124

I posted an answer (pointing to another question already asked) but when I hit submit, I saw my answer appear as a comment to the question instead.

I tried it a couple of times and still the same result. The answer gets eaten up and is transformed into a comment.

Is this a bug?

85

Trivial answers containing a link to another question in the network are automatically converted to comments on the question, with the message

Trivial answer converted to comment

Poking some folks about perhaps a wee bit more indication that that happens, looked like a bug to me at first too.


auto-comment conversion feedback
About what it'd look like, mildly faked image though

After some internal discussion, when we convert an answer auto-magically we'll do the "linked answer" fade + a one time message to the poster only. This will not survive navigating away from the page, by design.

  • 35
    I would say that if it confuses those who know about it, it's probably not good UI design :) – Daniel DiPaolo Jul 18 '11 at 23:08
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    @dan well, we really want these users who post "answers" that are short links to other SE, Inc questions to ... stop ... so it's either do this, or have your "answer" downvoted and/or deleted. – Jeff Atwood Jul 18 '11 at 23:10
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    @Daniel - I didn't actually know about it. I agree its confusing, tweaking that a bit if I can. – Kevin Montrose Jul 18 '11 at 23:11
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    I've updated the list of current automatic content modifications to include this. – user7116 Jul 18 '11 at 23:15
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    @Jeff apologies, what would be helpful is to display a message at the top explaining what's happened, and a link to a faq page explaining similar behaviour and desired usage. I know I for one would be too lazy to read it until I do something that I get notified is undesired. – Michael Jul 18 '11 at 23:43
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    @Jeff, Is this something which could be relaxed on Meta? I understand the utility on Stack Overflow, etc, but here -- when users ask if something is off-topic, for example -- I have thought a one sentence explanation and a link to a similar question would suffice?? – M. Tibbits Jul 20 '11 at 4:08
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    This is poor. With 91k rep on SO I'm sure I've got the hang of answering questions... – gbn Jul 21 '11 at 10:50
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    @Jeff can you explain why you dont want short answers (I take it this is what is meant by trivial) that link to an answer to another question. This is why I want the faq because I'm relatively new and don't understand this. I've tried searching meta and found one understandable reason mentioned here meta.stackexchange.com/questions/17447 for answers like "why don't you post it over here" but is that really common? The most common reason I would have thought is linking to an answer that answers the question which this meta question says is ok meta.stackexchange.com/questions/21270 – Michael Jul 22 '11 at 23:54
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    @Jeff if this behaviour was mainly intended for "why don't you post it over here" or "I think your question is similar to" then why not exclude links to answers from this behaviour so that only answers with links to questions or faq pages etc are automatically converted to a comment. – Michael Jul 22 '11 at 23:58
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    Can we do this for all answers where the link is more than 10% of the total answer length, for any link (not just internal links)? A link is not an answer - it's a pointer to an answer, perhaps, but not an answer. – Adam Davis 'ze-zir-zem' Aug 1 '11 at 23:21
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    @JeffAtwood, can you post that as an answer so I can downvote you? Sometimes the answer is just short. – Ben Jan 25 '12 at 15:51
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    I find it amusing that even if I am unable to comment on a question I can answer trivially, and thus still comment. An oversight if you ask me. – scape Oct 16 '12 at 14:42
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    @JeffAtwood What happened to letting the community decide whether an answer was good enough to be one or not? Now you're allowing Skynet to make that decision and it fails just like it did in Terminator. – The Muffin Man Mar 27 '13 at 18:25
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    @Nick While I'm also frustrated by the feature, the community is really bad at voting on things like this. People definitely upvote trivial answers. People upvote answers that are explicitly copies of answers from other questions. And even high-rep users sometimes post things that are too trivial. The one time I ran into this, I realized I was indeed doing a bad job of summarizing what I was linking to. It's just the implementation that's problematic. – Cascabel Apr 6 '13 at 17:33
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    So, actually, users having less than 50 rep can comment, but they must post an aswer with a link and their comment is very short. I think it should be placed in FAQ under 'How can I make comments having less than 50 rep'. – Danubian Sailor Dec 20 '13 at 13:36
133

This feature is really undesirable. Some questions may be answered perfectly well in a couple of sentences.

"var is deprecated, and you forgot the $ in $idgen" is perfectly acceptable as an answer, especially when I explicitly didn't want to just throw the full completed code snippet at the OP.

It doesn't help that the conversion kept the answer-style decoupled link syntax, which comment Markdown doesn't support; thus my post was (a) completely mangled, (b) not posted where I wanted it to be posted, and (c) not posted where it belonged.

At 28.5k rep, I know what an answer looks like and what a comment looks like. Stop second guessing me!

  • 6
    The problem was that you were linking to another Stack Overflow question. If you'd linked to the original source then it might have OK. – ChrisF Jul 20 '11 at 13:16
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    I'm with you. It needs weighted for, say, user rep – gbn Jul 21 '11 at 10:49
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    Just to add - if you're linking to another Stack Overflow question, maybe you should be voting to close as a duplicate. – ChrisF Aug 9 '11 at 11:52
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    @ChrisF: No. You should vote to close as a duplicate when the question is a duplicate; no other time. That's why it's called "closing as a duplicate". – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 9 '11 at 11:57
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    I did say maybe - I agree it's not always the case, but it's usually a good indication. – ChrisF Aug 9 '11 at 12:01
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    @ChrisF: In fact, 100% of the time when I'm linking to another SO question, it's not a duplicate. Because if it's a duplicate, I vote to close as such. :) – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 9 '11 at 12:06
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    bah, this kinda sucks ... my "answer" is in fact to point them to the other SO answer which answered it much better. Now it can't be chosen as the answer to the question - this will only suggest people that they should copy/paste the other answer. – Joel Martinez Aug 13 '11 at 21:43
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    In this case, the other answer didn't answer the question at hand. "You need a linker" was the answer. The link was for additional information -- essentially, answering the OP's next question. – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 24 '11 at 11:42
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    I'm with you. This is incredibly annoying and disgustingly paternalistic. I'm going to avoid contributing to stackoverflow in the future since it evidently already knows the answers better than I do. – c-urchin Nov 10 '11 at 15:40
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    StackOverflow got mad at you for the stuff between the <!-- and -->. – Mateen Ulhaq Nov 24 '11 at 5:56
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    @muntoo: No, I added that on my third attempt. – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 24 '11 at 14:08
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    Can't agree more, I'm tired of SO second-guessing me and insulting my intelligence... – HC4 - reinstate Monica Apr 10 '12 at 21:32
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    @Catfish: To be fair, "I found how to get all of the results from this answer stackoverflow.com/questions/14829130/…" is not an answer. – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 16 '14 at 13:54
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    @Catfish: Links are not answers, and that's been done to death on Meta already. If your question turned out to be the same as some other question, vote to close it as a duplicate. If an answer to a marginally-related question helped, link to it but also quote enough information so that it makes sense on your question. Show the final code. Don't just write "I got my answer here" as that is not an answer but a blog entry. :) – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 16 '14 at 15:45
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    @Alex: Yeah I'm saying it must have changed – Lightness Races with Monica Jul 13 '17 at 17:54
13

This is terrible. If it's another question on the same site, then I get it- it's a duplicate, effectively. But if the question is on a different site, then it's not a duplicate and the questioner could not have found it by searching the site he was on.

Come on guys, this is definitively unnecessary.

  • 4
    It's still a trivial answer, regardless of whether it's a viable duplicate. If you're going to answer a question, answer it with a real answer - not just a link. – Josh Darnell Jul 2 '12 at 14:31
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    @jadarnel27: It was a real answer. That answer happened to be both short and contain a link to another question. But it was still an answer. – DeadMG Jul 2 '12 at 14:46
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    Here's the answer that's typically link to concerning link-only answers. The most important bit (I think) is this: "...the question "answer" should actually contain an answer. Not just a bunch of directions towards the answer." – Josh Darnell Jul 2 '12 at 14:53
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    @jadarnel27: It was a perfectly good answer. The link just happened to add more content. – DeadMG Jul 3 '12 at 10:21
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    Sorry, I wasn't trying to say your specific answer wasn't helpful, or even correct. It's just not a good answer answer for Stack Exchange - because it makes people chase the answer (through the link) and it's quite possible that it won't be useful to future visitors (due to link rot). – Josh Darnell Jul 3 '12 at 12:15
8

Post your answer without the link; then edit in the link.

For example post this answer:

According to the dev lead at company X this is not currently possible.

Then edit the answer to this:

According to the dev lead at company X [this is not currently possible](https://stackoverflow.com/link-to-relevant-post).

Linked example of this working.

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