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Answering in comments

+ 11 like - 0 dislike

I have noticed quite a few unanswered questions which were resolved satisfactorily by a comment, or series of comments. Typically these comments give a reference or clarify some confusion. Since we are still in beta and are judged, to a certain extent, by the percentage of questions answered, I’d like to point out that such questions are registered by the powers that be as still being unanswered questions. It would be really useful then if when a subject is resolved, an extremely short answer is then posted and accepted.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
asked Dec 16, 2011 in SE.TP.discussion by Moshe (2,375 points) [ no revision ]
In these cases, you should post a comment asking the commenter to submit it as an answer.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
Not a bad idea, though ideally I would not like moderators to micromanage the site to that degree.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
The moderators don't have to be the ones who do it; anybody who's read this discussion could post such a comment. But if nobody posts these comments, the questions are going to remain unanswered.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
Sure, they don’t even have to type much, they can just link to the discussion here.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
related in physics.SE http://meta.physics.stackexchange.com/questions/964/answering-in-comments

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)

2 Answers

+ 5 like - 0 dislike

Not answering in comments: I agree.

For some reason people tend to use comments for short answers (I did as well). However, I think it is counterproductive:

  • First, sometimes a short answer is actually solving the problem.
  • Second, it is easier to address an answer (vote it up/down, comment it, edit, ...) than a comment.
This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
answered Dec 18, 2011 by Piotr Migdal (1,255 points) [ no revision ]
+ 4 like - 0 dislike

This has also been discussed at math.SE, I'll quote a part of Willie Wong's answer there:

Another possibility [...] is that the user is only leaving a short sketch of the complete answer in the comments. For those with sufficient mathematical maturity, those short sketches may appear to be a complete answer. But for a self-conscious educator, those sketches may not be sufficiently pedagogical as an answer. [...]

On the flip side, because of the Q&A (emphasis on the A part) nature of this site, we desire answers. So if a user decides to post an answer as a comment, I think he or she should not complain when somebody else decides to incorporate the content of said comment into a "more complete" answer.

Which leads to...

If you see an "unanswered question" with the answer already appearing in the comments, you can either:

  • Ping the author of that comment and request that it be posted as an answer;
  • Just copy the comment and post it as an answer yourself (perhaps with proper attribution, and/or marking it as community wiki if you don't want the credit); or
  • Expand upon that comment and write a better, clearer answer.

I agree with the fact that some users have a bad feeling about leaving an answer that, to them, seems incomplete or sketchy. But that's what SE is about: You don't post an ultimate answer. There won't be the need for an erratum. You can edit and improve your post anytime. If you think it's too sketchy but you don't feel like elaborating further, post it as answer, turn it community wiki and leave a comment what you feel is missing. Other users are encouraged to add details. And you don't even have to feel bad about earning rep for a sketch since CW is rep-neutral.

This post has been migrated from (A51.SE)
answered Jan 12, 2012 by Tobias Kienzler (255 points) [ no revision ]

Your answer

Please use answers only to (at least partly) answer questions. To comment, discuss, or ask for clarification, leave a comment instead.
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