I've found that when I answer a difficult question, I have a tendency to "adopt" the question. What I mean by this is that I follow the question because I want to see what other people are doing to find solutions, and I've already invested the effort to understand the nuances of the question, so I am suddenly very qualified to evaluate and critique most answers.

The result is that I am often commenting on other peoples' answers causing little conversations like this:

Joe Bob: Here is my answer, it is very cool.

Chris Cunningham: I'm not sure; does this properly handle corner case x?

Joe Bob: @Chris Cunningham Good point; I've modified my answer to fix that.

Chris Cunningham: @Joe Bob Okay, but now what about corner case y which used to work but doesn't now?

Joe Bob: @Chris Cunningham I don't understand what you mean by corner case y.

Is this obnoxious, helpful, against Stack Overflow policy/etiquette, or just completely unremarkable?

One possible reason this practice might be harmful is that it may set a high barrier to entry for new people to post answers, since it looks like someone has already adopted the question and is viciously critiquing every attempt to help. One way the practice is helpful is that it provides nearly instant feedback to new answers and might drastically improve the quality of answers.

Am I missing anything?

  • 3
    If you're critiquing minor issues with an otherwise solid answer, one way to make it clear you're not merely attacking them is to upvote their answer when you leave the first comment. Only do this if you think it actually deserves the upvote, though, kinda sketchy otherwise. – McCannot Jul 1 '11 at 20:37

It is beneficial and encouraged (albeit maybe a bit unremarkable) in the case that your comments are:

  • Constructive
  • Not inflammatory
  • Not spammy
  • Correct

Your example definitely meets those criteria. If you're keeping to the good citizen principles then you're doing well and I'd encourage you to continue!


It is totally valid and very good that you do it. That only shows that you care about the content on the site and that you want the answers to be as correct and helpful as possible.

Stack Overflow is not that much about not stepping someone on the foot (of course you should always be respectful) but about gathering knowledge in a high quality manner. The higher the quality, the more correct an answer the better because future readers will benefit from that.

So in essence, yes, do it!


Is this obnoxious, helpful, against Stack Overflow policy/etiquette, or just completely unremarkable?

I'd say its completely unremarkable.

If you look at this data.SE query Top 10 users comments on competing answers * the top 10 SO users have commented collectively 10K times on other user's answers. If you look through them you'll find the dialog you've described quite often.

*(assuming I've written it correctly)

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