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It happens every now and then that someone posts what is actually an answer as a comment to the question. That is, something that actually addresses the question being asked, perhaps succintly, but in a way that would be an answer that could be voted up or down but not legitimately flagged as "not an answer" if it were posted in the answer section.

Note the purpose of the comment section:

Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Avoid answering questions in comments.

Even so, I have recently flagged at least two comments that were in my opinion answers in disguise. We don't need to discuss the particular examples, but I found it noteworthy that one of these flags was accepted as helpful, and the other was declined, neither with any feedback to me other than that.

Compare on Photography where they even have a pretty heavily upvoted Meta post Short answers as comments — please resist the urge as well as the less heavily upvoted but still with general agreement Should we encourge / allow comments with helpful advice to questions we know will be closed?

How does Worldbuilding SE feel about answers posted as comments?

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    $\begingroup$ I hadn't seen either of the relevant flags, I believe, but on one of them, the commenter has since stated that they had previously been criticized for posting partial answers, and felt that in this case, they could not write a complete answer. I'd have accepted the flag, but I'll just note that it might also be worth having a discussion about partial answers, and how everyone feels about them. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 May 25 '17 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Like I said, it's not really about the specific flags. I don't imagine that every single flag I raise is going to be helpful; that's fine. But I will admit that it's a bit frustrating when some flags are accepted as helpful and others are declined, when my reason for flagging was exactly the same (even going so far as leaving the exact same flag message in both cases). That uncertainty doesn't really help improve my helpful flags ratio! $\endgroup$ – user May 25 '17 at 15:27
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I'll resist leaving this as a comment.

Something that lacks body or detail I think is fine for a comment. There's a pretty strict character limit for comments, so as long as you are under that it would almost always translate to a low quality answer. Still a comment could help provide direction or information to those writing actual answers.

This isn't exactly a plague on WB.SE, and I'd much rather see the handful of comments than encourage either short, lower quality answers or losing potential helpful information.

I feel like this is attempting to heal a problem that isn't a problem.

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  • $\begingroup$ If the person asked for ... oh say The name of a company that sold a coffee maker that used packets of coffee shaped like the restaurant cream and began with the letter K. Now 1 regardless of the instant thought that this is a poorly researched question, meaning there could be perfectly acceptable reason. 2. Some one decided to just give the name and a link to the company in a comment, you would feel justified in flagging it as a low quality answer, when in fact it was 100% correct and explicit? I accept this is a contrived scenario with the intent to see the boundary. $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya If you're going to use an example to try to establish a boundary, then please do so using an example that would at least be even remotely on topic on the site! $\endgroup$ – user May 25 '17 at 15:28
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Note that there is no tool to move a comment to an answer, as there is the reverse.

I think if the commenter opens with, “I don’t have time to prepare a full answer, but here are some notes,” then it will be much better tolerated. We know that he knows it’s answer-like, and that he considers it too low quality to post in its current form.

He might then indicate whether he plans to work on it later, or explicitly say “feel free to incorporate this in your answer”, so we don’t have to ask and await a response.

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Comments are intended to ask for more information or suggest improvements to a post.

Even with generous shoe-horning, answering the question does not fit into either of those categories. Thus, answers should not be posted in the comments section.

Comments also basically cannot be curated by the community; they can't be voted on (other than up), they cannot be edited even by the person who posted them after the five-minute grace period ends, and basically the community's only chance of removing dangerous advice is to flag the comment in question for moderator attention to have it deleted, even if only a small portion of the comment would actually fit that criteria.

Diamond moderators, being the only ones who can affect significant force on comments, are supposed to be janitors on the site, not necessarily subject matter experts. This is even more true on our site, which covers a huge variety of subjects. A diamond moderator cannot be expected to be able to judge whether a comment is helpful in solving the OP's problem, nor whether something that is suggested in a comment is wrong or even potentially dangerous.

We do already have How best to suggest a comment be made into an answer? where the consensus appears to be, based on the very few votes, that answers-posted-as-comments should be migrated into actual answers that can be voted on and otherwise curated by the community, and the comments subsequently deleted. Comments are temporary "post-it" notes to begin with and shouldn't be expected to remain. Saying that answers should not be posted in the comments section, and that any answers found in the comments section are candidates for being deleted, is a logical, and rather small, next step.

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    $\begingroup$ What are you going to do when the answer to a question is less than 30 words and is 100% correct, it is THE answer and then down voted as low quality? What are you as any version of a moderator going to do? $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya can you point to a few examples on this site of answers that are complete and correct in under 30 words? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio May 25 '17 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ This is probably the answer here I agree with the most. People sometimes already get touchy about having their comments deleted (even in the cases where the comments hang around, like in chat). Allowing answers in comments seems to be another sort of "next step", towards just disregarding the innately transient nature of comments. Ideally, a comment should be deleted at some point; answers should not. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 May 25 '17 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ I understand the "transient nature of comments. Ideally, a comment should be deleted at some point; answers should not.", yet the issue remains, if the comment answered the question, the questioner moved on, and some one ask's for the comment to become an answer, then how does one do that without getting the Low Quality Answer? $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya You answer the question in a manner that meets the conventions of the site. The accepted answer to this question started out as a comment on another answer. The Answerer put in the effort to turn their comment into a quality answer. $\endgroup$ – sphennings May 25 '17 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings I looked at what you linked but I am having a hard time staying in the context of where someone wants to know were something is .... say on the internet. That is the context here. $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya Questions specifically asking for off-site resources are virtually never good questions on Stack Exchange. Some sites have specific close reasons for that, others just put it in the help center and close it as generally off topic. A good Stack Exchange question asks what and how is X, not where can I read about X. $\endgroup$ – user May 25 '17 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ I do not dispute your assertion, yet inherently that is the reality. I ask two questions 1. Were on the internet can I watch ..... 2. Can I watch .... while the 2nd will be determined as to broad but may catch and answer, the first one is going to be closed as not a question that is acceptable on SE? $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya I would vote to close either of those two hypothetical examples, or flag for review if it's on a site where I lack the reputation to vote to close. The exact reason I'd pick for closure depends on the specifics, including which site it's on. I may or may not also vote down for lack of research. Now, if you ask can someone explain X about Y? and somebody posts a link to a video to enhance their actual answer -- that's fine. However, just a link to a video, or just a link to an off-site page; I would likely vote down that answer as not useful and likely flag as NAA or VLQ. $\endgroup$ – user May 25 '17 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, that is an interesting insight. Now to project boundaries, using your scenario to the linked YouTube, IF I precede it with some introductory words that indicate why I think that link answers the question, will that satisfy your criteria? $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya Answers should stand on their own merrits. Saying "Watch this video it will explain everything" only works as long as the link is good. If you're having problems understanding why link only answers are unacceptable on SE read this article. $\endgroup$ – sphennings May 25 '17 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya That would most likely not satisfy my criteria for a good answer, and likely not even be an answer at all. However, if you answer the question and then provide a link to a Youtube video for illustration, then it would probably be okay. Look at meta.stackexchange.com/q/225370/157730 which Monica already provided a link to; if your answer just points elsewhere, then it's not an answer. See also our previous question Are answers solely referencing novels/movies/etc. okay? right here on Worldbuilding Meta. $\endgroup$ – user May 25 '17 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the insight but TLDR (<- not really, it points to a variable boundry) this is, in my opinion a "viewer" variable and is all to often not worth the "Drama" of participation and I for one would and will until I can see some stability, rational, etc take my chances and point to a possible answer in the comments. It is hard for me to believe in a system that is inherently emotionally based (<- that is a generalization and does not mean 100%). $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 15:38
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There is one kind of "answer" that belongs to the comment section. Something like:

Why don't you just use commonly known method used in the real world?

or

It looks like "with magic" would be a valid answer now.

or

Would few word description of an idea satisfy you if I'll add details?

I mean the kind of "answers" we honestly don't think OP is looking for, but are valid as an answer to the question as asked, or are valid to the question as we believe OP meant it, but formally invalid. This gives OP a chance to clarify his question and avoid getting answers he doesn't want.

"Is this what you want?" spirit is what makes them valid comments, even if they also happen to be answers.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have made comments in SFF Story Identification that I believe are possibly wrong but may provide an opportunity for the questioner to remember something more about what they are wanting. In some cases it may have been that in fact what I put as a comment was the answer but the questioner never came back or said anything. $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya not always OP replies. But sometimes it sure works. My overall impression seems positive here, most people tend to react to such comments. Of course no hard data on it, just my feeling. $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 25 '17 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ "Why don't you do it like in the real world?" is a request for clarification; maybe OP has a great reason not to, and just didn't think to include it. If there is a real-world approach that meets all the OP's criteria and OP isn't against the idea of using a real-world approach, then an answer describing how the real-world approach applies to the OP's stated scenario makes a fine answer, whereas just pointing out that there exists a real-world approach might be an answer, but is certainly one that would border on very low quality/not an answer IMO. Obviously depending on specifics. $\endgroup$ – user May 25 '17 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya This is Worldbuilding, not Science Fiction & Fantasy. Different sites have different standards, and to some extent, each site needs to find its own standard. $\endgroup$ – user May 25 '17 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael yes, all three are in "is this what you want?" spirit. That's what makes them valid comments even if they also happens to be answers. $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 25 '17 at 15:35
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I don't believe I handled either of those flags, so this is a general answer.

Comments shouldn't be used to answer the question. Some comments point in the direction of an answer, for example by suggesting resources, and those wouldn't be valid answers either. While it's true that a comment like that isn't about clarifying the question, I think it's ok to leave those around temporarily for the benefit of people who might be able to use it as input to an answer. I assume you're not talking about those but, rather, the ones that really do try to answer in 400 characters.

I'll delay handling flags on those kinds of comments if somebody has left a "you should turn that into an answer" comment and it's pretty new (so the commenter might not have seen it yet). Or if there are 17 answers on the post and I don't have time right now to read through them to see if somebody has in fact done that. Or that comment spawned a bit of a discussion but it's too early to move the thread to chat.

And then, because there are a lot of flags and a lot of activity, it might take me a while to check in on it again, leaving the flag hanging and the flagger potentially confused. (Sorry about that. We can't reply to comment flags.) Or some other mod does something in the meantime.

I'd love to see community consensus not just on that we should delete these kinds of comments but also how long we should give people to use them first. Because moderators are the only people who can see deleted comments, I tend to err on the side of delaying (or moving to chat if appropriate).

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    $\begingroup$ The issue I have is I have seen cases where the answer is succinct direct and 100% accurate get down voted for Low quality Answer. This has been very confusing as to how can a 100% correct and explicit answer that is THE answer be considered low quality? $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya does the answer contain everything needed to establish itself as an answer? An answer that is only a link ("see this article"), or one that makes an assertion without any supporting evidence or logic, is on shaky ground. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio May 25 '17 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ The question inherently could only be answered by a link OR a google search for the link. Such as "Were can I watch ...." $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ Please give me a real example, meaning a question that would be valid (not closed) on this site and where you think an answer like that would be a valid answer. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio May 25 '17 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ Shrug I am not sure I can find a question that has not been closed, that ask any variation of this "Where can I watch, on the Internet, this ....." $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya Such questions aren't appropriate for Worldbuilding and should have been closed, ideally before any answers were given. If you find any that are open please flag them so they can be closed. $\endgroup$ – sphennings May 25 '17 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings, Maybe I made a mistake but I am pretty sure this question is broader than WB. Even so, let me hit you with a hypothetical, I write a question that is 15,000 words long that has a 10 word question of "How do I find an article about X on the internet". $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya There is a separate meta for each site. The Asker referenced other sites because it is relevant to see what other sites have done around this issue. If that actually was their question I'd VTC as not being about worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – sphennings May 25 '17 at 14:50
  • $\begingroup$ Ah the devil is in the details type thing ... I see :) $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 14:58
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Leave answers in comments alone; I have put answers in comments because I do not want people voting on my answer AS an answer, particularly not voting it down, when I know "my answer" is short, and more in the line of an obvious answer, for example "Yes of course that is possible, here is one real life example...".

But also when I believe my answer is of poor quality but in the spirit of community I want to put the idea out there for somebody else to run with, should they have the expertise.

In other words, more of a suggestion than an answer, when I don't have time to do research into a direction, but I thought of a research direction an author might be able to turn into a good answer.

The site doesn't naturally allow any shades of confidence in our own answers; and the point incentives make comments a fine halfway house for iffy answers. for those of us that don't mind sacrificing the credit we might get for having posted an actual good answer.

IMO the comment guidelines are overly strict; and since there is no safe place to put uncertain answers, they should be tolerated there. Keep the length limit; if the poster cannot fit their answer in the comment, they will have to remain silent or take the risk of posting a full answer.

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My Answer: Answers in comments should be left alone. To migrate a comment to an answer to a question, does not dictate the answer will be marked as the answer. The ability to "Curate" answers is or should be based on Answers that are marked as THE answer, unless of course one just wants all the answers that SE has regardless of .... well anything.

Putting a comment that is The Answer as an Answer just begs for the Low Quality Answer flag regardless of accuracy. Why because it is demonstrated that people want a 20,000 word dissertation explaining the question OR want to have extensive chats about aspects of the answer etc.

My opinion:

The down/up vote on questions and answers is all to often "low quality to wrong" "votes". Based on my observation in our chat room and others, I can feel quite confident I am not alone in observing this and will go so far as to say there are conversations justifying an action based on Up Votes, Favorites(stars?) and answers triggering some pattern recognition that indicates a VtC.

What this all means is that Humans are driving this community and they can have bad hair days, they can have playful hair days, they can have "insert motivation" hair days. This question is asking about one method of dealing with this, supplying the questioner with the answer they are looking for .... in a pseudo protected mode.

Based on some of the wording in the Question and answers, it comes off as, that the answers in comments are protected, affects people, in a negative / non professional way.

In a different forum, there was a question asked, because I didn't know what the question asked for existed I decided to get an answer for my self. I did, I found the answer and posted a short comment with the link to the answer.

A high rep person, suggested it be made an answer. I felt fairly safe that answering it would not cause problems.

Nope, not at all, within 5 minutes of answering it, 2 or 5 down votes, the question is decided to be a duplicate of another question, which in my opinion took a 100% abstraction of the other question and a 99% abstraction of 1 of 9 answers to a question asking an opinion vs the question I answered asking were is this.

Then in chat come to find out that one person believed the answer I gave, violated the rules of SE while others didn't.

I simply removed the links and substituted the google search.

Regardless, the down votes stay, the question got closed as a duplicate etc.

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    $\begingroup$ OK, I see you are not happy with what happened, but how does it answer this meta question? The point of not allowing answers in comments is that community cannot downvote or delete bad comment. And "converting" to answer shouldn't be done by just copying text. Link only answer is VLQ and will be deleted if left as link-only. There must be an excerpt, quote etc. Even answer posted by moderator can be deleted by community! 10k rep link, you will not see this answer because, well, it is deleted. $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 25 '17 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ I get the push back that "Even God can have his answer deleted" that has zero to do with this. It wont be the first time and I am sure it wont be the last time that I am unable to prevent people from NOT understanding the issue raised and wanting to answer it by making it about childish emotions (You say, "OK, I see you are not happy with what happened"). I will make it simple for you, some times the DRAMA from those that choose to not see is plain and simple not worth the participation. $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but if you are posting answers as comments to avoid downvotes and VLQ flags, then you should not post such thing, at all. Neither as sn answer nor as a comment. $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 25 '17 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ Would you care to link to the SE Rules that expressly prohibit inadvertently answering a question in a comment? IF NOT then I understand that your opinion of things does not always match my opinion of things. $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ Click on "add comment" under any question and read the text there. it is all it takes. And it is quoted in this meta question, too. $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 25 '17 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya Just because something isn't expressly prohibited doesn't make it acceptable. Answering questions in the comments prevents the community from weighing in on the answer and it's merits. $\endgroup$ – sphennings May 25 '17 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya you have been asked repeatedly to provide a real example, not a made-up pseudo-example or one involving a question that wouldn't be valid to begin with. We don't do story-ID questions here. Several of us are having trouble imagining a valid link-only answer and you have not described one. The Help Center entry on comments says clearly what they are and are not for. See also Your answer is in another castle. I don't see "DRAMA" coming from any other participants in this meta discussion. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio May 25 '17 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio you have qualified the request to a Not Closed. For the record the example I gave is not hypothetical. $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ Well yeah, because if the question is or should be closed, you shouldn't be answering it at all. And I asked for an example on this site; we don't do story-ID and for that matter I don't even know if that would be a sufficient answer on SFF anyway (maybe they require more info). This question was posted on the Worldbuilding meta; we're talking about WB here, not SFF. I'm done responding to you on this topic until you provide the example I requested. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio May 25 '17 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio It was NOT closed, was NOT postulated as a duplicate (THE REASON, it was closed), until AFTER I transitioned the comment to an answer $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya Link, please? Without link, discussing this further makes no sense. $\endgroup$ – Mołot May 25 '17 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya Even if the question was closed as a duplicate of some other question after you posted an answer, that does not imply that the question was closed because you posted an answer. (Posting the answer bumped the question, which may have brought more eyes onto it, of which someone might have recognized it as a duplicate, but that's not the same thing.) Duplicateness of a question is a function of the question and of what constitutes a valid answer to the question; it's not a function of any particular answer. And, a poor answer is a poor answer regardless of the question's status. $\endgroup$ – user May 25 '17 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling You miss the point, the answer was in a comment as it turned out and everything was fine and moving to obscurity, when a Hi Rep person suggested it be made an answer. One would have thought that Hi Rep person would have done due diligence / known better and not made the suggestion. When I complied and wasted my time improving the answer a CRAP STORM hit for both the Question, the Answer and on chat. And some how some 5 people agreed "Where" equals "What should" $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ Nobody is required to perform "due diligence" before suggesting that site and network standards should be followed. And nobody's posts are immune to being downvoted. I've had posts of mine downvoted, sometimes harshly; and I have downvoted posts by high- or low-rep users alike because in my opinion they have met the downvote criteria. If anything, I cut high-rep users less slack when I vote on posts, including when I flag or vote to delete. Again, this is Worldbuilding, not Science Fiction & Fantasy. I understand that you had a bad experience on SciFi once, but that's irrelevant here and now. $\endgroup$ – user May 25 '17 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ Ok, I accept we can not have a meaningful conversation, you want to lecture me I am pushing saying there is an inherent flaw so lets agree that we are not talking about the same things. BUT it should be said, that I am agreeing with that :) you are not required to as I have no ability to do anything about the choices you make $\endgroup$ – Enigma Maitreya May 25 '17 at 16:02

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