I've noticed a few questions since I joined this SE page that have answers or partial answers in the comment section, rather than as actual answers, not sure what we can do about this other than moderation.


Clarification is of course okay, but there seems to be a tendency to answer where answers do not go, imo.

Some links: Length of line on specific point (from point layer)

Simple way to have an offline web based map?

Perhaps there could be an effort to ensure we all (I've done it on other SE sites in the past) try to keep answers out of comments more

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    Can you please edit and add a link to the example you've included in the screenshot? – Midavalo Feb 1 '17 at 15:57
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    How else is one to answer questions that are on hold? – dbaston Feb 1 '17 at 19:44
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    @dbaston by editing to improve the questions so that they can be re-opened. If you think a particular question needs no improvement in order to answer it then flag a moderator using the other option to explain that so they can assess whether instant re-opening is warranted. – PolyGeo Feb 1 '17 at 20:31
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    @PolyGeo, thanks, I'll try that next time. – dbaston Feb 1 '17 at 21:03
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    I'm quite surprised that nobody has attempted to answer this question in a comment – TDavis Feb 7 '17 at 16:04
  • @PolyGeo That's what I actually did with this (now removed) question: gis.stackexchange.com/questions/226989/… ... imo, the question was complete with my edits, and the answer in my comment also turned out to be right... so why was the question removed? Should I have extra flagged a moderator? – andzep Feb 14 '17 at 15:26

If people write their answer in a comment, without any plan to make a proper answer later, they have basically given out a free answer to anyone willing to finalize it and capture all the precious internet points for themselves. Maybe the solution is to encourage people to poach any comment-answers they can find. With 17,300 unanswered questions, even if there are only answer-comments in 1% of the cases, that's still 1,730 points based on one vote per answer.

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    I agree with this idea. It may seem at first glance to be "unsporting" but if it gets more questions answered then it is good for the site. I know that I already do this, and whenever I do, I hope the commenter will notice, and write an even better first person answer so that I can delete mine which was based on quoting their comment. – PolyGeo Feb 7 '17 at 3:49
  • I always thought about the "unsporting" issue that may arise, but your viewpoint makes sense. – whyzar Feb 7 '17 at 15:18
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    I think for very recent comment answers, perhaps, but fairly often, even with prompting to write as an answer, it gets left undone. I'd say give a fair amount of grace period before swooping in. Questioners who are able to use the comment to solve their problem are in a good position to write a proper answer out of it, and maybe pick up a badge out of doing so – TDavis Feb 7 '17 at 15:53
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    I found a self-answered question in a comment here (gis.stackexchange.com/questions/8300/…), and produced an answer for it as PolyGeo suggested here (meta.stackexchange.com/a/270231/215590) – TDavis Feb 7 '17 at 20:06

I have noticed the same and agree despite being guilty of it myself. There are many answers (or almost answers) being offered in comments, however I think we do OK with handling these when they actually provide a useful answer.

I think many people (myself included) put these as comments as they're just a suggestion rather than a well thought out and/or tested answer. More a suggestion of something to try. When a moderator comes across one that looks like it may actually answer the question (or where the asker has said it has) we will usually ask the commenter to turn the comment into an answer.

Without seeing the actual question I don't believe your example is an answer though - if the suggested approach works it may actually mean the question is a duplicate and should be closed as such.

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    I read it in context (1st link) as a very lazy answer, in that that method would sort of be a start, but the suggested addition merits it as an actual answer, and should perhaps be presented as such. It seems to me like just a general slipping of formality rather than any malicious or negligent activity, though. – coneypylon Feb 1 '17 at 16:46
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    I'm probably guilty of this as well; I also leave comments that may look like answers, although I generally won't actually put it as an answer unless I'm confident it really works. This isn't due to laziness, but I may not have the software/tools to test the answer or the subject isn't something I'm as familiar with...In some cases, it's a guess or I just want to rule out something simple, but at times a suggestion is enough to give another user an idea to create a good answer. – Evil Genius Feb 1 '17 at 18:10
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    Sometimes its a trite answer (where I don't think much of the question - often for lack of demonstrated effort), sometimes its a partial answer, sometimes its a vague suggestion because the actual question isn't that clear or I'm not all that sure... – BradHards Feb 3 '17 at 6:10
  • Giving someone -- even the ultimate answerer -- a nudge in the right direction is a useful contribution that should not be stifled. – J Kelly Feb 9 '17 at 20:46

We cannot force users to post answers as answers, rather than comments, but we can all encourage them to do so.

There are 17,300 unanswered questions still open for answers, and many of them have at least partial or brief full answers in their comments. I would like to encourage frequent commenters to consider, when making them, whether their comments might suffice as a brief answer.

I often make a comment encouraging them to write their comment as an answer, but I would far prefer to see an answer posted at the outset.

  • What has to happen to make a question 'answered'? just an answer, a 1+ voted answer, or an accepted answer? – TDavis Feb 7 '17 at 23:52
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    @TDavis There are two ways that "unanswered" gets defined within SE (which I don't agree with). In this case, my understanding is that the question needs at least one answer and at least one answer must have a net upvote or an accept checkmark on it. I think there can be a little lag (maybe 5-10 mins) before a question that attains the criteria comes off the "unanswered" list. – PolyGeo Feb 7 '17 at 23:58
  • @TDavis My comment to you above seems to be supported by meta.stackexchange.com/questions/18870/… – PolyGeo Feb 8 '17 at 0:00

Yes, answers to Questions should be in Answers, but when the issue is something trivial like a Python syntax error, it hardly seems worth the effort to put down the phone, find a desktop and provide a true Answer, especially when the Question could be (justifiably) closed as off-topic before I could hit the "Post Your Answer" button.

There are plenty of times each day when I have time to scan for interesting problems, but there are fewer opportunities to spend 40+ minutes constructing and testing an Answer. The way I see it, if a 1-sentence comment can solve a Question, then it isn't much of a question, and it's not really worth the effort of a formal answer.

I've been encouraged to convert a comment to an answer on occasion, but haven't on all of the opportunities because of the time investment required. I admit that the older ones, especially for users who haven't been logged in for more than a year, seem like throwing good money after bad.

The maximum size on comments has grown significantly in the 3-1/2 years I've been a member, but it's still not large enough to house a proper Answer, so I'm not worried that comments are going to replace answers. (In fact, the response previous to this sentence was deemed "too long by 669 characters" to be a comment, which kind-of proves my point.)

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    Your comment about "especially when the question could be closed...before I could hit the answer button" is spot on. It's always frustrating to take the time to write a real answer to a question, only to have the question be put on hold before you can post your answer. – dbaston Feb 3 '17 at 21:54
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    @dbaston Next time you find yourself in that situation if you raise a flag to explain that you have an answer ready and I am the one to respond to it, then I will usually re-open instantly to give you the opportunity to do so. As far as I know we never knowingly turn away useful content in answers, even if it is to a closeworthy question. – PolyGeo Feb 4 '17 at 2:29
  • @Vince I know I sometimes comment that one of your comments would be fine as a brief answer, and if I come back to see that its still a comment and not an answer then I can understand your time constraints and simply write an answer that quotes your comment. Don't stop commenting because many of yours are gold! – PolyGeo Feb 4 '17 at 2:36

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