I will abstain from linking to specific posts or single out users, but I have noticed a definite trend in people using comments to post what amount to answers: good or bad answers, maybe, but not comments (in that they do not discuss a sub-point of the question or peripheral issues, but attempt to answer the question). This is then made worse by people using the '+1' button as a way to "vote" for said comment.

This would only be a minor problem (but a problem nonetheless) if it did not in turn lead to some questions missing a proper (approved) answer, which can be found instead in the comment. If you post a tentative answer in a comment, at the very least follow-up on it and turn it to a fully-formed answer if it receives positive attention (particularly from the OP).

Bottom-line is: don't be afraid to post real answers, and keep comments for minor points that are not bona fide answers. Thanks!

I will say that I've done this in the past, simply because there seem to be multiple people on this site who will downvote answers without giving a reason. Not against the rules, but rather frustrating. Comments are a way to still be helpful regardless of this. – Eric Aug 11 at 4:13

4 Answers 4

Other people are complaining about answers being used for comments: http://meta.french.stackexchange.com/questions/259/pseudo-answers-are-bad .

In order for the "comments instead of answers" problem to be fixed, people need to feel less afraid and more supported.

@Andrew: that is indeed the main reason why many people probably prefer to use a comment instead of an answer. However, it is purely psychological and has no basis in actual JLU mechanism: posting a roughly correct answer is extremely unlikely to get you downvoted, at worst it will remain at '0' vote (negative votes generally indicate an egregiously bad answer that should not have been an answer or a comment to begin with)... Hence posting such an answer is a net neutral, just like posting a comment. – Dave Dec 15 '11 at 0:44
This is assuming all people know to only downvote egregiously bad answers. In practice, this is not the case as some of my answers have shown, and for exactly the same reason that you would expect people to post an answer as an answer; people rarely know expectations thoroughly and many use the available means in their own way. – user4060 Nov 4 '13 at 2:15

Sometimes people post links to resources where the answer can be found, rather than answering the question themselves. I think this is okay because:

  1. A link to a resource is not a complete answer
  2. The resource may help the asker answer their own question
  3. The resource may help someone else answer the question

For example, in this question, I posted a link to gogen-allguide. I think this is potentially helpful rather than an answer-in-a-question.

Personally, I think of questions as looking something like:

  1. Problem
  2. Research
  3. Solution

Sometimes people get stuck along the way, or sometimes people don't bother with step 2. In either case, links to resources work by supplementing step 2. If such links were discouraged, I think the site would suffer somewhat.

Too lazy to search for the relevant SO posts right now, but the call on this is unambiguously that you should avoid posting bare links to resources, as links have a high tendency to break and you are then left with a completely useless piece of answer. Same applies to comment. And as for pieces of research that do not constitute a proper answer, then yes, of course comments are the right place for them. But there's a difference between 'research' and 'found the answer but too shy/lazy to extract the proper content from the link I found and make it an answer'... – Dave Feb 19 '13 at 1:31
I think bare links better than nothing, from people who don't have time to investigate all aspects of the question. But we need more people to compile hints into answers - I'll try to do it more, and get some low-hanging points in the process :-) – Nicolas Raoul Feb 19 '13 at 2:30
As someone cited in this answer, I'll say the reason I posted a bare link was because the question was one that could have been found extremely easily, and I felt that if the asker had known to look there then the question probably wouldn't have been asked at all. Sure, I could have just taken the answer out of the link and posted it as an answer, and maybe in the future I will do that, but at the time my thought was "this person will get the answer he's looking for with this link," meaning extra interpretation by me was unnecessary. – ssb Feb 19 '13 at 2:41
@ssb It's true that they can probably answer their question from the link, but then people with similar questions will start finding our question page when they look on search engines. Then, they load our page and see a link to some other site. That's an experience we'd like to avoid, if someone comes here thinking they'll find a page with an answer, the answer should be on that page (with perhaps the link as a reference for more info or to hint "for future questions, also try looking here"). That being said, a link-only comment is better than nothing. – Troyen Feb 19 '13 at 9:14
@ssb It's important to note that especially in stack exchanges for foreign languages, the participants in the stack will come from various linguistic backgrounds. The link posted in the example given by snailboat is entirely in 日本語, which makes it a poor resource for someone who doesn't understand the language without additional assistance. Though online translators exist, they frequently miss nuance and are usually only good for getting the gist of a text. I do agree that such resources work well as comments to get others on the right track, however. – jimbotherisenclown Aug 11 at 3:17

If you post a tentative answer in a comment, at the very least follow-up on it and turn it to a fully-formed answer if it receives positive attention (particularly from the OP).

I do not know if that is a suggestion or a requirement, but if it is a requirement, then I would rather choose not to post comments. I have been posting comments hoping that they will be useful, but if posting comments implies that I am obliged to write proper answers when requested, then it is too much for me.

Added: Honestly speaking, I do not know what you meant by posting this comment, because I find nothing wrong with the comment by ssb preceding your comment. Did your comment mean “ssb, you should post that link as an answer”? As you know, there are some people who complain when a link alone is posted as an answer (unfortunately). Did it mean “ssb, you should post a more useful answer than just a link”? I guess that ssb has only some limited amount of time to spend on japanese.stackexchange.com, like anyone else. The link posted by ssb is useful for certain purposes, and no one has the right to complain that he/she did not post something more useful.

nothing written here by me is a requirement, unless there's a consensus around it. But my comment still stands that posting half-answers in comments is ultimately not beneficial to future users of the site. – Dave Feb 19 '13 at 1:34
Sometimes someone posts a partial answer (either cause they don't have time or they aren't sure or for whatever reason) as a comment and the OP is able to use that information to answer the question. Then, nobody else comes along and posts an answer, so a question hangs around with a partial answer in the comments. Sure, someone else could come along and provide a full answer based off of that comment, but some people find that rude ("stealing" the answer they got from the commenter), so it's usually suggested that if a comment answers a question, ask the comment writer to make it an answer. – Troyen Feb 19 '13 at 9:06
And while the OP may be able to use the partial-answer in the comments to answer their question, other visitors may not make the same (hidden) logical connections the OP did, so they find a question without an explicit answer. We would like to have all our questions answered, one way or another. That being said, partial/tentative answers should continue being in the comments because they aren't full answers. I think this was a reminder that questions where the answers are in the comments need to be cleaned up and given a real answer at some point. – Troyen Feb 19 '13 at 9:07
@Troyen: (1) “Need to be cleaned up”? In which sense “need”? If you decide that they need to be cleaned up, then that is your decision, not mine. Please feel free to act according to your decision, but do not expect others to act according to your decision. (2) I really do not know what you gain by discouraging half-answers. Do you seriously think that discouraging half-answers produces more full-answers? – Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 19 '13 at 12:10

Is this meta-discussion still active? If so let me throw in my two cents.

I came here from Math-Stack-Exchange where moderators would let go discussions extended in comments. And as far as I know, nothing wrong has happened there. (Of course, rude and explicit languages are discouraged and eventually excluded/suppressed, but that's another story.)

Frankly I think there is no point in discouraging partial/incomplete answers and/or speculations in comments. Do they any harm to this community? Definitely not. And as long as they are not complete (let alone perfect), it is natural that the appenders think it inappropriate to post them as "Your Answer"s.

All in all, I agree with @Tsuyoshi Ito who, sadly, seems to have gone for two years.

For an extended period, people were leaving speculative answers as comments that ended up being the actual answer. This makes them harder to see, critique, and improve over time. But, once someone answers in the comments, people are reluctant to copy them into answers (so they don't appear to be stealing credit), resulting in what looks like unanswered questions that really aren't. – Troyen Jul 16 at 7:05
@Troyen: Are you worrying about (fear of ascription of) plagiarism? In that case, just encouraging people to write credits is enough, isn't it? – eltonjohn Jul 16 at 7:10
Even with that, I've noticed a great reluctance for people to transcribe comments across all SE sites. – Troyen Jul 16 at 7:11
@Troyen: Well, then you (general "you") can enlighten people with TANSTAAFL (= There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. = Someone should work for anything to be done.) – eltonjohn Jul 16 at 7:19

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