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I don't want to turn this into some sort of witch hunt on the example I've come across. So unless it's absolutely necessary I'll leave that out of this question.

The question had a hard science tag, the comment was a summary of an answer but provided no hard science.

Instinctively I'd say it doesn't belong in the comments section as they're generally for clarifications but I can't see it necessarily contravening one of the rules for comments. The comment would be deleted as an answer because it lacks hard science.

Are suggestions of answers valid comments?

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No, suggestion of answer is not a valid comment.

If you hover the mouse over the "add a comment" you will see the following help text

enter image description here

Use comments to ask for clarification or add more information. Avoid answering in comments.

Other communities are more strict in following this policy, here I (too) often see that users still draft answers in comments. Whenever I notice it, I delete those comments.

As such, please flag the comments and mention it's an answer in comment. The rest will be taken care of.

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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, from the Rules for Comments page, "When shouldn't I comment? ... Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one)." Not that I've never done this.... $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 8 '20 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ By deleting the partial answers in comments you kill a lot of potential full answers. Many users have information but not enough to write an answer. I feel that some more leeway than you allow is needed. $\endgroup$ – Willeke Nov 28 '20 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ When people write full answers in the comments it is time to ask them to write answers instead. $\endgroup$ – Willeke Nov 28 '20 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Willeke, answers in comment avoid any quality check SE has in place (upvote, downvote, deletion). $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Nov 28 '20 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ Upvotes and flags, not all. But partial answers can be very helpful when working on an answer. $\endgroup$ – Willeke Nov 28 '20 at 14:41
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I think there's a balance needed here - how many other good answers are there?

If a question has 10 decent answers, a comment with half an answer probably doesn't add anything.

If a question has no answers, has had no answers for a while, and I can contribute some information - but can't answer the question in full or to the minimum standard - putting a comment in with my partial answer seems like it contributes to the global good better than staying silent.

If 2 people have 80% of the solution, but both keep their mouth shut cause they can't speak until they have 100% of a solution, a solution will never be found.

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    $\begingroup$ I get what you're saying and I think this was why I was hesitant really. $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Nov 10 '20 at 9:52
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In my opinion, it really depends on how much of a comment purist you are. In practise comments tend to be more speech than prose, and as such in their purpose they may straddle the line between different kinds of "acceptable comments". It's not black and white, and they do come in different variants.

One kind of "inadequate answer comment" is "Have you considered X approach, because it seems like the obvious answer but you did not address it in the question." That can be considered a request for clarification, not an attempt at actually answering the question; a reply from the OP in the form of "No I haven't, please elaborate!" would elicit a full answer. Of course the only reason that kind of comment is necessary is because of the inexplicable rule that you are not allowed to explain the avenues you have already considered in the question itself, requiring this extra step.

Other "inadequate answer comments" are pure suggestions, but they may be sourced. "This book/study/website/movie addresses your concern, it suggests X." Such a source could be the basis of a full answer, but sources tend to be open-ended and let someone decide their own answer creatively. It's reasonable to want to just give the questioner that extra factual or creative input without feeling confident to make a deciding call one way or the other. That would rub against the "suggest improvement to question" bucket of acceptable comments.

A third kind is the kind you were talking about; OP asks for hard science, potential answerer cannot really deliver that kind of answer, but can offer suggestions that could help either the OP or future answerers. I think that those comments still have value, but I can see that they could be considered clutter, particularly if they come in great numbers. If I were a moderator (I'm not, and I probably won't ever be given how unorthodox my views seem to be), I would make a judgement call based on how many total comments the question has gotten. Removing a lone comment on a question with twelve views and no answers would not be worth the effort to me, and it would deprive the unfortunate OP of the little engagement they got.

And a fourth kind of "inadequate answer comment" that I have come across is framed more as an attack or frame challenge on the question than as an answer. Once more the lines are blurry; some of these are "your underlying assumption is wrong, here's why" (which can be considered a "suggested improvement to question", one of the allowed types); others offer a full answer to the question but often phrased as if the commenter knows it is not the answer the OP was hoping for. Since frame challenges are considered acceptable answers, I think these comments should be held to higher scrutiny. Particularly since comments cannot be downvoted, and challenges are direct confrontation with the OP, and should absolutely be susceptible to mass downvotage if the community finds them unfounded.

Those are my views, and I won't hold it against anyone to consider them wrong or think me a chatterbox. I know I don't make or enforce the rules, but I for one am happy that in practise the Worldbuilding.SE community has been more comment-tolerant than other Stack Exchanges. This site has much more creative people and a subject that lends itself better to conversation than the purely factual pages. My best engagements on this site have been comments, not answers. And until the chat feature starts actually functioning, I don't think that moving comments to chat is doing a favour to anyone.

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I concur with L. Dutch on this: basically, piss or get off the pot. In other words, if you're going to put enough effort into a query such that you're basically answering the query, just write it as an answer!

I've seen lots of comments to the comments along the lines of "you should write that as an answer!"

I would note, however, that there are some cultural factors that come into play. I've noticed over on the English Usage forum, they almost never actually answer the questions. They seem to prefer answering questions in the comments. Which I don't really get, but anyway! Here in WB, we have a very strong "answer the question as an answer, not a comment" culture. So yeah, comments are not for incomplete or inadequate answers.

For example, if I think I can't come up with a complete answer, I'll usually preface it with wording to the effect of "Towards an answer...". I invite other people to edit my answer to make it better or more complete; or to come with their own answers with components that I've missed.

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