This is a trend I've noticed more in 2017 than before, which is people posting information or points that could be answers to a question in the comments section. While this isn't a bad behaviour (people don't have to answer if they don't want to) I can't help but feel that people are missing out on recognition they deserve, and some questions are going unanswered as a result of people reading answers in the comments.

A good example is this: A cargo ship as big as a star destroyer, where the first comment points out a real world engineering answer to the question and the second a more socially oriented one (wrapped up in a question). At the time of me asking this there is no answer to the question.

So what is the best way to encourage people to promote their comments to answers?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Post a comment telling them to convert their comment to an answer. It's what we've been doing. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Jan 17 '17 at 13:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I more meant as an overall (pre-emptive) thing than on a case by case basis, though I appreciate the irony inherent in your comment. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jan 17 '17 at 13:24
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I think that comment would be better suited as an answer $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Jan 19 '17 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, this is bad behavior, by the rules of the Stack. Mainsite, comments' purpose is to improve the post to which they're attached by requesting clarification, suggesting a change, &c. Cf. When should I comment?. True nobody has to answer, but they should not be using comments for other than their designed purpose. $\endgroup$
    – nitsua60
    Jan 20 '17 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ @nitsua60 omgh, people try to figure out the key point of the question, and that the attempt to do iso looks like an answer does not mean it is the answer. Also, the clarification attempt does not mean the user is interested in providing the answer to the question. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jan 22 '17 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ Since I was the 1st commentor on the cargo ship question, let me explain. I have actually been purposefully commenting instead of answering a lot of questions of late to try to spread around the reputation wealth. I got a bazillion rep over the last 3 months and I'm sort of trying to encourage new users to be more active. I was leaving the information in a comment in hopes that some other newer user would use it as a base to write a full answer. It wasn't really successful for that answer, though. Whoops, crap, I answered in a comment again :) $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Jan 27 '17 at 3:04

For a case-by-case basis, I use something like this:

Comments are temporary; please use the "Your Answer" form at the bottom of the page so your solution can be voted on and so others can find it more easily.

For a broader solution, that's a community issue. Comments like the above (which explain why it's a good thing to do) go a long way to building that community awareness. Meta can also play a role; using the tag on a post like this one can help raise awareness and spur folks to action.

And if you're not feeling particularly charitable, steal it and make your own answer. This preserves the information for future users in the sortable, searchable way the site needs, which is really the point of the whole Stack Exchange thing. You might as well get some points for knowing how to curate the site's content, and there's nothing like missing out on perfectly good rep to light a fire under some folks. You can mention the commentor's name in your answer if you're feeling super nice, but they didn't want to stake their site reputation on it and you are. (Community Wiki is dead for these situations, its purpose lies elsewhere.)

Of course, this requires the community to also curate its comments efficiently. If chatty and answery comments languish for weeks or years, then the site has no teeth and might as well be a poorly-laid-out discussion forum. So part of keeping answers out of comments is to keep the scrub brush clear and fix the broken windows.

  • $\begingroup$ Rather than stealing it outright, can you create an answer and make it a community wiki? Also attribute the answer to the original commentator. $\endgroup$ Jan 17 '17 at 16:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @MikeofSST Credit is nice, but not necessary. Community wiki is not nice and very unnecessary, for a great many reasons that would require metas of their own. $\endgroup$
    – BESW
    Jan 17 '17 at 23:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you take a bare-bones comment that addresses the question in a constructive way, and let it inspire you to write a high quality answer, then credit is optional. Otherwise, we’d have to give credit to our teachers, family and friends after every other sentence. But if you take a comment and copy it, word for word into an answer, then attribution is necessary, right? Plagiarism is still plagiarism. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 '17 at 16:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PeregrineRook A comment should never become an answer unmodified, because answers should explain why and how, support their solutions, and otherwise be more than 600 characters. (Also, plagiarism is a funny thing on a site where all our content is licensed under CC-ASA.) $\endgroup$
    – BESW
    Jan 18 '17 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ @BESW: (1) It’s easy to interpret “steal it and make your own answer” as being redundant; neither your answer nor the one you link to elaborates on the “make your own answer” part.  Ironically, you seem to have fallen into the very same trap you’re discussing: your comment, “A comment should never become an answer unmodified, because answers should explain why and how, support their solutions, and otherwise be more than 600 characters,” should be part of your answer.  … (Cont’d) $\endgroup$ Jan 19 '17 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ (Cont’d) …  (2) You claim that a good answer cannot fit into 600 characters.  The community disagrees with you.  This query lists 5928 answers (on Worldbuilding) that are ≤ 600 characters and are either accepted or have a positive score.  (For fun, I computed a “Ranking” that is the score, plus 5 if it’s accepted, plus 600/(number of characters), capped at 6.)  There are about 20 answers with a ranking above 100. … (Cont’d) $\endgroup$ Jan 19 '17 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ (Cont’d) … (3) OK, maybe, plagiarism is slightly too strong a word. But surely you realize that the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike (CC-ASA) license requires attribution, a.k.a. appropriate credit. $\endgroup$ Jan 19 '17 at 5:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ At this point it sounds like you might want to write your own answer so folks can vote on it. $\endgroup$
    – BESW
    Jan 19 '17 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ @PeregrineRook no, copy paste shall not be considered as plagiarism of any form, but mean to discourage post answers into comments. Those whom it is important will not post answers into comments, for all others it would mean they do not care, for different reasons(not sure it is the answer, do not like to have short or not high quality answers in list or their answers, not in mood to clarify the answer + high quality of their answers, do not care is that answer or not, whatever reason they have to do so) $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jan 22 '17 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg Unattributed copy and paste is plagiarism. What basis do you have for saying otherwise? Are you saying that “copy paste” is never plagiarism, or just that comments may be copied freely (unlike answers, which may not)? $\endgroup$ Jan 22 '17 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ @PeregrineRook I say it have to be considered as a legitimate course of action if one think he sees an answer in a comment to a question, no attribution is needed. I have no interest to talk about plagiarism in the world ethics etc. Everything I said in the and previous comment is about WB its questions answers and comments. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jan 22 '17 at 23:27

Bribery is worth a shot!

When I run into cases that are clearly a worthwhile answer (especially a self-answer) in a comment, I simply post a comment saying "Post this as an answer and I'll upvote you for it."

  • $\begingroup$ just copy and get free points $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jan 22 '17 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg -- really not fair to new users who simply need gentle guidance about how things work. $\endgroup$
    – Shalvenay
    Jan 22 '17 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ good point, yeah that may be a case to say that the comment worth to be an answer, just in case if they were not sure about it. Or to say that by extending the information this could be an answer. I just do not recall so much shy comments, yeah, may be. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jan 22 '17 at 23:55

You could "suggest" that comments be made into answers by removing the incentives to post answer-like comments instead of comments.

The reason I (and I think others) post answer-like comments is because of the negatives incurred by a short or incomplete answer. Examples:

  • It's somewhat common, for example, that I can say, "On topic X, book Y would be useful to read." Putting an entire answer together that highlights relevant passages from the book takes time. Would it be helpful to write that up? Probably. But if I don't have the time, should I just leave the information out? I think it is more helpful to the person asking the question to leave the comment and let them investigate if they so choose.
  • I'll also post answer-like comments when I'm supplying brainstorming fodder. "An answer to this question might come from investigating XYZ." I had one of those this morning (see my comment on the main question).

I do not think we should weaken the answer system. But it does seem like there should be some way of recording "info that leads to an answer" separate from both comments and existing answers. I don't like the answers I got on my meta-question about recording recommended reading. I continue to think there's a hole in Stack Exchange setup for this type of information. And that hole encourages the answer-like comment.

  • $\begingroup$ there a lot of holes in SE, but seems we have to adapt to the system, rather system will adapt to us. Most "brilliant" ideas aren't that brilliant after all )) $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Jan 22 '17 at 18:46

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