can't really "ask for clarification" correctly as a complete newcomer to the site. Is this question a duplicate? Is this question mis-tagged? Is this a FGITW tag like C# where half the world's population will see it in the next 30 seconds, or is it more a Windows-Error-Reporting kinda thing where you have roughly two weeks, maybe three, before you might be gazumped? While you're typing a comment like "what version of Visual Studio are you using?" have three other people copied-and-pasted their standard "For Visual Studio 2010, do X, and for Visual Studio 2008, do Y" answer? You won't know till you've been here a while. Your only hope is to look for questions that can be answered as they stand. All of us did, somehow.

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    Is there a reason comments couldn't be downvote-able? Or appear in /review? Are "me too" or spam answers any better than "me too" or spam comments? And if answers are what the site is about, then why make it so Joe Noob has to "answer" in order to comment, and thus create answers that have no value as such? – cHao Jun 13 '11 at 20:02
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    @cHao: First, comments are intended to be ephemeral (and thus are "second-class citizens", without the full process), answers are not. Second, users can comment on their own questions and answers. Third, comment limit is currently at five (count them, 5) upvotes - last time I tried, it took me 20 minutes of not exactly significant effort (three non-crap answers, IIRC), and then you can comment until the cows come home. – Piskvor left the building Jun 13 '11 at 20:38
  • @Piskvor 's Monkeys :P Thing is, if a new user's trying to answer a question to get those 5 measly upvotes, but needs clarification, they have no way to ask for it. IIRC they can't even flag the question as "low quality" or "not a real question" -- it's just noise to them. Something feels broken about that. – cHao Jun 13 '11 at 20:42
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    @cHao: In my attempt to get 50 points, I haven't been able to answer just any question - most of the 20 minutes I have spent looking at the new questions, looking for one answerable with given data. If you mean "user experience is limited at lowest rep levels", yes, that is one design goal of reputation: as you get more trusted, you get better tools. (IIRC, commenting used to be a free action initially, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth; this was upped to the 50+ rep limit due the humongous amount of noise - orders of magnitude higher than current answers-as-comments) – Piskvor left the building Jun 13 '11 at 21:03
  • @Piskvor: You don't recall correctly; such was never the case – Lawrence Dol Jul 13 '11 at 17:16
  • "attempt to get 50 points" I hope I misunderstood that, because it strikes me as one downside to sites like this. If my goal is to get points, my answers will not be as helpful as if my goal is to be helpful. – WGroleau Jun 8 '12 at 14:45

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